Have you become too focused on metrics? It's time to remember your audience

Photography by Isy Anderson. Uncovering the story behind our client, Burgess Furniture

Photography by Isy Anderson. Uncovering the story behind our client, Burgess Furniture

It’s been quite a whirlwind for us PR folk these past 20 years. The Internet has transformed our careers, helping us get our clients in front of the right people more than ever before.

We don’t just seek media coverage; we go where the eyes are. Forums, blogs, social media, search engines… we’ve adapted with the times.

Around 10 years ago, it was a real golden era for marketing. When anyone, with a little time and effort, could easily build an audience online for very little cost.

But those days are gone. Privacy concerns, ad-blocking, increased competition, changing algorithms and a whole generation of millennials who hate advertising has meant that many brands caught up in the endless chase (and cost) for more “likes” and web visitors are now struggling. And in all the madness, some brands have forgotten what’s most important – the customer.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve seen it plenty of times. A business grows quickly and – in a bid to keep the momentum going – it focuses too much on the metrics and not enough on strategy. It forgets that it’s trying to “sell” to human beings and gets lost in the drive for more clicks.

Search engines and social media want you to prioritise the audience, too. They’ll reward you for creating quality content and conversation that’s relevant and interesting.

For instance, your SEO agency or digital marketing consultant might be fighting for higher rankings in the search engines, so you’ll attract as much organic traffic as possible. But Google doesn’t want SEO to win; it wants to praise websites that are focusing on the audience rather than its crawler bots.

Whenever Google has updated its algorithm, it has punished those who follow questionable methods and rewarded those who are doing things naturally. I mean, think about it – if your sole purpose is to get higher rankings, do you think that will work long-term? What about your customers? Do they really want to read an article meant solely for the search engines? These people might land on your website but will they convert?

Social media is no different. The major platforms are pushing for quality content that people care about. Instagram’s updated algorithm, for example, is focused on giving the user the best possible experience. You can’t just churn out any old imagery with the purpose of promoting your business. There has to be a compelling story. Get that right and people will start seeing your photographs in their feeds more often.

I’ve always said it: write and create great content that people will find valuable and enjoy reading, liking and sharing, and Google will love you for it. You’ll build natural links. People will want to talk about you. Google will see you as an authority in your field.

And with Off-page SEO accounting for 50% of your website’s ranking, this approach is only going to get more important as time goes on. PR is (and always has been) your best friend.

So forget the metrics for now. Think like a journalist as well as a human being. Take a step back and consider the real story behind your brand. The juicy bits. What makes you special? Who are the people who make it happen? What new tech are you using? How are things made? What are you most proud of?

Yes, the last two decades have proven fruitful. But if your sales or enquiries have started to drop off lately, perhaps a more authentic approach could be the solution. As a PR consultant, I can talk you through some options to help you better connect with your audience.

Katy Cowan