Google Analytics 101: 5 Metrics for Public Relations

PR is responsible for building trust, shifting people’s attention towards clients, and transforming awareness and trust into new relationships that mean business and revenue down the line. One of the best tools for starting to understand the awareness and trust you’re creating is Google Analytics. Google Analytics has a lot of built-in, “out of the box” metrics that help with a surface level understanding of how your audience interacts with your digital properties, from your website to social media accounts to mobile apps. Take a look at 5 built-in metrics in this Google Analytics 101 guide, which you can use without customization.

New, Returning and Mobile Users

There are 3 key user segments to keep your eyes on within Google Analytics; new users, returning users and mobile users. These 3 user segments indicate how many people are browsing your site for the first time, how many people are coming back to your site, and how many are browsing your site on their mobile devices. All 3 segments can give you useful insights on how to optimize your site to keep users coming back.

New users (formerly known as New Unique Visitors) is the number of people who have never visited your website before and are stopping by for the first time. While a lot of things can contribute to new visitors, it’s an important first place to look. If new visitors aren’t increasing over time, then ultimately your website is in trouble. When you get great hits, you can often see spikes in your website’s new visitors, as the blue line above shows.

Obviously, unique new users can come from many different sources, including organic search, paid advertising, and public relations. However, if your unique new users rate isn’t growing, you know you’ve got to step up your PR game to get more awareness of your brand.

Where to find it: Left menu, Audience, Overview. Then from the submenu just below Audience Overview, click + Add Segment and select the New Users segment.

Think only new visitors are important? Think again. It’s rare that a sale/conversion will be made on the first visit. More often than not, you have to build trust with your audience, a core function of public relations work. The more earned media you get, the more trust your audience should develop in your brand.

This is also why content marketing is so popular among PR and marketing professionals. If you create content, you’re creating a gift of valuable information for your visitors to read/share. It’s a signal to your audience that if they return they’re likely to find something of interest to them to assist them in making a decision or solving a problem.

Returning users is a proxy for trust that you’ll keep that promise. It’s actually more important than new users, because if you don’t keep the ones you have, you’ll forever be spending more and more money and time to replace them. Awareness creates the relationship, but trust strengthens it.

Where to find it: Left menu, Audience, Overview. Then from the submenu just below Audience Overview, click + Add Segment and select the Returning Users segment

Great strategies consider all aspects of a digital program, including a mobile strategy for those who will visit via tablet or a smartphone. With the share of Americans that own smartphones now up to 77%, any strategy that doesn’t include mobile is dangerously irrelevant today.

As you do your public relations work, think about all of the different ways your content is being consumed. One of the best ways to analyze your traffic is by looking at mobile users within Google Analytics. Analyzing your mobile traffic will allow you to understand which devices people use to view your site. Additionally, analyzing your mobile traffic will help you devise a strategy to optimize your site for mobile responsiveness. This could include creating a mobile app for your PR campaign, or simply adding a mobile responsive site design.

In the example above, we see that the majority of mobile users are using Apple devices. That indicates that whatever we do to our site, we need to ensure it works well on iPhones and iPads, from where we host videos to what social networks have great iOS mobile apps. For example, if we got a great piece of video coverage that was hosted on a news site that used a Flash Player, we’d want to re-render that video or load the clip to YouTube to make sure users on mobile Apple devices could see it.

Where to find it: Left menu, Audience, Mobile, Devices or Overview, depending on what you want to see.

Social Network Referrals

Social media and PR go together like peanut butter and jelly. The moment someone shares any piece of your content, it becomes earned media. That’s why measuring social media traffic to your digital properties is an important first step in understanding how well your PR is working. If no one is aware of you or trusts you, no one will share your content or visit your website.

Social Network Referrals in Google Analytics is a great place to see which networks are working for you right now. Are you spending most of your time promoting your posts on Facebook, but LinkedIn is delivering the new audience? Are you tweeting maniacally but no one’s visiting? Look in Social Network Referrals to see if your audience numbers match your efforts.

Where to find it: Left menu, Acquisition, Social, Network Referrals.

Media Channels

While social network referrals and user traffic are great metrics, looking at your media channels can give you a more holistic overview of what steps users take to arrive at your site. Whether it be through organic search, paid search or email, it’s essential for you to understand what media channels drive the most conversion opportunities for your online presence.

With this data, you can see the breakdown of media channels ranging from direct traffic, organic search, branded paid search and paid social traffic. All of the media outlets make up the entirety of your online user base, so it’s crucial to understand which of these media sources have the biggest impact on your site traffic. Based on the above data, paid social and non-brand paid search are among the last 4 channels in terms of total sessions. As a result, it would be worthwhile to focus on optimizing your non-branded paid search campaigns, in addition to enhancing your paid social campaign reach, so that these two channels can drive more sessions to your site.

Other important takeaways from the media channel are the bounce rate and average session duration columns. Looking at those two columns will allow you to pinpoint users who spend the least amount of time on your site, and those who browse through many pages on your site. For example, if  data shows users that are directed to your site from paid social and other traffic sources spend much less time than those directed by organic traffic, it suggests that enhancing the targeting parameters of your paid social efforts, while also adding a retargeting paid social campaign, can help increase session duration for paid social traffic.

Where to find it: Left menu, Acquisition, All Traffic, Channels.

Organic Search Queries

The convenience of being able to track what channels or devices people used to get to your site is very useful, but being able to track the queries that were used to trigger your site appearing in Google is arguably more important. With the PR world adopting a stronger emphasis on SEO, being able to view what key terms users searched to land on your site will give you many opportunities to enhance your organic search approach. Fortunately, when your Google Analytics account is linked to Google Search Console, it gives you the capability to view search queries that were used in Google to arrive at your site.

In your site’s search queries, you can find the top 10 search terms that were used to get to the site, along with the amount of clicks, impressions and average positioning that resulted from each query. In an example we analyzed, the brand name drew the highest amount of impressions and clicks, but the query for the brand’s website had the highest average position. Additionally, the Queries feature is beneficial since it measures the effectiveness of your brand awareness; if you notice that users are getting to your site by searching your brand name frequently, then people recognize your brand. Conversely, if users are arriving on your site through non-branded terms, it’s a sign that users don’t recognize your brand name, but are still searching for services that you provide. Recognizing this will put you in a better position of understanding whether your brand awareness campaigns needs to be enhanced.

Where to find it: Left menu, Acquisition, Search Console, Queries.

Goal Completions

At the end of the day, people need to do something of value for your business to ultimately judge whether your PR and marketing are working.

Goal Completions tells you if there’s a mismatch between your PR and your marketing – if you’re getting great results from the metrics above, but no one’s converting, then you’re promising something in your PR and audience generation efforts that your visitors aren’t getting once they visit your digital properties. A great story about your brand’s mission, for example, might send people to a website that doesn’t reflect your mission or focus at all.

Did people do what you wanted them to do? If not, perhaps you need to retune your public relations messaging, creative, or content so that they have a more clear purpose when they get to your digital properties.

Where to find it: Left menu, Conversions, Goals, Overview.

Final Thoughts

One of the most common questions we’re always asked at SHIFT is what the industry standard or average is, what good numbers look like, etc. There aren’t any that are credible. Rather, always be looking for increasing growth in the metrics that matter to you. The plan isn’t to “beat competitors” since you can’t see their analytics. Instead, work to improve your numbers every month and beat yourself.

If you can increase new visitors, returning visitors, and goal conversions by a very modest 3% month over month, in less than two years your audience will have doubled. Since audience is at the top of the funnel, those new audiences will flow into leads, opportunities, conversions, and revenue. In other words, bringing new and returning users to your site increases the likelihood that your customer pipeline will increase, creating more revenue opportunities for you business.

Originally published February 20, 2014; updated October 23, 2018 and April 15, 2020.

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