Jul 18, 2017 / by Lacey Miller

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As a PR pro, how much has your reporting changed? You've probably noticed there's been a significant shift in the ways we are asked to demonstrate the effectiveness of our work. Activity based measures like the number of press releases, media pitches, and mentions are less persuasive than they once were. The old AVE (Advertising Value Equalivancy) metric has been largely dropped altogether, in favor of other data-driven measures that are more relevant to business results, like building awareness and earning the trust of desired audiences. And what's the best way to measure those? Welcome to the world of website traffic, an excellent gauge of how you are doing on several fronts.

Overall website traffic numbers are interesting, but real insight into what is working well and what can be improved comes from digging into the data a little deeper. Here are five different metrics that can help drive your strategy.

New Unique Visitors

A unique visitor is someone who has never visited your website before. If awareness of your brand is growing due to your PR campaigns, influencer engagement, and social media efforts, you can expect to see the number of unique visitors increase over time. A well placed earned media mention should produce a spike in new visitors. If it doesn’t, you may be targeting the wrong publications. Other activities like organic search (which PR also influences) and advertising contribute to new visitors as well, but Google Analytics will help you understand what portion of that increased activity is being driven by PR.

Returning Visitors

It is important to monitor the rate at which you are attracting new visitors, but most of the people who will buy from you and become loyal customers will visit your website more than once. When people come to your site for a second or third time, it is a good indication that you have begun to develop trust. All of your PR activities including earned media and social engagement work to build trust. Even if a returning visitor didn’t reach the site directly from a PR related asset, the brand identity and credibility you build add up over time, solidifying for the visitor that your website is a valuable resource.

Content assets like blog posts, videos, infographics and eBooks are outstanding ways for PR professionals to contribute to a steady increase in return visits. Your audience begins to rely on your brand for information, inspiration, and entertainment. There’s an old business truism that it takes more money to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. This is true in PR as well, it is critical to hold on to the visitors that you are able to earn. Your returning visitors statistic shows whether you are gaining the trust of your audience and strengthening relationships.

Mobile Visitors

Add mobile engagement to the growing list of things that complicate life for modern PR, but you likely consume content on your tablet and phone and so do your potential customers, employees, and partners. When you think about a piece of content or a media mention, you also need to think about all of the ways in which it might be viewed. Google Analytics will give you insight into which devices are being used to engage with your digital properties and 3rd party mentions.

It goes without saying that your website should have a responsive design, but it pays to think even beyond that. For example, if you have an awesome piece of video content that is great in Flash, but most of your mobile visitors are using Apple iOS devices, you might want to make that content available in another format.

Referrals from Social Media

Many PR and marketing teams have a special strategy for social media. That’s why it is a good idea to track website traffic from your social properties as a separate metric. User behavior on LinkedIn is very different from their behavior on SnapChat. People consume and post different types of things on Facebook and Instagram, so understanding which channels are driving traffic and what kind of content works best on each can help you shore up your plans.  You may want to develop separate campaigns for each platform, and you’ll certainly want to know which activities result in a jump in traffic from your social networks.

Goal Conversions

Ultimately, you are trying to attract visitors to your website for a purpose. It may be to complete an e-commerce transaction, fill out a form, join a list, or even give you a call. Tracking goal conversions back to your PR activities is the linchpin for truly measuring the ROI of PR. If you are driving traffic, but not seeing that result in goal conversions, it is time for some deep analysis into what can be done to develop trust more quickly and effectively. Perhaps there is not enough 3rd party validation featured on the site, or maybe calls to action are too difficult to find or require too many steps to complete.

We would argue that without website traffic as a metric, it is impossible to understand the effectiveness of public relations or to build a strategy for success. Fortunately, in most cases, the data is already being generated. You just need to get your hands on it and put it to good use.

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About Lacey Miller

Passionate about public relations and empowering practitioners, Lacey Miller found her dream job at TrendKite, where she carries the crown of 'word nerd'. With a background in public relations and technology, she's a great fit with her desire to innovate the industry! You can find her most days writing for PR Forward, PRSA, and other marketing trade publications.