In this series, we’re going to look critically at the ways PR has traditionally been measured and the ways we’re measuring PR today. Measuring PR and earned media has always been something of a challenge in the past, but thanks to digital marketing and metrics tools, it’s easier today to find the impact of PR, even with businesses that have significant offline components.

Today’s topic is search marketing. If earned media is about actively seeking attention, then search marketing is the complement – being there when people are looking for you. In 2011, Google’s Jim Lecinski posited the idea of the zero moment of truth, the idea that between stimulus and engaging a brand, people will go search for more information about the brand and the product category. If public relations does its job right, then the members of the audience who are interested should seek out the brand and learn more about it.

Thus, what effect should public relations have on your search marketing? For one thing, your search rankings should improve. In addition to pure link-building in reputable news sources, blogs, and social media, effective public relations should impact Google’s co-citation algorithm and help you rank better for the search keywords you want to be found by, whether or not links are included.

At SHIFT, we’re lucky to have a few “unicorn” clients, clients who have no other significant marketing programs besides their engagement with us, which gives us a clean look at the impact of public relations without interference or obfuscation from advertising or any other programs besides our efforts. Here’s an example of a client we’ve been working with recently and the massive swings that their keywords (redacted for privacy) have had since engaging in effective public relations:

Microsoft Excel

Consider using some of the industry standard tools to measure your own search rankings before and after a PR campaign to see how much the needle moved for you.

Another more obvious effect that PR can deliver is the amount of web traffic (and subsequent conversions) that comes from search marketing. Here’s the before and after of organic search traffic to the client’s website:

Search traffic

Effective PR shows up in the form of increased search based on awareness of the company and awareness of need. The more the public is aware of a need for your product or service, the more they’ll search for you, find you, and ultimately do business with you.

Also in this series, we looked at the following ways to measure PR:

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