What is Digital PR? And how do we Evaluate Success

If you are reading this post then you are here to discover “what is digital PR?” On the face of it the term digital PR is quite vague. After all what is digital? ‘Digital’ is not a sector and it is not a single technology. In many ways digital is just an enabler. Digital means everything and nothing.


Like many things in marketing, digital PR means a lot of different things to each practitioner.

We define digital PR as:

An online marketing strategy used by businesses to increase their online presence. E.g. Digital PR agencies liaising with journalists, bloggers and influencers and using editorial to gain high-quality backlinks within editorial or copy, with the core aim of improving Search Engine Optimisation and conversions.

Digital PR also helps build brand awareness and reputation.

Many people know it as SEO PR or digital PR outreach.

Digital PR Outcomes: links as a ranking factor

As you can see by this diagram that was produced by the online marketing tool Moz, there are a number of ways in which links can improve the search engine visibility of a site they link to:

  • Digital PR can improve the trust and authority of a website at the domain and page level by earning links that point to its website.
  • Digital PR can also help earn branded links and mentions to a website which in turn is a signal that a brand is known and reputable.
  • Digital PR can also help create social engagement that can further help acquire links, brand awareness and traffic to a site.

How do we measure the success of digital PR?

Links are effective and also very visible metrics. When we compare the ease of quantifying links to the challenges we face when measuring the true commercial impact of digital PR, we can see why links are turned to so much as a KPI.

We can all agree that links do need to be measured but they need to be accompanied by broader measurement and analysis of the wider benefits of PR.

There are also problems in how links are measured. Many people get this step wrong and it is important to put in place some best practice.

While we must not just focus on links, we should also make sure we are measuring link quality in the most effective way possible.

How to define the quality of links in a digital public relations campaign?

There are various tools to report on how “trusted” or “valuable links are. Follow links are the most valuable and these can be measured using software such as Majestic, Moz, Ahrefs and SEM Rush.

While follow links are the most valuable, nofollow links do have value and their value must be reported too.

Is the link authoritative? Authority metrics vary from tool to tool and multiple data sets are needed from Majestic, Ahrefs and Moz to get a fuller picture

Is the link from a new referring IP address?

Is the link on a new subnet? Syndication can result in hundreds of links but if they are from the same hosting environment then they are worth less.

Link density (how much of the text around your link are other links) matters.

Robots.txt files need to be checked to see if links are nofollowed at a domain level.

Affiliate and skim links need to be recognised and measured separately.

Please also be aware that link authority metrics can be gamed by spammers out to make a profit. Some level of critical assessment of a website needs to be taken into account in coordination with link metrics.

E.g. Does the website receive traffic? Does it also have some form of social media audience? You’ll be amazed at how many spammy sites are out there that look very plausible and have good link domain metrics.

How can we track search visibility as a result of SEO PR?

We must also measure visibility as part of a digital PR campaign which is designed to build online visibility.

While visibility is not as important as traffic or goals in analytics, visibility is an output that should be measured and evaluated.

For many, organic visibility is the main reason that digital PRs are targeted with earning links.

While there are many hypotheses as to how search engines work, the common consensus is still that, provided the onsite landing page content and technical SEO looked after, links are the number one ranking factor, although the Google algorithm is rich and takes on many other variables too.

There is a vast array of tools which can be used to track visibility.

Arguably the market leader right now is SEM Rush but there are countless other tools, such as SEOMonitor, Ahrefs, Woorank and many more.

Communications and links can have an impact upon link building and once keyword research is complete, those keywords can be tracked and, all other things being equal, digital PR can help drive visibility.

This visibility can be recorded within the AMEC framework.

Are there other ways that digital PR can benefit a business or brand?

In our view, the best way to measure digital PR is using web analytics. The majority of organisations use website analytics and the most commonly used platform is Google Analytics.

Most people have an awareness of analytics, but often only a cursory overview of analytics data is included in evaluation rather than a deep dive into goals, conversions and attribution. Digital PRs can use Google Analytics to track:

  • Page views
  • Unique users
  • Bounce rate
  • Annotations (to overlay data)
  • Organic traffic and direct traffic (digital PR is often a major contributor to this)
  • Referral traffic
  • Social media traffic
  • Brand awareness
  • Keyword data
  • Demographic data
  • PPC data (especially branded keyword data) Goals, events, ecommerce revenue

It is important to recognise that in the context of the AMEC framework, while traffic is an outcome, it is only an indicator of success. The only real outcomes in an analytics sense are goals, events and ecommerce revenue.

There are steps that can be taken to filter out paid traffic or to focus on certain sections of data using techniques like regular expressions or advanced segments.

More advanced practitioners might look to attribute traffic to PR by segmenting campaigns that a client is running, or even exporting the data into another database to statistically model the likelihood that PR coverage has been driving sales. This technique is called attribution modelling.

If there is a lack of clarity as to whether the goals and sales are attributable to a digital PR campaign or another source – for example if there is clear correlation, but causation is not so clear – then an attribution model can be used to identify clearer patterns between digital PR and real outcomes.

Web analytics is a vast subject area, but there are a number of Google resources available online to support learning and knowledge sharing:

  • Google’s Digital Garage is the most accessible of its courses and a good entry level resource.
  • Google has lots of free courses and its academy is particularly good.
  • There is also Google News Initiative for journalists and PR people.

What examples are there of Digital PR?

There are countless examples of digital PR and lots of case studies. As a starter for ten, why not read our case studies section. Our most recent case study is the award-winning Eau de New Car case study for Auto Trader. This campaign won Best Use of PR at the UK Search Awards.

Tags: Posted by

Leave a Reply

Get in touch

    Google Map Manchester
    Google Map London