Digital PR

Gavin Hirst - Friday 8th October 2021


What is Digital PR and how can it help your SEO?

Earlier this year, Google’s John Mueller shook up the SEO by labelling digital PR as being as important (if not more important) than technical SEO in some cases.

This was some statement and one of the reasons for the big shakeup was perhaps a lack of understanding in the SEO world about the power of digital PR and its place within an SEO strategy.

Another reason for the shakeup is also the fact that there seems to be some debate around what Digital PR actually is.

Rise at Seven reported that following Mueller’s tweet, there was a “small handful of people wrongly state that Digital PR is fake, doesn’t drive performance, doesn’t work for SEO, and is just a glorified way of saying ‘link building’”.

Hopefully, Mueller’s comments have helped to dispel this myth and made more people think about digital PR and how it can help with your SEO.

What is Digital PR?

According to Moz, “Digital PR is a marketing strategy that combines traditional PR media relations with digital channels such as SEO, social media, and influencer marketing. Digital PR allows brands to develop relationships with influential media outlets in order to earn editorial coverage, thus improving their website backlinks, brand exposure, SEO, and more.

In a nutshell, digital PR is a strategy that enables brands to improve their online presence and visibility.

As brands have started to move away from traditional print journalism, they have had to adapt and develop new relationships with influential online entities that have large followings.

If you ever watched The Newsroom, an HBO production, you might remember a famous scene when they are discussing the reach of a story about the Boston Marathon bombing. As a major news outlet, many of them believe they are the place where people go for their news, however, they discover that a journalist with Buzzfeed has over 81,000 followers and you can start to sense a shift in the way the news is being reported.

In the show, they call it a battle between “old media” and “new media”, however, it’s a precursor to the way we look at traditional PR (usually done through newspapers, magazines, television and radio) and digital PR which relies more on the power of the internet and online platforms to grow your brand and recognition.

Isn’t digital PR just a fancy name for link building?

Nope.

Whilst there are definitely some benefits from an SEO perspective from digital PR, it isn’t a tactic that sits directly within an SEO strategy, but rather sits under the wider marketing umbrella.

Digital PR is used across a wide range of marketing activities – salespeople and marketing teams use digital PR to get their products in front of a direct audience, new businesses use digital PR to raise brand awareness and create a buzz around their business, content marketers use digital PR to get their content seen by millions – the list goes on.

Whilst SEO might underpin a lot of this activity, it is not the same thing as link building as a lot of digital PR activity is done for lots of reasons that don’t include getting a link.

If we think about traditional PR, the premise of digital PR is the same. Brands want to get their message in front of as many people as possible. Previously they would have used newspapers or the TV, however, now, they are moving to digital.

Traditional PR was not about getting “links” – you can’t link from print media (although you can include a website address). It was about getting brand mentions and positive public relations messages out to a wider audience. Digital PR should be looked upon in the same way, however, the opportunity to gain links is one not to be passed up (see below).

What does digital PR involve?

As we have already talked about, digital PR is an evolution of traditional PR and moves beyond simply targeting print publications, TV and radio. The opportunities for digital PR are almost endless and there are many different tactics involved. Some of those include:

  • Publishing articles and press releases
  • Building relationships with online journalists to generate online press coverage
  • Working with bloggers and influencers on product features and reviews
  • Arranging business profiling
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Nurturing journalist and content writing contacts to secure press hits
  • Using social media to gain exposure
  • Building brand trust through online reviews and interviews
  • Optimising press releases and blog content with relevant backlinks that will add value to the reader

In some respect, digital PR is not too dissimilar to traditional PR – building and nurturing relationships with journalists have always been a key part of traditional PR and now this has shifted to journalists with a strong online presence. Taking things a step further, it’s not only about journalists – bloggers and online influencers are also important people to build relationships with as their reach can be huge and they can also have a following that aligns with your own customers.

The goal of digital PR

The goal of PR, whether traditional or digital, has never really changed. The goal of digital PR is to improve a brand’s reputation and increase visibility within their target audience. The only difference between traditional and digital PR in terms of goals is the choice of methods used to achieve those goals.

Using a wide range of online platforms, including news websites, blogs, social media, and even paid advertising, digital PR aims to build brand value that helps to build visibility and increase a brand’s ability to compete in the online space.

An important aspect of any PR work is to ensure you have a clearly defined brand proposition. It is important to know before you commence any digital PR activity what it is you are hoping to achieve and how you want your brand to be perceived, both on and offline.

The link between digital PR and SEO

We touched earlier on the fact that digital PR is not a form of link building, however, that’s not to say it is not an effective tactic when it comes to acquiring backlinks to your website.

When done well, digital PR can land you extremely valuable links from highly authoritative websites that are highly relevant to your business.

These are not simply links for linking’s sake which can often be the purpose of link building campaigns.

Links acquired through digital PR are often the kind of links that not only send link equity to your website but actually send traffic to your website, drive shares and improve engagement.

When you acquire a link from digital PR, it’s usually because you have provided a piece of content that adds value to the publisher. You don’t even need to ask for a link with the best digital PR – they want to link to you because they know it will provide a great experience for their visitor.

There are obvious benefits for SEO in acquiring these links. They can have a hugely positive impact on your rankings. Links from highly authoritative news websites and influential blogs are seen as a signal of trust and authority on a topic. The more of those you get, the more Google trusts you.

Whilst you should never think of digital PR as a direct SEO strategy, when digital PR and SEO work together, the benefits can be huge. The PR benefits of having your brand mentioned and linked on news sites and influential websites help to build brand awareness and tell Google more about your trustworthiness about the topics you want to rank for.

Summary

Digital PR is a hugely beneficial marketing tactic that should be an integral part of any marketing strategy. Whilst there are undoubtedly SEO benefits from digital PR, don’t think about it as a link build tactic.

Digital PR requires a lot of work to build and nurture relationships with journalists and influential publishers online. Through these relationships, your brand can become the “go-to” for comment and for content, helping to build your brand awareness and reputation with the added benefit of acquiring links and improving your rankings.

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