June 23, 2009
The influence of blogs and other online media is too powerful for marketers to ignore when planning media and PR outreach, but these channels are different than traditional media. How do you set goals and measure your success?
See which metrics an Internet media researcher considers the most important for evaluating the influence of blogs, online magazines, and more. We include nine metrics to evaluate, along with tips on demonstrating your success to your boss.
Media and PR outreach has changed. As online publications and blogs multiply and reach ever larger audiences, marketers aren’t pitching stories solely to print, radio and television outlets anymore.
The rise of online media has brought new goals for press coverage. Audience reach remains paramount, but additional tactics, such as link building, are also important. Those new goals, and the ways that people interact with content online, require a different strategy for monitoring and measuring the impact of press coverage.
"Proving the return on your investment for your marketing and PR outreach with blogs is more complicated than simply looking at a circulation figure for the magazine where your company was mentioned," says Jay Krall, Manager, Internet Media Research, Cision.
Krall’s team is responsible for the online media portion of Cision’s media research database. We spoke with Krall about the metrics his team uses to measure the influence of blogs, news websites, and other online outlets.
Here are three steps and nine key metrics he follows to determine the importance of an online publication and its audience:
Step #1. Measure metrics of influence
Web 1.0 metrics such as unique visitors and page views are still important for determining an audience’s size. But because of the new ways that audiences interact with content, different metrics are needed to gauge the influence of a publication and the impact of earning coverage there.
Krall emphasizes the following three metrics when determining the potential influence of an online media outlet:
- Inbound links
The number of links pointing to a site that were added in the last 30 days will help determine how influential the site is in its vertical.
The number of comments left on the site’s content during the last 30 days will help estimate its audience’s level of engagement.
- Citations on social bookmarking sites
The number of citations a blog receives on social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Simpy over 30 days will help gauge the number of people who consider the website valuable enough to bookmark it.
"It’s important to identify these metrics from an outreach perspective because when you are reaching out to a blog, you are reaching out to an entire community surrounding that blog," Krall says. "When you find a popular blog, you find a whole vibrant community that’s going to push your content beyond that blog."
Step #2. Measure audience metrics
To understand the impact that your coverage will have in a community, it’s important to know the makeup of that community. Below are six audience-focused metrics and characteristics that Krall suggests. No one metric should be considered alone; they are all important.
- Average time spent
The amount of time the average user spends on a website directly relates to the amount of time users will be engaged with your brand if it is covered there. This information can be obtained from analytics services such as Compete, and might be available from the website’s advertising information, or by request from its marketing department.
- Number of commenters
The number of unique people who comment on content over 30 days helps reveal how many people engage with the website’s content. The more unique people who comment, the more influence the publication often has.
- Length of comments
The average length of comments over 30 days will help you determine the extent to which a site’s audience is engaged.
"You can tell that there is an audience for a blog if every post has 100 comments. But if they’re not in-depth, if they’re simply saying, ‘Thanks for the tips and the advice,’ you’ve found a more passive audience," says Krall. "The best blogger outreach that really spreads across the social Web is on those blogs that have more engaged commenting going on."
- Number of comments by user
Similar to the length of comments, the average number of comments per user over 30 days will help gauge the level of an audience’s engagement. A high number of comments per user usually occur when there is a lot of back-and-forth discussion on certain topics, Krall says.
- Who is commenting
This is less of a metric and more of a qualitative look at an audience. If many of the people who leave comments are industry leaders, then the influence of the publication is likely to be much higher.
If the publication is based on a super-niche topic, such as automotive adhesives, then the audience is hyper-qualified for a specific marketer -- much more so than if it the publication was focused on general consumer topics.
If a publication has the same niche audience that you’re targeting, its potential for influencing your customers should be much higher.
Step #3. Prove it to the boss
Tracking the above metrics will help you identify which online publications to target. They can also help prove to executives the impact of your outreach to online media. Sharing influence and audience metrics alone, however, might not be enough.
Here are a few extra steps Krall suggests:
First, you need to give the numbers some context. Every vertical’s publications will have a different level of comments, links, etc. If you’re focused on one website in particular, compare its metrics to those of other websites in the vertical.
- Link PR calendar to sales
Keep an eye on sales just after your company scores coverage in a major outlet, or just after your PR team started a strong push. If sales increase and there is no other clear reason -- such as seasonality or additional marketing campaign -- you might be able to point to the sales as positive results of your outreach.
If your coverage has been for specific products, be sure that your analysis is focused on the change in sales for those products only.
- Hyperlinks to sales
If you’re able to, send unique links with tracking codes to be used in coverage of your brand. If people reading an article or blog post click the link and visit your site to browse products or make a purchase, you’ll be able to show a direct benefit of your PR outreach.
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