Tag Archives: press release tips

The Long Click – An Important Measure for Communicators

long click

Long clicks are powerful indicators of quality content.

An indicator of content quality, the “long click” reveals whether or not audiences are truly engaging with your content. lil tweet bird

Digital communications are incredibly measurable.  Marketers know which websites refer the highest quality traffic to their own sites, and they know which pages on their websites do better job of converting visitors into customers. Many details about the behavior of visitor behavior before, during and after a website visit can be captured.  But the marketing team isn’t the only group keeping an eye on how audiences interact with a website.  Search engine spiders are paying attention, too.

Keeping the measurability of digital content in mind, let’s think about the new PR reality – the public relations team as publisher and story crafters, not simply spin doctors called upon to manage crises or crank out releases.

Developing a stream of quality, useful content that your audience uses is one of the most effective ways to build search rank for a web site, improve audience engagement and fill the organization’s pipeline with prospects.

Within all of these considerations is a golden opportunity for PR to produce a measurable and meaningful business impact from the content the organization is already publishing.

The “long click” – a golden opportunity for PR
Generally speaking, two things happen when a person visits a webpage: they either take a quick look and then immediately leave, or they stay for a good long time consuming the content on the page and possibly even clicking on some of the links on the page and further interacting with the website.

In web parlance, the former is a bounce, and it’s bad.  What’s the use in attracting visitors to your content, only to have them immediately leave? In reality, this kind of traffic can be damaging to a website’s overall rankings, because search engines consider bounces as a strong indicator of the presence of poor quality content on the site.

The opposite scenario is called a “long click.” If the content you publish is attracting people to your website stay on the page and read the press releases and watch the videos and click on the links, that’s good for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, people who are spending that much time on your website are obviously consuming your messaging.  They are more likely to actually turn into customers, and along the way, they may take additional steps such as bookmarking or sharing content on your website or interacting with the brand successful media presences, developing further traction.

All of these behaviors are also positive signals that search engines notice indicating that the website is serving up high quality content that site visitors value.

Outcomes PR can measure 

Web analytics programs such as Site Catalyst and Google Analytics measure the time visitors spend on a page.  Additionally, it’s entirely possible to measure the traffic coming for specific sources (such as press releases, your online media room, etc.) and make some assumptions about the quality of those visitors by looking at their time on page data.  If it’s going up, generally, that’s a pretty good sign.

Digital PR teams that are publishing distributed content can embed short URLs within press releases, blog posts, articles and other content to measure traffic back to the destination page on your company website, providing a good measure of the traffic referred directly from the PR message. However, you can take it a step further by then asking the web team to analyze the time on page data for visitors to that page. In some cases, your analytics team may be able to even isolate visitors driven to the page by specific pieces of your content, and compare the time the PR-referred visitors spend on the page, compared to that spent by visitors from other sources.

This enables the PR team to establish a benchmark that they can use to measure this success in future campaigns, and also for setting overall objectives for the department.  Moving the needle on long clicks is actually reasonable PR outcome but more organizations should be adopting and measure.

Want more ideas for new ways to measure the business impact of your public relations campaigns?   This on-demand webinar archive offers first-hand examples on connecting  (and measuring!) PR to business outcomes.  Here’s the link: http://prn.to/1o4qblS 

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Copy Quality: New Imperatives for Communicators

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

How does one determine whether or not a piece of content is low quality?

Since we added copy quality to the guidelines against which we assess press releases and other content prior to distribution, we’ve counseled a number of clients on steps they can take to improve the value of their content for their audiences.

Understanding how to build/create quality content is a mandate for all communicators creating digital content.  Google started raising the bar on web content quality in early 2011, when the first Panda algorithm update was deployed.  Taking aim at link farms and websites created to propagate links and manipulate search rank but which offer little to no real use to human beings, the goal of the Panda update is to improve the relevance of the search results Google returned to internet searchers.

The new rules of content quality

Google has kept the pedal to the metal, rolling out changes and updates to its algorithms in an ongoing effort to improve the utility of its search engine by returning better and better results to users, and it’s safe to assume that this won’t change in the future.  Communicators of all stripes publishing digital content and seeking visibility in search engines will have to play by the rules.

So let’s look at those rules.  In a blog post on their Webmaster Central blog, Google offered insights into how, when building the Panda algorithm, they determined whether or not content was quality.

“Below are some questions that one could use to assess the “quality” of a page or an article. These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.  

Would you trust the information presented in this article?

Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?

Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?

Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?

Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?

 Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?

How much quality control is done on content?

Does the article describe both sides of a story?

Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?

Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?

Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?

Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?

Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?

 Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?

Would users complain when they see pages from this site?”

- Google Webmaster Central, More guidance on building high-quality sites

Evaluating the content your brand produces through the lens of these questions will reveal with stark clarity whether or not the content makes the cut in Google’s eyes.   And even if the press releases you submit to PR Newswire adhere to the copy quality guidelines we’ve published, you can tighten the screws on your content by keeping this larger set of quality indicators from Google firmly in mind.

Messages that are useful and interesting to audiences generate results beyond search engine visibility.  They garner mentions, earn media and inspire social sharing – activities which drive brand messaging into new audiences and powering improved campaign results.    Some organizations will be challenged by this new reality but ultimately, overall marketing and communications objectives are well served by more engaging content.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Updated Tactics for Issuing Press Releases Across Multiple Markets

It’s not unusual for an organization to issue similar announcements across a variety of markets. Whether announcing award recipients, regional services or a multi-city tour, developing localized press releases with similar themes for multiple markets is a common and necessary PR tactic, and using a template for the messages has long been standard practice.

However, PR Newswire’s new copy quality guidelines caution against using templates, and for good reason.  Google’s recent Panda update targeted low quality content, and multiple redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations were specifically cited as indicators of low quality content.

So what’s a PR pro to do when faced with the task of creating similar announcements for multiple markets?  Here are some tips for developing messages that won’t be flagged as low quality content and (bonus!) are more likely to garner the attention of journalists, bloggers and local audiences:

  • Create unique messages.  Each headline, subhead and lead paragraph need to be significantly different – merely changing names of cities or people in each isn’t enough.
  • Emphasize different story angles.  For example, if you’re announcing special events at a variety of hotel locations across the nation, emphasize different aspects of each location – e.g. shopping on the Mag Mile in Chicago, touring historic neighborhoods in Boston, waterfront attractions in San Francisco, etc.
  • Localize and further differentiate content by including real quotes from people on the ground in each market.
  • Include market-specific visuals, such as pictures of a local storefronts, individual award recipients, etc.
  • As much as possible, encourage social sharing of the content by local contacts.
  • Stagger distribution.  Don’t unleash a spate of similar messages all at once.
  • Rethink your approach entirely. Instead distributing press releases over the newswire for each market, build more public awareness by creating a rich, compelling and highly visual multimedia press release that tells the whole story.  Then use your media database to identify relevant media and bloggers in the region, and send them market-specific details directly via email.  (Here’s a great example from Honda, announcing the Honda Stage Festival.)

There’s no doubt that creating unique, quality content is more time consuming that simply using a template to crank out messages, but audiences value rich content, causing Google (and PR Newswire) to raise the bar on content quality.  To deliver the best results for the organization, creating unique and useful content is imperative.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

The key to press release success: multiple visual elements [Study + infographic]

Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.

Press releases with multiple visual assets generate more views, a study by PR Newswire found.

How can you get better results with your press releases?  The data is in, and the answer is clear.  Visual illustration of your message is a key driver of success.

PR Newswire’s analytics team recently updated – and significantly expanded – our analysis of press release types, and the results each produces in terms of online views.  For the most recent iteration of this ongoing analysis, we looked at every press release viewed on PRNewswire.com last year, regardless of when it was issued.  Well over one million press releases were measured. 

For the analysis, we broke the release types into the following buckets:

  • Text Only
  • Text + one visual asset, such as a single image or video
  • Text + multiple visuals
  • Fully loaded multimedia press releases and campaign microsites

The results are clear – visuals drive more content views, and adding multiple media assets to your content (press releases, and anything else you publish online, for that matter) generates even better results.

Why visuals improve results:  

One visual is good, more are better.   There are a few reasons why this is the case.

  • Each visual is distributed in its own right, and has its own potential for garnering attention.  In addition to the distribution of visual content the brand either pays for or executes on its own, each visual also has the potential to trigger social sharing, further expanding the audience for the message.
  • Visuals surface story elements that may be overlooked by readers, giving your messages second (and third) chances at connecting with readers.  It’s easy to overlook a theme that’s presented in the middle of the fourth paragraph. However, calling attention to that theme with a visual – a video snippet or image – can help connect that message with readers who care, and who might have glanced over the message initially.
  • Journalists and bloggers are also hunting for visuals to illustrate the digital media they create. While they may not use the visuals your brand provides in their original form,  they will often edit video to fit their stories or derive new works from infographics.  Additionally, including visuals communicates that the story is one that can (and should be) illustrated visually, which will increase the story’s appeal for many digital content creators.

Many communicators note they don’t have ready access to related images when asked why they don’t use more multimedia in their press releases.  Our new Media Studio tool – free for clients using the Online Member Center to upload content for distribution, enables you to store, organize, size, caption and tag images for use in digital content.

If you’d like to speak to someone on our team about adding visuals to your press releases, please contact us here: http://promotions.prnewswire.com/standout2014.html

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Press Releases, PR Newswire and Panda

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire to help improve press release content quality.

New copy quality guidelines from PR Newswire are designed to help improve press release content quality.

In late May, Google rolled out an update to its Panda algorithm that targeted low quality content, affecting a variety of content distributors and press release websites, including PR Newswire.   By “low quality content,” we’re referring specifically to press releases that were used in efforts to manipulate search rankings.   These releases were of little-to-no redeeming value for readers.

In an ensuing audit of the content of our site, we identified the spam press  releases which had had been generating inordinately high inbound links and traffic due to the black hat SEO tactics their issuers employed.  Those releases have since been deleted, and we’ll be monitoring our site content for unusual levels of inbound links, traffic and other red flags on an ongoing basis.

Distribution is about more than just one web site

While we’re proud of the fact that our web site attracts millions of unique visitors each month, it’s important to remember that PR Newswire has also spent years building a comprehensive distribution network that reaches a vast global audience, including:

  • Thousands upon thousands of media outlets, via direct news feeds;
  • More than 30,000 credentialed journalists and bloggers, via PR Newswire for Journalists;
  • Information databases like Factiva and LexisNexis;
  • More than 10,000 websites worldwide, who display feeds of relevant news releases designed for their audiences;
  • The social web, via dozens of carefully curated, industry- and topic-specific presences on Twitter and Pinterest.

PR Newswire has cultivated an engaged and high-quality audience for press release content.

Our media relations and content syndication teams work one-on-one with media outlets, individual journalists and bloggers and website operators to create and deliver feeds of press releases germane to their areas of coverage, interest or beats.

New guidelines governing press release copy quality

To improve the content quality we distribute, we’ve started reviewing all press release submitted for distribution over the wire for content quality. As they review releases, our team will be looking at a variety of different message elements, including:

  • Inclusion of insightful analysis, original content (e.g. research, reporting or other interesting and useful information,)
  • The format of the releases, guarding against the repeated use of templated copy (except boilerplate,)
  • The length of the releases,  flagging very short, unsubstantial messages that are mere vehicles for links
  • Overuse of keywords and/or links within the message.

These new guidelines are additions to our already robust press release acceptance guidelines, which include verification of sources, authentication of the sender’s identity and attribution to the source, among other requirements that all messages must meet before distribution by PR Newswire.

Most PR Newswire customers, who write and distribute press releases with the primary intent of building awareness of key messages and earning media, will be unaffected by our new guidelines.

Press releases are about earned media, building awareness and acquiring audience

It has long been our stated position that press releases are chiefly about building awareness, and we don’t promote press releases as link building devices.   (See: Generate Awareness, Not Links, With Press Releases.)

We believe that the distribution of press releases plays a very useful role in driving content discovery, introducing new audiences to brand messages, seeding and encouraging social interaction, and, of course, earning media pick up.

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Content We Love: Harley Davidson Gears Up for Father’s Day

ContentWeLove

Many people look to their social media newsfeeds as a source for current events, useful lifestyle tips, or amusement, but the thousands of daily visitors to PRNewswire.com  might also agree that perusing the latest press releases is another great way to find interesting and entertaining news. PR pros are naturally creative people and more of them are seeing the value of press releases as stories themselves. Instead of snooze-worthy, dry language, press release writers are utilizing their creative juices to write interesting, informative, and sometimes flat out hysterical stories.

One such story I came across is from a press release by Harley Davidson titled, “Survey Of U.S. Dads Reveals: 32 Percent Forgotten On Father’s Day; 53 Percent Would Return Gifts; And One Even Received A Santa Necktie.” From top to bottom, I came across a handful of new school tactics in this text-only release which immediately convinced me to highlight this piece as the subject of “Content We Love.”

  • A striking headline with interesting stats and a humorous story angle is inviting to read.
  • A timely, seasonal news hook that ties into Father’s Day is a clever way for Harley Davidson to join the conversation. While flowers, balloons, and jewelry are typical choices for making mom happy on Mother’s Day, gift options for dad are far less obvious.
  • Bullet points and bold text break down survey results and highlight key information in an easy-to-read format. Depending on the outlet, these can also serve as different story angles the writer might want to take.
  • Writing that is enjoyable to read. I sat at my desk audibly laughing at the survey responses asking dads about their worst Father’s Day gift experiences. One of my favorites: “a painted rock.” The point is, even though press releases are company generated news and a representation of your brand, they shouldn’t be boring! Every piece of content your company produces should intend to engage your audience and show them that you are the solution to their problem. Data, images, and humor are all ways to accomplish this.
  • Information that is helpful to the audience. This press release caters to the sons and daughters in search of great gift ideas for their dads, as well as the dads who are hoping to upgrade from a disappointment. Harley Davidson puts the focus of the conversation around satisfying the needs of their audience instead of their own brands and products.

Even though I loved the story angle and writing of this release, an accompanying infographic of the survey results or photo of a major gift fail could have elevated it even further for social sharing and media pick up.  Target sites like Motorcycle-USA.com and Motorcycle.com  covered this story and used Harley Davidson’s logo to add a visually stimulating element to the piece. Regardless of this missing component, Harley Davidson did a great job writing this release and making Father’s Day a happy occasion again!

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is the Content Marketing Coordinator at PR Newswire. 

Content We Love: Visteon Demonstrates the Future of Automotive Technology and the Future of Press Releases

ContentWeLove

Click here to view the complete press release

Click here to view the complete press release

Marketers today strive towards a mutually beneficial relationship between brand and consumer.  More and more companies are recognizing the advantages that press releases deliver to marketers in distributing owned content that educates their target customer. Visteon Corporation’s recent press release “3-D Gesture Recognition, Virtual Touch Screen Bring New Meaning to Vehicle Controls,” reminds us that the brand mention doesn’t have to be front and center. Instead, the customer benefit is the focal point of this announcement.

Get to the point, literally.  An easy-to-read bullet point list outlines the benefits of Visteon’s new invention. 3-D gesture recognition is a complex concept for people to understand, so it’s important to eliminate jargon when introducing new information.

Include visuals for further understanding. I was personally intrigued by how this new technology functions in everyday practice. Visteon offers a look at how their new “automotive cockpit” concept actually works by adding short and to the point video to their release demonstrating each of the features highlighted in the bulleted list.

Provide research that validates a need for your new product or concept.  For instance, Visteon noted that 70 percent of the participants who test-drove the cockpit concept were very interested in not having to search for a physical volume knob. That’s a large majority!

A focused call to action linking to Visteon’s blog, offers more supporting evidence and drives reader traffic directly to the company’s owned content.

Given the complexity of this topic, this press release serves as a great example of how to leverage distribution in order to effectively communicate and educate consumers. Nice job, Visteon!

Author Alyse Lamparyk is a Customer Content Specialist for PR Newswire. Follow her on twitter @alyselamp.

Content We Love: You Can’t Touch This

ContentWeLove

The staggering rate at which technology continues to advance leads many of us wonder just how much of our daily lives can be controlled or influenced by a gadget.  Well, as evidenced by the recent press release titled,“Kohler’s Touchless Toilet Technology Marks a New Era in Toilet Flushing,” the possibilities are boundless. The amount of media attention that this announcement is generating throughout the tech community signifies the value of using press releases to communicate a great story, strike a chord with readers, and generate measureable ROI for marketers. While we usually highlight press releases on this blog containing visual elements, ironically this one stood out for its ability to grab reader’s attentions without it. For these reasons, Kohler’s magical touchless toilet is the subject of this week’s Content We Love.

Great stories stick with your audience and inspire them to act. In this case, it is an opportunity for Kohler to generate more sales for their groundbreaking new product. While automatic toilets already exist in public restrooms, this is the first time that they’ve become available for private use in all homes. It’s cutting-edge, futuristic, and clean, a narrative which is simply irresistible to our tech-savvy and health conscious culture.

Use compelling stats and figures to support your claim and be persuasive. Kohler conducted a study which finds that 51 percent of people are paranoid about germs in the bathroom. In a genius effort to drive that point further, they put the focus on just moms and children which increases that figure to 65 percent. A clear problem among a significant population has been established, and Kohler uses this release as an opportunity to raise awareness of a simple solution.

Provide readers with information that will improve their lives. An excerpt of a quote from Brian Hedlund, marketing manager of Kohler toilets and bidets says, “Homeowners are of course worried about the hygiene and health of their family members, and the toilet trip lever is an obvious area of hygienic concern. Touchless takes that concern out of the equation, utilizing new technology to provide a touchless way to control the flush.”Not only does this quote from an executive leader humanize the brand, it also states the point of view from an audience perspective and not the brand’s. When you use distribution to spread awareness of this message, it makes the intention of the message to be about helping more people, not selling more products. This slight nuance in the way your content is presented greatly impacts whether the audience will care about what you have to say or simply tune it out as another advertisement.

Kohler earned media pickup on major websites such as Yahoo!, Gizmodo, and Engadget, each of which links back to their press release and underscores that journalists still look to news releases as a source of ledes. Furthermore, Kohler benefits from the additional traffic that flows back to their company website after readers click on the links in their press release to find out more information.

This press release showcases the fundamentals of a great PR story: one that the audience strongly relates to which fulfills a demand or need and spurs interaction. Congratulations to Kohler on a job well done!

ShannonAuthor Shannon Ramlochan is PR Newswire’s Content Marketing Coordinator and was forbidden from making any bathroom puns. 

Quote

Content We Love: How the Wire Helped a Family of Pittsburgh Bald Eagles

ContentWeLove

Click here to view the entire release

Click here to view the entire news release

The story

Earlier this week I received an email from my mom (who is fondly nicknamed “Bird”) with the subject line: “A – the eagles are in danger, can you help???” As my team here in Cleveland knows, my mom is an avid eagle enthusiast who is obsessed with watching the first bald eagle family to nest in the Pittsburgh area in over 250 years via webcam. The webcam across the street documented the three eaglets being born, the mom chasing a raccoon from the nest, and an owl picking on mom as she slept. You can view the eagles on the webcam by clicking here.

The danger to the eagle family? Rat poison. An abandoned recycling center across the river from the eagles’ hunting territory was overrun with rats – thousands of them apparently. The company that purchased the center said the health department was forcing them to use rat poison to eradicate the rats. The problem with this is that eagles eat rats! Webcam viewers had seen them eating three rats in the past week alone. If the eagles consumed rats that were poisoned it could kill them with the eaglets especially being at risk. I spoke to a few sources including the owner of the Facebook group Save Hays Eagles (a group my mom and I belong to) and decided to take action by issuing a press release via none other than PR Newswire.

The release

I quickly drafted a press release titled, “Save Hays Eagles: Pittsburgh Bald Eagles at Risk Due to Rat Poison Presence,” and consulted my boss for editing. He kindly reminded me to include hyperlinks within the first paragraph, which drove traffic to our group’s Facebook page and provided further information around the cause. Once I received content approval from my contact at Save Hays Eagles, I downloaded a high res photo from a local Pittsburgh photographer who has been photographing the eagles for over a year, uploaded it to the Media Studio within the Online Member Center, and just moments later, the release hit our wire.

The results?

Earned media from local news

The media contact at Save Hays Eagles received numerous calls and four requests for media interviews, including an on-air appearance for Pittsburgh TV to discuss the issue.

Social engagement with key audiences

Sally Wiggin ReTweets

The next day ReleaseWatch reporting showed 13 mentions on Twitter thanks to PR Newswire’s targeted industry Twitter accounts PRNEnv and PRNPets and a retweet from local TV legend Sally Wiggin.

Increased visibility for our message

  • Over 309 websites had reposted the content
  • The release received 421 click-throughs
  • 2,145 total online & search views
  • 817 photo views
  • A total Visibility Index of 99 and an Engagement Index of 99

Two days later, it was reported that a safer alternative to the traditional poison used to kill rats will be used:  http://wesa.fm/post/health-department-tries-terminate-rats-not-eagles-pittsburgh

Local residents will likely be monitoring the situation and keeping a close eye on their eagles via the webcam. You can rest assured my mom will be one of them!

Amanda MeriwetherAuthor Amanda Meriwether is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire. Follow her on Twitter.

Google: How Earned Media Impacts Search & New KPIs for PR

Earned media and implied links, visualized by Brawn Media.

Summary:  Brand mentions and earned media comprise the implied links Google has patented as part of its search algorithm, codifying the impact PR has on search results.  lil tweet

In a patent for search engine ranking methods that was granted on March 25, Google codified the role earned media plays in search rank.  The patent describes how the search engine values “implied links,” which it describes as a reference to a target resource [i.e. a web site or web page] such as a citation, but does not include an express link to the resource, as part of its process for determining the search rank of a web page.

What are these implied links?  In a nutshell, they are relevant earned mentions, and run the gamut from media pick up to references on blog posts to mentions in discussion groups.

“What does all this mean? It means that once a connection is made by someone typing in a brand name or other search query and then clicking on a site it creates a connection in Google’s eyes,” SEO expert Simon Penson explained in a Moz.com post about brand mentions. “The search engine can then store that info and use it in the context of unlinked mentions around the web in order to help weight rankings of particular sites.”

The implications for public relations are significant.  The mentions your PR campaigns create in turn generate audience activity, which Google watches in the aggregate and uses to inform search results.   In an excellent blog post on this topic titled, “Google Validates that PR is SEO in Patent Filing,” Christopher Penn of Shift Communications concludes:

“Google is publicly acknowledging that every time your brand gets a mention in a story, that counts as an implied link that affects your SEO, that affects how many links there are to your website, which in turn affects how well your site shows up when someone is searching for your brand. In short, PR is SEO (or part of it). It singlehandedly validates all of the PR that you’ve generated for your brand, all of the mentions and citations that you’ve accrued through hard work, great products and reputation, and effective public relations, even if you didn’t necessarily get an explicit link in the coverage.”

I agree with Penn’s assessment.  Public relations builds awareness and credibility that influence audience behavior.  Part of the ongoing struggle we have with measurement is due to the fact that those coveted media clips don’t capture the follow-on changes in audience behavior they can inspire.

The new KPIs for PR & an important caveat

Don’t assume that more is better when it comes to “implied links.”  Google is a stickler for relevance and quality, and the company is continually refining its search algorithm to deliver ever-better results for users.   In doing so, Google have specifically targeted web spam and are emphasizing the value of authentic earned media. Tactics designed to create artificial references to a brand or organization won’t work, and brands employing them may risk incurring penalties from Google, disappearing from search results altogether.

However, it’s also important to note that what we consider “earned,” has evolved.   While Google’s search chief is on record saying that the company does not use social signals as part of its ranking algorithm, this does not mean that activity generated from social media users has no effect on search.  There’s no doubt that inbound traffic and time spent on a web page are important factors that Google watches.  Driving discovery and social sharing of your brand’s owned content is an important first step in generating the references to your company or brand that comprise the ‘implied links’ Google values.  And sparking social sharing under a relevant hashtag on Twitter, professionals on LinkedIn or interested consumers on other networks will generate the sort of quality traffic and ongoing activity on which Google’s algorithm places high values.

With all this in mind, here are a few KPIs (key performance indicators) public relations professionals should use to gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns in driving lasting value for their organizations.

Search query volumes:  Increases in the volumes of search queries that include either brand terms, or terms strongly associated with the brand, industry or product that lead visitors to the organizations’ web site are difficult to measure perfectly – Google masks a lot of search query data – but some does make it through to the web analytics programs organizations use to tabulate web traffic.   Talk to your web metrics guru about gaining access to the reports.    Important note:  you’ll also need to connect with team handling web site optimization for your organization about what keywords and phrases they’re targeting, and which URLs are associated with each term.    You’ll want to make a point of using those terms (or near derivatives) when relevant to your message and you’ll also want to include links to the related target URL in your releases, too.)

Inbound traffic to specific web pages: We’ve previously discussed the importance of including a URL to specific (and relevant!) web page in press releases, rather than dumping readers onto the homepage and forcing them to search for information related to what they read in the release.  These links are trackable, and working with your organization’s web team, you should be able to measure increases in inbound traffic to specific pages.  (Coordination with your web and inbound marketing teams is crucial.)

Lead quality or conversion rate:  What happens once someone has clicked on a link you placed in a press release?  The next step that visitor takes is an important one on the buying journey, and it’s something your marketing team is paying close attention to.  In many cases, a subsequent call to action on the web page will offer the visitor more content, such as a video or offer of a white paper download. The marketing team looks at the conversion rate (the percentage of time a prospect actually completes a transaction) and they may be scoring the quality of the leads the web site garners along the way.  The PR team can have a tremendous impact in generating an influx of well-qualified prospects to the organization’s web site.   If you’re tracking the traffic PR generates through trackable URLs, you can also track the quality of those leads, and the subsequent conversion rates. This is the sort of data that can be equated to revenue and will make a CFO sit up and take notice.

Improved search rank for key pages: Increases in search rank for key web site pages for specific sets of terms.  Over time, the implied links and earned media the PR team generates should have a positive effect on the search ranking of specific pages on the brand’s web site.  Garnering those results – and maintaining them, which requires sustained effort – are some of the truest measures of the value of the media and mentions the brand has earned.

The power of earned media has long been indisputable, but tough for PR to measure.  With Google’s acknowledgement of its role in determining search results, public relations pros can connect their campaigns to the online interactions that drive revenue for the organization.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.