While the actual terms may only differ slightly, there are big differences between traditional PR and digital PR. If you work in traditional PR and are looking to switch over to a digital sphere, or if you’re wondering what the value of traditional PR is in today’s modern world where businesses are becoming increasingly digital, this guide will help you understand where the differences lie.
Traditional PR: Offline visibility typically gained through print media such as newspapers.
Digital PR: Online visibility gained through working alongside Google to rank favourably. This can be done by using digital content (such as infographics) and gaining links on strong websites.
👥 What are the similarities?
Before examining the differences, it’s worth noting where these two industries cross over. Digital PR actually has a lot of similarities with traditional PR and ultimately the goal of both industries is the same – to secure relevant news-worthy placements in the public eye, in order to deliver high-level marketing opportunities. From pitching stories to journalists to writing engaging stories that will garner the right response, there’s not much difference in this regard to the original definition of public relations.
Of course, while the aims are the same, there are new metrics to consider if you’re working in digital PR. It’s no longer about landing a double spread in a newspaper – it’s now about rankings in the SERPs, click-through rates and the number of shares.
Digital PR isn’t just about building awareness of a brand, it’s also about the technical SEO elements of those placements. This is where digital PR takes favour, as it can be harder to track the numbers with a lot of traditional PR techniques as they’re more reliant on circulation figures and readership rates.
⛓️ Digital PR needs links
If you’re experienced in SEO, then the value of links will be common knowledge to you. But, for those working in more traditional industries, it’s important to note that this is one of the key areas that begins to distinguish differences between traditional and digital PR. Search algorithms focus heavily on the quality of links being directed to a site, so if you’re aiming to improve your position in search engine rankings, then link building will be an important factor. Remember though, this doesn’t mean you’ll gain SEO benefits from just any old links – high-quality, trusted publications are the only way to do this as too many poor-quality links will have a detrimental effect.
Google’s 2012 algorithm update by the name of Penguin changed the face of links for the SEO industry. Before, you could purchase a bunch of low-level links and reap the rewards. After Penguin, Google got wise to this trick and thousands of sites were hit with penalties for having poor links, dropping substantially in rankings overnight. High-level media placements were suddenly in huge demand, something that traditional PR companies had been doing the whole time.
There are several challenges for digital PR teams when it comes to gaining links. One is that some journalists will add a ‘nofollow’ code to their links, which tells Google to ignore the link equity that the site would otherwise gain from it. Another is the anchor text a journalist uses to present the link to the reader. Anchor text shouldn’t include any glaringly obvious keywords or focus on products, as this can appear unnatural to Google. Digital PRs need to consider this when they’re organising articles for potential PR placements.
⚡ Authority is paramount
Including a link is the first step, but the publication also matters; something that has always been of great importance in traditional PR as well. In digital PR, as with standard, getting the content in front of the right people is key to success to drum up interest and advertise in the right way. But, unlike traditional PR, there’s another factor at play here and that’s the authority of the domain. The higher the domain authority a site has, the better link equity it provides and the greater SEO benefit. Larger, more reputable publications, typically have higher domains, such as national newspapers, so these are the most valuable to digital PR industries – but more difficult to attain, as with traditional PR.
Reputation alone isn’t enough to gain a high domain authority. It’s something that takes years to achieve and some businesses are slower to switch to digitisation than others, so just because a business has been around for years, doesn’t guarantee that it will have a high domain authority. A media placement that puts a brand in front of a relevant audience might not be suitable from an SEO perspective, meaning PR teams need to establish the pros and cons of a website before building a relationship with it. Just like any other walk through life, quality is far more important than quantity here.
🎖️ Which method is best for your business?
We’ve looked at the core similarities and differences in how traditional and digital PR industries work, but there are still people who believe that link building is the only aspect of digital PR that matters. This isn’t necessarily true, as relevance above anything else is critical for the best results. Traditional PR doesn’t have to be seen as obsolete, as there’s still great value in building a brand through publishers and media outlets. If analysing metrics and success is of paramount importance, online techniques should be your core area of focus. But, if your team takes a more holistic approach to their marketing strategy, then a combination of digital and traditional PR might be challenging, but will be worth it.
To put it simply: Digital PR allows you to see a broader spectrum of results; you can receive a link that delivers direct exposure as well as referral traffic and assisted conversions. Traditional PR, however, relies heavily on one sole placement that may or may not attract customers. Mixing techniques from both on and offline industries will result in organic coverage and media placements in the right areas and in front of the right audiences, which will boost organic traffic, as well as resulting in speaker opportunities and awards.