The role that digital PR plays in the context of SEO strategy has been thrust into the limelight following a tweet from Google’s John Meuller. For Google’s search advocate, digital PR should not be seen as some “spammy kind of link building” but instead, a critical part of search engine marketing.
Digital PR is certainly nothing new. We've been doing it for years and it has been a cornerstone of some of our award-winning work. The internet has long been an established tactic and tool for public relations activity, with much of that activity conducted in tandem with search marketing. But mention the term “digital PR” in a room full of search marketers, and there was historically a very good chance that you’d split opinion on the subject.
As the discipline of digital PR has grown to much greater prominence, so too has the discussion around it. Whilst for some, it is an important and effective way to achieve (amongst other things), greater brand prominence, relevancy and authority, others have associated it with the sort of “link building” activity that Google discourages.
Which is where John Mueller, a prominent figure in the world of Google and SEO, comes into the debate.
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.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) January 23, 2021
A prominent Google figure, going on record as describing digital PR as “just as critical as tech SEO”. Does that put the debate to bed? We asked our digital PR team for their take on Meuller’s comments.
Chloe Rushworth, Deputy PR Team Manager
“I’ve been ‘doing’ digital PR since time really began in the industry, spending 11 years of watching it evolve, putting my traditional agency skills to use and imparting that on our fantastic team. It’s not new, it’s just evolving. We’ve been on the pulse of this transition for many years, educating our clients and implementing the right strategies to impact SEO and brand combined.
“Digital PR should never be confused with link building. It’s also not to be confused with being fluffy. It’s strategic, it’s data-led, you’ve got to be always on and it’s immensely exciting. Nothing gives you a greater buzz than a reactive campaign that kills it! Most importantly, it’s imperative to any SEO strategy.
I’m excited for the future, it’s such a pivotal time in our industry. I’ve been waiting for it and we are here for it. For years, I’ve been working on campaigns that mix traditional comms tactics with digital data, the industry has just taken a while to catch up and to really see digital PR for its purpose. What a time to be alive, thank you John for speaking up and showcasing it’s importance.”
Megan Askam, Senior PR Campaign Manager
“Digital PR has developed massively over the past couple of years and it’s an exciting time to be working in the industry. We’re not just concentrating on the big shiny campaigns anymore, (although of course, they’ll always have their place and be needed) but our digital PR activity has transitioned into a more tactical always-on approach where we’re delivering consistent and reactive results for our clients. When done right, this can have a positive impact on SEO and help drive additional revenue for our clients.
“With so much noise on Twitter recently, it’s become more apparent how important it is to be as integrated as possible with our SEO teams, especially as the role of digital PR continues to grow. Links will always be a very important metric but there’s so many other factors that contribute to successful PR activity in 2021.”
Aimee Sutcliffe, Digital Comms Manager
“We see the impact of digital PR campaigns and ongoing newsjacking directly leading to spikes in analytics reports, so it’s super positive to hear search leaders hammering that message home too – cos it works.
“It’s genuinely exciting to be in a place right now where we can seamlessly plan with SEO and Content to get the best results for our clients, track it in one place and skip the spammy links. We’re still creative, we’re still chatty but PR as an industry has come a long way from being fluffy!”
Scott Malthouse, Head of PR
“Having worked in digital marketing for over 10 years, I’ve been part of the sea change in the way Google works and what its algorithm values. I've also been fortunate enough to work alongside some extremely talented technical SEO specialists and digital PR professionals who have always been at the bleeding edge of the SEO industry.
"Tech SEO, the nuts and bolts, will likely always be the key to building rankings. Without a solid technical foundation there’s little point in driving linking authority as it’s just never going to be as effective - you don’t build your house on foundations of sand. But with a robust digital PR strategy you’re not only focusing on gaining link equity, you’re helping push brand share of voice, attracting new customers and helping drive real ROI.
"But what this debate does highlight is the passion that those in our industry have about helping our clients succeed. Has there ever been a more exciting time to be doing digital PR? I personally don’t think so.”
Alex Aldrich, PR Campaign Manager
“Who would have thought the power of digital storytelling could have such a positive impact, just like tech SEO? We did, and so did John Mueller!
“His comment recognises and champions what we’ve been experiencing for years - the power of digital PR and its close roots to SEO. Not only will the right PR campaigns drive authoritative links and coverage, but they build brand awareness and completely reform company reputation in some cases.
“Not to get confused with link building, PR should be used in harmony with SEO, I've worked on various campaigns where both offerings have come together to drive amazing results. Nothing new to see here, just an evolving and exciting time in the digital PR world.”
Fatima Banglawala, Senior PR Campaign Executive
“It’s been great seeing Digital PR crop up in conversation this week, as we can often be the silent heroes of SEO. I’ve seen so many interpretations of John Mueller’s comments, but it all boils down to team work really.
“We’re digital and PR, a combination of connecting brands to consumers, and doing it effectively online. That’s why you’ll find digital PR teams working closely with all different marketing streams, including SEO, paid communications, content and design and development teams. An exciting time to be part of our industry.”
Amelia Evans, PR Campaign Executive
“When digital PR and SEO are used together effectively, not only can we drive organic rankings, but we can tangibly improve brand awareness, increase search traffic and boost conversion rates with the brand coverage, mentions and inferred links our activity creates.
“We know that the work we do is far more than just link-building campaigns. What we do makes an impact so it is great to see this important discussion in the digital marketing community and hopefully more brands will see the benefits of dedicating more of their marketing budget to digital PR. We’re excited to see where the industry goes.”
Sophie Barker, Senior PR Campaign Executive
“Digital PR is often undermined and seen as a very fluffy and easy-to-do tactic, when in actuality it genuinely needs an impressive skill set to generate the right results.
“As we see people discussing all the time and from our own case studies, digital PR can have a massive impact for clients, from increasing sales to site performance. But it takes strategic implementation and skill to do the work that we do, collectively as an agency. A good idea is only great if it is timely, newsworthy, strategic, well researched and robust. We are always switched on, constantly learning and devising. It’s great to see industry experts speak out about the impact of our work and its importance.”
Find out more about our approach to digital PR and what it can do to support your digital marketing strategy.