The PR BlogDigital PRDigital-FirstDigital PR ≠ Link-Building

Digital PR ≠ Link-Building

You’re a digital PR professional, not an SEO expert.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Digital PR is not link-build­ing for SEO. 

The rap­id evol­u­tion of the inter­net and social media has trans­formed the com­mu­nic­a­tions industry — and PR pro­fes­sion­als must adapt. 

Some “digit­al PR” agen­cies have focused on prac­tices like link-build­ing, DA (domain author­ity) map­ping, and web­mas­ter outreach.

But this is SEO, not digit­al PR.

How should these dis­tinc­tions be made?

Here goes:

The Misguided Equation: Digital PR ≠ Link Building

PR pro­fes­sion­als used to wield their influ­ence through tra­di­tion­al media rela­tions, craft­ing press releases and pitch­ing stor­ies to news­pa­pers, radio, and television. 

But as the digit­al land­scape evolved, so did PR. Social media, blogs, pod­casts, and oth­er online chan­nels presen­ted new oppor­tun­it­ies for communication.

Digital PR emerged as an exten­sion of tra­di­tion­al PR, incor­por­at­ing new plat­forms and tactics. 

Unfortunately, some agen­cies began equat­ing digit­al PR with basic SEO prac­tices to pur­sue tan­gible res­ults, which many thought would be “easy wins.” 

Link build­ing itself can be an immensely power­ful prac­tice, but you must be a skilled SEO pro­fes­sion­al to cap­it­al­ise on the work fully.

Getting links is one thing.
Getting the right links is a little trick­i­er.
And optim­ising a site for a spe­cif­ic link-build­ing strategy?

You don’t need a PR expert. You need an SEO professional.

From Bad To Worse: The Digital Stagnation

How did we end up in this situation?

Many PR agen­cies thought link-build­ing would be an “easy-win” to bless their retain­ers with the juicy gift of continuity.

Link-build­ing in the state of today is low-tier work. I’m sorry if this hurts anyone’s feel­ings. Automated out­reach to web­mas­ters via scraped email addresses is easy to sell and set up — and many cli­ents don’t mind out­sourcing this tedi­ous work.

As a res­ult, sig­ni­fic­ant parts of the PR industry suf­fer from a back­lash: Many agen­cies have even opted out of “digit­al PR” alto­geth­er because they tried their hand at SEO — and failed.

Because if you’re not optim­ising apps and web­sites, the tar­gets for such link-build­ing activ­it­ies, you’re not doing stra­tegic work.

(Does any­one remem­ber all those pesky “cam­paign sites”?)

This has led to an unfor­tu­nate “digit­al stag­na­tion” in large sec­tions of the agency industry as agen­cies struggle to stay rel­ev­ant and valu­able to their clients.

Drowning the Business: The Link-Building Cesspool

The rise of search engines and their ever-chan­ging algorithms have made search engine optim­iz­a­tion (SEO) a top pri­or­ity for busi­nesses and PR professionals. 

In this race for high­er search rank­ings, link-build­ing emerged as a neces­sary tac­tic to boost a website’s authority.

Unfortunately, link-build­ing has attrac­ted less-than-ser­i­ous vendors, driv­ing prices down — and under­min­ing the practice’s cred­ib­il­ity. (And this describes the state of cur­rent affairs mildly.)

As a res­ult, many PR agen­cies fix­ated on link-build­ing to demon­strate their digit­al PR prowess to cli­ents. This tun­nel vis­ion led to a dis­pro­por­tion­ate focus on acquir­ing back­links, often at the expense of more found­a­tion­al and stra­tegic PR work.

Digital PR spe­cial­ists who excel in digit­al strategy, con­tent cre­ation, or influ­en­cer rela­tions may feel under­val­ued or over­looked in an industry that seems to pri­or­it­ise link-build­ing above all else.

The Self-Perpetuating Cycle: When Link Building Isn’t Enough

Many organ­iz­a­tions have suffered the con­sequences of this nar­row-minded link-build­ing approach to digit­al PR. 

For example, a well-known e‑commerce brand inves­ted heav­ily in link build­ing, believ­ing it would drive its online pres­ence and increase sales. However, they neg­lected oth­er crit­ic­al aspects of digit­al PR, such as con­tent cre­ation, influ­en­cer rela­tions, and social media engagement.

As a res­ult, the ini­tial burst of traffic rap­idly res­ul­ted in more people devel­op­ing unfa­vour­able rela­tion­ships with the brand. 

The PR industry’s mis­guided fix­a­tion on DA map­ping and link-build­ing cre­ates a self-per­petu­at­ing cycle that fur­ther hinders the growth of true digit­al PR. 

With the industry at a cross­roads, we must ask ourselves a simple but potent ques­tion: What is digit­al PR? 

Owning the Definition: Digital PR Capabilities

Digital PR Capabilities

As digit­al PR spe­cial­ists, we must cham­pi­on a com­pre­hens­ive under­stand­ing of digit­al PR and edu­cate our cli­ents, col­leagues, and the pub­lic about our dis­cip­line’s true scope and value.

Here’s a com­pre­hens­ive over­view of digit­al PR capabilities:

Digital Strategy

  • Digital Strategy
  • Digital Policy & Coworker Advocacy
  • Online Messaging & Online Spokespersons

Online Monitoring

  • Monitoring Strategy
  • Monitoring Reports
  • Monitoring Analysis & Issues Management

Content Management

  • Content Strategy
  • Content Creation
  • Content Promotion

Influencer Relations

  • Influencer Strategy
  • Influencer Mapping
  • Influencer Outreach

Inbound Communications

  • Inbound Strategy
  • Growth Hacking & Loop Design
  • Community Management

Social Media Management

  • Social Media Strategy
  • Social Media Planning
  • Social Media Publishing

Learn more: Digital PR ≠ Link-Building

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Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo has nothing to do with public relations, of course. I share for no other reason that I happen to enjoy photography. Call it an “ornamental distraction”—and a subtle reminder to appreciate nature.

The cover photo has


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