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Evaluating the media: Does Google Analytics offer PR a way of connecting their efforts with organisational outcomes?

PR geekiness - the tools & techniques to gain insights from PR exposure

Monday, March 16, 2015

Does Google Analytics offer PR a way of connecting their efforts with organisational outcomes?

- Put simply, yes(ish). 

Though it comes with lots of caveats, this is a possible way of tracking cross social media impact. Google Analytics (GA), as has been said before, is not easy. The interface is often confusing, often inconsistent and often failing the 'so what?' test.

But if your goal is for people to do certain things on your site, it might just prove to be the assist that puts the ball in the back of the net - not that I do football analogies.

Before I go any further I have a quick rant about GA. 

I do a lot of competitor comparison/analysis of media coverage. I hoped GA could help me with this, but it can't. While Google Search is the master at finding influential news topics and comment, GA does not integrate search results, unless (..and how great this would be) you can correct me.

Back on-topic; and the starting point is nowhere near Google Analytics. You need to think about what success might look like. Think carefully about the goals to achieve. If you run an e-commerce site and have a new product, its likely it involve sales. If you are B2B you might want sign up on your site, white paper downloads or contact forms. 

To appreciate the many processes involved, and you are a newbie to GA you would be best reviewing these tutorials: 

Firstly there is a series on GA Fundamentals. Then, if you run e-commerce (a shopping cart, but not etsy!) on your site you will need to enable that element and also review these additional tutorials.

I know this all seem ponderous, but there are concepts, terminology and bolt-on you need to know about if you are going to manage this this well. I promise you, if you really want to find the answers, this will not be a waste of your time.

However this is a gist of what's involved. Get a Google Analytics account or update an existing account (it changed quite a lot about 2 years ago, latest version known as 'Universal Analytics'). Prepare a list of your target social media networks. What you will probably want to know is which of these networks gets the most sales or conversions. 

Once you have prepared your post or tweet for sending out, you will want to add a link to the best landing page on your site. This is the magic bit...GA can add a bit of extra code to track lots of extra things to work out what works best.     

So you need to add a bit to your inbound link address and that's done in GA by using the Link Builder (put Link Builder into the Analytics Help bar). You will need to add 3 pieces of information, the Source or referrer, the Medium (banner, email, etc), and Campaign name. If that's not enough to isolate which of your efforts it is there are 2 other optional field you can use.

The link builder will create a unique link which you can then use as your link for that network and campaign, etc. Once installed the code will start returning activites to your GA account telling you things like what network and promotion was most successful in getting people to your site, making conversions and hitting your preset goals. It will also give you other useful information like what was the bounce rate (only visited 1 page), what type of device and browser was used. 

It will also tell you about what people do once on your site, like where did they go, for how long and if they were new or returning visitors. If its an e-commerce site, as long as you have enabled the right GA settings you can also see how people progress through the buying process and if there is an aspect making buyers drop out, or loop-back in the process. 

When you connect the initial tagging process with the other trackable things like product groups and categories, it is easy to image how easy it is to link the initial outreach with an end result.

This outcome connection is something PR has been striving to achieve. 

GA as a tool, has the feeling of being an instrument for the use of advertisers. It will quite easily integrate Adwords data, letting advertisers see how well different ads work. 

The worry I have is that too many PR's are discounting it for this very reason. Any sensible organisation will be using GA, or the even more confusing Abobe analytics package. 

PR's should fight to get and keep their GA logins; and study very carefully what they can do with it, as it has many PR applications. If I might be so bold, I might suggest it is one of the few ways you might genuinely connect PR input with organisational outcome.   

I hope you found this of interest and if you have a view please post a comment. It would also be great if you wanted to subscribe to future blog updates.     


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