We were asked an interesting question recently about placements on blogs and their impact:
“How do you measure the PR value of a blog?”
Most of the time, PR firms and practitioners measure an outlet’s capabilities on behalf of a client in terms of audience, in terms of the number of eyeballs that you’re in front of. That’s not irrelevant: a blog that has 0 readers will deliver 0 new audience members to you, and thus having some audience members is a good place to start. Let’s look more carefully at how you might measure a blog’s potential impact on your PR program through the lens of how SHIFT measures PR.
Recall that we measure PR in 7 broad categories or buckets:
For any blog in question, then, we have to examine it in light of these categories:
- Exposure: This is where impressions and readers live. How many people are we getting in front of? Some professional bloggers have media kits that provide snapshots of analytics for potential advertisers, and those media kits can be very helpful for establishing the value of a PR hit on that blog in terms of raw audience.
- Search value: What does the blog contribute in terms of authority? How highly ranked is the page authority?
- Social: Does the blog have a social community that goes with it, and if so, how large and engaged is it?
- Advertising: Does the blog accept advertising that could dilute your message or provide paid competitors a chance to interrupt your message? Do you have the opportunity to run a paid campaign alongside an editorial placement?
- Surveying: If a blog’s community is engaged enough, is there an opportunity to survey its community members and see how strongly your message resonated?
- Marketing: Look in your analytics tools. How much traffic has the blog driven to your properties already? Watch carefully after a placement – how much traffic did the blog drive to your properties? Did the blog’s audience perform better or worse than other channels?
- Sales: The bottom line number: how many people from the blog converted? It’s worth asking bloggers how their audience performed in other similar companies’ placements, especially if you’re paying to play. What conversion rates did other advertisers and media partners experience?
Let’s look at a practical example of this, of how we would apply these 7 buckets to assess the PR value of a blog. I’ll use my personal blog’s data as the example (because I don’t need a lengthy legal disclosure agreement to share my statistics publicly). Pretend that I’m a PR practitioner representing my client, who in this case will be SHIFT Communications, and I’ve come across this blog that looks like it might be a good place to get my client to guest post. It’s in the right target industry/topic area, but is it a good match for my client? Does it have enough PR value to make pitching the blogger worthwhile? Let’s find out based on the 7 buckets:
Exposure: This blog gets in front of about 15,000 unique visitors a month and it’s focused around the marketing, advertising, and communications space, so if my client were targeting those audiences, this would be right on.
Search value: Services like Moz’s free Open Site Explorer can give us some insight into the blog. It’s got a reasonably strong domain score, 57/100, and the sites linking into it are also relevant to our audience, so we have explicit confirmation that this blog has our target audience. Links from this blog would contribute to our overall search engine optimization efforts.
Social: The blog has a pretty solid social foundation, with 69,000 followers on Twitter, 1300 likes on Facebook, 16,000 connections on LinkedIn, and 14,000 followers on Google+. Anything we manage to get placed will likely be shared with these audiences. More important, a look at recent articles shows that engagement and sharing appears to be strong on an individual post level.
Advertising: The blog appears to be running advertising on it, both in individual posts and in navigation. However, the existing advertisers are not conflicts of interest or direct competitors, and Google’s AdSense (which can often serve up competitive conflicts) does not appear on site.
Surveying: There’s a popup that runs on the site and on individual posts. While there are no surveys running now, it could be worth asking this blogger if they’d consider swapping out the existing call to action for a survey. The potential, the infrastructure, is there.
Marketing: This blogger is already sending traffic to the client’s website from talking about the client in the past. That’s a good sign that a placement like a guest blog post would be a good fit here. The blogger is in the mix of top referrers for those time periods as well.
Sales: The blogger is clearly and obviously part of one or more affiliate programs, and was able to provide some rudimentary sales data, enough to prove that with appropriate calls to action and content, they can deliver real results that my client can take to the bank.
Based on the 7 metrics categories that SHIFT uses to determine whether or not PR is effective, my summary judgement for my client would be that this would be a good blog for them to get a guest post or two on, and I’d initiate the process of building a relationship with this blogger and eventually working up to pitch them on behalf of my client. The blog is on-topic, appears to be in front of my client’s audience, and has good metrics. Obviously, this blog would be off-topic or off-audience if I were representing, say, premium earphones or baby wipes, but since we’re talking about representing a marketing and PR company, the blog and its audience make sense.
This process requires significantly more due diligence than just looking at a list of influence scores or quickly checking a service like Compete.com, but if we want to get as deep an understanding of a blog’s potential PR value, then we must do the work. Perhaps not every blogger or blog needs this level of scrutiny, but certainly if high value merchandise or money is changing hands, it’s more than warranted.
This is also not the only way or the right way to measure a blog’s PR value. There are many other approaches you can use, from casual metrics like influence scores to even more in-depth analyses of the blog or blogger in question, but if you’re looking for a starting point, this is one way to approach it.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology