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What is Digital PR?

By Tricia Harte

The True Value of Earned Media

Who doesn’t want to see their brand mentioned in The New York Times, The Washington Post or Forbes? Earned exposure in top-tier publications is highly valuable for brand awareness, but also for SEO purposes too.

There’s high and ongoing value in earned media, and few businesses pursue or understand it. In fact, when businesses come to us for “digital PR” or “link building” services, there’s often a bit of a knowledge gap between what they know they want…and how they think they can get there.

Ultimately, the value of backlinks (called link equity) increases your website’s visibility and rankings in search, increases your organic traffic, and connects you with more customers.

What Exactly is Digital PR?

Digital PR is a rapidly growing strategy used within search engine optimization (SEO). 

In the broadest sense, digital PR is a type of public relations that involves promoting a brand, product, or service through digital channels such as social media, websites, and online news outlets.

Digital PR often includes tactics like media relations, content marketing, influencer outreach, and social media engagement. In the SEO world, digital PR sits at the cross-section between traditional PR and SEO, with the main focus of earning backlinks to your website through earned media coverage.

In turn, these backlinks provide SEO value to your website, including increased visibility in search engines and brand awareness. Digital PR involves everything from ideating, creating, and pitching campaigns for different clients.

Electronic screens with news articles

Why is Digital PR Important?

A website needs a robust backlink profile to rank higher for keywords. The more competitive the keyword, the more links you will need. 

Oftentimes clients are looking to outrank their peers in a competitive sphere. The difference between Client A’s website authority and Competitor B’s website authority could be (among other things) the robustness of each website’s backlink profile. 

But not all links are created equal. To maximize the benefits of links, a site should have both a high quantity and high QUALITY backlinks.

Building a backlink profile will help a website rank higher in search engines, as a link is essentially a “vote of confidence” from other sites on the web. The higher the number of votes, the more likely it is that Google will rank your website.

The higher you rank, the more traffic you will get, and the more customers will discover your website.

SEO – Why Links Matter

Technical SEO is certainly important – but your website won’t rank from technical improvements alone. If a site audit happens without any links, will Google see it? One of the best ways to get search engines to see value in your site is to earn backlinks. When search engines see value in your site and content, your site will rank well.

Backlink building should not be viewed as a “one and done” approach, but as an ongoing effort to build expertise and authority to your website. Backlink building is best done as an ongoing effort over time with multiple campaigns.

chart showing outlets connected to laptop

What is Link Equity?

Link equity represents the value created by one website linking to another website. It’s measured by Google’s search algorithm and is one of the most influential factors in how your website ranks for keywords.

There are over 200+ factors assessed by Google’s search algorithm. The quantity and quality of inbound links have always had one of the most significant impacts on how well you rank.

The more links you earn and the higher value those links carry, the higher you’ll rank. It’s important to keep in mind that not all links have equal value – some are better for your site than others.

For example, links with a higher domain authority (DA) are more beneficial than those with a low DA. Links from sites that are relevant to your site’s topic are more beneficial than links from sites that are not relevant. Also, targeting sites that already link to a competitor are hugely beneficial for SEO too.

What is Domain Authority?

According to Moz, the creator of domain authority, “Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score that predicts how likely a website is to rank in search engine result pages (SERPs). Domain Authority scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater likelihood of ranking.

Domain authority is a great way to measure the value of a backlink. For example, a link on USA Today has a DA of 94. Tech website PCMag has a DA of 92. Most well-known, top-tier websites will have a DA over 90, and these are extremely valuable links for your website.

Domain authority is a great way to measure the quality of a backlink. 

When we analyzed the media market in the US, most local news stations fall into a mid-tier (DA 50-79) and are very important to earn links from. Pitching and earning coverage on local news sites is a strong indicator to Google that your site is a trustworthy source.

Chart showing examples of domain authority

Building brand awareness

We know that backlinks improve SEO results. But did you know that backlinks are also great for increasing brand awareness?

The more customers that see your brand’s name out there, the more that will know about you. This can send referral traffic to your site, drive organic search, and build your credibility as a source for journalists.

Even if your brand isn’t well-known, Digital PR can be the first step to getting exposure for your brand, while simultaneously climbing the ranks in the SERPs so customers can find you on the web.

laptop screen with CNBC news story

Digital PR versus Traditional PR

When it comes to traditional PR, it’s all about customers viewing your brand in a positive light. The more positive the brand sentiment, the greater the customer loyalty, and the likely increase in conversions.

The primary goal of digital PR is not to increase brand awareness, but rather to influence Google’s search algorithm in such a way that your website’s rankings are boosted.

Traditional PR can lead to improvement in search engine results pages (SERPs), and digital PR can help build a brand. However, the two services have distinctly different goals. 

It’s also important to make a distinction between content marketing and digital PR, which tend to have some overlap (both in connotation and in practice). 

Content marketing focuses on creating and sharing different content, such as eBooks, infographics, and influencer marketing. The ultimate goal – increased brand awareness – is how it differs from Digital PR.

traditional vs. digital PR venn diagram

The differences

Digital PR and traditional PR have two distinctly different goals. The goal of traditional PR is to promote a brand’s goal and humanize the company. Traditional PR also focuses on building a look, voice, and feel for a brand. It also relies on using different mediums, like magazines, newspapers, and event coordination.

Digital PR represents a more holistic, dynamic way of thinking about earned media. It takes select principles of traditional PR and integrates the mission of SEO, in order to produce more consistent, measurable results.

The similarities

It’s important to recognize that Digital PR can help your branding in many ways even though that isn’t the main goal. Digital PR campaigns usually fall within a range of tangential topics to relevant topics and the type of backlinks earned can range depending on the relevancy of the campaign. 

Some earned media is also similar to advertising, as you’ll get brand exposure both online and sometimes even on television. When earning a backlink from a news website, it’s not uncommon for the news outlet to also produce a 15 or 30 second TV story in their TV newscast. This can expose your brand to thousands, or even millions, of potential customers.

While traditional PR is important, the world wide web is fast-changing and visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs) is extremely important. Digital PR is a great way to see success in SERPs, while simultaneously promoting your brand’s voice and mission.

How we do Digital PR

Now that we’ve covered why Digital PR is so important, it’s time to talk strategy and digital PR best practices.

Digital PR link building is the practice of producing newsworthy stories and data to earn attention and links from mainstream media publications. It’s a niche SEO service that’s growing in popularity and needs precise execution to be successful.

That’s why we’re the perfect Digital PR agency to execute your Digital PR strategy.

image of computer

Content-led Campaigns

At Digital Third Coast, we specialize in content-led Digital PR strategy. Our team of data journalists, who all come from a newsroom background, work together to ideate and execute campaigns for a range of websites.

We believe that our content-led campaigns are uniquely capable of earning the most coveted links in the world — links from the mainstream media.

This type of link building tactic establishes thought leadership, earns brand mentions, and drives referral traffic to your website. We create original, data-driven content for a range of different niches and topics, including:

  • Surveys
  • Data-driven analysis
  • Rankings pieces (i.e. rank the top 10 teams) 
  • Search trends 
  • Social analysis

We’ll ideate, create, and execute the campaigns, including the landing page and visualizations. We produce the campaigns from start to finish, then create an outreach strategy that we execute and pitch the media.

pie chart showing different ways to do research

Top-tier coverage

Mainstream media publications tend to have some of the highest-ranking domains of all, based on their traffic and legacy. And it’s extremely difficult to be featured in these publications. 

This is where Digital PR is superior to traditional PR—since we’re not trying to influence or convert prospects on the spot, we have the freedom to produce stories that are more relevant and interesting to journalists.

We tend to see higher placement rates from these non-promotional stories. Each one of these helps strengthen a website’s overall visibility in Google searches. Websites start to see improved rankings in organic search for keywords they’ve targeted as part of their SEO strategy.

Link acquisition

Sometimes, a website will cover a campaign, cite the source, but not include a hyperlink. We typically try to turn these unlinked mentions into backlinks, and we build it into our Digital PR strategy.

As former journalists, we understand the unique trials and tribulations of the news industry and work to establish connections with the media. We utilize our knowledge and past experience to turn mentions into backlinks.

Tangential campaigns

Our job as Digital PR specialists is to find the sweet spot between your site’s topic and newsworthiness. To achieve this, we focus on executing tangential campaigns.

This means we use data and ideate around topics related to your website, so that we can appeal to as many journalists as possible. We believe that there’s such a thing as keeping it too niche, and this can limit media placement opportunities. This is why we focus on tangential content.

Circle that says your site's topic and campaign topics in it

When putting together ideas, we keep in mind our audience – journalists – and their audience – the everyday American. We focus on tangential content to make sure we appeal to the widest audiences possible.

circle that says food website and examples of campaign ideas

Outreach Strategy

We pride ourselves on our outreach strategy which has proven to be consistently successful. For years, our strategy has been tried and tested, and has adapted to the ever-changing media landscape. Who better to create and execute a campaign, and pitch it to the media, than a group of former journalists?

Our strategy is:

  • Merit-based
  • High volume
  • Targeted
  • Adaptive
  • Finite

We use a variety of outreach tools to streamline the process of getting your campaign out there and we keep a pulse on trends so we can newsjack when the opportunity arises.

hand typing on keyboard

Merit-based

We don’t pay for links. All of our coverage is earned solely through our outreach efforts. We build and maintain relationships with journalists, and know who to pitch to get local news syndications.

High volume

We target a large volume of relevant journalists to ensure that your campaign is shared widely. This guarantees the best chance for media coverage.

Targeted

We also know that highly-targeted outreach is important to find the more niche journalists interested in your campaign. We take time to carefully find and refine lists of journalists to reach out to who may be interested in your campaign.

Adaptive

We meet as a team weekly to check in on the performance of every single campaign. If a campaign isn’t performing up to our standards, we pivot. Our strategy is always flexible.

Finite

We promote your campaign for a set amount of time, and keep you updated on results frequently.

4 circles showing outreach strategy

Outreach Tools

We use cutting-edge tools to help us earn media coverage for campaigns. The outreach tools we use daily include:

  • Cision
  • Buzzsumo
  • Muck Rack
  • Ahrefs

Cision

We use Cision more than any other tool. From building robust media lists to scheduling and sending out email pitches, Cision is the backbone of our media outreach execution. With a database of over one billion media contacts, we can curate our contact lists, send unique targeted pitches, track success, and streamline list building. 

Buzzsumo

BuzzSumo is our go-to when it comes to tracking media coverage. We use daily alerts to track the success of campaigns which we’ve integrated into Slack for live updates – so we always know when links are coming in.

We also use Buzzsumo to ideate and keep a pulse on what the media is talking about across all industries, and to monitor competitors’ incoming links as well.

Muck Rack

Muck Rack is the best of the best when it comes to information on journalists. It’s like a search engine of journalists, where we can find their most up-to-date contact information and recently published pieces.

We use Muck Rack to carefully curate media lists. We can filter articles and journalists by topic, name, role, keyword, outlet, outlet type, and even date – then use this information to pitch new campaigns to them.

At Digital Third Coast, we utilize Muck Rack to its fullest potential to build targeted media lists in tandem with Cision. We also use its annual State of Journalism report to inform our outreach strategy.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is the top-of-the-line SEO tool that we use. We use Ahrefs to measure campaign success by monitoring inbound links to our campaigns. We also use this tool to monitor Domain Rank and check competitors’ backlinks.

Ahrefs can be utilized in many ways to inform outreach. Users can check backlinks to any URL on the web, which means we can see what angles are being covered on similar campaigns. We can monitor anchor text on incoming links, and check which keywords our campaigns are ranking for.

laptop with cision on laptop screen

Measuring success

We measure success in several ways, including by the quantity of backlinks acquired, average domain authority of links, referral traffic, and keyword rankings.

Success is important to us – and we have a few ways of considering whether a campaign is successful or not. As SEO experts, we know there are many different aspects to Digital PR success and the value of different types of links.

Links

Digital PR is all about links. We love links. But not every link is equal in value – and just because two campaigns earn the same number of links doesn’t mean they are equally successful. We use a multifaceted approach to measure the success of each campaign.

Total Links

The quantity of links earned per campaign is a big focus for us when measuring success. As stated above, a robust backlink profile is important for a website to rank well. The more websites that see you as a credible source, the better.

At Digital Third Coast, we factor in the total number of links that a campaign earns as an indicator of success.

Quality Links

Many of us remember the days when the number of backlinks earned was the only metric that mattered. But the industry is shifting as Google updates its algorithms and makes changes to improve search results for users.

We make sure to closely track Domain Authority as an indicator of link quality. We know that a campaign that earns three 20 DA links, versus a campaign that earns three 90 DA links, are not equally successful.

Built Links

These are links built directly from our outreach efforts. We use relationships we’ve established with journalists to earn this coverage.

Syndicated Links

A syndicated news network is a type of news organization that produces and distributes news content to multiple media outlets, such as television stations, radio stations, and websites. These outlets, known as syndication partners, typically pay a fee to access and use the content produced by the syndicated news network.

The content produced by a syndicated news network can include news stories, articles, features, and other types of media, such as video and audio. Syndicated news networks often have a team of journalists who report on a wide range of topics and provide coverage from around the world. They may also have analysts and experts who provide commentary and analysis on current events.

Syndicated news networks are a common source of news for many media outlets, as they provide a convenient and cost-effective way for these outlets to access a diverse range of high-quality news content.

We know the value of syndication. We target outlets (usually local news) that we know usually syndicate content – meaning they’ll publish the same content across multiple websites. Think of it as the best “bang for your buck” when it comes to link building.

Unlinked Mentions

While links are the goal, unlinked mentions (also known as “implied links”) also have SEO value. Google notices when your brand is mentioned online and it looks at the types of pages your brand is mentioned on. This can have a positive impact on your website’s authority. Therefore, we value and report unlinked brand mentions.

Bullet points showing ways to measure success

Metrics of Success

Inbound Links

When measuring success, we look primarily at the total number of inbound links to our client’s campaign page, during and after the active outreach period ends. We use DA as an additional indicator of which links we track, and focus on mid- and top-tier inbound links.

Referral Traffic

A link is great, but a clicked link is better. Backlinks can drive customers to your website. Referral traffic refers to users who clicked the link on a website and came to your page. If a single placement drives hundreds of people to the campaign, this is a big success.

Leads and Conversions

When traffic is driven to your site, the goal is to convert. It doesn’t usually happen as a result of Digital PR campaigns – but it can. We use Google Analytics to track leads and conversions by looking at users who traveled to sales pages from your campaign page.

Keyword Rankings

Our Digital PR efforts drive inbound links – one of the most beneficial things for a website trying to rank for a variety of keywords.

Creating a robust backlink profile can cause your website’s rankings to skyrocket. This is the beginning of the cycle: the site ranks higher in the SERPs, which in turn makes you more likely to be linked to and more likely to drive traffic.

Social Media Engagement

Social media engagement is a great way to keep tabs on consumer sentiment around a campaign or brand. You are welcome to utilize our campaigns and share them on social media, which can boost engagement across your social accounts.

Image showing metrics of success

What Not to Measure

As experts, we also know what not to measure. We don’t focus on low DA links. Typically, anything under DA 20 isn’t even reported on.

Relevancy of links is becoming increasingly important over the quantity of links earned, so we don’t focus on links from non-relevant pages or websites.

We also make sure we closely monitor open and click-through rates on pitches, and come together as a team to pivot if necessary. We don’t waste time tracking what doesn’t matter – we use these metrics to see how successful each aspect of our Digital PR strategy is.

three ipads

The Bottom Line

Digital PR is a great way to build backlinks to your website if you want high-quality links that have the potential to grow passively over time. Many campaigns continue to earn coverage months and sometimes years after they’ve been posted.  We focus on creating and executing successful Digital PR campaigns. As Digital PR experts, we are confident in our processes to create and execute content that will earn you backlinks.

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