As digital PR & SEO professionals, we love links. We really, really love links. Why wouldn’t we? While many shy away from the phrase “link building” (as it elicits memories of spammy tactics used to earn inbound links from as many websites as possible, regardless of domain authority) we lean into link building. It’s one of our favorite ways of tracking digital PR campaign success.
However, there’s one important thing to distinguish, we’re not going after any link, we’re going after top-tier links.
Our data-driven digital PR strategy secures top-tier earned media coverage (and links) for our clients on high-DA websites. This type of coverage and brand mentions establish them as subject matter experts. They have the added benefit of transferring some of that page authority and reputation to our clients’ websites, which in turn, leads to SEO improvements.
When we measure the link building aspect of our digital PR success metrics, we focus, in part, on three different types of links: built, organic, and syndication.
Built links: These are links earned directly from our outreach efforts and relationships we’ve built with journalists. When we look at digital PR metrics, built links reflect our relationships with journalists that lead to top-tier media coverage.
Organic links: A writer found the campaign and featured it without any outreach effort or pitches from us.
Syndicated links: A collection of links that stem from a single placement. Oftentimes, this kind of link comes from a local news outlet.
[Learn more about how syndication works here]
How can you measure digital PR success? The answer may vary, because the metrics you choose to track depend on the goals of your campaign. The majority of our clients are looking for widespread media coverage with a high percentage of those placements accompanied by authoritative inbound links. A one-two punch of brand awareness and SEO.
For those seeking just brand awareness, brand mentions and social engagement may be more valuable metrics that may carry heavier weights.
While for others, measuring customer behavior and interactions may more accurately capture the success or failure of a campaign.
You may be asking yourself, with so many moving parts, how do you know the PR metrics that matter most for your campaign or client?
Let’s focus on five of the most important digital PR metrics you should monitor, regardless of your specific goals.
One of the top PR metrics you should track when it comes to measuring success is the total number of inbound links earned.
It’s important to keep track of the backlink profile of a campaign for two primary reasons. First, tracking total links allows you to give a hard number to the overall success and reach of the campaign as it can be tied to search engine optimization. Second, you can track the added metric of the SEO value of each link.
Backlinks from low-authority websites won’t signal value and authority to search engines like Google. When you pay close attention to metrics like the type and authority of earned links, you can better gauge the depth of your link building efforts. Top-tier earned media placements will always be better for your metrics.
Another element of this type of PR success metric is evaluating the sentiment of those inbound links. Are they links to positive references to your brand or campaign, or are they negative? Search algorithms don’t weight positive versus negative sentiment in their rankings, however, if you’re looking to build a positive digital reputation, sentiment analysis (a more traditional PR metric) can help with those assessments.
Referral traffic to your website represents users who clicked through and arrived on your page via an outside link. Whether it’s a hyperlinked brand mention in a news article or an internal citation, when someone clicks on an external link they become “referral” traffic to the host site.
In the screengrab above, anyone who clicks on the hyperlinked text “PPC advertisers” would be referred to a new URL. We could then track the number of users who arrived at the page via external links who were “referred” to the new URL in Google Analytics.
Take, for instance, our client campaign analyzing cities with the most craft breweries. The campaign earned a total of 113 links, which is a noteworthy digital PR metric on its own.
But more impressively, the media shares produced 1,115+ referrals to our client’s site – from a single placement. Those visitors weren’t just clicking by mistake. How do we know? Because they spent more than two minutes on average perusing the site.
When you drive traffic to your site, the goal is always to convert. It doesn’t always happen due to blog content or social media posts, but it can.
Google Analytics is a wonderful tool to use to track future leads and conversions from those who engage and interact with your digital PR campaigns. By tracking users who arrived at your campaign page and traveled to other conversion-focused pages on your site, you can gauge the success of your digital strategy.
One of the reasons we pursue linking inbound media coverage is because of the SEO ramifications of link building digital PR campaigns. A robust backlink profile can cause a website’s rankings to skyrocket.
Relevant links are arguably the most important ranking factor when Google evaluates a page. When a website or web page ranks for targeted keywords, the cycle begins: the site ranks higher in organic search results, which in turn makes it more likely to be trafficked and linked to.
We saw this happen with our client after we conducted a study on package theft during the holidays. Altogether, the piece earned 232 media placements with an average domain authority of 67. Thanks to these results, it ranks on the first page of Google search results for relevant keywords.
One year after it was published, the study is now the 3rd-most visited page on the client’s entire website. In addition, thanks to the keyword visibility, the piece earned an additional 81 placements after outreach ended. Cycle complete.
Social media can be a great way to capture consumer sentiment about a campaign or brand. The social media metrics you ought to track should reflect where your target audience lies. For some brands that may be Instagram, for others, their engagement may come from LinkedIn or Twitter. Each social media platform carries analytics tools that can help you track and monitor impressions, engagement, clicks, likes, and comments.
If your digital PR goal includes growing your brand or client’s brand on a certain platform, tracking audience size and impressions on a monthly basis can help identify which content is attracting audiences to your profiles and strategize what type of social content you ought to generate in the future.
Just as there are digital PR metrics you should be measuring, there are digital PR metrics you should not be measuring.
Namely, low DA links.
Gone are the days of total link count being the only thing that mattered. Today, it’s quality over quantity. Why?
Because, unlike low DA links, high DA links offer more benefit to your SEO efforts and are therefore more valuable. Simply put, the more high-quality links you build, the better your rankings – and the better your rankings, the better chance of leads, conversions, referrals, and total links. That’s why the quality of links is one of the top earned media metrics you may want to consider.
At the end of the day, those are the digital PR metrics that matter because those are the key metrics that most benefit a site. Once you identify your campaign goals, the rest are easy to decide.