Public relations and brand folks measure lots of things, but almost none of them use the one metric that would prove the value of their work.
What is that measure?
Branded organic search queries.
What Is Branded Organic Search?
A branded organic search query is when someone searches for you by name – your company name, your products or services, your key employees, anything that indicates they know who you are and they have some interest in you.
What drives branded organic search?
Simply put, it’s when someone wants to know more about you. Not your category, not your industry, not the generic problem they have – no, they are looking for more information about you by name.
How do you create that kind of branded demand? Through things like advertising and PR, word of mouth. When you ask a friend for a recommendation and they say, “oh, go check out X company’s stuff” or “Go listen to X band” or “Go visit X’s website”, that’s branded demand. And branded demand is inherently more valuable than other kinds of search intent because there’s less competition.
For example, someone searching for “marketing consulting” is going to have a lot of different options. On the other hand, someone searching for “Trust Insights” really only has one thing in mind at the moment.
How to Measure Branded Organic Search?
How do you measure branded organic search queries?
This is provided to us for free by Google Search Console, and you can view it there, in Google Data Studio, or extracted using third party software. If you’re a public relations professional at an agency, you’ll need to ask for access to Google Search Console data, or ask for extracts from Search Console from your clients.
Here’s an example of branded search queries in Google Search Console, filtering query results by my name:
Here’s an example of branded search queries in Google Data Studio. I’ve connected to my Google Search Console account with the appropriate connector, then filtered the data to only use my branded search terms (mainly my name):
What we see here is fairly clear; we see impressions – the number of times a website came up in search results from the bucket of branded search terms – and clicks, the indicator that the site seemed relevant to the searcher.
It’s important to note that these are filtered ONLY to brand terms. That’s what we care about – people searching for us by name.
This is a great, important first step for any PR professional. Just reporting on branded search alone shows you have an understanding of how customers behave in the modern era. Any time we’re wondering about something, a Google search is literally a click or a tap away – so we should be measuring that on behalf of our brands.
How to Tie Branded Search Back to PR Efforts
You could make the argument that just because branded search term queries are on the increase from any number of reasons – advertising, great products, etc. So how do we know public relations efforts are the driver?
This is where we get slightly more sophisticated in our analysis. Nearly every media monitoring tool offers some kind of data export. In this case, I’ll export my media mentions from the last 90 days from the excellent Brand24 service (the service I use for media monitoring) into a spreadsheet. Then I’ll take my Search Console branded search query data and export it as well. I recommend using long timeframes – at least 90 days, ideally much more – so that you can smooth out any anomalies.
Using the statistical tool of your choice – Excel, Tableau, R, Python, etc. – summarize both data sets by date and then match the two sets of data up by date:
Now, run the correlation test of your choice. Excel users using the CORREL() function will be doing a Pearson correlation, which for this use case is good enough. If you have a choice, like in R or Python, use a Spearman correlation for this kind of data because marketing data is often not linear.
What do I find in my own PR data?
What we see, outlined in the red box, is a weak correlation between media mentions and branded search impressions, and a slightly weaker correlation between media mentions and branded search clicks. This makes intuitive sense; I don’t do any proactive public relations work on my personal website, so there wouldn’t necessarily be a ton of media mentions to work with. If I was paying a PR team or a PR firm to do outreach and such on my behalf, I would expect this statistical relationship to be stronger.
This is a very simple test to see if there is a relationship at all. For a more thorough analysis, you’d want to do something like multi-touch attribution analysis or uplift modeling to find out just how much of an impact PR has on your overall marketing strategy, but if you can’t prove even a basic correlation to branded organic search, then you know PR isn’t really doing much for you.
On the other hand, if the correlation is strong – above 0.4, ideally above 0.5 – then you know PR is knocking it out of the park for you and driving measurable search traffic to your site. Since most companies earn 40-60% of their overall traffic from search and many see branded search convert the best, this begins to surface the real, monetary value of effective PR.
Branded Organic Search Isn’t the Only Measure of PR
It’s important to note here as we conclude that branded organic search queries isn’t the only metric of PR’s effectiveness, but it’s a great one and one overlooked by almost every PR professional I know. If no one is ever searching for your brand by name, you’ve got a big problem. Set up your Google Search Console or Google Data Studio dashboard today for branded organic search queries, and start measuring how in demand your brand is!
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