Although digital PR can support SEO, it is not backlinking! Digital PR encapsulates much more than this single tactic. In this article, we aim to answer the question "what is digital PR?" and also to demonstrate how digital PR and SEO optimization work together to increase customer acquisition and leads (not just create backlinks), as well as how a solid strategy improves brand awareness. We'll also go over the goals and advantages of digital PR and show you how to create campaigns and measure ROI. We'll also point out some differences between digital and traditional PR (just so you're aware).
As part of the holistic Marketing and Communications strategy, Digital PR can be defined as a promotional tactic, implemented by marketers and PR specialists to increase a brand’s, company's or business’s online presence. This also assists with driving brand awareness, prompting website traffic, creating links to boost organic rankings, online (or offline) sales, social following and engagement - all in a measurable way.
Digital PR, meaning to apply the principles of PR to a digital context, should not be confused with SEO strategies. SEO is a ballgame of its own, digital public relations is there to support the overall marketing and comms goals.
Some Twitter fans like to argue that digital PR is just a fancy way of saying “link building”. However, we’d like to point out that a digital PR strategy is made up of much more elements than just link building. At its core, digital PR is not (entirely) consisting of the link building factor - this falls more on the SEO side of things.
Let’s unpack the concept a bit more. Content creators, digital marketers and PR managers often employ digital PR strategies to reach the right target audience; create hype around company news; promote and position someone as a thought leader and to establish brand authority.
As our information sources are now widely sprouting from the online world, public relations needed to adapt to the new ways of sharing information, a.k.a. - had to launch digital PR campaigns/stories/press releases. The definition of PR still stands, “a strategic communication process that builds relationships between organizations and their publics - to foster trust and to establish authority”, the digital realm just includes some further definitions, such as “online reputation and image management” or “managing the digital presence of a brand, organization or person”.
So, now you may wonder, “how is this confused with SEO?”. Well, since very little communication strategies operate in isolation - digital PR and SEO have also begun to overlap and integrate.
Let’s get back to link building. This is highly important when you want your SEO scores to pick up. For public relations, backlink building essentially means more engagement opportunities and, potentially more web traffic. So here’s how SEO tactics (like link building) can benefit digital PR campaigning.
Backlinks are great when it comes to organic rankings (SEO), not to mention, Google sees links as a type of third-party endorsement (public relations). The more relevant backlinks you get, the more trust and authority you build online. So ultimately, you gain more domain authority by having your SEO strategy support what you want to achieve with your digital PR campaign.
To put it simply, when you combine the links you gain with an SEO optimized website and online content, digital PR and SEO can help generate online visibility and support digital image creation. “Search” is the channel that leads to traffic generation and potential sales leads, digital public relations is the marketing / comms tactic that enhances this value. Important to remember is that your website has to be optimized according to Google’s guidelines (e.g. content loading speed, interactivity and visual stability) otherwise your PR efforts will fail. You can have a great online presence, but if your website is lacking, your efforts would be for little reward.
Now that we have a better understanding of how digital PR and SEO work together, let’s consider what we want to achieve with our digital PR strategy. First things first, any successful public relations campaign or total strategy is measurable. How do we know if we’re working towards measurable results? We set milestones, KPIs and end goals and make sure we have a unit of measurement for each. For example, a measurement could be increased domain authority or social shares stemming from the PR campaign.
As digital PR is an intersection of traditional PR, some customary goals have followed the evolution of public relations:
Communications are now highly digitalised. A letter to the editor is most likely a well-crafted email. Pitching to journalists is more of a working goal that builds towards the overall goals you want to achieve. However, pitching should not be overlooked in terms of value. A well-planned and personalized pitch to a journalist is the first step in building a relationship. Quality relationships should be maintained and nurtured by keeping in contact with journalists and media outlets that offer a mutually beneficial partnership - something that comes in handy when you need an online platform for publicity.
Let’s say you’re a startup and new to the technology scene - you need to create a name for yourself and differentiate from competitors. Having a noteworthy online presence is one step in the right direction to becoming well known among your target audience. For more established corporations, it’s important to maintain brand awareness - so that competitors don’t take over your position in the market. Sharing SEO optimized content is a great way to build awareness, in this case, Digital PR is a great supplement to SEO content. If someone has seen your company name before, the likelihood of them clicking your link is much higher when they see it in the SERPs.
Getting third-party endorsements and earned coverage has always been a goal of PR. This carried over into the online world by, for example, aiming to achieve a certain number of earned impressions online. Remember, a paid-for Google Ad is the work of marketing and advertising, an earned feature in an online news publication is the result of digital PR. Earning coverage shows that others believe in and support your brand - backing your reputation.
The great thing about digital content is that it is highly customizable and can easily be tailored to the profile of who you’re reaching out to. Who doesn’t like a personalized email? Matching the perspective of your target audience has always been great to acquire more customers. Online networking with journalists and bloggers is one way of how the digital space enables us to win more leads, since digital PR is able to reach an extensive online audience.
Depending on the expectations of your digital PR campaign, the goals you set will either look similar to the above mentioned or a little different. Overall, no matter the goal, the aim is to grow the business (depending on what that may look like to you) through the power of PR.
By now we know that a positive online reputation and presence is highly beneficial for any type of business. So let’s take a deeper dive into the workings of digital PR by looking at the advantages and disadvantages thereof for businesses.
Digital PR holds the advantage of not only getting your website to the coveted top three organic positions on Google (based on your keywords), it also means increasing web traffic that, inturn, benefits sales.
Digital PR holds the advantage of not only getting your website to the coveted top three organic positions on Google (based on your keywords), it also means increasing web traffic that, inturn, benefits sales.
When you have high-quality content and you’ve perfected how to pitch to journalists, you can set up a strategy that leads to top-tier publications and links over time. By focusing on improving your SEO scores, brand awareness is also being increased as your name will start showing up where it matters most. Not only this, but your rankings for keywords will also improve over time when high-authority websites link to your own site.
Building on SEO, the higher you rank on Google, the more traffic will come to your website. As such, the more people reading or hearing about your business contributes to web traffic through social shares.
You want people to see and hear good things about your name online. This is where positive customer reviews can be leveraged to secure trust. Over time, these seemingly small actions greatly help nurture your reputation. SEO-friendly articles will show search engines that your website is a credible source of information, while having your products or services reviewed will increase trust in your brand.
Having a clear timeline in place will assist you when it comes to customer acquisition and lead generation. For example, let’s say you have a seasonal product that correlates with a specific holiday, chances are you can use the calendar to plan a seasonal digital PR campaign to benefit lead generation. Personalization also comes in handy when wanting to attract customers.
Since digital public relations strategies are results oriented, we want to see positive sales and ROI data. Quality content on your website can help to dive sales and prompt customers to invest in your brand/products/services
Unfortunately, with every type of marketing and communications tactic, there are some disadvantages to be aware of.
Although there are ways to measure online trends and analyse user behaviour, the online landscape is highly dynamic and trends can change overnight. Public relations is highly dependable on the willingness of third-party endorsers to publish your content. This means less direct control over the success of your efforts.
Due to the inherent nature of the industry, the landscape is highly dynamic and ever-changing, making it difficult to keep up with trends and market shifts. As a result, it’s important for you to stay up-to-date with current events and the latest news - to ensure the success of your PR efforts to the greatest extent.
The biggest disadvantages of digital PR relate to measuring the success of your efforts. If your strategy is not well-executed, you run the risk of getting no response from your target audience whatsoever. Perhaps the strategy was not the problem, the key message was maybe not impactful enough.
An effective digital public relations strategy can benefit your business in multiple ways, be it by creating exposure; building brand reputation or ultimately creating more sales and lead generation. Here’s some steps to follow when planning the strategy:
Always have a clear goal in mind, know what you’re working towards. The overall marketing and communications objectives will always be the golden thread to follow, yet you need to be specific with what goals you want to achieve through PR content creation. When every element has a clear purpose, execution and measuring is made much easier.
Goals can and will vary depending on the company. Increasing your email marketing list, strengthening trust in your brand, domain authority, driving traffic to the homepage, a new offer, or a specific service page. These are all goals that PR work consists of. So don’t forget to set a goal, know exactly what you want to impact with your PR work, and be sure to compare the difference.
Be clear about who you are trying to reach, understand the audience you’re communicating with. By outlining the pains and gains of the target audience, you can more easily identify what content would be relevant to them. For example, a newsletter sent to monthly subscribers or an industry report for B2B communications. Understanding the market is greatly valuable.
It helps to put yourself in their shoes and understand their perspective. Who your target audience is relies on what they’re looking for. Ultimately, your goal should connect with the target audience and supply what they demand. If you are clear on your goal, it’ll be much easier to be clear on your target audience. And the way to better understand that, is to do research. Speaking of which...
You need to understand what you’re talking about. The more information you collect, the easier it is to come up with pitching angles and key messages for your contents. Once you’ve done your desk research, think of a few catchy stories and see if the industry data backs the success of the topics you chose. You can easily run a media monitoring tool to gather information.
Brainstorm some specific ideas that you want to dive deeper into. That way, you will have a clear aim when going for that research. Don’t go in blindly, you’ll get lost in the avalanche of information. Go in with certainty and a purpose. That way you will discover clear information on what is important, and you’ll be able to filter out the most vital, most important information of all.
Next, once you have your content, think of who will be willing to publish it, which news outlets or journalists share common ground with your news stories. It’s also important to consider if your content is fresh and exciting for journalists or bloggers to write about. Having a short list of journalists ready to pitch to is also handy when having to do relationship building for the first time.
Additionally, that will cement their willingness for further cooperation. Networking is essential. It is also important to find your own waters, and swim freely, dive deeply, and reach exactly who you want to reach. The target audience is hiding somewhere in the readership of those media outlets that are most suitable for your sphere of work. Identify them and have a steady focus.
Now, the actual digital PR strategy can follow a few different routes:
It is recommended to map out the steps you will take. This will structure your process, set you in a clear path for your digital PR strategy, and overall help you stay focused on the most important fragments of your process. One step at a time, it will all come together to form a well-delivered digital PR strategy, hitting a bullseye as long as you’re sharp on the target.
Once you are confident with your pitch and PR plan, it’s time to refine the content piece - fill in the blanks and give it a unique character. Be sure to flesh out the detail and get the tone of voice near perfect. If your content piece is an online article or blog post, be sure to have clear headings.
In PR, there are generally three types of content categories:
1. Thought Leadership
2. Data Presentation
The first one is a representative of the business, which can be shaped and portrayed to be associated with what that business represents. This type includes conducting interviews, providing commentary, and overall putting the face out there. Data presentation is the translation of a data set. The most intriguing parts of the data are passed through the prism of creativity and an attractive story is born.
Lastly, tactical content is a bit more dry, but basically involves mostly link building and citation. Basically a type of creative content, which focuses on collecting resources to guide the flow of the content.
Now that you have your content ready to share, reach out to the journalists and bloggers on your short list. This right content piece and a good pitch will amount to success. It can take a few tries before a journalist is interested or before you get noticed in the media frenzy, just keep pitching and work towards your goal.
Persistence will work the best in the end. You should keep in mind the right set of pitches and the right outlets to pitch to, and eventually you will succeed. Persistence is vital. Additionally, it is a good move to use a brand mentioning tool, so that you can know when your business name is mentioned and you have started establishing a presence.
Media monitoring tools are your friend. You can easily set up a tool like SEMrush to get notified every time your name or product is mentioned in the media. By keeping tabs on this, you’ll know if a link to your website was included or not and if there’s a possibility to get in touch with the editor to undergo a PR partnership in future.
As your campaign is approaching its end or your superiors want to know how your PR efforts are financially justified - you’ll need to know how to measure your return on investment (ROI). You can ask yourself the following questions to get started:
Now that we’ve got the basics under the knee, let’s consider the following - by nature, digital PR is a much more data-driven strategy. Luckily, there are many useful PR tracking tools to help you measure the success of your efforts.
Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking referral traffic. Although Google Analytics does not automatically calculate your ROI, here’s how you can determine the revenue success of your campaigns:
Go to your Analytics account and follow the steps:
If you want to measure the long-term efficiency of your link building efforts, you can use the Moz Link Explorer tool to check your website’s Domain Authority (DA). Domain Authority is not a factor used by Google to rank your domain, but it’s a great metric to monitor how your site performs on search engines.
The better your site performs, the better your chances are at making a return on investment.
Depending on your goals, BuzzSumo can help measure the amount of media buzz you’re creating online. By keeping track of your brand visibility, awareness, content engagement, media mentions and keeping an eye on news about your competitors - you can identify the most profitable areas of publicity for your brand. Effectively, the tool helps you identify ROI opportunities.
You can measure ROI of digital PR by looking at the following KPIs:
At the end of the day, your digital PR efforts would have resulted in referral links, organic traffic and new leads to chase. By monitoring these results, you’ll be able to present a clean spreadsheet of how the PR strategy was successful in leading to ROI. As you might have noticed, to calculate the ROI of your digital PR campaigns will take some time - since you first need to specify your KPIs and spend some time making calculations.
As mentioned earlier, digital PR inherited a few characteristics of traditional PR. However, both digital and traditional PR continued to develop in their own distinct ways. Here are some of the differences between digital and traditional PR:
Although, to many, digital PR may seem more appealing - it’s important to consider what your business needs in terms of an online vs offline PR strategy. This article focuses on digital PR, but the traditional route still has it’s benefits and should definitely not be overlooked.
Let’s do a quick recap of what we know so far about digital PR and seo. Firstly, SEO is an encompassing digital marketing approach. Digital public relations is concerned with reputation building/management and getting coverage via third party endorsers. This is why PR is considered a tool of the marketing communications mix.
Secondly, PR is an off-site element of SEO. Where PR focuses on partnerships, press releases and guest blogging, SEO is more concerned with website performance and having content fit what users are searching for.
Thirdly, public relations serves the purpose of value creations though the information that’s being shared. The purpose of SEO is to have that information optimized - meaning to include key words and phrases you want to rank for and having the format “Google friendly”.
Next, SEO is concerned with Domain Authority. How do we gain a better DA? One way is through guest blogging, which is part of digital PR. Guest blogging can also help your business gain qualified leads.
Lastly, Social Media is almost the middle point between SEO and PR. SEO strategies can assist in making sure your social accounts are properly linked with your website for optimal social sharing, whereas PR can help maintain a positive social reputation and interaction value.
Before investing in a PR campaign, consider it from a SEO point of view. Do the PR initiatives also serve your SEO strategy? Here’s how both strategies can work together to complement each other:
Press releases are a key part of any PR campaign. To achieve the most publicity with a press release, aim to have it published by sites that are indexed by Google Search. For example, PRNewswire. You should also make sure that your content is key word optimized (SEO) that way your target audience will find the content piece when searching online with matching search terms. This will strengthen your credibility, as well as create other touchpoints for your search engine traffic to learn about your brand.
You can increase the effectiveness of your link-building and online communications by requesting backlinks from pages that already rank in the top search results for your target keyword. This way, you'll be mentioned in a page that’s already on Google's first page. This not only gets you a high authority backlink, but also increases your chances of getting noticed by your key target groups.
Getting brand mentions on high authority sites is no easy game. However, by creating link-worthy content, you have a better opportunity to get mentioned by the top domain authority sites that are relevant to your business. For example, showcase original research, infographics, statistics, case studies, etc.
Another common PR mistake is to only look for homepage backlinks. Scalable link-building and PR can only be done when your site has link-worthy content. Homepage links are important for SEO, but to get links and brand mentions regularly - you must create high quality blog content that you can use for link building opportunities.
Be sure the PR and SEO teams are developing and releasing content for all channels simultaneously. When you have news to share, announce it on all social media platforms, your website, through customer e-mails, and in public. The SEO team should make sure all the content is optimized to serve the purpose, the PR team must be swift in spreading the word by using that content. This links with being omnipresent. Creating a unified strategy that focuses on outreach and brand awareness at the same time.
PR and SEO do not have to work in separate silos, elements from both strategies can be borrowed to enhance the functionality and performance of oneanoter. It’s all about considering what you want to achieve and how digital PR + SEO will get you there.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to liven up your digital PR campaign, here’s some examples from our favourites:
Slack is a team collaboration tool for enterprises of any size - making it the perfect communications platform for your team. The flexibility of Slack allows for elevated productivity and decision making. What makes the tool’s online PR so effective is that its creators realized that they’re not selling a product, but a solution.
A key aspect of Slack’s PR messaging includes a well-rounded focus on supporting the user experience. Not only gaining publicity about the in-app functionality, but also because of the specialized team that offers customer support - should an issue arise. The messaging tool is a key example of how we can do more with technology, in order to ensure customer trust, satisfaction and loyalty.
The above example is great when thinking about your key messaging and golden nugget when PR planning, now let’s consider the holistic campaign.
It’s not very common to think about your CO2 emissions when streaming online content, however, streaming a video for 30 minutes resulted in an estimate of 0.2 kilograms of CO2 emissions. So, how did Netflix take this snippet of information and turn it into a groundbreaking PR campaign?
The PR team heavily relied on data visualisation and contextualised statistics to illustrate the impact of streaming on the environment, linking the data to the equivalent number of miles you’d have to drive to get the same amount of CO2.
As the conversations around environmental sustainability continue to be a pressing matter, this issue was one for the headlines. The news landed in top publications, such as Forbes, Quartz, MSN and The Daily Mail. Due to the use of Netflix, the campaign also had international appeal and appeared in media outlets in Germany, USA, France, Belgium, Poland and elsewhere.
This shows how PR needs to be relevant, appealing and relatable to current news.
The team at Reboot calculated which country is most likely to encounter cyber crimes by manipulating some existing secondary data to give it a fresh new angle. This is an example of how digital PR gains traction when you mix industry loaded data with an attractive angle. This is especially the case for companies operating in the technology industry and its relevant sectors.
Using data as a key focus of your PR campaign not only illustrates trustworthiness of information, but gives the audience a compelling reason to share and follow the progression of the matter at hand (leading you to gain credibility and added publicity).
Due to this, you’ll likely see a rise in SEO rankings - a key example of how PR and SEO compliment each other.
Hopefully this article gave you a clear overview of all you need to know about digital PR and how it could potentially enhance your SEO results as well. To recap, digital PR means to build, manage and maintain your online reputation by considering brand awareness, driving traffic to a website and creating links to boost organic rankings, sales, social sharing and digital engagements.
The goals of your digital public relations strategy will be highly dependent on what you specifically want to achieve through your PR efforts. Having a clear goal in mind will not only help you to create a results driven digital PR strategy, it'll also help you to unlock advantages, such as, increasing brand awareness, establishing accurate messaging, creating highly engaging content,
two-way engagement and making it easier to track results. Fortunately, there are many helpful tools like Google Analytics and SEMrush to help you monitor and measure ROI.
Important to note is that traditional PR has different goals and advantages, not to be confused with the digital world. Speaking of confusion, digital PR is different from SEO and is also not backlinking, although digital PR efforts can assist in supporting both SEO optimization and the creation of useful links.