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How-to use Google Analytics to track public relations outcomes

Public relations campaigns often feature the goal of getting users to check out a web site. In this guest post Michael Blowers explains how you can do this using Google Analytics.

By Michael Blowers

Google Analytics is a free tool that enables you to track activity and user behaviour on your web site. It will help you determine which  elements of your public relations activity achieved the greatest result.

Tracking a link

Head to Google Analytics account and select Master View for the web property you are aiming to get people to visit.

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This how-to is relevant to the newest version of Google Analytics, referred to as Universal Analytics although its similar to the older classic version of Google Analytics some may still be using.

Let’s presume you are going to use a selection of social networks to spread your message. To get Google Analytics to tell you the results for each of these you will need to use the URL Builder to create some unique links to use in your outreach efforts.

Setting up a unique URL

Don’t worry, this not a lesson in coding. Google Analytics has a shortcut.

Click the little cog (top right), just above the date selection. Click the Help option. In the Search option type URL builder tool, which will bring up this image.

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Coding your campaign

You might find it interesting to read this section but scroll down.

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Input the URL address for where you want people first to go. This might be the link to a sub-domain, a promotion or a competition.

The next section contains five pieces of information, three of which a mandatory, highlighted by an asterisk:

  • Campaign Source, is the referrer which might be Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Campaign Medium, which is the link category like social, email, PPC or ad.
  • Towards the bottom is Campaign Name. Give it a clear reference to the campaign, or campaign element.

Lastly there are two additional options you can use if you want, denoting Campaign Term (keywords) and Campaign Content – if you are sending out two versions of an email, for example.

Once submitted it will return back to you your original address plus some extra code at the end, looking like this image.

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Copy this address and use it as the inbound link in your outreach. You might want to use bit.ly, or similar address shortener (you should not lose any functionality).

There are two things to remember:

  • Pay particular attention to being consistent when tagging these fields. Google Analytics will differentiate between letter cases and a big feature of the system is being able to combine and filtering results.
  • Use the URL Builder Tool after the site addresses are confirmed and before you send out the links.

Then crack on with your activity and watch you results to come in.  The best place to see the results of your link tagging is in the Acquisition > Campaigns Report.

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Here I have set up two tagged links from my blog, one going to a Google Analytics public relations dashboard and another to a blog post from a link put on Twitter. Indicated are the number of sessions each generated, if they are new or returning visitors and the bounce or engagement rate.

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On the right of the table you may notice references to Goals. These allow you set ‘counters’ on visitor behaviours, like filling out a response form, requesting a report download, or even making a sale if your site is e-commerce enabled.

Although all this data is discoverable elsewhere, Google Analytics allows you to collate it in one place, select date ranges and simplify the results with custom dashboards for others less familiar with this type of data.

About Michael Blowers

michael-blowersMichael Blowers is a partner at Media Evaluation Research, an independent measurement and insight consultancy. You can connect with Michael on Twitter @michaelblowers and follow his blog Evaluating the Media.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

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