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Why all PRs need to understand Google Analytics

Not enough brands are willing to share their website performance data with their external PR teams, according to the results of a survey I ran and wrote up for Brand Republic’s Wallblog this week. But this is only half the issue, as I go around the UK and Europe training PR agencies on social media best practice and SEO, I find that often only one or two people per agency have even tested Google Analytics, arguably the most easily available website performance tool.

Google Analytics dashboard

The Google Analytics dashboard

Let’s be clear: If you don’t know how visitors are landing on your (or your client’s) site, how they’re finding them, which keywords they used to land there, how long they stayed, what content they interacted, where they clicked through from and other core behavioural statistics, then you’re sailing blind. Any PR professional whether in-house or agency side who doesn’t understand Google Analytics or the website performance tool for their/their client’s site cannot do their job as effectively as they should.

The benefits of Google Analytics for PR

I found that of the 50 senior UK tech PR professionals that I quizzed, 100 per cent agreed that clients should share website performance data, but that only a third currently made it their policy to ask clients for this data.

Exactly half of respondents disclosed that the “minority” of their client base does indeed share their website performance data with them, with just under a third (28 per cent) saying that the “majority” of clients did. A fifth of respondents still do not have access to any of their clients’ website performance data.

There are a number of benefits for clients sharing access to website performance data:

  • Online PR is measurable: Google Analytics and other website analysis tools offer hard data which helps PRs justify their fee. 90 per cent of my research respondents said measurement was their key driver behind wanting access to clients’ website performance data
  • Assessing/reviewing content: With  website data, PRs can review how content is – or isn’t – performing and amend content strategies accordingly
  • Hone target media: What sites are referring traffic to your clients’ site? Who aren’t, almost as importantly, so PRs can better hone their media and blogger targeting
  • Keywords: What terms are people landing on the site with? What keywords/terms aren’t performing and how and how can you change that?
  • Visitor behaviour: What do people do when they arrive at the client site? Which pages or posts attract the most interest? PR can assist marketing in making sure the website performs better to achieve business objectives

Thanks to all who took part in the survey and, to the respondent who said the survey was “silly”, I’m glad they have the privilege of clients who willingly share their data, because many still do not.

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6 Responses to Why all PRs need to understand Google Analytics

  1. Hi Chris,

    I’ve worked with a number of PR agencies over the years, and only known a couple to have any real knowledge of this when I first got to know them.

    I did find that there was a desire to learn about it though, and I ended up doing a couple of sessions with respective groups of people there to help them get an understanding of what was happening on their own, and client websites.

    Sometimes I was asked to help diagnose a few specific issues, which often got quite technical in my explanations, so I would often “just fix it” for them despite telling them what was necessary in the first place and seeing it left un-acted upon for a while (this wasn’t on projects that we were actually meant to be working on together, but I offered my knowledge to assist).

    Based on that (rather limited) experience, with the people I was working with, there was a desire to learn the basics, and it was something that really interested them, but I wonder if I scared people off at times when looking at more complicated aspects, despite really trying to break it down into fairly simple chunks). And there were definitely concerns that they didn’t have this for enough of their clients to be able to measure across the board in the way that they wanted to.

  2. Thanks Peter

    Sounds like the old “horse to water” job. I don’t know if you experience this too, but the people who “practice” by blogging/tweeting/other social stuff and measure analytics by playing around – even just listening to podcasts and reading digital marketing books in their own time – are the ones who ultimately excel at this.

    PRs WANT data and it’s there waiting for them, so they should get right on it.

    Good for people like us, though!

    Cheers for your comment.

  3. Nice post – and a common issue

    Don’t think this is just the PR department, it happens very often in any business which has a silo’d mentality.

    Key to improving the mindset of the business comes with the education and understanding how the data can make a difference. One of the key elements that I often see is people being taught about how to use tools but the examples are not tailored to the department or even goals of the business.

  4. Good points, thanks Russell. The holistic view is always the way forward.

  5. Hi Chris, I agree with you, but I also wonder to what extent this is not just an issue for PRs but for the clients themselves who are still not comfortable with Google Analytics, particularly in SMEs? There is definitely an education process required all round.
    I also think the whole measurement piece in general needs to become much clearer and much simpler. We did a survey of 500 PR professionals ourselves (both in-house and agency) which showed that 71% of them either don’t track online coverage at all or just use a combination of Google search and Google alerts – very crude with no real indication of value. Room for improvement!

  6. Thanks Hugh

    Agreed. A massive cultural shift is required at both an individual and collective standpoint.

    But how can we reach these people? It’s not like GA is anything new.