What is Digital PR and how can it Help Your SEO?
| December 27th 2023
Public relations, or ‘PR’, is an age old marketing tactic that revolves around creating and maintaining a positive image in the public eye. Digital PR works on the same basis, except it refers to the online domain, promoting brands through websites and social media channels.
In this post we’re going to tackle the question of ‘what is digital PR’, as well as look at its importance in the realm of search engine optimisation. We’ll also be sharing examples of best practice digital PR tactics, common mistakes to avoid in digital PR, and how to create a compelling story for a digital PR campaign.
What is digital PR?
Digital PR is the process of creating and maintaining a positive online image of an individual, brand, company or organisation.
The key objectives of a digital PR campaign are to:
- Boost brand notoriety
- Increase online mentions and shares
- Build backlinks
All of these are not just essential to the success of a brand, they will also work hand in hand with SEO to help improve placement in the search engine results pages.
Digital PR has grown in importance over the years, and the rise of social media has made it so much easier to reach a wider online audience and brand build.
Why is digital PR so important?
Digital PR has the power to put brands in front of new audiences. Audiences that are well-targeted.
It’s also a great way to boost website traffic. The likes of digital press releases and online editorial placements are often picked up by journalists as well as potential customers, and in turn become the source of fresh inbound links to the company’s website.
Backlinks help enhance SEO, because they count as ‘votes of confidence’ which Google uses to analyse the popularity and authority of a site. In other words, they count as an important ranking signal.
Digital PR is also an effective brand building tool. When you see content about a company or authored by one of its experts on a top tier authority site, you feel instantly compelled to trust it.
Lead generation is another advantage of digital PR. A well-crafted editorial, interview or news story can go a long way to generating interest around a brand and pushing enquiries.
What are some examples of digital PR tactics?
There are various tactics that are widely used in digital PR. Some of the most popular include:
Conducting surveys or commissioning research and sharing the results through press releases, blog posts and across social media is an effective way of generating interest.
Crafting an in-depth article around a topic your audience is interested in or a current trend or news story and adding your thoughts, opinions and advice can attract attention from the media and influential industry figures as well as potential customers.
Creating a blog or article around a trending news story can often help attract media attention, especially if you can put your own unique spin on it or add a valuable opinion.
Collaborating with influencers and content creators within your audience demographic will help get your content promoted and enhance your visibility and authority.
The likes of podcasts, livestreaming, videos and webinars will all help shape your online public profile, as well as going a long way to engaging audiences and attracting valuable links through shares.
Writing for online platforms that complement your industry sector will expose you to a whole new audience, as well as strengthen your profile as an expert in your niche.
Issuing a press release about a genuinely newsworthy story will help you secure press features across relevant media outlets. From award wins to talent acquisitions and major contract wins, there is plenty to shout about. As well as publishing the release on your own platforms, consider using a press wire service to broaden the reach of your news. These services charge a fee to share your news across a database of selected news channels and social platforms.
Editorial submissions and interviews
Every industry has its own journals, and there are always general business publications and niche consumer titles too. Many publish a forward features list and invite editorial submissions around those topics. Some will need pitching first, but they’ll usually provide guidelines to follow.
Having a piece published in a leading journal with your name and website link on it is the gold dust of digital PR. These publications will often run interview features too with key people. Again they’ll probably need pitching, but again it’s one of the best forms of digital PR you can benefit from because these titles have so much kudos.
Planning your digital PR strategy
First things first, when first setting out with your digital PR strategy, you’re going to need to set some goals, as well as be clear on how you will measure its success.
Not all businesses are seeking to achieve backlinks. Some will simply be looking to boost their brand and create a sense of expertise, authority and trust within their industry and amongst their target audience.
If, however, your digital PR is forming part of your SEO strategy, then you will most certainly be looking to create backlinks.
Once you are clear on what you are seeking to achieve through digital PR, you can start to develop your strategy around it. Depending on your goals, your tactics may include:
Ascertain your target anchor text and URLs
Anchor text is the clickable word or phrase that links to a page on your website. This is how you would like external sites to link to your pages. So for example, if we wanted a site to link to our managed SEO campaigns page, then that’s the text we’d use for the link, rather than ‘follow this link’, for example.
Target URLs are the web pages you want to promote within your digital PR strategy. These are the pages you will want to drive more traffic to via organic search, the ones that will be most likely to convert into leads or sales.
Compile a relevant media list
Depending on your objectives, your media list may include journalists, content creators and/or influencers. These are the people you will be pitching your story or content to. They’ll need to be well-researched and completely relevant to your target audience.
You can compile the list manually, or you can use a media database. Whilst this will require a paid subscription, there are numerous benefits. Media databases provide extensive, up to date lists of journalists and other media outlets, such as influencers, podcasters and bloggers.
In addition to contact details, the databases offer insights into how the journalists work, their pitching preferences and their niche specialisms, together with examples of recent work and the type of content they are specifically looking for. There is nothing worse than submitting something that doesn’t fit the style of the publication: it will be turned down instantly.
Journalist insights help you to better target lists and pitches, which in turn boosts the likelihood of your content being picked up and published.
Some databases also offer monitoring and analytics tools to track the performance of published content. Others include press wire and media monitoring services, so there is no need to use separate services for press release distribution or keeping track of coverage. Examples include Meltwater, Gorkana, Roxhill and Vuelio.
Craft your pitch
You’ll need to prepare a script to use with your media contacts. Start with a template, and then tailor it to the specific media outlet. Never send a generic pitch, always make sure it is individually targeted, and that it includes a call to action so there is clarity for the recipient as to what you are looking to achieve.
Formulate your content plan
Your content plan should fit with your overall marketing and business growth strategy, as well as your values and messaging.
If you run events throughout the year, try to fit your content plan around those so that you create a buzz around them, both before and after.
If you are targeting industry journals for editorial placement, look for or request a forward features list and get planning around that. Generally, you will need to submit your pitch or piece a good 2-3 months before the publication date.
Always make sure you thoroughly research previously published pieces so you can see what is most likely to be accepted, as well as get a good idea of tone, length and style. Try to come up with angles that are fresh and include expert opinion and/or advice, rather than recycling existing material. This way, your pitch or submission will be more likely to attract attention.
To save time, you can use AI tools such as ChatGPT to come up with angles, article titles and ideas for what to cover. Just be sure to provide a fully detailed brief around the title, your objectives and the editorial feature. The more you share, the more relevant the output you’ll get back.
What are the common mistakes to avoid in digital PR?
Digital PR is valuable when done well. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
Sending generalised pitches: Sending irrelevant or spammy pitches to journalists, bloggers, or influencers is likely to do your efforts more harm than good. Be sure to personalise everything, and do your homework to make sure you are making the right pitches to the right people.
Overlooking SEO best practice: If you are using digital PR as part of your SEO strategy, make sure you do not neglect to align your tactics with current SEO best practices. For example, be sure to focus on creating helpful, well-written content that isn’t over-stuffed with keywords, keep it relevant with backlinks and avoid spammy links, and ensure all your content is optimised with meta tags.
Failing to use social media: Social media plays a pivotal role in digital PR, but is sometimes overlooked in favour of targeting media platforms. It’s important to remember that SEO and social media go hand in hand these days, and that there are enough different social platforms to allow you to closely target your efforts towards the ideal demographic.
Taking your eye off your goals: Failing to align your digital PR activities with your core marketing goals, for example boosting brand awareness or demonstrating niche expertise. Another mistake is failing to set clear targets for your campaign.
Not being patient: Digital PR takes time, effort and patience. Results are rarely immediate and it is important to be consistent and keep going with your plan.
How to create a compelling story for a digital PR campaign
Taking time to create a compelling story for your digital PR campaign is vital. To give your efforts the best chance of success, try to:
Come up with a relevant and original idea: Your story needs to stand out if it’s going to be picked up. Journalists and editors want fresh perspectives and unique angles, so spend some time brainstorming ideas that fit with the interests of your target audience and provide valuable insights that haven’t been covered elsewhere.
Focus on prompting an emotional response: Stories that compel an emotional response are the ones that tend to gain most traction. If you can demonstrate a clear outcome and show the value of your brand, service or product, then you will be more likely to achieve coverage for your story.
Avoid self-promotion: A story that’s self-promoting, boastful or generalised will never get anywhere. Digital PR is about creating value rather than direct selling.
Do your research: Always make sure your story fits with the specific interests of the target journalist.
By following these steps, you will be more likely to generate a persuasive story for a digital PR campaign that resonates with your target audience, whilst attracting the attention of journalists and media outlets.
How to measure the success of your digital PR campaign
Keeping track of how your digital PR campaign is performing against your objectives is essential. There are a range of tools and benchmarks you can use to do this:
Google Analytics (GA4): Use this to measure an increase in traffic to your website, focusing on referral traffic from media outlets and social platforms, as well as organic traffic from search.
Google Search Console: This platform is useful for keeping track of impressions, clicks and ranking positions for particular keywords and web pages. You can also use it to monitor brand name searches, which will indicate that your digital PR campaign is supporting your brand awareness efforts.
Media alerts: Whether it’s free Google Alerts or a paid media monitoring service, you can use alerts to keep on top of where your brand name is appearing across the web.
Domain Rating: Domain Rating (DR) shows the strength of a website’s backlink profile and demonstrates its authority compared to competitor sites. Look for an improvement in DR over time to track how your strategy is performing.
Social media following: Tracking an increase in social media followers, as well as post engagement, shares and click-throughs, will help you see how well your campaign is doing. Relevant followers are what you are looking for: the ones that align with your target audience.
Enquiries and sales: Ultimately, the best measure of success for any digital marketing campaign will be an in increase in enquiries and sales emanating from your website, or your social media platforms if you are engaging in social commerce.
Done well, digital PR can drive more website traffic, increase conversions and create an online profile that enhances your brand and demonstrates your expertise and authority. It is a great way to get in front of your target audience, and will effectively support your SEO efforts too.