Digital marketing digital pr General PR online pr tech pr Technology PR

What engagement time tells you about the value or otherwise of online press coverage

Consider the following:
1. An average person can read around 200 words per minute on screen.
2. The average UK Guardian website reader spends around 7 mins and 30 seconds per visit (according to Google)
3. The Guardian has monthly page views of around 88 million in the UK and around 21 million unique visitors per month (according to Google)
4. Based on the above, the average visitor will spend around 450/4.2 = 107 seconds per page. In other words, the average reader will read up to 350 words before moving on to another page or off the site completely.
What might we infer from this?
1. Any article longer than 350 words will not be read in full. Not least because on any given page, the reader is also potentially being distracted from reading editorial copy by ads and other elements on the page. In which case, what density of client reference is required within 350 words to have any material impact on the reader?
Is 107 seconds really long enough to make any impact at all?
What about press releases?
Based on Google Ad Planner figures, the average amount of time spent on a page on (a well known press release distribution service) = 151 seconds.
Based on an average reading speed of 3.33 words per second, then your typical Sourcewire visitor (ie a journalist) is going to consume, at best, 500 words per page.
However, based on an admittedly small sample, the average Sourcewire press release contains 800 – 900 words.
In which case, you might argue that putting a release on Sourcewire of more than 500 words is a waste of time because the likelihood that a journalist will read more than 500 words per page is very slim (ignoring the SEO value that you might gain from using Sourcewire).
These are average figures (Avanash Kaushik would roast me alive). Some people may be able to read more quickly on screen. Then again, many people will read more slowly. And clearly some people may spend more time with content. However, that means that an even greater number spend less time. In fact, that probably is the case if the Newspaper Marketing Society’s figures are true (that 56pc of all UK newspaper web site visits last less than one minute).
Google’s figures may be wildly inaccurate too. That was certainly the claim from publishers when Double Click Ad Planner was first launched. However, you don’t hear so much complaint about them now.
Online PR planning needs to take account of engagement in determining what media sites to target and the appropriate content to provide. If a site’s visitors spend barely 30 seconds on reading a page, then crowing to the client that they’ve got 14 paragraphs of coverage at the end of a 3,000 word article is pretty meaningless – whether it is the BBC or the Wheel Tappers & Shunters Weekly.
Digital marketing digital pr General PR online pr tech pr Technology PR

Engagement – PR’s lost metric

I was intrigued by a recent blog post from Tom Foremski where he “raised the possibility of PR agencies developing the ability to drive lots of traffic to specific news stories” and suggesting that this would constitute a PR firm’s “killer pitch”.
I immediately thought of a superb piece by Ashley Friedlein at E-Consultancy (New metrics and business models for digital publishing – selling outcomes not inputs).
He may have written it nearly a year ago, but it still makes good sense. His opening question – are publishers using outdated metrics – could equally apply to PR.
And it was this that struck me about Tom’s post.
The implicit assumption in Tom’s analysis is that all traffic is good. And more traffic is better. However, even publisher’s don’t think this. Rupert Murdoch clearly doesn’t think so. Specifically, traffic from search engines. In which case, why is traffic generated by PR firms going to be any better?  In fact, you could argue that they will generate precisely the kind of traffic that Murdoch and other big publishers protest to hate – namely, sporadic, non-loyal readers.
Given that this is 2010, surely the traffic for traffic sake argument is well and truly exploded. Isn’t engagement the name of the game?
What is the point of increasing traffic, or indeed unique visitor numbers as per Gawker, if the bounce rate rises and average engagement time falls?
As per Ashley Friedlein’s post, last year, the Newspaper Marketing Agency in the UK found that 56% of newspaper site visits last for under one minute. That’s not a great deal of engagement with content. If increasing traffic leads to greater numbers of unengaged readers, then who cares. I’ve long argued that only publisher’s have access to the data that advertisers (and PR firms) should really care about eg readership figures for specific stories, engagement time with specific pieces of coverage, etc. However, as Friedlein points out, advertising and PR clients are now in a quite powerful position – they know not only the input they’ve paid for (ads or press coverage generated), but they know the outcomes that these inputs have created (or not). They can now easily compare different input mechanisms and see which ones perform better than others. In the context of PR, those that are focussing on delivering outcome based campaigns are clearly going to fare better than those that deliver inputs.
In short, engagement is the name of the game.
But lack of engagement exists everywhere.  The New York Times has nearly 2.3 million Twitter followers – and yet the click throughs on links to its stories via Twitter often barely break into double figures. Even the best ones are in the low 000s. Massive reach in this case isn’t necessarily translating into engagement with content (at least not on the scale that you might imagine)
To return to Tom Foremski’s argument, I’d be curious to know how a PR might go about bumping up traffic to a particular news story (I have an image of hapless PR execs spending their days furiously opening and re-opening the web page of a piece of coverage to try and bump up the viewer figures – again, it might increase traffic, but engagement time is clearly zero).
If you were going to take this approach, why not just run a PPC campaign instead? (don’t publishers do this already?) Why do you need a PR firm to do that?
As Friedlein aptly puts it: “Too little attention is given to measuring outcomes. Specifically, digital media and digital publishing offer greater opportunity to track and measure outcomes that are not so readily available in ‘traditional’ media.”
Likewise with PR. The sooner the PR sector starts to think about outcomes and engagement rather than inputs, the better for all concerned.
digital pr online pr tech pr Technology PR

PR via e-mail: the worst that can happen

Mark Brownlow’s excellent E-Mail Marketing Reports blog has a great post today called “E-Mail Marketing: the worst that can happen”.

Given my recent post about what PR can learn from e-mail marketing best practice, I thought Mark’s post was very timely. It is well worth reading the whole post – and if you simply replace the words “e-mail marketing” with PR, the same principles apply.

With respect to Mark’s original post, here are the “PR via e-mail” versions of his main points:

Email marketers (PRs) often complain that their colleagues or superiors (account directors or clients) want them to do unhealthy things with their (press) list, to squeeze yet more dollars, downloads, pageviews, or whatever (press event  or press coverage) out of subscribers (journalists).

Examples might be sending more and more email (press releases) with the same old tired offers (stories or pitches). Or sending email to a “borrowed” list of attendees at a trade show (or getting a press list from PR Newswire).

A key reason is that the perceived cost of doing anything with email marketing (PR via e-mail) is low. Not the low cost of sending emails (press release or pitches), but the perceived low cost of doing it badly.

He makes a great point when he says: “My home is my inbox. The inbox is not like a TV set or car radio or magazine or billboard or website or even your mailbox. It is a private place. We care what goes in there. But people don’t just ignore or delete “bad” emails. They resent them. A brand pays a price for not delivering value-by-email and annoying the subscriber. Survey after survey shows that subscribers will report email as spam if they are unwanted, come too often, are not relevant enough or come unsolicited. Does this matter? Yes. Spam complaints are a major factor in determining the reputation of the sender. The more complaints you get, the worse your reputation, the less likely you are to get delivered.”

If PR is about reputation management then PR firms need think about how the potential (mis)use of e-mail can impact their own – and more importantly – their client’s reputation to the media. The very thing they are being paid to do.

digital pr online pr

Five key online PR statistics for the UK (and why certain pages rank better than others)

The following stats should be of interest to anybody who is in the market for selling (or buying) online PR services:

1. The term “online PR” is searched for around 266 times per day in the UK.

2. The top ranked UK site for the term “online PR” can expect to receive around 111 click throughs as a result of these searches (according to Google, the top ranked page for a term via organic search can expect to receive click throughs on average equivalent to 42pc of the total number of searches)

3. The SEO value of these click throughs to the top ranked site is around £150 per day (ie given that the CPC for “online PR” is roughly £1.35 for a number one ranked advertiser, the top organically ranked site is thus gaining around £150 in Adword equivalent spend).

4. The top ranked Adwords advertiser for the term “online pr” in the UK can expect to receive around one (1!) click through per day.

5. The probability that someone  searching on the term “online PR” is actually looking to buy online PR services is 0.56 (in other words, just over half the people searching on the term are looking to buy. The rest are informational browsers).

In case you were wondering, here are the top 10 ranked pages for “online PR” in the UK at the moment











Although no one knows the exact nature as to how Google ranks pages, there clearly are a variety of factors that contribute towards Google’s evaluation. Anyone who has taken an interest in SEO knows that there is a checklist of things that are believed to contribute such as number and quality of back links, domain age, use of keywords in URL, frequency of content update, page title, header tags, etc.  And it is now possible to analyse these things in minutes rather than take days or weeks using a hotch potch of disparate tools.

Click here for a full, detailed speadsheet with an analysis of the top 10 ranked sites.  It makes for interesting reading. Take for example, the Bigmouth Media page. It has achieved a very high SERP ranking on the term “online PR” in a relatively short space of time – in terms of backlinks, it has comparatively few – a mere 85 as opposed to Immediate Future’s 22,400 or Online PR’s 5,010 (it also shows that the Page Rank quality of the back links does play a part too). However, it ticks all the boxes for on page optimisation ie “online PR” appears in the page title, URL, header tags, meta tags, etc. It also has a Yahoo directory listing.  Curiously, the 9XB page makes the top 10 with no page rank and no back links. But it does include the term in the page title.

Fairly obviously, if you could tick the boxes in every element, your chances of a high SERP spot are good. And given the value that accrues to the page gaining the number one organic spot (unlike gaining number one spot in terms of Adword position), you can see the importance of ensuring you’ve done as much as you can with the things under your control eg page titles.

Of course, this is only one keyword term.  But you can see the benefit of this kind of analysis – and how it can be used to ensure a properly informed approach to online PR and content generation generally.

Anyone who wants further analysis (or would like escherman to carry out an in-depth analysis of their own market sector) are welcome to get in touch – just drop me an e-mail or call 020 8334 8095.

digital pr General PR marketing online pr tech pr Technology PR

79 out of 100 top UK PR companies don’t offer online PR services: Bigmouthmedia

I’ve just come across a recent survey from Bigmouthmedia that claims that 79 out of the 100 top UK PR companies don’t offer online PR services.

They also say that only 14% of the operations that claimed to have new media covered published their own blogs. And that taken as a whole, only 11% of UK PR Consultancies use blogs to communicate with clients, colleagues and the wider marketplace.

I have to say I found these figures overly low. On the basis of the above analysis, there are only 11 agencies out of the top 100 that have a blog. Surely not.

Then again, I remain curious about the terms online PR, digital PR, etc. Most people I talk to seem to think there is no real semantic difference between them – they are simply different ways of describing the same thing.

However, in terms of their relative search popularity, there clearly are differences. Here are the figures for October 2008 in the UK:
Online PR 2,900
Online public relations 1,600
Web PR 880
Digital PR 590
Internet PR 260
Internet Public Relations 170

Digital public relations 73

Taking Google’s Insight for Search Tool, you can see that interest in the term “online PR” for example was at its highest back at the beginning of March 2008 – and has been bouncing around below this figure ever since. Google Insight also shows the regional breakdown for the term – and it would seem no one outside of London searches for “online PR”.

So what are the implications of all this for the UK online PR market?

This suggests that although interest is growing, it still remains a niche. For example, the term “fashion PR” was searched for 6,600 times last month. Indeed, the term social media scored 9,900 (though its variants such as social media PR, social media marketing, etc hardly registered).

Adam Parker, Chief Executive of online news distribution company webitpr commented on the Bigmouthmedia survey saying: “Despite finding that an increasing number of UK PR professionals are on the ball when it comes to online PR, this survey confirms our experience that a high proportion are still more focussed on traditional media. However, given that this is most probably a reflection of client budget and resource allocations, perhaps what we should be asking ourselves is what this says about UK business’ attitude towards online communications.”

Indeed. Though I’d argue that there is a difference between being aware of the need for online PR and being “on the ball”. Based on the above, it seems that interest in online PR (or whatever term you prefer) is largely confined both client and agency side to a hard core bunch of London-based converts. That surely has to change.

As Adam Parker added: “On a positive note, we feel that with steadily growing interest in the online world from both agencies and in house departments, the tide is beginning to turn. But if it is to properly address the challenges and opportunities that new media offers, the industry must invest in relevant services and training at all levels. Those failing to do so run the long-term risk of losing out in the inevitable battle for the online communications market.”

That I think nails it on the head. Agencies understandably are reluctant to offer services their clients aren’t going to pay for – but unless clients are given the option to actually try or buy a new service, then how can they invest in it? Those agencies that take the risk of developing new online services are clearly going to give themselves a better long term advantage.

General PR tech pr Technology PR Web/Tech

Google reveals keyword search volumes – and why you should care

Don’t know how I missed this one, but last week – and without much fanfare – Google announced that it would now reveal approximate search volumes from within its Keyword Tool.

The excellent Jason Baer at the Convince and Convert blog makes some very good observations as to why this is going to have a big impact on digital marketing. In particular when he says:

“If Google makes the marketing and advertising business as transparent as travel planning and stock purchases, the only agencies that will be able to survive are those that can add real value in messaging, creative, and integrating data into actionable tactics.”

I would of course include PR in the above too. So why should the availability of search volumes bother the PR community? (Or at least the tech/B-to-B world?).

If you accept that 95pc of B-to-B purchase decisions involve search, then you can now put a real figure on just how many people are actually searching on terms that you believe they find important – and are relevant to your business.

Let’s take an imaginary example. The Borked Corporation makes dilithium consoles. Av. profit on a console is $20. The company is aiming to make an additional $1m in profit over the next 12 months. That means selling an extra 50,000 consoles – or just over 4000 consoles a month. All marketing to date has been based around the key term “dilithium consoles”. The company has invested a lot in PR-ing the term dilithium console. Their digital agency has persuaded them to invest heavily in PPC. As of last week, Borked Corporation can see actual search volumes on “dilithium console” – a mere 1000 for the month and an average of 1500 for the last 6 months. It doesn’t take much to work out that Borked needs to answer some major questions – what terms ARE our potential purchasers searching on? How we can understand and influence the non-line buying process and incorporate the most relevant and impactful content at the appropriate juncture? Or more fundamental, is there a big enough market for our products at the current price/profit point?

Let’s not forget that Google’s Keyword Tool can be segmented by geography. For example, here’s the results for the UK last month on the terms digital PR and online PR.

It makes for interesting reading. For example, the keyword term digital PR was searched for in the UK 480 times last month. Online PR got 2400. Exactly 5 times the volume. Or thought of another way, a total of 2880 searches for combined digital/online PR. Or around 100 times a day. And how many of those searches are from people looking to buy digital/online PR services? This is the kind of thinking that helps to bring a forceful clarity to all PR and marketing activity.

Why not see how many times your company/product name was searched on last month? The results may surprise you.