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Digital PR has become an integral part of a communication strategy to grow the profiles of businesses, their leaders, domain authority and boost SEO. When I first started in journalism, public relations consultants would fax or email us through press releases and they’d call us to see if we received the release and were interested in doing a story.

When I moved over to public relations, we were still emailing press releases and it’s still a common practice to do so today. However, PR leaders like Hubspot’s Illiyana Stareva, who invented the new concept Inbound PR, encourage a different and more effective approach.

Illiyana says focusing your PR strategy on digital has now become vital as content is the name of the buying game today.

“We make our decisions based on our research online by reading blogs, magazines, social media recommendations and any other online materials,” Illiyana says.

“If you haven’t focused your PR efforts on your digital appearance and building up your domain authority through more inbound links, you are not setting your business up for success in our content-driven world of digitally savvy consumers.”

The days of writing a press release and sending it on mass to journalists hoping for mainstream coverage are becoming less effective. Building your own digital PR strategy through media channels to focus more on the people you want to reach is delivering impressive results.

It’s not to say don’t write a press release or alert journalists or publications in your industry about a good story you may have for them. However, make the most of your online presence through great content to entice journalists, your target audience, influencers and other bloggers to your site. It’s all part of the inbound method where you entice people to take notice of your content rather than pushing it out upon them.

How Inbound PR can improve SEO

Inbound PR combines the techniques of traditional PR approaches – building relationships, identifying stories, creating news – with the approaches of inbound marketing. A benefit of inbound PR strategies is its boost to SEO. Gone are the days of dodgy black hat backlink tactics to show the popularity of your site by getting backlinks to irrelevant sites. Google technology and algorithms are much cleverer now and will penalise such underhanded tactics.

However, features of your brand and links to your website still play a vital role in improving your search visibility, that is the number of people able to find your business, products and services via the search engines. You need to build quality backlinks and raise your profile as an authoritative source, which is where digital PR shines. Inbound PR can help boost your SEO and profile through:

  • Promoting quality content.
  • Driving traffic to your website and owned media.
  • Building relationships with your brand and highly authoritative industry influencers, press publications and bloggers.
  • Create quality content and raise your profile through citations, mentions and links.

Make the most of co-citations

The co-citation algorithm is where Google is starting to look at what people are talking about on a page. For example, if public relations and Nadine McGrath appear in the same article, even if there’s not a single link if enough different sources cite the two together then that will carry authority. Google will start to see Nadine McGrath keeps coming up repeatedly with the words public relations so must be associated with public relations.

Google is constantly trying to discover what matters when someone is searching. Do elements like social signals, shares, mentions matter? It’s no longer just about linking strategies anymore. You need a social presence and want other people talking about you so Google can see you are credible. Anything Google can find and analyse using its crawlers then it will, including Twitter and public Facebook. It’s worth noting that Google+ is rated highest in search rankings. Make sure anything you publish is also on Google+.

How to build a valuable earned media strategy

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When people look to earned media they often have grand plans of contributing or being interviewed for top news sites or publications in their field. However, my advice is  start small and work your way up. Earned media means “earned” for a reason. Look first at getting in your local paper, radio or television news. Your local community is often where your target audience is, so it makes sense to try for coverage in this area. Once you establish your media profile locally, then look for bigger opportunities or industry media.  A good place to start is sites like SourceBottleResponse Source or Help a Reporter Out. Offer your knowledge and opinion by registering on sites like Quora or Savvy SME.

Have a good working website that reads well for people and is easy to navigate. If you’re content is boring or reads like you’re trying to cram it with keywords then chances are it won’t be interesting. All effective media strategy equals quality content plus network. If you have quality content, it may or may not get found. If you have quality content to share with a strong network, then that’s a solid formula for success. Start building your network.

Remember chasing a number one ranking for certain keywords doesn’t matter anymore because of personalisation. Nadine McGrath will come up when I search public relations not necessarily because I’m number one but because I have shared it so many times. Google is guessing Nadine McGrath is what I want to show up when I type in public relations. People connected to me who have seen my shares will see it higher up than other people who may not know Nadine McGrath.

Digital marketing manager for award-winning UK agency Impression Laura Hampton advises people to take a layered approach to their digital PR strategy with reactive and proactive techniques used side by side. Laura has written extensively on digital PR and spoken at numerous conferences including Brighton SEO, the UK’s largest search marketing conference.

What is the reactive and proactive PR technique?

A reactive PR technique means responding to what is happening within your business or topical issues in your industry that you can make a comment and might get coverage.

“On the reactive side, consider the use of Twitter hashtags like #journorequest and #PRrequest to find journalists looking for help with their stories,” Laura says.

Proactive PR is where creativity comes into play and businesses can start creating ‘news from nothing’.

“This means developing a strong understanding of your target publications and audience, to create content which suits their desires and therefore gains widespread high-quality coverage,” Laura says.

“For example, we wanted to achieve coverage across high authority publications in our industry and I found they often covered interview style content,” she says.

“I, therefore, put together an interview, which was filmed, and from which I was able to draw stories and subsequently gain coverage.”

Conclusion: Know your audience and PR goals

When developing a digital PR strategy do your research and consider your goals. Public relations is not a quick fix solution to gain more sales or clients but is about building up your credibility and influence. Public relations should be considered an essential component of any communications or marketing strategy for your brand. As Virgin founder Richard Branson says: “A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”