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The Digital PR Guide for SEO: Debunking Digital PR Myths

Olivia Royce from NovosOlivia Royce in Digital PR

9th July, 2021

What is Digital PR?

Digital PR is a term that’s getting a lot of airtime in conversations in the digital marketing community. 

If you’ve heard people chatting about Digital PR, but aren’t sure what it means, or have heard that you need to be doing Digital PR as an eCom brand, but don’t know what it means for you, you’ve come to the right place. 

John Meuller took to Twitter to express his view that Digital PR is just as critical as tech SEO. In fact, he went further than that, and said that it may be more critical in many cases. We believe that this is often the case for eCom businesses. 

John Mueller tweets about importance of digital PR for SEO

For any eCommerce brand our recommendation is always to fix any technical issues with the site. It’s the fundamentals of eCommerce SEO and can cause a drag factor on any additional marketing activity that can benefit SEO naturally. Then once technical is in a good place the way you scale is through content and PR with quarterly technical check-ins (depending on the size of the site, marketplaces and large eCom sites would need monthly work).

Digital PR has gotten a bad name because it often gets lumped in with spammy black-hat link-buying tactics that fell by the wayside with the 2011 Penguin update. But, at NOVOS, we believe that Digital PR is a powerful and often overlooked tool in the world of eCom SEO

If you’re looking to supercharge your eCommerce brand’s online performance, Digital PR might be just what you’re looking for. 

The Bottom Line: Digital PR Defined

Digital PR aims to increase brand awareness, brand reputation, and market penetration. 

The goal here is to gain coverage, links and increase domain authority for your site, while also helping your target audience understand your brand and the kinds of products you offer.

Debunking Some Digital PR Myths

Myth:  Digital PR is just Traditional PR but with online publications.

✔️ Truth: Digital PR uses very different methods to achieve different KPIs to your Traditional PR strategy.


❌ Myth:  If I’m doing Traditional PR I don’t need Digital PR

Digital PR and Traditional PR have different goals and KPIs but both teams can work together to achieve your business goals.


❌ Myth: My brand doesn’t need Digital PR

✔️ Truth: Digital PR has benefits for every brand and should be a cornerstone of your SEO and brand awareness strategies.


❌ Myth: Digital PR is spammy link building

✔️ Truth: Link building has come a long way since 2011. Our approach to Digital PR will help you earn links in a natural and sustainable way. 


❌ Myth: Digital PR is too expensive for my brand

✔️ Truth: With the right content idea and outreach strategy, Digital PR needn’t be prohibitively expensive.


❌ Myth: Journalists don’t want to hear from brands or cover branded content

✔️ Truth: When you give journalists great stories, and excellent content they’ll often cover your brand.


❌ Myth: Digital PR means gifting tonnes of product to influencers

✔️ Truth: Working with influencers is subject to the same strategic approach.


❌ Myth: It’s hard to measure Digital PR success

✔️ Truth: With clear benchmarking and KPIs you will see and be able to measure the success of your Digital PR campaigns with ease. 


 

Myth #1 - Digital PR is just Traditional PR but with online publications

If you’ve heard this myth or have repeated it yourself, you might think that you’re already doing Digital PR because your Traditional PR team often gets you coverage in online versions of publications as well as their offline counterparts. But you’d be wrong! 

Digital PR uses different methods to achieve different KPIs compared to traditional PR, which means that it’s not just a case of adding online publications to your traditional PR outreach list and calling it a day. 

Digital PR in SEO Teams

Digital PR as we know it today was born out of link-buying and technical SEO. Essentially, in the dim and distant past, link-buying was an acceptable way of improving Domain Authority, which is an important ranking factor when it comes to SEO. However, when the 2011 Penguin update hit, spammy link-buying became grounds for penalties from Google and so new ways of getting backlinks were needed. 

In the decade since Penguin came into effect, it has become clear that the best way to create backlinks to sites is by creating amazing, newsworthy content. However, there’s another layer to this: you then need to show journalists and bloggers that the content is there, and then you need to ensure they link back to it once it has been used. Of course, the content also needs to be completely optimised for SEO. And so Digital PR was born. 

At NOVOS, our Digital PR always comes with a helping of SEO. We tie our PR strategies back to an SEO goal eg. ranking for a specific term, and then use our Digital PR tactics to help achieve this. This means that we can provide a business case or ROI, which can be something traditional PR teams struggle with. 

Link Earning 

Digital PR is the process of creating content on site which is good enough for journalists and top-tier publications to use as a source for a story. In this way, you’re earning links back to your website for the hard work you put into researching and creating your content, rather than buying the links. 

There are a number of different tactics which can be used to earn these links, but everything from listicles to a killer case study, or even original data or research, could be the content that gets you the links you need. 

The Bottom Line: Digital PR vs Traditional PR

In a nutshell, Digital PR is building links back to SEO optimised content, creating coverage and brand awareness along the way. Traditional PR is building coverage and brand awareness, sometimes with a side helping of links. 

Myth #2 - If I’m doing Traditional PR I don’t need Digital PR

Hopefully, now you know what Digital PR is, and the differences between Traditional PR and Digital PR, you’ll already know that this myth isn’t true. Although Traditional PR can gain links along the way, the strategy and KPIs are different.

Here are a few examples of the differences:

Example goals for Traditional PR:

  • Increased brand awareness 
  • Brand reputation management

Example goals for Digital PR:

  • Increased traffic and revenue on specific product pages
  • Increase Google ranking of target keywords

Example KPIs for Traditional PR:

  • Number of pieces of coverage
  • Readership of coverage

Example KPIs for Digital PR:

  • Number of quality links based
  • Revenue and ROI

Striving for Different Ends

As you can see, your Traditional PR team won’t be trying to achieve the same things that your Digital PR team are. This means that you not only can, but should be running Digital PR campaigns to support your SEO efforts for your eCom brand, even if you are already doing Traditional PR activity. 

Working Together

You can align your Traditional and Digital PR strategies. There’s often a big crossover between the readership and DA of a publication. For example, 2020 figures suggest that The Guardian reaches around 35.6 million adults monthly, across print and online formats. Their website, theguardian.com, also has a Domain Authority of 95 (out of a possible 100). 

We always recommend a strategy that includes chasing unlinked mentions, so if your traditional PR team gets coverage without links, your Digital PR team can try to come in behind and persuade the journalist to include a link afterwards. However, it’s far easier to make sure that you’ve got a link from the beginning by creating a strategy which pulls together both Traditional PR and Digital PR.

The Bottom Line: Better Together

If you’re already running a Traditional PR strategy, then your brand can only benefit from the increased attention to link building the addition of a Digital PR team can bring.

Myth #3 - My brand doesn’t need Digital PR

If you’re trying to build a presence on Google for searches for your product, and you’re not including Digital PR as an important piece of your SEO strategy, you’re missing a trick. 

Of course, if your site isn’t technically strong, you’re not going to be able to rank, no matter what else you do. But, backlinks are an important facet of SEO, so if you’re not building links to improve your organic presence, you may never achieve your goals. 

If you need more persuasion, we’ve made a list. 

The Benefits of Digital PR

SEO Ranking Boost

We’ve already talked about this, but Digital PR can really make or break your SEO strategy. 

Build Your Brand Authority

As journalists and readers start to see you as an authority in your product area, with the increase in backlinks to your site, so will Google!

Earn Links

When you’re earning links instead of buying them, you’ll also be earning the respect of Google and potential customers. Particularly with the prominence of ASA guidelines, the general public are increasingly aware of paid links. We believe that leveraging no-follow links and even affiliate links properly can be great for SEO. 

Competitive Advantage

As you add more backlinks to your domain, and invest in this strategy over time, newer competitors won’t be able to replicate this quickly. While they can bulk create content or have a flawless technical set up, link earning takes time. 

Increase Traffic

When you gain coverage from big sites, you stand the chance of an influx of referral traffic as people try to find out more about your content. 

Get People Talking

Word of mouth is still the most trusted marketing channel, and these days, a lot of this is done online. If you can get people sharing and talking about your content on social media you’ll be a winner. 

Influence Purchases

This shouldn’t be the aim of your Digital PR strategy, but in our experience a well crafted Digital PR campaign often has a direct impact on sales. 

Inspire Loyalty

As with any good content marketing campaign, as customers start to understand your brand and passion for your products, they’ll be more likely to come back to you again and again. 

The Bottom Line: Benefits to SEO and Beyond

We know that eCom brands see a big boost in their organic presence from a well designed and executed Digital PR strategy, but in our experience, the impact can be seen far beyond the SERP.

Myth #4 - Digital PR is spammy link building

You should already know this by now. But the difference between spammy link building and Digital PR is a well crafted and executed strategy. The big question, of course, is how to build this strategy. 

Let’s dive into it.

What are the building blocks of a good Digital PR strategy?

We always recommend a three-pronged approach when it comes to Digital PR.

1) Statement Asset

This is a piece of hero content built purely for Digital PR. The asset will link to key SEO categories or sub categories. The aim is to get publishers to link to this content.

2) Always On

Leveraging existing assets and PR pipeline to create high-quality links. These links will often point back to the blog as part of existing content marketing. Proactively and reactively responding to journalists requests is also a key always on strategy.

3) Hygiene

This strategy starts with an audit of current links. This backlink analysis will often result in actions such as mention chasing or cleaning up broken backlinks. We recommend quarterly backlink analyses

How to build your strategy?

Now it’s time to build these three tactics into a strong strategy. Here’s how:

  1. Identify your goals

Once you know exactly what you’re aiming to do with your strategy, it’ll be easier to build it. Make sure you identify the SEO categories you want to build, as well as any KPIs you want to hit. 

  1. Find your audience

It’s likely you already have a target audience for your products, but now it’s time to figure out where they are on the internet. What are they already reading? What website do they have bookmarked? What are they sharing on social media?

  1. Plan your time

Time block out where content is going to be created for your Statement Assets, when content will be landing on your blog, and when key stakeholders will need to be involved. Don’t forget to make time for a backlink analysis or two. 

  1. Do your research

A little desk research goes a long way – find out what other people are already writing about to make sure you’re not wasting time on content that has already been created and covered. 

  1. Now you’re ready to implement your strategy. 

That’s it you’ve built your strategy! Now you’re ready to move onto implementing the strategy. Don’t worry we have some tips for this too. 

The Bottom Line: Strategy not Spam

You will have no need to rely on spammy backlink buying tactics if you build a strong Digital PR strategy. Our tips will help you create a natural and sustainable link earning strategy.

Myth #5 - Digital PR is too expensive for my brand

Digital PR needn’t be expensive. Many of the core tactics are just based on putting in the time and effort, particularly always on strategies such as mention chasing, cleaning up broken backlinks, and responding to Journo requests. Leveraging existing assets also is an inexpensive way to chip away at getting natural backlinks.

When it comes to your statement assets, this can get expensive. Big, exciting and attention-grabbing ideas are often the ones which get the most links. However, there are ways to do this without breaking the bank (although if you have cash to splash, get in touch, we love coming up with something that’s truly epic). The best thing to do, here, is start your campaign with a scaled down version. Once Digital PR’s value has been proved, you will be able to invest more money into the idea. 

The key thing when coming up with ideas is to find something that is going to resonate with journalists and feel honest and authentic to your brand, so potential customers will buy into the story.

If you’ve completed the strategy building process we talked about, you should be well on your way to coming up with a great idea. 

Here are a few more tips:

Follow the trends – figure out which topics are trending in your niche or among your target audience. Social listening tools, Google Trends, and your own forecasting data can be great sources for this. 

Mind the gap – looking at what other content is out there and where there are gaps is always a great place to start thinking about how you can add to or disrupt the story. 

Check your numbers – you probably are sitting on a goldmine of data somewhere. If your business has interesting data about how, when, where or why your customers buy, could this be leveraged?

Out of the box – coming up with really wild and outrageous ideas can be a helpful part of the process because often these can be scaled down to a more manageable size. Brainstorming with as many diverse and creative people as you can get in one room can be a great way of coming up with really big, interesting ideas.

The Bottom Line: Big Ideas Sometimes Have Small Price Tags

Your statement asset is only as good as your best idea. Take the time to brainstorm and come up with the perfect idea, and even think about road testing it. This way your Digital PR campaign needn’t be too expensive.

Myth #6 - Journalists don’t want to hear from brands or cover branded content

Here’s the truth that we’ve learned from years of working with journalists – journalism is a hard industry. Often journalists have only a couple of hours to craft an interesting, attention-grabbing story. With tight deadlines and high expectations from their editors, journalists will bite your arm off for a good story which has been well researched and clearly presented. 

So how do you get your content in front of them?

  1. Do your research – make sure your story is clear, your sources are cited and that everything the journalist needs is easily accessible and to hand. You really want to make their lives easier here. 
  2. Craft your press release – we recommend creating a couple of variations of your press release for different angles which can be taken for your statement asset. This means that you’ll be able to use the press release which is most relevant for the journalist you’re reaching out to. 
  3. Try a soft launch – contact a couple of journalists you know and like and see what they think of your pitch. They may have an angle or question you hadn’t thought of. 
  4. Make the most of your subject line – journalists are busy and also receive hundreds of emails a day, so things are easily missed. Crafting a stand-out subject line will make all the difference. Here are some subject line tips
  5. Think broadly – while we’re all out to get that BBC backlink, sometimes a few backlinks from lower DA but very topically relevant sites will have a similar effect. Think about all the different journalists and publications you could reach out to. 
  6. Build relationships – the longer you work in DPR the more you realise the importance of a great network of relationships with journalists. As you start to understand what journalists and publications cover in your niche or area, you’ll be able to tap into the kinds of stories they want and need. 
  7. Get on the phone – the best way to start to create these networks is to actually talk to journalists and get a feel for what they’re working on and how you can help them. So pick up the phone!

The Bottom Line: Great Stories and Great Relationships Make for Great Outreach

Journalists won’t let branded content get in the way of a great story. All you need is the right story and the right outreach technique!

Myth #7 - Digital PR means gifting tonnes of product to influencers

While you could go around gifting loads of influencers’ products to gain traction for your brand, this isn’t the way to build maximum returns. As ever, the key here is strategy and research. As with journalists, many influencers get lots of emails requesting they cover products, and even gifts in the post, meaning that a scattergun approach could cost you money without the benefits. 

Our influencer strategy looks a lot like the way we approach the rest of Digital PR. Here’s our 4 steps to a successful influencer strategy:

  • Identify your aims and audiences – what do you want to achieve? Is it brand awareness? Awareness of a new product? Who are you trying to reach? What kind of content and influencers are they likely to be following and on what channels?
  • Identify influencers who could help you reach these goals and audiences – who could organically and authentically share your brand’s message in a way which would resonate with their followers? We recommend avoiding those who have recently worked with direct competitors. We also recommend looking at engagement, to ensure that follower numbers are accurate. 
  • Outreach to influencers – it’s only at this stage you actually reach out to influencers offering them products. Once you have confirmation, it’s important you include a full brief outlining expectations, and a contract with terms and conditions. 
  • Tracking coverage – once coverage starts coming in, you will need to track the results. This will depend on the goals you decided on in step one and you may be measuring metrics like website traffic, page views, sales increase etc. You can also give unique URLs to influencers so metrics can be tied back to them directly. 

The Bottom Line: Quality Over Quantity

When it comes to influencer marketing, investing time in setting clear goals, audiences and then building full briefs and relationships with influencers is going to pay dividends. This means you don’t have to send out tonnes of product without getting anything in return.

 

Myth #8 - It’s hard to measure Digital PR success

The great thing about Digital PR is that there are loads of different metrics you can use to determine the success of your campaign depending on what your goals were at the outset. With plenty of tools at your disposal to measure all these metrics, it’s easy to get lost in numbers. 

Here are a few of our favourite ways to measure the success of our campaigns:

  • Links – this is always the best and easiest place to start. We like to offer a unique link assurance, so our clients know what they’re paying for. You can use a number of tools to figure out where your backlinks are coming from, these include specialist tools like AHrefs, to free hacks like setting up a Google alert with your brand name in. 
  • Traffic – increased backlinks can result in increased traffic. You can look at the traffic to your site generally, to the pages with the assets which you linked to, and of course also to the area of the site you were looking to boost. Tools like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics will help you quantify this. 
  • Revenue and ROI – revenue may not be as easy to attribute back to your DPR campaigns depending on what attribution model you use, but if sales and revenue increased after your campaign went live, this is a good sign. Using tools like Google Analytics or internal data, it should be easy to find revenue data. 
  • Organic Visibility – one of the key benefits of DPR campaigns are the visibility boosts. You can measure by looking for bumps in organic traffic in Google Analytics, or using specialist visibility monitoring tools like Moz or Stat. 
  • Social Shares – if you’re looking to increase the conversation around your brand measuring social shares may be a great way of doing this. There are a couple of options, but the most accurate and easiest is to use a tool like BuzzSumo or Mention. 
  • Brand awareness – this is by far the hardest to measure. One way to hack this is to look at branded search uplift around the times you create your campaigns. Alternatively, use tools like Brandwatch to get an accurate picture. 

The Bottom Line: There’s Loads of Data If You Know Where to Look

One of the key benefits of Digital PR is that there are loads of metrics which you can use to measure your success and tweak your strategy moving forwards. 

We hope that you have found our Digital PR helpful, if you would still have any questions, please feel free to tweet us on @thisisnovos

 

Olivia Royce from Novos
Article by Olivia Royce
Olivia heads the digital PR team at NOVOS. Starting her professional journey with a traditional PR agency environment, Olivia has led hundreds of digital PR campaigns for the country's most well-known brands in her nearly decade-long career.

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