Q: How effective is digital PR at driving link building?

Forum White Hat SEO Q: How effective is digital PR at driving link building?

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    Hello folks,

    I’m currently in the process of exploring and understanding the various SEO levers and tactics that drive optimization and growth. I have a quick question about link building that I was hoping you could help me with.

    I’m curious to understand how effective is Digital PR at link building — i.e. sending out pitch emails to journalists and bloggers in order to get press coverage that links back to your site, how does it stack up against other link building tactics on a $ / backlink basis?

    Of course I understand that the $ / backlink measure would depend on how good the PR agent is at getting things published and how much DA the publisher has… But, assuming you’ve hired an experienced PR agent who has an extensive network of journalists and bloggers, how much does their work drive link building and growth?

    Appreciate any input you guys can provide!


    The $ / backlink of Digital PR is very high.

    But it gives you the best links with the biggest SEO impact. And the kind of links competitors cannot copy within a few days!

    And for any serious brand, Digital PR is more or less the only linkbuilding activity they can do without risking a Google penalty.

    Advice: Don’t hire a PR company. Hire an agency specialised on doing digital PR to not just get coverage but also backlinks.


    This is an interesting question. As an agency we’ve tried to hire someone in PR that has a network for link building, I feel like they don’t exist. Everyone in PR is focused on media business and doesn’t relate enough to links and an outreach plan for them. Also, the practice of pushing out a release on Prnewswire or something similar to earn links has faded away in recent years.

    Reality is, you want to create content for your client or yourself that is unique and link worthy, of its good enough for industry people to push out, reach out to them yourself.

    Someone else may know a PR agency that focuses on link building, I haven’t come across one in 5+ years.


    I started out as a link builder and now do digital PR and content marketing. It’s a lot of work but arguably the most effective form of link building.

    By creating assets to pitch to national news and high quality industry sources you can gain coverage that can be naturally seen by smaller sites and linked to by them.

    Plus, once you’ve done the first round of pitching you can use those assets for guest post topics as well.


    Great question. I used to head up SEO for one of the major digital PR firms out there.

    Most digital PR companies have little to no knowledge of the SEO value their output produces. Before I was hired by the PR firm I worked at, they were clueless about this, and they were getting serious results in terms of quantity and quality of referring domains linking to their clients’ sites.

    To give you some data points, upper level clients paid around $2.5k a month to the agency, and when I analysed media wins and the backlinks these clients earned from this, during a 12 month period some clients were bagging 50-70 referring domains, with DAs in the range of 60 to 95.

    The media winds were a mix of guest posts (and I mean legit thought leadership articles published on sites like Entrepreneur, not hacky spun content on crappy sites), company/product profiles, interviews, “expert comments” (where a client provides his/her two cents to a journo for a story), research releases, and press release write ups.

    One final point, and I get soooo frustrated by people in SEO saying this, so I’ll clarify here: yes issuing a press release via PRnewswire or similar service and getting it syndicated on a load of nonsense sites has little to no SEO value, but this is not the correct way to manage press release distribution for SEO.

    You need to build a list of news sites in your client’s niche (on average maybe 20-30 trade journals), then send the presser direct to each site via email (some will even provide a specific email address for pressers). Some charge a small fee, but most of these links are follow and will move the needle: the sites are super relevant to your clients niche, after all.

    PRnewswire is more for big brands that will be of interest to the mainstream press. So, for example, if your client is an online travel insurance broker who have just signed a new underwriter (a real world example of mine), ain’t NOBODY gonna care about that through a PR wire service, but those boring insurance industry news journals will: they need to fill up column inches.


    I’ve been doing this form of link building for a decade, managing hundreds of campaigns and writing processes for pretty much every major SEO publication.

    I now run my own agency doing this and I typically say during our sales meetings with new clients to be careful of any Digital PR or agency that communicates their ‘network’ as a strength.

    I personally did outreach for years before moving up, and had relationships with writers at well known publications but you are only ever as good as the story you have to share. My relationship with them doesn’t matter if the headline/data/asset I have isn’t good enough.

    If they feature any and everything I shared, the relationship might not be as organic as you’d like.

    As for impact, as most will know, these sorts of links and brand mentions are exponentially more valuable than old school tactics. However, their value is dependent. We have various clients experiencing triple digital growth, and beyond, but it depends on other factors like your content, architecture, technical foundation, etc. Especially in competitive niches and SERPs.

    They can be more valuable if you don’t have any links of this quality in your profile, but even more so if your competitors don’t. However, if you have no quality content on the site, why would it rank? Not saying that’s you, but hopefully paints the picture and relationship between all facets of SEO.

    Unfortunately, not a clear cut answer but I hope the logic helps.

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