Measuring Public Relations Campaigns with Google Analytics

Published May 28, 2015
A write up in your local paper!
Two new links to your site from targeted communities!
A mention on!
All of the new buzz (and traffic)!
Marketing your business takes marketing your business, proactively and to the right audience. For many businesses, investing in a public relations campaign can prove an invaluable tactic when trying to drive awareness and revenue for businesses large and small. Getting your company mentioned in a major publication (or a smaller more targeted one, for that matter!) can be the breakthrough you need to become familiar, known and trusted to a broad audience.
However, measuring the return from public relations, specifically tying it to your business goals, has been a challenge for marketers. Sure, you’ll no doubt see long-term impact from placing your business’ name throughout online and offline publications, but how do you measure success today? How do you know if increased placements have meant increased business, or if it’s all just a lot of talk?
Thankfully, we can use Google Analytics to help shed some light on the value of public relations.


Blog Image Using GA for Public Relations


Referrals from Placements

The first step toward measuring the value of a public relations campaign is to look at your referrals. This will help you to analyze how much traffic you’ve received from the news outlet or blog you were featured on. You’ll also want to consider how long these visitors spent on your site and how many converted into prospects or took a secondary action.

In addition to our blog brand building, Megalytic has been proactive about contributing content to relevant blogs and news outlets. One blog where I was honored to contribute was Duct Tape Marketing (see my post: The Top Google Analytics Reports for Assessing Mobile Activity). This type of outreach is a great way to build connections, as well as to expose your brand to a much larger audience. Megalytic has received both significant traffic and free trial signups as a result of multiple mentions on Duct Tape Marketing. To look at results from this specific site, we’ll go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. Once here, we can immediately see as the top referring site.


Google Analytics Measuring Referrals from a PR Campaign


In this report, we can see that drove 577 New Users over this timeframe, introducing a number of people unfamiliar with Megalytic to the product. We can also note that these people looked at close to three pages (Pages/Session) and browsed the site for almost two minutes (Avg. Session Duration). This engagement data shows that Duct Tape Marketing readers didn’t just land on the site and go away, they engaged with content on the site and were interested in learning more about the tool.

Most importantly, in the Conversions section at right, we see that this site generated 32 free trial signups. This tells us that this placement proved valuable well beyond brand awareness, driving a number of people to try the tool right away.

To see more specific information about this placement, we can click the domain in the Referrals report. This will take us to a list of URLs on that drove Sessions (visits) to Megalytic.


Google Analytics Measuring Referrals from Duct Tape Marketing


Here we see that multiple blog articles, as well as some miscellaneous URLs from the blog, drove Sessions to the site. We can make a few observations from this data.

  • The posts driving the most Sessions don’t necessarily drive the most free trial signups. For example, the August 30 Weekend Favs post (/weekend-favs-august-thirty) drove 263 Sessions but only nine free trial signups, converting at 3%. The Tools for Productivity post (/tools-productivity) drove 260 Sessions and 17 free trial signups, converting at 6.5%.
  • In general, higher Avg. Session Duration seems to correlate with higher conversion rate, both on the high volume (in Sessions) Tools for Productivity post and the lower volume Mobile Analytics post.

This data also demonstrates the value of asking publications to link back to your brand in mentions. Besides driving SEO value, linking back will encourage people to click through to your site. An increase in people visiting your site from quality placements can also increase the possibility for an increase in conversions.

Increased Search Activity

Sometimes, PR placements may not drive referrals or conversions that are easy to attribute directly, but they will contribute to brand awareness. Increased brand awareness can show up in your analytics as search activity increases for your business’s brand name.

To evaluate organic search activity for specific keywords, you’ll first need to have Google Webmaster Tools installed for your site and linked with Google Analytics. Once you have done this, you can see Search Query data (i.e., keyword data), in the standard report found under Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries.

Using the search bar, you can filter queries to specifically see those including your company’s brand name. If you type in your brand name, results will show any searches that mention your brand name (for example, not just “Megalytic” but also “Megalytic reviews”). You’ll now see a list of all searches in which people referenced your brand. Keep in mind that Webmaster Tools only provides keyword data for the previous three months.


Webmaster Tools Data in Google Analytics


For this particular brand, we can see a 100% increase month over month. Not only did twice as many people search for the brand name (impressions), but twice as many also clicked through to visit the site. This increase reflects awareness for the client’s brand increasing in line with increased recent press exposure.

Keep an eye on brand name searches that are timed with various PR placements going live. You’ll want to watch for increases that may reflect curiosity from people who saw your brand mentioned in an article and decided to conduct a search. Search the Referrals report for each site with a brand placement to determine how many people are visiting, how well they are engaging and how many are completing goals.

Increased Direct Traffic

An increase in direct traffic can also reflect activity from PR placements that may not necessarily include links to your business’s site. This is especially true if PR involves offline placements in print publications, as people may then turn to the web to type in a URL and visit your website directly.

To view Direct traffic, you can go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium and select (direct) / (none) from the list of sources. You’ll then see stats specific to Direct traffic for the timeframe you’re viewing.


Google Analytics Measuring Direct Traffic


In this screenshot, we see a traffic spike around February 3, reflecting an event this business promoted heavily through offline PR. While we don’t see referrals directly from these sources, we do see the impact on driving people to type in the website URL and visit.

Of course, keep in mind that Direct traffic in Google Analytics can include a variety of visit types. Always be aware of dates that PR placements published to be able to correlate these with traffic patterns in Google Analytics.


Google Analytics bolsters your ability to track the results of public relations campaigns, measuring the impact of both online and offline placements via website activity. Specific referrals show data for traffic and conversions, while search activity and direct traffic reflect general increases in interest around your brand. Take the time to monitor these sections of analytics in conjunction with PR campaigns to determine how well they are helping to build your brand.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.