This week I had the opportunity to speak to a Public Relations class at Champlain College about measurement, public relations and Google Analytics. After rambling for an hour, I through it would be a good idea to jot down my advice in hopes that others can use it or, more importantly, improve on it.
Let me be clear, I’m not a PR expert. You should follow KD Paine, Nicole Ravlin, PR News and other experts to learn about PR. But hopefully some of these Google Analytics tips will help those in PR measure better.
Have A Measurement Plan
Before you do any measurement you should have a plan. This is where my lack of PR knowledge hurts me because I don’t know all of the tactics that a PR pro uses :) But thanks to the students at Champlain, I learned that PR deals with controlling the flow of information between a company and the public, and they try to persuade the public regarding a certain viewpoint, idea or product.
At the end of the day PR activities should help drive business outcomes :)
I love this quote from Measure what Matters which is all about measuring PR:
The ultimate test of the effectiveness of your efforts is whether the behavior of the target audience has changed as a result. This is also the most difficult to measure because all of the various factors that can affect the results of programs a company undertakes. The most effective way to measure behavior change attributable solely to your efforts is to study specific programs carried out by your team.
“Looking at the effects of your efforts.” I love that part.
But what effects?
The effects are just the data in a tool like Google Analytics. Here are a few things that you can measure:
1. How many people did I get and how much traffic?
Measure Unique visitors and Visits. Unique visitors is a rough count of the people on your site and Visits is the number of sessions they create.
2. Where did my site visitors come from? Twitter? Blogs?
Measure the different traffic sources that drive traffic to your site.
3. Did people like the stuff on my website? Were they engaged? How often do they come back? How long are then on the site?
Measure the frequency of visits, the recency (amount of time between visits) and how many pages they view. How much time did they spend and which pages they look at is also very useful
4. How did they change my business? Did I sell more products? Did I get more leads?
Measure Goals and Conversions. Make sure you’ve got Google Analytics configured to track transactions or other conversions on your site.
Where to Find This Data
Almost all of these metrics are in the standard GA reports. Most are columns in the data table as shown in the image below. There’s a column for each metric that covers traffic (visits) and engagement (avg time on site, pages per visit and bounce rate).
This is important: you can change the columns in the reports to view your goal conversions. Use the links at the top of the report, outlined in blue.
Click on the links that say Goal Set 1, Goal Set 2, etc. and the table will refresh with your conversion data. Remember, you need to set up goals or track ecommerce transactions.
This means that you can view goals (i.e. conversions) in EVERY reports. Just keep that in mind as we move through some example.
Measure Where People Come From
Use the Traffic Sources > Sources > All Traffic. This is a list of every traffic sources for your site.
Sources, also called Channels can be email, social media (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook), other websites (blogs, news sites, etc.), search engines, paid search (Google AdWords) or other online advertising (display ads, etc.).
Here’s some data for my blog.
Let’s talk about what some of these things mean. The Medium is the channel and the Source gives you a bit more information about the Medium (like the name).
Google/Organic is organic search from Google.
t.co/referral is a referral from
koozai.com/referral is a referral from the site
(direct)/(none) is traffic that came directly to your site.
This should give you some overall context as to where people came from.
If you are expecting traffic from a certain channel then use the search box at the top of the table to search for it. Just type in the name.
If you want to know which websites are sending you traffic then check out the Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals report.
Let’s pivot this a bit and just look at social referrals. Here I’m using the Traffic Sources > Social > Network Referrals report. This is a list of traffic from all social sites. Google Analytics automatically creates the list for you.
One more traffic source. In the Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic you can see the organic keywords that people searched for on Google and other search engines.
You might be looking for brand terms or product terms. It depends on what you are promoting and how you’re doing it.
Note: You may have noticed that the #1 organic keyword from Google is
(not provided). Google blocks the search query for those that are logged into Gmail, G+ and other services. Here’s a technique you can use to analyze what users from (not provided) are searching for.
If you want a bit more detail about your traffic sources you can use Google Analytics Campaign Tracking and a process called Link Tagging. This is the creation of special links that help you track more details about your traffic sources.
Measure Visitor Behavior
Now that you know how to identify where people come from, let’s look at visitor behavior on the site.
I like to look at how often they come to the site. This is called Frequency and can be found in the Audience > Behavior > Frequency & Recency report. Usually we want people to come back more than one time.
The frequency will depend on your marketing and PR activities. But You’ll probably see a lot of people visiting once. Observe how this changes especially when you take some action.
Now let’s look at engagement (Audience > Behavior > Engagement). I like to use Page Depth as a metric. How deep into the site do people go? The deeper into the site the more they are engaged.
I also like Bounce Rate. Bounce rate measure how many people land on your site and then immediately leave after viewing the landing page. Normally a high bounce rate means that people really don’t like the content you’re showing them and there is some disconnect with the content they clicked on.
You can find bounce rate in almost EVERY report. I like to look at Bounce Rate in the Traffic Sources reports we discussed above because I can see which external sources may be linked to the wrong pages on my site.
A couple other metrics worth mentioning because they’re easy to find: pages per visit and average time on site. Both of these are in most reports, like the Traffic Sources report above. But they’re averages, and can be easily skewed. That’s why I mentioned page depth and frequency.
Measure What They’re Interested In
What are people looking at?
Use the Content > Site Content > All Page report to view which pages on the site get the most traffic. This simple view of site content can give you insights into what people are interested it.
Again, try using the search box at the top of the report to isolate something specific that that relates to your effort (a product, brand, etc.).
You can also use the Organic report mentioned above to look at keywords, but that’s getting more challenging with (not provided).
Segment Your Data for Deeper Insights
Your website gets a lot of traffic. You need a way to filter all that traffic and only look for what’s important to you. If you can isolate the results of your activities in Google Analytics you’ll have a better chance of showing your impact.
That where segmentation comes in.
The easiest way to isolate data is to use an Advanced Custom Segment. This is a filter that will filter all of the data in all of the reports in real time.
Let’s look at a quick example.
I want to filter my reports and only look at the behavior of people from the referring website
analytics-ninja.com. I start by Clicking on the Advanced Segment button on the gray bar at the top GA.
I don’t want to get into to many details about how to set up the advanced segment. Check out this great article on segmentation.
You have to tell the advanced segment what piece of data to filter on. This is called a Dimension or a Metric. Then you have to tell the filter what values to allow or exclude.
A quick example. Let’s say I’ve got a release posted on
analytics-ninja.com. I can filter all of my traffic and view just the data for people coming from
Here are the settings for my advanced segment.
When I apply this segment all of the data in all of the report will be for people coming from
I can look at all of the data we discussed above (behavior, content, engagement, conversions) and evaluate the success of traffic from
You might also want to check out the Google Analytics Solutions gallery for some pre-made advanced segments.
Tip: Try creating some segments. YOU WILL NOT BREAK ANYTHING :) Segments are specific to you and your account. I promise, Google Analytics will still work if you make a bad segment.
Real Time Monitoring
Now let’s take all of the data we just talked about and make it measurable in real time. That means as it happens, second by second.
Often PR has to deal with unanticipated events, like a kind word from an influencer or a crisis. You need to understand the impact now.
With the real time reports you can get a count of the active users on your website, where they came from (geographically), what brought them to the site (traffic sources) and what they’re looking at (content).
These are all things we discussed above. The only difference is that you’re seeing it second by second.
Want more? How about the ability to segment the real time reports? Just click on any piece of data, like a page name or a traffic source, and the Real Time reports will be segmented.
Things to make Your Analytics Life Easier
OK, here are a few tips to make all of this measurement easier.
Customize Google Analytics. You can use Custom Reports or Custom Dashboards to aggregate all of the information that we talked about above.
In fact, I created a Custom Dashboard using many of the reports above.
Automatically add the Google Analytics PR dashboard to your Google Analytics account.
You can take my customization one step further by applying an advanced segment to it. Then you’ll have all the important data, segmented by your action, in one place.
Love the dashboard? You can use the Short Cut feature to add these reports (including the custom dashboard) directly to the left-hand navigation in Google Analytics.
What, you’re too busy to log into Google Analytics and look at your dashboard? How about creating an automated email and Google will send you the dashboard every day.
What, you get too much email? How about creating some automated data alerts to automatically monitor the data in the reports and email you (or send you a text message) when something changes? If you don’t know about Custom Alerts you can read how they might save your ass :)
Google Analytics for PR
So that’s it. A brain dump about PR and Google Analytics. After writing this I can think of a lot more things that PR can do with Google Analytics. But I think I’ll save them for an Advanced post.
A big thanks to the students at Champlain College for the great questions.
Muhammad Aslam says
I am a regular reader of your posts, your this post has also increased my GA knowledge Cheers :).
Justin Cutroni says
@Muhammed: Thanks, that’s very nice to hear :)
Andrew Bruce Smith says
First, may I say how delighted I am that you have written about the relationship between Google Analytics and Public Relations. This is a subject very dear to my heart!
I’ve been banging on about the value of Google Analytics to the PR profession for years in the UK:
It was Avinash Kaushik that opened my eyes to the possibilities back in 2008:
And your book (Performance Marketing) was also a great inspiration ;)
(This next bit isn’t intended as a plug for me, but just to put some context on my analysis)
I have worked in PR for 26 years. I run training courses on Google Analytics for PR professionals for one of the main UK PR trade bodies – the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) – which represents around 10,000 PR people. The numbers of people attending these courses is on a rapid rise – and I get invaluable feedback from past attendees about how Google Analytics is proving to be hugely valuable in demonstrating the value of what they do. I also work directly with organisations to help their PR and communications teams implement Google Analytics (or more accurately, help them access and use the data their organisation is already collecting).
I thus have a pretty useful sample of how people are attempting to use GA in a PR context. Here are some of the challenges.
1. No goals, no insights
2. PRs often struggle to get access to GA
3. Stakeholders and custom variables
4. Attribution analysis
Apologies for the lengthy comment, but I absolutely believe that PR professionals everywhere owe it to themselves to learn more Google Analytics and how (if used correctly) it can be an amazingly powerful aid to demonstrating the value of what they bring to the party. Let’s face it, PR has always suffered from an inability to prove its worth (Bill Gates once said that if he was down to his last marketing dollar, he’d spend it on PR. And if asked, most business leaders would agree that PR is the most valuable part of the marketing mix. And yet, that hasn’t – and still isn’t – reflected in PR budgets – at best it still on average represents around 10pc (at most) of a typical marketing budget – this is largely due to a traditional inability to demonstrate the true impact and value of PR activity.
Google Analytics may not be the Holy Grail of PR measurement, but at least it offers a far more robust opportunity for PR pros to prove their value than they’ve ever had.
So I appreciate someone with your huge influence in the area of Google Analytics bringing to bear your thoughts on its relationship to PR ;)
One final plug if I may – for anyone in the UK who is reading this, I’ll be speaking on the subject of Google Analytics and PR at the PR Analytics Conference in London on February 28th:
Here’s to more conversation in PR circles about Google Analytics (and measurement in general).
Justin Cutroni says
@Andrew: Great comment and great post, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I think you’re spot-on. More and more people within an organization can utilize data to show the value of their activities. Obviously PR is one such group. I would encourage more and more PR pros to use data.
I think businesses will get the most value from PR measurement when it’s done as part of a bigger measurement plan. Which shouldn’t be too tough. I think most PR groups are plugged into the larger organization, monitoring the daily communications.
Hopefully marketing technology teams will provide more data and access to data to PR so they can help identify the value of their actions.
Thanks again for the insightful comment.
Andrew Bruce Smith says
Justin – thanks again for looking at Google Analytics in the context of PR (public relations). As you know, my original comment turned into a mini-dissertation. So, as you suggested, I’ve blogged my response here:
I’d welcome your views on my post – either here, or on my blog.
I have been overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge in social media I have to learn before beginning my career in PR. This post has made it easier to help me understand Google Analytic. Thank you for sharing your insight…