Last year, #TheDress divided the Internet: the blue-black team and the white-gold team (or rather, those who were right and those who were wrong). Although humanity nearly unraveled itself during #Dressgate 2015, most agreed that The Dress was worth talking about.
This viral hubbub not only fueled social media fires, but was also good for business. British brand Roman Originals, the makers of the dress, saw a 560% spike in sales within one day of media coverage; their website had a 420% increase in organic U.S. traffic the month after the story hit the headlines. In fact, more than a full year after The Dress almost broke the Internet, the retailer’s site is still receiving increased backlinks and traffic.
Inspired by the contagious power of The Dress, Fractl and Moz took a look at the SEO impact of seven of the biggest PR moments in 2015. We analyzed how major media coverage affected a brand’s press mentions, organic traffic, and backlinks. Unless you spent the past year living under a Wi-Fi-repelling rock, you probably heard about (and even tweeted) most of these stunts and stories:
Unsurprisingly, we learned that trending headlines – whether unintentional or highly orchestrated PR stunts – had a huge influence on a company’s site traffic, press mentions, and backlinks.
We also learned a few things about marketing along the way. Here are some of the key insights we got from these big PR stunts.
Even though large brands (Airbnb, REI, and Miss Universe) received 148% more headlines and 190% more social shares than smaller brands, the little guys gained more from their news coverage. Gravity Payments, Roman Originals, and Turing Pharmaceuticals saw the greatest increases in organic traffic and backlinks.
PR stunts help build brand awareness; they are less effective at stirring up interest for familiar brand names. For example, we can compare The Dress to Airbnb’s igloo. Both events received significant press coverage, but only Roman Originals saw a large increase in organic traffic or backlinks. Although Airbnb received an 83% increase in press mentions, they only saw a 2% increase in site traffic.
Big brands don’t benefit as much from PR stunts – they don’t need headlines to let people know that they exist, but they can still benefit. From an SEO standpoint, REI’s Black Friday stunt was a bust. However, as Logan Ray pointed out to us in our Moz post, REI is a membership-based company which had customers that valued REI’s actions. In 2015, REI’s membership grew by a record 1 million people, and it posted a record revenue of $2.4 billion. REI stayed true to its brand, and it paid off.
Negative stories received 172% more headlines and 176% more social shares than positive stories. Obviously, overly negative stories can sink a company – see Turing Pharmaceuticals and Peeple. (Turing posted a $14.6 million loss in the third quarter of 2015, and Peeple’s organic traffic hovers around 1,000 people per month.)
However, if you are able to paint your brand as a hero, then you can tap into people’s natural love of drama without getting burned. (See more on the value of controversial content here.)
Check out the full stats for each of these seven brands below (click on the thumbnails below the main infographic to load the full image).
Lillian Podlog is a Marketing Associate at Fractl, a content marketing agency that specializes in the science behind viral content. She is also the proud (and protective) mother of two guinea pigs. Continue the conversation on Twitter @LillianPodlog or @FractlAgency.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.