One of the sometimes painful manifestations of the digital age is that it has forced we public relations types to do math. For decades we bemoaned the fact that there was no real empirical way to measure the impact of our work (except for circulation numbers which always seemed contrived and now quaintly anachronistic). Mostly, we operated under the assumption that the more people who were reading or seeing your story, the better it was…at least generally speaking. In short, we made do.
But now, we have numbers. We can measure all manner of interaction with the fruits of our work. There are metrics for the numbers of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter followers, for how many people opened your email or read your blog post, and we can slice and dice those numbers by demographics. Want to know how effective your social media spend was on broadening your audience or spurring engagement? We can find that out, too.
And so, my eyebrow (usually the right one) arched upwards the other day when I noticed that traffic to our website was up 46% year over year. My initial temptation was to attribute it somehow to COVID-19, which is pretty much the explanation to everything these days. But when I looked at the data more closely, I saw a trendline that has moved steadily upwards over the past year, and so I figured we must be doing something right.
Truth be told, we at Hodges practice what we preach. The earned-owned-paid PR programs that we plan and execute for our clients are much like the one we employ for our own marketing purposes. That’s particularly true on the content marketing front. And what’s plain to see is that this strategy is paying dividends across the board.
With web traffic up close to 50% from April 2019 to April 2020, here are the elements that have fueled that kind of growth.
First, let’s acknowledge the basics: search engine optimization is an important foundation for generating online visits. Many qualified visitors (those mostly likely to use your product or service) are likely to find you via a Google search, and it’s critical that you have a program in place that will elevate your standing in these searches. In our case, we work with a firm that helps us make sure that searches for “public relations Richmond/Virginia” place us on the first page of web searches. Almost half of our website traffic results from organic search.
We have a robust commitment to pushing out our expertise to audiences via what you are reading right now – The Gong Blog. (We have a large gong in the office that, in pre-coronavirus days, folks could wallop to celebrate a big achievement; hence the name.) If you haven’t noticed, everyone – all 16 of us – contribute regularly to the blog, and while some are more frequent bloggers than others, we all share in our collective commitment to develop and post content that we hope is relevant to our various constituencies.
It’s exactly what we do for our clients – generate a steady stream of content, interview in-house SMEs (subject matter experts), build editorial calendars, create target personas and showcase our clients’ expertise in strategic ways.
And it gets results. The biggest growth in our website visits has stemmed from leveraging our blog posts on social media platforms. At the beginning of last year, we made the decision to dial back our frequency of posting – wondering if we were over-saturating our followers – from twice a week to once a week. Curiously, we can detect no drop off from this decision.
Looking at the most visited parts of our site, it’s The Gong Blog hands down, even besting the pages with information on job openings and internships. Metrics tell us that the blogs are also where visitors are spending the most time on the site.
Juicing the content
Posting even the most compelling content (except for maybe cat videos) won’t have the kind of impact you want on its own. To have any kind of meaningful viral reach, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts need some ad dollars behind them, even just a little. We spend a modest budget on these platforms, but even that small amount helps our content reach new audiences, particularly audiences whose demographic profile fits our targets. And, of course, the first step in the buyer’s journey is to get potential new clients to begin noticing you.
Actually, we haven’t gone there yet….