In March 2010, I gave a presentation on PR and SEO at the CIPR HQ in Russell Square, London, to around 75 senior in-house communications directors and managers. I asked how many of them used Google Analytics data from their own corporate sites to inform their PR and communications strategies. Not a single hand went up.
In the intervening months, I’ve been boring for Britain to anyone who’ll listen that asking clients for access to Google Analytics should be one of the key questions any PR should be asking. In fact, it should be a great question to ask prospects.(*)
Either way, Google Analytics (GA) can provide a whole host of insight that can have a big impact on the communications strategies and tactics you advise clients on.
Here are my top 5 immediate reasons for asking for GA data:
1. Bounce rate (or as Avinash Kaushik so memorably described it – they came, they saw, they puked). If a client website has a high bounce rate ie 75pc or higher (and isn’t a blog) then they have some issues – there is no point driving traffic to a site if it doesn’t engage the visitor. There may be many reasons why a site has a high bounce rate. But I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, that content is a key part of the the problem. If the client or prospects existing content isn’t working then it needs fixing – it also flags that using existing messages and content to fuel PR probably isn;t going to work – enter the PR firm….
2. Segmenting web site visitors based on where they come from and the intention behind their visit should provide a gold mine of insight for a PR. Take search. If there are certain key phrases that are driving people to a site, then using Google’s free Doubleclick Ad Planner tool can help determine where PR content should be pitched (hint: it won’t always be media properties that may be the most fruitful places to pitch PR content – or it may disprove assumptions about which media outlets really do matter to your audiences – based on what they actually do rather than what the media owners media pack tells you).
3. Set up goals. So often, even if a client has set up GA, they won’t have set up any goals. And they don’t necessarily have to be transactional. What about setting goals for time on site or depth of visit and putting a financial value on these more engaged visitors? Wouldn’t it be great if the PR firm could show a causal connection between PR activity and more engagement? Well, the tools are freely available…
4. Using GA Tagging Parameters. PRs can and should get a lot smarter about using tag parameters in the links they use in news releases and other PR related content. A bit of effort to work out a logical tagging strategy allows GA to give you far more accurate insight into how different tactics have performed. Hell, Google even provides a free tool to build your parameterised link for you.
5. Create multiple GA profiles. Again, very often, clients have only got a single profile view of their GA data. You’ll get kudos for advising them to at least set up a second one where they can test tweaks to the system without compromising the existing data. But setting up a specific profile for use by the PR firm should be a must-have in any case. Imagine being able to use the annotation function in GA to highlight where PR activity (both on and off-line) may have had an impact on visitors and commercial activity.
Here’s a real example. A piece of PR generated broadcast TV coverage at 11am on a Sunday morning resulted in a spike of visits to the site at that time. Analysing those visitors showed exactly how many requested further information and/or requested a trial of the product. In other words, a clear line-of-sight causal chain between PR output and commercial outcome.
I could go on. But I’ll say it again. If you aren’t asking your clients and prospects for access to their GA data, do it now. If only for the solitary reason that being able to show the start to finish causal impact of PR content on real business outcomes is hugely powerful – and the fact is, there is nothing to stop PR firms adopting these approaches today. If they don’t, somebody else might do it for them. And get the glory.
*What about confidentiality say some people? Sign an NDA if you have to. But if a prospect or client still refuses to share GA data with you, I’d treat that as a warning sign.