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- Earned media coverage is more valuable than ever for your website
- Digital PR is just as important as technical SEO
- A large volume of links is the goal, what’s stopping someone from picking the most newsworthy idea, even if it has nothing to do with your client?
In 2022, it’s impossible to deny the benefit that digital PR as a tactic has on an organic growth strategy. Earned media coverage is more valuable than ever for your website. You could be doing everything right for SEO, but if you’re not building links, you’re still missing out on the increased search visibility, organic traffic, and brand awareness that backlinks bring to your business.
Last year, Google’s John Mueller finally weighed in on digital PR as a tactic and confirmed what we’ve all known for a while now: that it’s just as important — if not more — as technical SEO.
I love some of the things I see from digital pr, it's a shame it often gets bucketed with the spammy kind of link building. It's just as critical as tech SEO, probably more so in many cases.
— johnmu (personal) updated for 2022 (@JohnMu) January 23, 2021
As digital PR is still a relatively “young industry” that’s only just sprouted up in the past 10 years, many PR pros have relied on “viral” campaigns to boost the backlink portfolio of their clients. These viral campaigns are often celebrated but are often created with little regard to how relevant, or “on-brand” those ideas really are.
After all, if a large volume of links is the goal, what’s stopping someone from picking the most newsworthy idea, even if it has nothing to do with your client?
In 2022, link volume is no longer the goal (or shouldn’t be)
While many PR pros’ were evaluating their success around this one key metric (link volume) others in the industry have suspected for a while now that the relevance of linking coverage is a key factor Google looks at when assigning “value” to links.
Once again, John Mueller has settled the debate about link volume vs link relevance, coming out in 2021 and saying that ‘the total number of links’ doesn’t matter at all.
Keep counting your links, if that makes you happy! It's good to have some source of pleasure nowadays. (It won't make the ranking algorithms happy though.)
— johnmu (personal) updated for 2022 (@JohnMu) February 21, 2021
This clarity has helped refocus the digital PR industry and forced PR pros to re-evaluate what metrics and KPIs we need to be focusing on to drive true organic growth.
It’s no longer enough to be ‘popular’ you also need to be relevant. Not just in terms of the publications you are targeting, but the keywords you want to rank for, audience interest, and most importantly, brand alignment to the story you are pitching in.
Google is continuously looking to become more intelligent through its use of machine learning and artificial intelligence. It wants to understand web content as a human, and therefore through its use of natural language understanding, it is likely to not just be looking at the anchor text of links in third-party articles, but it is also wanting to understand the wider context of the article that a brand is placed in.
How to ensure your link-building activity is relevant to your brand
The first steps to coming up with relevant content ideas for your digital PR campaign are to:
- understand your client, and
- understand your client’s audience and their needs.
Every good idea will flow from these two pillars.
If Google’s main objective is to show the best content to users through search, then your job is to create content that either supports your client’s product or service or supports their customers.
It is more important than ever to not only create relevant and on-brand content in the written form but also ensure that any supporting assets created (video, images, audio) are also relevant to the target keywords and services or products that the brand sells.
In addition, it’s important to create content that engages people, to drive further buzz and positive sentiment around the brand, all of which contribute to greater brand awareness and affinity among your potential customers.
How to measure the relevancy of your backlink profile
We now have the technology available to us to be able to understand and assign quantifiable metrics to the relevance of linking coverage (or indeed the relevance of any text-based content) – which allows us to be much more data-driven and targeted when developing digital PR, link creation activity and competitor and marketplace analysis.
For example, natural language understanding tools like Salient, measure the relevancy of both off-page and on-page content. Tools like this help to understand how a search engine is viewing a brand’s content, it not only enables us to identify the gaps in our client’s backlink profile.
At Journey Further, we use this proprietary tool to measure the relevancy of both off-page and on-page content for our clients.
We can use this tool to understand how a search engine is viewing a brand’s content, it not only enables us to identify the gaps in our client’s backlink profile but also aids us in optimizing its content on-site. The outcome of which – is a much more focused, effective, and measurable digital PR activity that is better aligned to SEO objectives and that delivers better ROI for clients.
Looking ahead to 2023
Looking ahead to 2023 and beyond, it’s likely that Google will only continue to develop better technology to understand web content.
All digital PR campaigns should reflect this, and where possible, be multi-faceted, not just relying on a single press release to get cut through. We need to be thinking as marketers, not just SEO practitioners, and ensure we are driving as much ROI as possible. Taking a brand plus performance approach to SEO and digital PR will therefore be key.
Beth Nunnington is the VP of Digital PR and Content Marketing at Journey Further, leading Digital PR strategy for the world’s leading brands. Her work has been featured in The Drum, PR Moment, and Prolific North. Find Beth on Twitter @BethNunnington.
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