Why conversion segments in Google Analytics are sexy as hell for PR (#pranalytics, #CIPR)


I had the pleasure of presenting at the PR Analytics Conference in London last week along with a number of big names in the field including Pleon’s David Rockland and Jim Desler, Worldwide Head of PR for Microsoft.

There was a large audience of senior PR folk in the room. My presentation was about how PR pros could use Google Analytics (GA) to better effect. I had 25 mins to cram in as much as I could.

One of the things I highlighted in my talk was the use of multi-channel funnel analysis in GA.  In simple terms, it allows you to determine the direct and indirect contribution that various digital marketing channels make to your site conversion goals.

However, I didn’t have time at the  conference to go into the use of conversion segments.

Which was a shame because they really are very sexy (no, really).

Here’s a simple explanation for those unfamiliar with the concept.

GA allows you to see what mix of site interactions deliver a conversion eg sale of a product, video view, whatever. It also shows you the value of those interactions relative to the conversion.

Here’s an example. This is for a small (but real) e-commerce site selling a simple £11.99 product (normally you’d have a whole range of different products and different prices – but hopefully you can extrapolate from this).

Converstion Segments in Google Analytics

For this particular web property, it would seem that the most common conversion path for a sale is for people to arrive via one single search before purchasing. There are more complex interactions (not least #8 here which saw the person revisit the site 18 times directly before finally buying something!).

As part of my PR Analytics presentation, I talked about the problem of attribution in marketing and PR with relation to goals and objectives (most sales or comms processes have multiple steps – but which one should get the credit for the final transaction? Should the first step in the process get 100pc of the credit? Or the last step? In the absence of giving fair credit to all relevant steps in the conversion process, many people have opted for the last step ie the step immediately before the conversion.)

In PR terms, that typically means that much PR work would get no credit – because it rarely contributes the last step in the process. Its role is generally assistive to the overall process. However, the introduction of multi-channel funnels into GA last year allowed marketeers (and PR pros) for the first time to see both the direct and indirect value being delivered in relation to a defined goal.

SlingshotSEO recently produced an excellent whitepaper which showed how you can combine conversion segments with a multi-touch attribution analysis to determine which channel you may be overvaluing or under valuing if you are using a last attribution model.

They also had some great insight into the most common conversion paths (based on an analysis of over 23.5m transactions).  Two organic searches seems to be the most popular conversion path with two or more interactions. And referrals and organic search are consistently undervalued as conversion channels.

Which brings me back to the relevance to PR (at least online PR coverage).

Traffic from links in relevant online editorial coverage fall into the referrals bucket. If referrals are consistently being undervalued on a last attribution basis, it does seem to lend credence to the theory that PR does contribute indirect value – and now we have a way to determine exactly what the value of that contribution might be.

But here’s the thing. You have to define at least one goal in order to make this work.  No goals, no insight.

Brings in to sharp relief the fact that without defining concrete goals, you are almost certainly creating unnecessary pain and heartache for yourself. And your online PR efforts are almost certainly not getting the credit they deserve.

I’ll be looking in more detail at multi-channel funnel analysis and conversion segments in my strategic management presentation at CIPR headquarters, Russell Square, London, on Wednesday 28th  March on using web analytics to inform communications strategy and planning.

Top 5 reasons PR firms should ask clients/prospects for access to Google Analytics data


In March 2010, I gave a presentation on PR and SEO at the CIPR HQ in Russell Square, London, to around 75 senior in-house communications directors and managers. I asked how many of them used Google Analytics data from their own corporate sites to inform their PR and communications strategies. Not a single hand went up.

In the intervening months, I’ve been boring for Britain to anyone who’ll listen that asking clients for access to Google Analytics should be one of the key questions any PR should be asking.  In fact, it should be a great question to ask prospects.(*)

Either way, Google Analytics (GA) can provide a whole host of insight that can have a big impact on the communications strategies and tactics you advise clients on.

Here are my top 5 immediate reasons for asking for GA data:
1. Bounce rate (or as Avinash Kaushik so memorably described it – they came, they saw, they puked). If a client website has a high bounce rate ie 75pc or higher (and isn’t a blog) then they have some issues – there is no point driving traffic to a site if it doesn’t engage the visitor. There may be many reasons why a site has a high bounce rate. But I’m willing to bet that 9 times out of 10, that content is a key part of the the problem. If the client or prospects existing content isn’t working then it needs fixing – it also flags that using existing messages and content to fuel PR probably isn;t going to work – enter the PR firm….

2. Segmenting web site visitors based on where they come from and the intention behind their visit should provide a gold mine of insight for a PR. Take search. If there are certain key phrases that are driving people to a site, then using Google’s free Doubleclick Ad Planner tool can help determine where PR content should be pitched (hint: it won’t always be media properties that may be the most fruitful places to pitch PR content – or it may disprove assumptions about which media outlets really do matter to your audiences – based on what they actually do rather than what the media owners media pack tells you).

3. Set up goals. So often, even if a client has set up GA, they won’t have set up any goals. And they don’t necessarily have to be transactional. What about setting goals for time on site or depth of visit and putting a financial value on these more engaged visitors? Wouldn’t it be great if the PR firm could show a causal connection between PR activity and more engagement? Well, the tools are freely available…

4. Using GA Tagging Parameters. PRs can and should get a lot smarter about using tag parameters in the links they use in news releases and other PR related content. A bit of effort to work out a logical tagging strategy allows GA to give you far more accurate insight into how different tactics have performed. Hell, Google even provides a free tool to build your parameterised link for you.

5. Create multiple GA profiles. Again, very often, clients have only got a single profile view of their GA data. You’ll get kudos for advising them to at least set up a second one where they can test tweaks to the system without compromising the existing data. But setting up a specific profile for use by the PR firm should be a must-have in any case. Imagine being able to use the annotation function in GA to highlight where PR activity (both on and off-line) may have had an impact on visitors and commercial activity.

Here’s a real example. A piece of PR generated broadcast TV coverage at 11am on a Sunday morning resulted in a spike of visits to the site at that  time. Analysing those visitors showed exactly how many requested further information and/or requested a trial of the product. In other words, a clear line-of-sight causal chain between PR output and commercial outcome.

I could go on. But I’ll say it again. If you aren’t asking your clients and prospects for access to their GA data, do it now.  If only for the solitary reason that being able to show the start to finish causal impact of PR content on real business outcomes is hugely powerful – and the fact is, there is nothing to stop PR firms adopting these approaches today. If they don’t, somebody else might do it for them. And get the glory.

*What about confidentiality say some people? Sign an NDA if you have to. But if a prospect or client still refuses to share GA data with you, I’d treat that as a warning sign.

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