Measuring the ROI of your digital PR campaigns

By William Furney, PR & content strategist, Reachology

In business, when you invest in something, you want a return. But with some services, what you get out of what you put in isn’t always clear – if you get anything at all. 

This is the way it’s been for traditional public relations, or PR, for as long as it’s been around: pour many thousands, or a lot more, into a campaign to improve your company’s image and you’re left wondering what happened when it ends. Sometimes, it’s like pouring money right down the drain. 

That was until digital PR came around. Now, using tools, trackers and web solutions, you can see exactly how digital PR campaigns are performing and what the eventual results are. 

Here, we’re going to show you how you can measure the ROI of your campaigns, whether you’re using a digital PR agency or not. If you’re in the marketing department of your company, this will be vital when you come to report on the budget you asked for, for digital PR. 

Calculating the return on your digital PR spend

These are the areas to focus on when working out your return on investment in a digital PR campaign:

Best ways to measure ROI:

1. Appraise the quality and reach of published articles/sites.

2. Evaluate quality and volume of links earned.

3. Monitor your website traffic.

4. Assess your social media accounts and shares.

5. Track conversions/sales as a direct result. 

1. Appraise the quality and reach of published articles/sites.

Gather your published articles and work out how worthwhile the sites are. You may find that your pieces appear on sites that you didn’t pitch, because sometimes, sites will republish content from others – or at least rewrite it so it’s not duplicate content. This is a natural part of the syndication of news. 

To find as much of your content as possible, use:

  • Google, Bing and possibly even Yahoo, because some search engines may pick up articles that others don’t. Do a basic search and also one using their news features. 
  • Social media: search Twitter, Instagram and other platforms, where you may find your articles shared, by websites and their followers. 
  • Set up Google Alerts. When articles mentioning your company or brands are published, this free service should pick them up and email you straight away. 
  • Media monitoring software. This can be an expensive option, and there are lots of these services, but if you’re running many digital PR campaigns, it might be worth the investment, because they perform deep and instant monitoring of news stories related to you. Among the top media monitoring companies are Meltwater, Mention and Cision. 

Check key metrics for each article, including traffic, domain and page authority and rank, spam score and others, using Semrush, Ahrefs and similar tools, to see if they measure up to what you need – and you’ll be looking for a blend of power, quality and relevance. So don’t disregard anything if it’s in the teens, or lower, thinking it won’t give you any sort of SEO boost. More than ever, Google likes to see relevance to your sector, and these sites have the potential to grow in the future.   

You can put all your article links into a reporting tool like CoverageBook, which gives estimated readership, domain authority scores and other essential information in an instant. It also showcases all your digital PR campaign coverage by displaying the online articles in an easily digestible format. 

CoverageBook’s reporting features calculate the essential metrics of digital PR campaign coverage. 

The next step in working out the ROI of your digital PR campaigns is to go through your published articles and find links in them to your website. There may be some; there may be none. If journalists haven’t linked to your site, you can always ask them to. It might have just been an oversight and they may happily now, that you’ve asked, add a link to your website. See how many links you then have at the end of your digital PR campaign, as this is incredibly important when working out your ROI. 

When assessing these links, you’re going to want to check if they are “follow” (which passes PageRank signals on) or “no-follow” (these do not pass PageRank on). Follow links are the holy grail, as they provide the most SEO benefit to your desired page, but no-follow links are still important in an organic backlink profile in Google’s eyes and help to provide traffic through clicks. If there are no links at all, mentions of your company and its brands can also be valuable for rankings, so tot those up too. 

3. Monitor your website traffic.

With coverage and backlinks gained during a digital PR campaign, one of your aims, and therefore measures, should be increases in your organic and/or referral traffic to your website. Higher traffic is not easy to get, and if you’re experiencing it, it’s a tangible sign of a good ROI on your digital PR spend. 

Here is where Google Analytics is your friend and which you should have set up on your site. Through analytics, you have the capacity to really hone in on the success of your campaigns by tracking the dates you see higher numbers of visitors to your website, how they engage with the page and how they got to your site in the first place. You can then cross-reference this against the dates your digital PR campaign ran, giving you the answer to why you have more visitors than usual. 

When you send your stories to journalists and publishers, ensuring you know who visits your site and pages through the links in the converge is going to be really valuable. That’s why you should use Urchin Tracking Modules (UTM) tagging on all of your links. This will save time drilling down in analytics as you’ll be able to use them in all of the acquisition reports. 

If you don’t have Google Analytics, or you have but are unsure how to use it, you can always opt for other traffic measurement sites and tools, including Semrush ($), Ahrefs ($) and Similarweb (partly free). However, once you are familiar with it, analytics becomes your friend and allows you that transparency as soon as you start using it.  

4. Assess your social media accounts and shares.

The best digital PR campaigns really get people talking – nowhere more so than on social media. You can expect a whole lot of comments, shares, follows, likes and everything else that happens on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and the other platforms. You might even go viral

So look at your social media accounts and activities related to you. Compare the number of followers you had before your digital PR campaign got underway and now, at the end. You should see a substantial increase, and another solid return on your investment. 

5. Track conversions/sales as a direct result. 

With more traffic to your website, should hopefully come more conversions and, ultimately, more customers and sales. Are you experiencing higher sales volume since your digital PR campaign began running? 

Again make sure you have Google Analytics set up on your website and use it to track traffic to all your various pages. Setting up specific conversions on your desired landing page and other key pages will allow you to assess your digital PR campaign’s effectiveness. In analytics terms, conversions can be all manner of things people do on a website that turn them into leads or customers, and you need to set them up when initially configuring your GA account, so the software can track them. 

Conversions can be many things, including: 

  • Filling out a contact form
  • Demos
  • Consultations
  • Free trials 
  • Downloading a guide/ebook/white paper
  • Claiming a special offer
  • Making a purchase
  • Subscribing to a newsletter

Whatever you have for your conversions, if you have provided the right information, trail and set up, you could see a marked rise following your digital PR campaign, giving you another indicator of a firm ROI. 

Working out the value of your digital PR campaign results

Now that you’ve done all the above, how do you know how much your return is worth? All those published articles and links, increased traffic, social media engagements and conversions — is it possible to put some sort of value on them through a single figure? 

It’s not always easy to work out, but it’s really important to know. Running all of your pieces of coverage through the various softwares can be pricey and fiddly, so that’s why we’ve developed our own method of finding out – formulas called Q-Flux and Reachscore

Q-Flux uses a combination of metrics to deliver an overall assessment of the value of a digital PR campaign based on links earned. 

With ReachScore, we’re assigning a value, in monetary terms, to all the coverage gained in a digital PR campaign. It includes articles, links, mentions, social media engagements and even pieces in offline media, such as printed newspapers and magazines. 

If you want to know more about how we help to measure and quantify ROI from our digital PR campaigns, then find out more about Q-Flux here and Reach Score here.

Other measures to consider:

ROI is the main way you justify spend, but outside of this, you may want to also consider tracking other metrics to gauge successes within your digital PR campaigns that will help you learn moving forwards:

1. Check email opens.

If you’ve sent a lot of emails during your digital PR campaign, using mail merge or a bulk service like Mailchimp, you’ll want to know how many recipients opened them. Those who did open clearly had some interest in the subject line, so you can follow up and ask them if they plan to publish your story or if they’d like more information. They are more likely to be receptive than those who didn’t open your email. 

2. % of emails responded to.

What about the number of journalists you emailed who did initially respond? Have they published your story or has nothing happened. Time to get back in touch and ask them. 

3. Relationships built with key publishers/journalists.

Also check the amount of journalists you got in touch with for the first time. Building relationships with the media is a cornerstone of any digital PR campaign, and the more that you develop, the greater your ROI is bound to be, as more pieces are published. 

ROI of your digital PR strategy – recap 

Whether you’re using digital PR services or running your own campaigns, you need to know the returns you’re getting on your spend. So make sure you:

  • Know the quality of published articles
  • Get links from high-tier online publications
  • Regularly check your website traffic
  • Keep an eye on your social media accounts
  • Note sales as a result of campaigns

If you’d like to know more about digital PR campaigns and ROI, including our proprietary Q-Flux and ReachScore measuring systems, get in touch with us here at Reachology today. We’ll be happy to provide a free, no-obligation consultation.  

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