Digital PR is a marketing strategy that increases a brand or website’s online presence. This is usually done by gaining links back to the website from reputable sources, but now there are more modern tactics implemented.
As an off branch of SEO, digital PR strategies are often used in tandem with technical improvements and content to ensure a website ranks higher on Google. Think of it as a blend of public relations and SEO.
Historically a brand would create a piece of content on their website that was interesting enough that it would be picked up in different areas of the website. Usually this takes the form of an infographic, data study or other form of content. Take a look at our portfolio to see some examples of successful digital PR campaigns we’ve run in the past.
Why are links important?
Although digital PR is multifaceted, it’s always come down to links. In terms of the internet as a whole, links help you navigate from one page to another, whether this is internally within a webpage, or externally.
Now you might be thinking, if you want to keep someone reading your content and buying your products, why would you allow them to navigate away from your website?
Google reads links as an indication of what your content is about and uses it as a trust signal. If a high-quality publication links back to your website, it’s a signal to them that your content is trusted by others and likely offers helpful information.
Enough of these trust signals means that Google is likely to rank your website higher on its search results page. So a major part of digital PR is creating authentic content that is picked up by websites that are of high-value, mainly news publications.
Once you rank higher on Google, you’re likely to get more click throughs to your website and in turn this means you’re getting more customers through the door. More customers usually means more products sold and an increase in revenue.
This is why brands invest in digital PR, usually to increase overall sales online.
Traditional PR vs digital PR
Digital PR officially stands for ‘digital public relations’. The strategy mixes disciplines from both SEO and traditional PR to help increase overall revenue for an online business.
Digital PR adopts certain aspects of SEO in that its main aim is to increase rankings on search engines, while also implementing traditional public relations goals of increasing brand awareness.
The main difference between traditional PR and digital PR is that in the traditional sense, you’re looking to increase the brand awareness of a company both online and offline, while digital PR seeks to increase brand awareness solely online.
Traditional PR has aims and strategies that tie into increasing brand recognition as a whole, as well as reputation management and crisis communications. One of the biggest downsides of traditional PR is that it’s hard to measure and track. You can generalise and say that a certain number of people pass by a billboard, but how many actually saw it?
In digital PR the aims are slightly different. While we still care greatly about brand awareness we’re also looking to increase rankings on search engines. This can look like gaining backlinks, increasing traffic, targeting high-revenue keywords and more. It’s much easier to track the results of digital PR.
This can look like:
- Higher position on Google
- Keyword visibility
- Product sales
- Increase in domain authority
- Traffic to the website or specific webpages
Both camps have their own specific uses to a business. McDonalds, for example, might choose a traditional PR agency to work with as their goals are to get customers in their stores. An entirely online business like Booking.com would probably need a digital PR agency to increase rankings for keywords like ‘hotels in New York’.
A (very) brief history of digital PR
Although digital PR has been around for years, it’s still seen as a fairly new industry. It’s important to understand why digital PR is such an important tactic in modern day marketing as well as look back on how we got here in the first place.
The founding of Google
Google was founded in August 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Larry Page had developed an algorithm called PageRank in which Google Search could rank web pages in their search results. This ranking was based on the number of links pointing back to a website, so the more links you have, the higher you’ll rank.
This was fine, for a while, until people discovered you could manipulate the search results pretty easily.
The Google toolbar
In the year 2000 Google launched a toolbar where you could see the PageRank of anyone’s website. This was pretty significant, because SEOs became obsessed with trying to increase their rankings.
As the number of links increased your rankings, this was what everyone focused on. People started to pay for links, put them on other webpages in bulk and placed them in unnatural locations.
Seed sites and seed sets
In 2006, Google filed a patent which seemed like an update of PageRank in which they reference not only the number of links that point to your page, but also the quality of them. They mention how seed sites were selected high-quality pages that had a high number of outgoing backlinks that would help identify other high-quality and useful pages.
Now SEOs knew that not only did they need to get a lot of links, but specifically high-quality websites that had a high PageRank of their own.
The Penguin update
In 2012, Google launched the Penguin update which was meant to combat black hat SEO techniques that had become rife in the industry. This also included spammy inbound link building that was used to manipulate the results page.
Penguin rewarded websites with relevant, natural and authoritative links while downgrading unnatural and spammy links. This included paying for links or link exchanges. The update meant many site owners were hit with penalties that made people rethink their link building tactics.
Google Toolbar became obsolete
In 2013, Google stopped updating Google Toolbar which meant that people couldn’t track their PageRank anymore. The toolbar became completely obsolete in 2016. SEOs now didn’t have a reliable way of manipulating the system.
The future of digital PR
Digital PR has always adapted and changed depending on where customers are. However, over the past year or so, this change has become bigger than ever. With the introduction of new social media, artificial intelligence and changes to the Google SERPs, it’s not just a matter of links that will see brands thrive online.
GenZ search habits are changing
It should be obvious to all of us that new generations are going to find information online in new ways. While most of us will use Google to solve an informational query, younger people are increasingly moving to alternative platforms to find information.
We’ve seen GenZ in particular move over to TikTok to find information on things like restaurants to visit in a particular area, what countries to visit and even turning to it for financial advice.
Google introduced Perspectives
Source: Search Engine Journal
Often if you’re looking for information, you turn to people you trust like friends and family first before turning to more knowledgeable platforms like a search engine. Google knows this, so in August 2022 it started to test out a new form of search Perspectives.
The idea of Perspectives is to give people the choice to either see a more traditional search engine results page, or opt to see the opinions of others on the subject. This means content like YouTube videos, TikToks and Reddit posts with creators and real people are prioritised.
We’re now seeing a shift of agencies and brands creating more content inline with what Perspective shows.
The launch of Google’s Search Generative Experience
AI has skyrocketed in popularity since 2022 with the public launch of tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney making it more accessible than ever before.
In response, Google launched its AI search engine in which it uses artificial intelligence to help solve user queries. It’s still in its infancy, but it seems like if users can solve queries without even needing to click on a result will see click-throughs plummet. We’re waiting with baited breath to see what happens.
Digital PR is a great way to increase sales through heightened site visibility, page rankings and brand awareness. Just be wary and make sure you choose to work with an agency who understands the real value of useful content.
- Digital PR