This article originally ran on PR Daily in July of 2017.
The pressure to measure PR campaigns in hard numbers has never been higher.
Though the true value of PR efforts will never be fully captured in a spreadsheet, you can use analytics to make smarter PR decisions—from defining your target audience to how you measure your results.
Here are several ways you can use Google Analytics to show your ROI and determine the direction of future campaigns:
Defining your target audience
Years ago, when PR pros were their planning PR strategies and tactics, they had to make educated guesses about their audiences.
One of the most important things you can do when you’re planning a campaign is figure out who your target audience is. To do that, look at who’s already engaging with you the most. All you need to do is link your website to Google Analytics to get a world of information about your visitors.
Under “All Website Data,” click the “Audience” tab on the left. You can see which countries your visitors come from. Under the “Demographics” tab, you can find out the gender breakdown of your visitors is and their age profiles.
How valuable is that information when deciding your messages?
The farther you go down the “Audience” menu, the more the sophisticated the information gets. You can find out what your audiences interests are; whether they log on from desktops, tablets or mobile devices; and what proportion of your visitors are new compared with those who have visited before.
By the time you’ve sifted through the data, you should have a clear idea of who you’re going to target for your next campaign.
Once you’ve created a super-targeted campaign and implemented it, how are you going to measure the results?
For most campaigns, you want to see if you generated either awareness or action. Google Analytics to the rescue once again. Head back to the “Audience” tab to look at your results.
You can track how many people visited a specific page on your site, but that’s not enough to tell how they got there or if they genuinely engaged with your content.
First, check the channels your visits came from. Were they organic traffic from search engines, direct hits from someone typing in your site’s URL, referral traffic from another site, or social media channels?
Check out how much time visitors spent on your site, which is a good indicator of awareness. If the average time spent is less than 30 seconds, that’s not good news. If it’s above two minutes, you’re doing great.
Your bounce rate is also an important thing to keep an eye on. The bounce rate is how many people left (or bounced from) your site after looking at only one page. The lower your bounce rate, the better.
To keep your bounce rate low, make sure your site is rich in content. Also ensure that it’s easy to navigate, you’ve optimized your images, and there are internal links to other relevant posts.
Now you know how to use Google Analytics to demonstrate that your campaigns generated awareness, but what about action? Did your audience take any direct action as a result?
Here are some of the ways analytics can help you drive revenue.
Has there been an increase in web sales as a result of the campaign? Sometime attribution can be difficult, but use the dashboard in your sales software to track an uptick in sales. If you use discount codes or coupons in your PR activity, the sales results tie back directly to your PR goals.
If your website gets a lot of traffic, you can drive extra revenue by hosting Google AdSense ads. AdSense connects directly with Google Analytics, so you can monitor which posts and pages generate the most income for you.
Social media and email engagement
If your campaign is connected to a landing page, you can track how many new email subscribers it generated. Email subscribers often convert into buyers at a later stage, so getting new subscribers is important.
Monitor your social media analytics, too. Watch for an increase in followers, likes, comments, shares, mentions or the use of relevant hashtags.
These are all ways of measuring awareness and engagement quantitatively, and should inform the strategies you use for future campaigns.
How else do you use Google analytics to measure your PR efforts?
Katie Harrington is a PR pro, blogger and author of “Strategic Communications: The Science Behind the Art.” A version of this article originally appeared on her blog.