What Is Digital PR? (And How It Can Improve Your SEO)

Feature image for the blog post, "What is Digital PR?".

Digital PR, short for “digital public relations”, is an online marketing strategy used by businesses to increase their online presence. Digital PR agencies network with journalists, bloggers and influencers and send online press releases to gain high-quality backlinks, social media mentions and improve their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Digital PR is, in the words of Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller, probably more critical than technical SEO. Yes, he said it — and at Exposure Ninja, we know from experience that digital PR gets massive results, especially when it’s paired with a strong SEO game plan.


Just to be clear, the “spammy link building” John Mueller referenced isn’t something you would ever see on a digital PR campaign from a trustworthy agency good at what it does. If you see spammy link-building activity, you’re likely working with a shady agency mislabelling their work as “Digital PR.” If you’re worried that you might be — or might have in the past — give us a shout and we can take a look at the links pointing to your website.

Digital PR for SMEs Ready to Dominate Online

If you’re a business owner despairing that your website isn’t in the coveted top three organic positions for your keywords in Google’s search results, our digital PR services are for you. Here’s a little taster of how we’ve used digital PR for our clients:

Interested in digital PR services for your business? Contact us about our digital PR, SEO and creative content campaigns.


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What Is Digital PR?

Digital PR, sometimes known as online PR, is a sub-service of Content Marketing. Digital PR involves:

  • Gaining high-quality backlinks from websites and online publications
  • Gaining publicity online
  • Earning honest (hopefully good) customer reviews
  • Responding with comments to requests from journalists.

Content Marketing, in comparison, refers to all of the digital PR techniques — and content creation such as blog posts, webpage copy and knowledge bases.

Digital PR helps you reach your target customers by featuring your business on the websites they read, the podcasts they listen to and the social media accounts they love. It can even get you five-star reviews on Google and Amazon. Ultimately, digital PR positively impacts a website’s search engine visibility and ranking.

For local businesses, a well-planned local SEO digital PR strategy will focus on getting your business featured in online publications that write about your local area. These could be local newspaper websites, local blogs written by bloggers living in the area, reviews from local people who have purchased from you and local events or charities you sponsor.

Diagram explaining: what is digital PR?

Diagram explaining: what is digital PR?

How To Get Started with Digital PR

Wanting to start digital PR for your business? Well, you’re in for a treat. Our Head Ninja, Tim, talks about how to get started and dives into some of the best digital PR strategists in this video.


Digital PR vs Traditional PR

Traditional PR refers to those publicists who busted their balls networking with journalists over the phone and schmoozing them at dinner to get their clients into newspapers and print publications (Ab-Fab‘s Eddy and Sex in the City‘s Samantha Jones come to mind). PR traditionally focused on print-based publications, TV and radio. But print media isn’t what it used to be and online media is rapidly overtaking traditional print publications and even TV. With the growth of online marketing, the savviest of these PRs have shifted their focus online to Digital PR.

In 2016, the Independent was the first UK newspaper to abandon print and embrace a digital-only future. With this change, we’re increasingly seeing online publications becoming more influential.

The Independent goes Digital

The Independent newspaper abandons print and becomes the first digital-only newspaper

Digital PR is an evolved form of PR. Instead of targeting only print publications, digital PR focuses on online publications and increasing brand awareness. It includes:

  • Publishing articles and press releases
  • Working with bloggers and influencers on product features and reviews
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Nurturing journalist and content writing contacts to secure press hits
  • Using social media to gain exposure
  • Building brand trust through online reviews.

These digital PR strategies have a positive impact on a website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) when done well. Digital PR requires an understanding of Google’s guidelines and ranking signals to improve a website’s visibility in the search results. This is why many digital PR campaigns are run by SEOs and content marketers familiar with the industry. Learn more about “How Google Thinks” in our recent podcast.

Without digital PR, any SEO campaign you’ve been throwing money into isn’t going to get you to position one in Google. Part of what good digital PR agencies and online marketing experts like us refer to as “off-site SEO” includes digital PR. If you’re working with an online marketing or SEO agency, make sure high-quality digital PR is part of its off-site SEO efforts.


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How to Create a Digital PR Strategy

Let’s get stuck in and break down how we can create an effective digital PR strategy to get your business more exposure, more recognition and ultimately more leads and sales.

Step 1: Set your goal

At the core of all digital PR strategies is the goal. What do you want to achieve through the PR work? While the overarching objective will always be getting more sales, I’d recommend mapping back to the goals your content needs to achieve to drive those sales.

These could include:

  • Increasing traffic to the homepage or a specific product/service page
  • Driving traffic to a new offer or promotion
  • Growing your email marketing list to increase new and repeat sales
  • Increasing trust in your brand through gaining X influencer features
  • Increase domain authority to improve your website’s ranking through X links on a specific topic.

For more detail, dive into our blog post on setting goals for your Digital PR Campaign.

Step 2: Review your target customers

Who are you trying to reach with your digital PR strategy and the content you create? Outline your target customers, and identify any pain points or needs that could help make the content relevant for them. Keep in mind your ultimate goal and target customers through the content ideation process.

Step 3: Content ideation and research

Don’t underestimate the time you’ll need for thinking up ideas and angles for your content. Ideas don’t arrive in vacuums, so pair up with colleagues or get a small group of people together to bounce ideas off. Create a list of any ideas, and prioritise them based on which ones feel they have the most hook.

When you’ve got a few top ideas, research further. You may be able to find data or research online, or you may need to consider running your own data study. If your idea is a content asset such as a calculator or interactive page, look into the time and cost required to create it.

Step 4: Identify target publications

Who will be interested in publishing and reporting on this type of content? Who has the right audience that would include your target customers within their readers and/or followers?

Is your idea going to provide something fresh and exciting that would hook in journalists and influencers to want to re-publish and talk about your story? If not, you may need to go back to the content ideation drawing board.

Step 5: Design the strategy

Digital PR strategies predominantly focus on publishing articles and securing backlinks from relevant websites and blogs around your piece of content. It also involves nurturing relationships with journalists to get mentioned in the press.

However, there are several different ways this task can be implemented, different types of links that can be built and other important digital PR strategies that may also be utilised. Here are some of the most common types of digital PR strategy to consider:

  • Publishing articles or unique data pieces online to gain high-quality backlinks
  • Networking with journalists and editors to gain backlinks
  • Publishing press releases and syndicating newsworthy content to earn press features
  • Publishing a content piece such as a calculator, online tool or interactive webpage
  • Blogger outreach to gain backlinks and mentions on relevant blogs
  • Influencer marketing to gain mentions on influential social media accounts
  • Affiliate programmes that pay a commission to bloggers who refer customers to your business
  • Offline press events or blogger events that aim to gain online coverage
  • Sharing and syndicating infographics
  • Reclaiming links by asking for a link to be added if your brand/business is mentioned on another website without a link.

Step 6: Content creation

The reason we’ve left the content creation itself so late in the process is to ensure that your ideas definitely feel like goers and you know exactly what you want to do with your content asset when it’s created. After all, it’s no good having a piece of content sitting on Google Drive with no plan of what to do with it.

Once you’re confident with your idea and the digital PR plan, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of creating the content. This is where you flesh out the detail, draft and redraft to get the tone and headlines on point and make sure the quality of the content and the look and feel of your final piece is perfect.

Step 7: Outreach and dominate

Getting coverage is the cornerstone of an effective digital PR strategy. You’ll need to be persistent and continue to reach out to website owners, publishers, journalists, bloggers and influencers to get the coverage you want. The right piece of content and an arsenal of good pitches will get you to your goals. Not every digital PR campaign will hit gold — many won’t — but don’t be deterred. Go again and keep on going.

Bonus tip! Use a brand mentioning tool like SEMrush and set up email notifications for when your business’ name gets mentioned online. Check out those mentions and if they don’t include links to your website or the content piece you’re promoting, get in touch to see if the editor would be open to updating a link to your website.

Free Download: Email Outreach Templates

Struggling to get started with email outreach? Check out our tried and tested email outreach templates.


Outreach Email Templates


How Digital PR Benefits Your Business

Digital PR has many direct and indirect benefits to businesses. Set goals for your digital PR campaign before you start so that you can track how well it performs. Here are the main benefits you’ll want to look out for and set goals around when running a digital PR campaign:

  1. Improve SEO and rankings — Publishing on high-authority websites and getting links to your website will push you up the rankings for your target keywords. The higher up you rank on Google, the more traffic will come to your website. As John Mueller said, Digital PR is in many cases even more critical than tech SEO for gaining good rankings. Again, spammy link building also doesn’t count here and won’t help in the long run — we’re really talking about getting good, relevant links here.
  2. Boost website traffic — The more people reading about your business and sharing your content on social media, the more people there will be visiting your website. It’s like wildfire, but you need to light it.
  3. Build brand trust — A digital PR team makes sure your customers only see good things when they type your company’s name into a search engine. Creating engaging content and securing positive, impartial reviews will nurture your brand image over time. Useful, high-quality articles that are SEO-friendly will signal to search engines that you’re a credible source of information, while having your products or services reviewed by bloggers will increase trust in your brand.
  4. Generate leads — A good digital PR strategy should put your products in front of a relevant and interested audience. The more people reading about your products and clicking through to your website, the more leads you will generate.
  5. Increase sales — Any digital PR agency worth its salt knows businesses have to make sales and see an ROI from their digital marketing investment. A digital PR campaign should generate leads, and quality content on your website will channel those leads through a conversion funnel and turn them into paying customers.

An Example of Digital PR for SMBs

We started work with a performance management software company that provides software for HR teams in SMEs. They had a simple but effective website already up and wanted to build their brand name before the official launch of their software. The guy running the business had done his research; he knew the trends and his software was set to blow his competitors out of the water. But his business was new, it was small and no one had heard of it — yet.

We started building up a list of websites, magazines and blogs that were well-read by HR professionals and reached out to editors offering articles about new trends in the performance management industry. We successfully placed content with a number of small but influential websites in the sector. Then, we began pitching to the big boys in the HR industry, looking for publications where our articles would really start to get some traction. We sent editors links to our other published articles to show that this business knew its stuff and would provide incredibly valuable content to these bigger websites.

One of our articles on new performance management trends in 2016 went up on Minutehack.com, an advice website for small business owners in the UK. The article got over 400 social media shares, mostly on LinkedIn. The snowball had started.

HR professionals began to pick up the article through LinkedIn and enquiries about the software and requests for demos began rolling in. That same month, we spoke to a journalist from The Guardian’s small business sector. They’d seen our client featured in several publications discussing effective management strategies and asked him to provide a quote for a feature being written on business success.

Together with the client, we wrote up a killer comment about managing performance and motivating employees. The comment was published in an article on The Guardian’s website, along with a link to the client’s website. Months ago, no one had heard of this company or the guy running it, and now he was featured in the UK’s most authoritative online newspaper!

Digital PR article in the Guardian - Exposure Ninja

Measuring the Success of Digital PR

Unlike traditional PR, which has limited metrics to work with (usually readership figures and distribution areas), digital PR is a much more data-driven marketing strategy. Thanks to Google Analytics and other tools, you can track data that shows you how successful your digital PR work has been. Here are some useful tools for measuring the success of digital PR:

  • Google Analytics can be used to measure referral traffic from articles published about your business online or social media links from influencers. You may need to add UTM tracking codes to links with Google’s URL Builder to get a clear picture of which organic search traffic has come from your PR content. You can also use Google Analytics to see spikes in referral traffic from press hits and influencer links.
  • Moz’s Link Explorer or similar tools (such as Majestic and SEMrush, etc.) can be used to check your website’s backlinks. A good digital PR campaign will mean an increase in the number of backlinks to your website, and you’ll want to keep track of how many you’re earning. You can use MozBar to check the domain authority of your website and the websites linking to you.
  • SEMrush (get 30 days free to try it out here) and similar tools can be used to see improvements in your keyword visibility. Digital PR articles should contain backlinks pointing to important and relevant pages on your website. These links will support improvements in the ranking and visibility of your pages for key phrases.
  • Buzzsumo is our preferred tool for tracking social media shares on articles published about your business as well as social shares of content on your website.

The core goal of any online marketing campaign should be to generate leads and make money. At Exposure Ninja, we design all of our digital PR and online marketing campaigns around generating leads and making sales for our clients. No matter whether you employ a digital PR agency, a freelance digital PR consultant or run your digital PR in-house, lead generation and sales should be key metrics for measuring the success of your digital PR campaign.

Cover of the Digital PR Campaign Strategy Checklist

Digital PR Campaign Strategy Checklist

FREE Checklist for Winning Strategies

How Does Digital PR Fit into an Online Marketing Campaign?

Digital PR is a critical component of online marketing for any business that truly wants to dominate its market. To get the best results from your digital PR campaign, it should be run alongside an SEO campaign — digital PR and SEO work hand-in-glove to secure better organic rankings and improve traffic. Many successful digital PR campaigns also involve elements of influencer marketing.

Ready to let the world know about your business? We can help. We’re a digital PR agency that specialises in combining SEO and digital PR to get awesome results for our clients. Our Digital PR Ninjas are itching to get your brand featured all over the internet. Find out more about our digital PR and content marketing services and get your free website review.

Profile photo of Exposure ninja's Chief Operation Officer, Charlie Marchant.
About the Author
Charlie Marchant
Charlie Marchant oversees operations at Exposure Ninja and is always on hand to organise and streamline any mess. Prior to taking up the reigns as...

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