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What is digital PR? Best digital PR techniques and tactics

14 min read
Brett Farmiloe

With a rapid shift to online presence after the beginning of the pandemic, many companies had to explore digital options. One business function quickly making the move to digital is public relations (PR). If you own a web design and developer business, you might be asking yourself, what is digital PR and how can I make it work for my company?

We’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at how you can make digital PR work for you and your business.

What is digital PR?

Digital PR is a marketing strategy that shapes the online image of a company.

The objective of a digital PR campaign is to improve organic search results and customer reviews via digital content to build a company’s brand.

To fully grasp digital PR, there are a few key definitions within online marketing to become familiar with:

  • Backlinks: links from other websites that point to your website
  • Referring domains: unique domains linking to your website
  • Domain rating: the strength of a website’s backlink profile
  • UR rating: the strength of a page’s backlink profile
  • User-generated content: reviews, text, images, and videos that are created by individual and identified people

We will reference these terms and definitions in our next section, which explores different digital PR strategies and tactics.

Digital PR strategies and tactics

The core of our digital PR definition revolves around improving organic search results.

How does a small business improve organic search results? Studies show that SEO rankings correlate with backlink metrics. This isn’t a big surprise, given that Google was founded as a hypertextual search engine that produced search results based on “the structure present in hypertext.”

So if backlinks are the strongest correlation to improving organic search results, how do small businesses build backlinks?

As you can see in the GoDaddy community forums, SEO and backlinks are a hot topic because getting quality backlinks is one of the hardest things to do in digital marketing. And rather than rush into a backlink-building scheme, it is good to be aware of what Google considers to be unacceptable.

These are six digital PR strategies that seek to improve organic search results.

  1. Reverse engineering
  2. Skyscraper content
  3. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)
  4. Community sites
  5. Internal links
  6. Customer reviews

Related: How to get more Google customer reviews

1. Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering is a digital PR strategy that examines the backlink profiles of multiple competitors and identifies the referring domains they have in common.

In other words, what websites are linking to all of your competitors, but not to your website?

If you can figure out how each of your competitors generated a backlink on a domain, then chances are your website can take a similar approach to secure a backlink. Several SEO tools offer this functionality, but we use the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool to help identify opportunities.

2. Skyscraper technique

View of skyscrapers from the ground looking up

The skyscraper technique is a content marketing strategy that identifies weak content with links, makes better content, and then reaches out to the sites that link to the weak content with your better content.

Sound like a lot of work? It is. But, the skyscraper technique has stuck around as an effective way to build backlinks because it works.

Start by identifying high-ranking content in your niche that was last updated four or more years ago. Chances are, your business can create content with more up-to-date information that external websites would find more value in linking to. You’ll need a paid SEO tool like Ahrefs, Moz or SEMRush to identify which sites link to the content. But, this technique can produce nice returns when executed correctly.

3. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

You are likely an expert in something. Help a Reporter Out (HARO) connects journalists with experts to include in their content.

In other words, if you answer questions from journalists on a service like HARO, then your answer may be included in articles with link attribution to your insights.

While HARO is highly competitive, the tactic of sharing your expertise online can produce some high-quality digital PR placements for your business and brand.

If you are interested in this tactic, try signing up for HARO or a similar service like Qwoted, Terkel or another alternative. Review the queries, answer questions that speak to your expertise, and see if your insights get selected.

4. Community sites

Since digital PR is about building brand awareness and increasing inbound traffic, community sites like Reddit and Quora are good outlets to create a focused campaign.

Reddit, Quora, niche forums and message boards feature online conversations about your business's relevant topics. Identify those conversations, listen to the discussion, and insert your insights into the thread if you can add value to the conversation.

Participating in a community site can produce brand awareness, referral traffic, and, sometimes a nofollow link. While a nofollow link typically carries less SEO value than a dofollow link, Google announced that nofollow links are now treated as hints about which links to consider or exclude within search.

5. Internal linking

Not all digital PR strategies are external. Internal linking is a tactic that seeks to use existing pages on your website to boost the authority of a target page you'd like to promote.

For example, websites commonly use menus and navigation bars to list priority pages such as Home, About, Contact and Services. An internal linking strategy takes this concept a step further by including links to a target page in places like a footer, sidebar, or within the text of blog posts and landing pages.

Your site can more clearly communicate to search engines about which pages are most important to your site through internal linking.

6. Customer reviews

Google determines local ranking based on relevance, distance and prominence. Prominence, which digital PR aims to influence, is based on information such as links and online mentions that Google monitors about a business.

One other major factor Google uses to determine prominence is customer reviews. Google says that “review count and review score factor into local search ranking.”

More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business's local ranking.

In other words, increasing customer reviews on relevant directories and your Google My Business profile is one digital PR tactic that may help local rankings while also shaping customer perceptions.

Benefits of digital PR

What benefits should your business expect to receive as a result of a well-executed digital PR campaign? Why is digital PR important?

Here are five benefits of digital PR:

  1. Improved keyword positions
  2. Organic and referral traffic
  3. Inbound leads
  4. Paying customers
  5. Brand recognition

Related: 7 amazing ways to create a stellar personal brand online

1. Improved keyword positions

Digital PR campaigns should produce an increase in SEO rankings for specific keywords that pertain to a business.

Why is digital PR’s role in helping improve keyword rankings? Generally speaking, the more high-quality and relevant backlinks a website receives, the more authoritative the website becomes (measured by domain rating). The more authoritative a website, the more likely it is to bypass less authoritative competitors who occupy higher keyword rankings.

Since SEO typically takes four to 12 months to see an improvement, a business can monitor keyword positions for specific terms to see if digital PR efforts produce the expected benefit.

2. Organic and referral traffic

As keyword positions improve, a business should experience an increase in organic search rankings.

Since most clicks happen on the first page of search results, the idea is that the more top 10 rankings a website has, the more organic search traffic they will receive. Especially if some of the target keywords have a high volume and consistent flow of correlated searches.

In addition to organic traffic, a side benefit can be referral traffic from the referring domain that includes a link to your site. Businesses can measure the ROI of digital PR by measuring and comparing organic and referral traffic trends throughout the campaign.

3. Inbound leads

What should happen as a result of more organic and referral traffic? More inbound leads.

Of course, conversions from a website are largely dependent on how well your website is optimized to convert website traffic into legitimate leads.

But, as traffic begins to increase to your website, a business should set up conversion tracking to measure the quantity and sources for inbound leads.

4. Paying customers

Person opening wallet to pay with cash

The ultimate benefit of digital PR is paying customers.

If digital PR efforts produce a more steady inflow of legitimate inbound leads, then it is safe to assume that a portion of those queries will convert to real revenue.

However, make sure to monitor the sources and the quantity of new paying customers. Arming yourself with reliable data helps you replicate your success and double down on the working tactics.

5. Brand recognition

Since digital PR is about building brand awareness, brand recognition is another benefit a business can expect from a campaign.

Brand recognition may seem like a less quantifiable benefit, but there are some ways to measure awareness. The easiest way is to measure how many people are searching for your brand or company name online. You can measure these branded searches through Google Search Console, which produces reports showing how many impressions and clicks a site received for branded searches.

Other brand recognition metrics to monitor include an increase in customer reviews (especially if a component of the digital PR campaign was to increase reviews) and social media followers on platforms like LinkedIn.

Digital PR success stories

By now, we’ve covered the main benefits that brands experience and measure when it comes to digital PR campaigns. But what about success stories with digital PR? What are some deeper examples that illustrate success when it comes to digital PR?

To answer that question, let’s briefly look at a few small business digital PR success stories.

Increased search traffic from 1,000 visits a year to 1,000 visits a day

We now know that one benefit of digital PR is an increase in website traffic. One credit repair company saw a dramatic increase in traffic, going from 1,000 organic search visits per year to 1,000 visits per day within a couple of years of executing digital PR campaigns.

How did they do it? By focusing on creating content, generating customer reviews, and internal linking to the top pieces of content on their site.

Granted, there was a bit of luck intermixed within the journey. The credit repair company picked up a few organic and high-quality links to its content and was able to rank for competitive and frequently searched keywords. But, as a result of committing to a campaign, the company was able to field hundreds of new inbound leads each month.

Increased sales by 612% and reduced the average cost per conversion by 40%

Deploying a combination of digital PR techniques, an ecommerce site was able to increase its monthly sales by sevenfold while reducing its paid advertising by 40%.

What exactly was that combination of digital PR techniques?

The main tactic was answering questions and receiving link attribution via quotes in articles.

By receiving, reviewing and responding to daily queries through services like HARO and Terkel, the ecommerce website saw improvements in its keyword positions, organic traffic and sales.

As a result of an increase in organic traffic, the site also was able to reduce its paid advertising budget for keywords that now had organic visibility in search results pages.

The company achieved this success mostly through an unrelenting commitment to sharing expertise via online opportunities and community sites. But it also focused on reverse engineering competitor backlink profiles and making sure its business was mentioned alongside the competition.

Using the skyscraper technique described above, an education website saw that a competitor had created an “ultimate” guide for a niche topic. The competitor guide had amassed quality links from notable universities and libraries from across the United States.

The guide's problem was that it was created more than five years prior, and much of the information was out of date.

The education website set out to create a more comprehensive, up-to-date guide tackling the same niche topic. It identified which websites were linking to the competitor guide, and once the new guide was published, the education website reached out to those sites with a request to update their links.

The result? The education website amassed 134 backlinks from referring domains ranging from Harvard University down to a local library. Within three months, the site surpassed its competitor for the top spot in search rankings and saw its domain rating double.

Digital PR checklist

What do you need to DIY a digital PR campaign? Here’s a checklist to help guide your digital PR efforts.

  • Select tactics
  • Gather tools
  • Develop assets
  • Conduct outreach
  • Measure success
  • Pivot or persevere

Related: Using Google Analytics and Google Search Console to find out what’s bringing people to your website

Select tactics

Using the list of tactics in this article, select which digital PR strategies will guide your efforts. For websites just starting, answering questions via community sites and HARO is a great first step.

For more established companies, generating customer reviews, internal linking, and reverse engineering competitors are great techniques to practice. And if you’re more advanced, executing a well-designed skyscraper technique plan can produce a nice return on investment.

Gather tools

Assorted tools resting on workbench

Depending on the digital PR tactic you choose, you’ll need tools to help you maximize your efforts. Free tools such as Google Search Console and Google Analytics are a must-have for any small business website.

Paid SEO tools, including Ahrefs, Moz and SEMRush, can help identify backlink opportunities and target keywords.

And, of course, outreach is a big part of digital PR. You’ll need a CRM tool like Mailchimp, Pipedrive or Google Sheets to help manage and coordinate your efforts.

Develop assets

Once you’ve set the strategy, you’ll need assets to support that strategy. Outreach lists, answers to questions, ultimate guides and more are all elements you should consider developing to achieve your digital PR objectives.

Conduct outreach

Once your assets are developed, you’ll need to submit and promote them via outreach methods. Share an answer, press send on a templated email to your outreach list or submit profile information to a niche directory. Whatever the outreach or submission method, patience is the key to success. Keep pushing and promoting, and remember that outreach success rates can be quite low—aim for 5% as a barometer for success.

Measure success

Once the heavy lifting has been done, it’s time to evaluate what happened. As mentioned in this article, potential measurements of success for a digital PR campaign can include an improvement to keyword positions, or to increases in website traffic, inbound leads, paying customers and brand recognition—or a combination of all the above. Develop your scorecard, and measure your successes (or failures!).

Pivot or persevere

Now that you have gone on a journey through digital PR, it’s time to ask yourself whether to pivot or persevere.

If you experienced lackluster results with your first digital PR campaign, should you try a different technique or tactic?

If you experienced some successes, should you persevere with the same method to see if you can replicate your success? Whatever the case, just know that digital PR takes some skill. Not everyone nails their first campaign. Try not to get discouraged, and explore different avenues that may make more sense for your business.

How to use digital PR to promote your business

Now that you’ve answered the question “what is digital PR,” how can your business utilize this marketing strategy to grow your brand online?

Try out tactics. If something doesn’t fit your business, move on to a different tactic that may have more potential. And if you get lost along the way, feel free to revisit this post or speak with GoDaddy about increasing your online presence.

The hardest part with digital PR is knowing where to start and getting started. Hopefully, these digital PR techniques and tactics will inspire you to improve your SEO presence and grow your business.