The power of public relations on branded organic search

What’s the most valuable kind of search marketing? Not just organic (unpaid) search, but a very specific kind: branded organic search. Public relations shows its true power when measured, in part, by measuring branded organic search lift.

We define branded organic search as searches done by people for your name, brand name, or distinct product names. For example, someone searching for SHIFT Communications is doing a branded organic search. Contrast this with someone searching for a Boston PR agency, which is an unbranded organic search.

Branded organic search is more valuable because it hints at stronger purchase intent. We might search for a San Francisco-based PR agency at the start of our search, but we aren’t exhibiting specific intent about who we might be thinking about. Searching for SHIFT Communications San Francisco is a much stronger search signal.

Unbranded organic search is vital for the beginning of the customer journey; the sooner someone can become aware of us, the better. However, branded organic search means we’ve convinced the potential customer to search for us by name. We’ve made a strong enough impression that they are searching for our name. In surveying, this is called unaided recall, and is a powerful signal for intent.

Let’s look at an example. For most of 2015, I wasn’t doing a tremendous amount of public relations on my own behalf, but I knew I would be launching a new book in Q1 of 2016. To prepare for my launch, I started doing more interviews, more bylines, more contributed content – essentially, running a PR program for myself, to build awareness of my personal brand. I applied the lessons I’ve learned working at SHIFT Communications to my website and social media presence.

What happened?

Overall organic search traffic increased month over month:

Organic Search Traffic change, month over month

What about branded organic search?

Branded organic search impact on search

My branded organic search traffic became the vast majority of my organic search traffic, almost 97% as people searched for me.

Did this impact my business at all? Normally, public relations programs take 3-6 months of ramp time to show results; because my products are all eCommerce-based and I had strong measurement systems in place from the beginning, I saw results much sooner:

Branded organic search impact on Cumulative Sales

As weight management ads often say, results are not typical – but possible. However, during this time period, I didn’t do anything else significantly different. I was still posting to social media 5 times per day. I was still sending out a weekly email newsletter. I didn’t start any new advertising campaigns. What changed was my public relations outreach efforts and how they impacted my branded organic search.

If you’re not already keeping an eye on your branded organic search results, start immediately. If you are, benchmark when your public relations campaigns land big hits and how your branded organic search changes – then measure that down your sales and marketing funnel. You might be shocked to see how much impact PR has on branded organic search – and on the bottom line.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on April 4, 2016 in Analytics, Marketing, Metrics, Sales, Search, SEO

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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