You have started a brand new enterprise. You purchased a compelling domain name, designed a webpage using your favorite template and started reaching out to hot new leads. Unfortunately, you find your webpage is getting fewer visits than expected and the steep climb to notoriety seems to get longer.

If you are a new enterprise leader, or just launched an online outlet for your business, you may find this story familiar. Situations like these are where data-driven public relations (PR) can help.

1. What is Data-Driven PR?

Data is being utilized in almost every aspect of society these days, so it should be of no surprise that data plays a major role in the digital marketing strategy of modern public relations (PR) firms. Data science methods can be used in a variety of ways to understand where a client's brand is in terms of reputation and online presence and to gauge the success of PR initiatives. Data can also muddy the waters when used improperly, or even lead to poor decision making if potential biases are not taken into consideration (we talk about comparing search engine ranking scores improperly in this post). Indeed, a data strategy should complement the traditional art of storytelling while helping decision makers to improve and optimize marketing and PR campaigns.

2. How is Data Used to Understand Brand Reputation?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the umbrella term for any process that improves the "findability" of a website, meaning that internet search engines surface your website and your content when someone searches for any keywords associated with your brand. Almost any PR strategy has the potential to improve your SEO when implemented correctly. Measuring an SEO strategy's success is essential in understanding where you stand in terms of digital brand reputation and how your organization's visibility changes as you embark on your digital brand trust building journey. There are a variety of ways to measure and understand SEO, however the major factors agreed upon by SEO professionals include:

Number of external links - links on other prominent websites referring back to your own amplify the quality of your content. Internal links (links on your own webpages and blogs) are also important, but do not boost your credibility as much as other organizations referencing you.

Quality of links - internal and external links should include your website name and targeted keywords. This includes the name of photo files and other downloads, properly labeling all of your content helps with SEO.

Quality and quantity of content - this includes on site content and off site content such as social media posts and websites that mention your brand.

Domain age - websites that have been around longer typically rank higher.

Freshness of content on and off website - brands with current news stories, consistent website updates/blog posts, and new social media posts will rank higher.

Keyword linking - keywords associated with your brand that a web searcher would enter into a search query should be included throughout your website. You have to explicitly state what you do consistently across all of your content if you want to be discovered.

Usability of your website - people on different browsers and devices and with different internet connection speeds should be able to easily use your website. If your website does not function well on a smartphone, or requires a high-bandwidth connection to be viewed it may suffer in terms of findability.

Avoiding spamming techniques - search engines have algorithms to detect spam, so no matter the temptation, try not to take shortcuts in SEO. Building an online reputation takes time and consistency.

These and other factors feed into the algorithms used by modern search engines, such as Google's PageRank, to rank web pages according to search engine queries. A variety of firms have developed simple composite search engine ranking scores to condense these SEO factors into comparable scores that can be tracked easily over time. It is best practice to monitor a few of these scores along with other internal website metrics to understand how your digital brand reputation is evolving. It is important to note that these scores are not cross-comparable, meaning that comparing Domain Authority to your Domain Rating is not useful, but observing how your Domain Authority changes over time can provide vital insights.

- Domain Authority is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that gauges the search engine ranking strength of a website for a wide variety of search engines.

- Domain Rating (DR) is a similar metric developed by Ahrefs that measures the strength of a website’s total “backlink profile” using proprietary metrics. Backlinks are external links that refer to your website, so the more reputable sites that have weblinks to your website, the higher your DR score will be.

- Brand Trust Score, developed by Crothers Consulting, has a focus on current earned media (recent third party media referenced by google news), on-page SEO factors, and human interface components of your online presence (for example, whether all of your contact information is consistent on various platforms you are listed on.)

3. How Can Data Drive Decision Making on PR Initiatives?

Collecting information at every stage of the press release process can allow you to analyze the success and shortcomings of a PR strategy. Utilizing web analytics tools such as Matomo, Amplitude, or Mixpanel to collect basic information on how your web-page visitors are using your site and how these visitors arrived at your platform can provide invaluable information for a marketing strategy. Measuring the performance of digital advertisements and organic press in terms of actual web traffic driven to your site can help identify the ROI of such strategies clearly. This can be done through the use of campaign links placed into content. Monitoring traffic to specific organic media placements also allows content creators to understand what content gets viewed and what is not. Purchased online advertisements also provide you with information on how many “impressions” (this is the number of times an advertisement loads on a webpage, whether or not the targeted individual sees the ad) and actual clicks a given advertising campaign has produced.

You can have all the data in the world, but without proper analysis, the data may go unused. This is why employing data analysis and visualization methods to present information to decision makers is essential. It is important to build data visualization dashboards that present information in an understandable and actionable way. Dashboard tools such as Superset or Tableau make this easier, and allow for real-time data monitoring when properly configured. Having all the metrics discussed in this post in one place helps a great deal. If you can see your web traffic analytics alongside earned media, blog posts, and search engine ranking data, then it becomes possible to give data a chair at the table when trying to understand and improve PR and marketing initiatives.

Put Data in the Driver's Seat

Whether you are a small organization interested in amplifying your brand or an established company aiming to surge ahead of competitors, leveraging data can benefit your cause. Consider fundamental SEO principles and leverage innovative data visualization strategies to improve your search engine ranking, reinforce your reputation and engage target audiences.

Originally published June 6, 2021.

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