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4 Ways to Capitalize on the Cross-Funnel ROI of Digital PR

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It’s no secret that digital PR is a top-of-the-funnel activity.

When we’re investing in promotion through this channel, we need to recognize that the chances of a visitor to our content then deciding to make a purchase is far slimmer than it would be if they had come through a bottom of funnel activity like PPC.

Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be talking about the revenue impact of a digital PR campaign – because, especially when we take an integrated approach, we can.

But it also means that digital PR deserves greater recognition than we currently tend to give it. And that means understanding the cross-funnel impact the channel can have.

What Do We Mean by a ‘Funnel’?

Fans of marketing frameworks will be aware of the marketing funnel.

The idea that consumers move through a linear journey may be somewhat simplistic, but it can help us to better understand:

  • How our target audiences are behaving.
  • What part of the journey we’re impacting along the way.

4 Ways to Capitalize on the Cross-Funnel ROI of Digital PR

According to the AIDA model, consumers move through a journey of:

  • Awareness – First becoming aware of the problem or solution.
  • Interest – Becoming interested in the solution offered.
  • Desire – Wanting the solution offered.
  • Action – Buying the solution offered.

Digital PR, then, sits at the top of the funnel.

It’s about raising awareness, whether that’s through traffic to the campaign itself, or increasing visibility for the brand in the SERPs by improving their ranking positions.

Conversely, something like PPC is much more driven to targeting consumers at the point of conversion (especially if we’re talking about search ads and Google Shopping).

How Does Digital PR Contribute to the Funnel?

The way that digital PR in its purest sense contributes to the funnel is, as mentioned above, through increasing awareness amongst the target audience.

When done well, it’s about getting the brand in front of its audience with messages that start to build relationships that could lead to conversion eventually.

It should, therefore, be intrinsically tied to tangible, measurable goals such as number of links built and resulting ranking, and therefore traffic improvements.

It can also contribute to the rest of the funnel and has the greatest potential to do so when:

  • We craft campaigns that sit at the very core of the Circles of Focus (a technique I’ve been using with my clients to prioritize content production).
  • We integrate our campaigns with other channels.

Here are four ways that you can drive higher returns from your digital PR campaigns by capitalizing on its cross-funnel potential.

1. Integrate PR with SEO – Properly

The thing about digital PR is that it was originally born from SEO. It was a need to drive links that got us to this point of investing in campaigns to earn us links.

But let’s not forget that back before we got news-savvy, we built links in plenty of other ways and we always did it with very clear goals in mind.

It was rare (unless we were just starting out with a new website) that we’d want to build links to just anywhere.

Homepage links were cool, but we knew that the true value lay in direct links because equity did not degrade by being passed across internal links.

To put it simply, we tried to point our links to deeper pages – those pages we wanted to rank – and we thought about things like the position of the link in the linking page and anchor text as means to squeeze even more value from our work.

So it makes logical sense that we should not be briefing our digital PR teams with anything less than a clear, SEO-driven goal.

“Just get links” is not a brief.

“Get the links to wherever” is not a brief.

“Build me links to X page directly or via equity passage with a view to increasing rankings for X keyword”: now that’s a brief.

Every SEO professional needs to brief PRs with SEO knowledge and PRs need to seek that insight from their SEO partners.

Integrate with SEO properly.

2. Borrow from Traditional PR – But Make It Measurable

Another way to show more value from your digital PR campaigns is to call on the other discipline that made it – traditional PR.

If digital PR is the baby, SEO and traditional PR are the parents.

That’s because, while SEO was informing digital PR to build links, traditional PR was inspiring it to use new techniques to do so.

In a post-Penguin world, digital PRs are investing ever more in great content, news hooks, and even PR stunts, much as traditional PRs have done and still do.

So it goes to follow that digital PR is already giving you the benefits of its traditional predecessor. But we aren’t measuring it particularly well – yet.

And, hey, it’s understandable. Traditional PRs are still chatting about advertising value equivalent (AVE) and circulation and other frankly fluffy metrics.

And if they can’t articulate the value of their work, how can we?

Obviously, that’s a rhetorical question. Because we’re digital marketers and the core value of digital lies in the fact that it is tangible and measurable.

Which means that yes, we can make traditional PR metrics measurable. We just have to do a bit of work on it.

The first step is to make your traditional PR metrics S.M.A.R.T. – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

It’s an old marketing framework but no less valuable today than when it was first created, in my opinion.

What it means is that we make the intangible tangible.

For example, “awareness” might be measured through ranking improvements, keyword visibility, and share of voice of branded search.

Bottom line: we owe it to ourselves as digital PRs to be judged on traditional PR metrics because those are benefits we’re already delivering, but we must must make it measurable.

3. Think About the Wider Benefits of Our Assets

If your PR campaign involves the creation of some kind of asset (as most do), you should be considering the potential additional value of those assets.

Whether it’s a quiz, an infographic, a video or even a fake job ad, if you’re creating an asset to accompany your digital PR campaigns, you should be considering the broader benefits therein.

For example, you might work with your SEO team to work out what format of content you can produce to support on-page optimization efforts.

Equally, you might share those assets with your wider team. I’ve had various clients who used the articles we landed for them as collateral in their sales discussions.

If you’re doing email marketing, you might use this content, too.

4. Consider Funnel Campaigns

A funnel campaign is a campaign which uses digital PR as the primary interaction point, but then has a clear journey/path for the consumer to follow through to conversion.

How, then, can we use PR alongside PPC/paid media?

PPC pros are – particularly in the case of paid social or remarketing – trying to build broader audiences to whom they can then send targeted messages to encourage them through to an eventual conversion goal.

And PRs are creating top of the funnel content that builds broader audiences.

It’s logical, then, that the two should work together.

Why not explore using paid media techniques to capitalize on your popular campaigns?

Use cookie tracking to build remarketing audiences, and make one of your KPIs relate to remarketing audience size.

Then work closely with your paid media team (and broader marketing team/client) to understand the conversion journey that usually follows that first interaction.

Create strategic ads or additional content to send to the most engaged users at every level and, eventually, you’ll be able to show how your digital PR campaign has driven a tangible ROI.

The Evolution of Digital PR

The discipline of digital PR is still in its relative infancy, especially when compared to something like SEO.

As digital marketers, we have the opportunity to shape that evolution.

Let’s stop shouting about how many links we’ve built, and started celebrating the broader benefits of digital PR, too.

I’d love to know what you think; drop me a comment!

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Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author, July 2019



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Microsoft Advertising talks intelligence, UI updates, audience solutions in SMX keynote

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NEW YORK – As brands look to compete in today’s market, identifying ways to connect with audiences is critical. Growth relies heavily on the marketer’s ability to find better ways to meet the needs of customers, said Christi Olson, head of evangelism at Microsoft Advertising and Bing, during a keynote session at SMX West on Wednesday.

“Consumers want brands to help them, anticipating their needs and making their buying experience frictionless,” Olson said. “Our [Microsoft’s] goal is to help retailers become more competitive and deliver more engaging customer experiences that unlock new revenue and fuel future growth,” she added.

The growing complexity of the consumer’s digital footprint means advertisers need to understand the advanced technologies and innovations that drive meaningful brand engagement.

Delivering value with AI

According to Olson, Microsoft Advertising is gearing up to build better experiences for customers using artificial intelligence and machine learning. One example, an app called Seeing AI, has helped more than one million people with vision impairments complete tasks like reading a menu in restaurant or counting money to make a purchase.

Microsoft AI has added value to organizations as well, Olson explained, such as helping to quickly identify and resolve equipment issues remotely, or helping HR teams to recruit top candidates. 

In terms of the future, it’s evident that Microsoft has set out to build more advanced solutions that can connect the customer journey through intelligent learning.

(See Also: Get the just-released Periodic Tables of PPC)

“Creating better experiences for your customers, people you engage with is not about handing off your advertising to machines. At a time of advancing automation, creativity remains the essential differentiator of greater value than at any other point in human history,” Olson said.

To help organizations adopt AI-driven capabilities quickly and easily, Microsoft is working to bring intelligence to the products and services consumers already use daily. Olson said that Microsoft will be launching a new class of purpose-built Dynamics 365 AI solutions aimed at delivering out-of-the-box insights from unified data. That data can then be infused with advanced intelligence to support integrated actions across sales, customer service, and marketing teams.

Personalization at scale

User devices provide context. And context helps marketers better understand what matters to a consumer in a particular location and at a particular time. The right message at the right moment is the next level in customer service and can turn intent into action.

Context also allows retail businesses to more accurately anticipate what a customer might need, based on when, where, and how they arrive on a brand’s website. Consumers are always hunting for product information, deals, local availability, and local discounts online, Olson explained. Retailers who don’t make efforts to supply the right, personalized information at the right time will lose out.

“As we think about this enormous opportunity, we at Microsoft see four key areas of opportunity for retail,” she said. These include:

Know your customer. Deliver unforgettable customer experiences that make your brand stand out from the crowd.

Empower your employees. Provide your team with the tools that enable extraordinary customer service.

Deliver intelligent supply chain. Improve agility to reduce costs and drive customer satisfaction.

Reimagine your business. Stand out in today’s competitive retail environment by reinventing your business model, starting with the customers and working backward.

Uniting the Internet and the Intranet

One of the biggest challenges facing internal organizations is the inability to quickly and accurately locate company information through intranet networks. Earlier this month, Microsoft introduced the new Microsoft Edge and Microsoft Bing for business.

Olson said Microsoft’s ambition is for Bing and Edge to deliver the best search and browser experiences for businesses and consumers alike. With enhanced capabilities like deep intranet integration, improved people search, and features that support internal resources, Microsoft is setting out to help employees be more efficient and productive.

Olson said Microsoft will be introducing more features for the consumer audience in spring 2020.

Microsoft’s redesigned UI

In October, Microsoft Advertising unveiled the platform’s interface refresh, designed to better align with the update Google Ads rolled out in full a year ago.

The redesigned UI, explained Olson, enables advertisers to manage campaigns more easily with the following improvements:

Improved usability and navigation. The new online navigation includes more intuitive features for greater integration with Google Ads, saving advertisers more time when it comes to campaign management. Advertisers can use the new global menu to switch accounts, quickly access tools and settings like ad preview, shared library, conversion tracking, Google Import, and more.

Better organization of features. The new vertical page menu includes Ads & Extensions, Audiences, Experiments, and other features to deliver more streamlined access for advertisers. As advertisers navigate campaigns, page menus will adapt to only display the pages and data that are applicable to each campaign.

Modern look and feel. The new online experience is now more up to date and consistent with other Microsoft products.

Intelligent audience solutions

Currently, Microsoft Advertising offers intelligent audience solutions designed to help advertisers reach a target audience with a personalized ad experience at the right time.

These solutions include AI-driven targeting capabilities such as location, device, in-market audiences, Google Import, campaign-level associations, and more. Microsoft is currently piloting LinkedIn Profile Targeting, product audiences, similar audiences, and customer matches.

Eventually, Olson said, Microsoft plans to roll out customer combinations with “or” and “and” logic.

Amping up for new retail solutions

“For retailers to power great experiences on their website, search is critical,” Olson said.

With Intelligent Search, Microsoft aims to bring advertisers closer to understanding shopper intent with scale, intelligence, and AI. To do this, Olson pointed to Bing’s index that retailers can embed on their sites to grow visibility. Bing technology can help marketers understand consumer behavior and trends while leveraging machine learning and AI to help automatically optimize conversion actions.

Intelligent Search, part of Microsoft’s vision to offer more search solutions to retailers, will deliver personalized product recommendations using deep learning algorithms. Experimentation and custom rankings will help businesses achieve goals and drive up consumer satisfaction. Additionally, advertisers will have an improved ability to analyze transactional, behavioral, and demographic data from the sites.

Microsoft PromoteIQ, a vendor marketing solution that enables retailers to generate high-margin advertising revenue with their own advertising experiences, will become fully integrated with the Microsoft advertising platform. Currently in private preview, the PromoteIQ Network will allow retailers to scale commerce advertising revenue using an expanded integration with the Microsoft Advertising platform and sales teams, providing access to new channels that can help maximize value.

The age of digital marketing is
behind us, and our new reality—though it may at times seem daunting—is
marketing in the digital age. One in which marketers simply cannot find success
talking at
customers through single, traditional channels. Instead, brands must engage
with them on new and meaningful levels, wherever they are.

As Olson stated during her session, Microsoft is setting out “to help reimagine how [advertisers] serve customers and grow your business, deliver more engaging customer experiences that unlock new revenue and fuel future growth.”


About The Author

Taylor Peterson is Third Door Media’s Deputy Editor, managing industry-leading coverage that informs and inspires marketers. Based in New York, Taylor brings marketing expertise grounded in creative production and agency advertising for global brands. Taylor’s editorial focus blends digital marketing and creative strategy with topics like campaign management, emerging formats, and display advertising.



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Rand Fishkin on optimizing for and against Google

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NEW YORK – Google’s relationship with brands has shifted from referrer to competitor, SparkToro CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin said at SMX East on Wednesday during his keynote about how the search engine’s business model has been evolving.

Now that the majority of Google searches are no-click, companies will have to find on-SERP opportunities to reach their audiences and strengthen their branding so that users will actively seek them out, said Fishkin.

The zero-click search trend

More than half (56.1%) of Google searches conducted from a mobile browser and 34.9% of Google desktop searches ended without a click to other content, according to Jumpshot data. “However, the trend is the same: organic, going down; while paid and zero-click searches are on the rise,” said Fishkin.

Source: SparkToro.

“In September, 7.5% of all searches resulted in a click to an Alphabet property,” said Fishkin. “Google is the biggest beneficiary of Google Search today. Nobody else comes close to that 7.5% number.”

From middleman to “competitor”

In addition to organic click volume eroding, Google’s direct answers and its foray into verticals resolves searches in numerous industries, such as weather, travel, local, and reviews, without the user ever having to click through to the sites that originally published that information.

“This is widespread, friends,” said Fishkin, citing results from Google Hotels, Flights, Jobs, the local pack and other types of rich results surfacing on the main results page. “We are talking about results that are taking business away from Skyscanner and Kayak in travel, from Eater and Yelp in local results, from U.S. News and FiveThirtyEight in the college rankings, from Wunderground and Weather.com, from MetaCritic and PC Gamer, and basically everybody but Alphabet when it comes to a lot of popular culture and media stuff.”

What brands can do about it

“We have to find ways to make our brand what searchers seek out,” said Fishkin. “I don’t want searches for ‘weather’; I want searches for my brand: I want searches for ‘Weather Underground’ and ‘Weather.com’ and ‘Weather Channel.’ I want to find ways to benefit from zero-click searches.”

Despite the bleak outlook for organic traffic in certain industries, there are still a number of ways that brands can influence what Fishkin refers to as “post-search behavior.”

Source: SparkToro.

Designing content with rich results in mind is one way companies can increase their visibility on the search results page — what Fishkin refers to as and “on-SERP SEO” — and the attribution from those results may help familiarize users with your brand. Buying ads will also help you do this, Fishkin said.

Offline brand campaigns, such as billboards, radio and TV ads can also influence search behavior. If users are actively seeking out your brand, claiming or suggesting changes to your knowledge panel can help you positively influence brand perception. To bolster your brand even further, Fishkin recommended reputation management SEO to help control branded search results.

The prisoner’s dilemma for brands

“The prisoner’s dilemma is ‘Do I optimize for zero-click searches, for providing these answers, for marking my results the way Google wants them — and potentially losing traffic as a result?’” said Fishkin, highlighting the predicament that many brands are now finding themselves in.

If your brand doesn’t benefit from ranking for a given query without traffic or doesn’t receive credit for it, you should instead optimize for keywords that do send traffic, Fishkin said. Source: SparkToro.

Fishkin’s mechanism for navigating this dilemma divides the issue into two categories: one for all types of content that can surface as a rich result (above), and another specifically for search results derived from structured data (below).

Brands should consider whether they will gain or lose value from adding structured data, and whether it’s more practical to cede the answer box to a competitor and pursue other keyword opportunities. Source: SparkToro.

“All of us have to try and build walls to protect against the competition that will absolutely come to sector after sector from Google as they search for growth … that is just the reality,” said Fishkin. “But, I think we have an opportunity to build our own brands and still succeed.”

Relying on search engines to reach your customers inherently makes brands susceptible to the way those search engines deliver results. However, by complementing your SEO efforts with a strategy that creates demand for your brand, you may be able to insulate yourself and stay ahead of the competition.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.



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Understanding referrer clicks and how they can skew search engine market share

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As every search marketer knows, clicks are a key metric in measuring search traffic, yet counting clicks can be a complicated thing. All clicks are not the same. There are paid clicks. There are organic clicks. There are mobile clicks. And many times there are clicks that get quickly redirected in the blink of an eye without a user even realizing it. These redirected clicks can cause discrepancies and confusion in click reports.

Consider this: a recent post from StatCounter shows a search engine market share of Google 88.37% and Bing 6.07%. At the same time, other sites such as Statista, show Google at 62.5% with Microsoft sites (Bing) at 25%. And even another site, comScore, places U.S. Bing share at 36% on PC and 20% across all devices. Why such large discrepancies? What is driving the confusion? The answer requires an understanding of the mechanics of ad serving and web referrals.

Referrers are links that drive traffic to other websites, moving people around the internet. A referrer site is simply the site that a person was on right before they came to your page. But sometimes referrer sites get misrepresented. A click can get diverted to an ad server, then quickly redirected to your page. Take for example the retailer, Kohls. A person is surfing the Kohls website and clicks on a picture of a TAG Heuer watch:

From a user experience, this shopper goes directly from the Kohls website to TAG’s website. And yet on paper, the referrer click gets credited to Google. Why is this? Through Google’s AdSense program, the click from Kohl’s gets quickly redirected to Google’s ad server before going to tagheuer.com. The click referral is attributed to Google not Kohl’s. The clicks from ad servers can add up and skew market share, even though these are not direct search queries from a search engine.

It’s good to understand how sites such as StatCounter or JumpShot calculate their data by combining search engine referrals with ads from syndicated websites in their referrer metrics. Referrer can be rich with insightful information, but should be carefully analyzed and understood before making any optimization or business decisions. Search marketers should also stay vigilant for redirects on referrer click reports as often times there is more to a click than meets the eye.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

​Christi Olson is a Search Evangelist at Microsoft in Seattle, Washington. For over a decade Christi has been a student and practitioner of SEM. Prior to joining the Bing Ads team within Microsoft, Christi worked in marketing both in-house and at agencies at Point It, Expedia, Harry & David, and Microsoft (MSN, Bing, Windows). When she’s not geeking out about search and digital marketing she can be found with her husband at ACUO crossfit and running races across the PacificNW, brewing and trying to find the perfect beer, and going for lots of walks with their two schnauzers and pug.



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