Digital PR vs. Link Building: Know The Difference

digital pr vs link building

PR vs. Link-building: A Guide to the Two Most Important Website Marketing Strategies

In the world of SEO, many people think that it's good on-page optimization, offsite link building, and PR (press mention) that put you in a good spot. 

And rightly so! PR (public relations) and link-building are very important online marketing strategies. 

Still, which one is more suitable for your goals? This post will help you understand when to use each strategy for your business website.

What is digital PR?

Digital PR is a way of telling your story in the digital world.

The old PR model was about press releases, news media, and one-way communications. Digital PR is about building relationships with media, influencers, and your audience.

With digital PR, you can create content that has a longer shelf-life than just a press release or news story. You can interact with your audience and respond to them directly on social media. Plus, you can build relationships and trust with journalists, so they’re more likely to cover your stories organically and positively when you do pitch them.

Here’s a brilliant example of Digital PR from an energy company showing the amount of CO2 emitted per Netflix series. 

Digital PR of save on energy called Streaming vs The Planet


It was inspired by a statistic revealing that video streaming for 30 minutes caused CO2 emissions of about 0.2 KGs.

Digital PR tactics

1. Data reports and research

Data reports and research help you create thought leadership, build credibility, and give your brand more authority in your industry. Client databases can provide you with insight into customer behaviors and buying trends.

For example, surveys are great if your campaign focuses on a particular niche or you like to create specific headlines. Have a look at this example from the jewelry brand Diamonds Factory:


You might also want to use data within the public domain that is readily available. 

Here’s one such example from that uses data from various reliable online sources to forecast which tourist hotspots were in jeopardy of losing due to rising sea levels: forecast which tourist hotspots were in jeopardy of losing due to rising sea levels


2. Media requests 

A media request refers to requesting an interview with a journalist, blogger, or other media outlet. It’s an invitation to discuss your product and share your story with the world.

Look at this media pitch from Rudi, COO of NetPositiveAgency. Here, Rudi leverages the client's proficiency and offers expert insights on the subject the reporter covers.

the media pitch from Rudi, COO of NetPositiveAgency


3. Creative campaigns 

To make a splash in the media, you need to think creatively about how you can reach your target audience. 

Here are some digital PR tactics that have worked well for others:

  • Creating an infographic to gain traction on social media and in the press.
  • Running a competition to engage with your audience and get them involved in your brand story.
  • Offering giveaways or prizes is another great way to engage with your audience, especially if they're relevant to their interests or hobbies. You can try offering tickets to an upcoming event or subscription boxes for subscribers.

For instance, the “Most Searched Car Brand 2020” PR Campaign by Compare The Market is creative and successful. It is a yearly campaign, and in this particular 2020 campaign, creatively reveals how Toyota had overthrown BMW.

“Most Searched Car Brand 2020” PR Campaign by Compare The Market


4. Newsjacking 

Newsjacking is a tactic marketers use to take advantage of current events. It's an effective way to drive traffic, build buzz and improve engagement.

Here are three ways you can newsjack in your marketing:

  • Creating content around breaking news stories
  • Responding to popular articles or videos related to your brand or industry
  • Monitoring social media for mentions of your brand or industry

Let’s see how Burger King took advantage of news involving its competitors by launching marketing content that talked about its McDonald-like products.

Not Big Mac's newsjack in marketing


5. Product PR 

Product PR is a form of digital PR that focuses on building brand awareness, promoting, and increasing the sales of a product or service. This can include blogs, social media posts, press releases, and more. 

A good example is WWF’s campaign that informs women’s magazine journalists about the launch of an innovative cream brand, 3200, containing tiger fat. 

The press release first described 3200’s innovation and then debunked it by saying that the product was not a brand of cream. Instead, it was several endangered tigers. 

This product PR garnered much interest from lifestyle bloggers and the media.

What is link building, and how does it work?

The primary purpose of link building is to increase the number of quality backlinks pointing to your website. Links from many other websites that point to yours are called backlinks. Google uses backlinks as a ranking signal, so the more high-quality backlinks you have, the more likely you'll rank well in search results for a given keyword.

There are many different types of link-building strategies, including

  • Creating content for other websites.
  • Including anchor text in blog posts or articles.
  • Building relationship-based links by getting in touch with other websites, journalists, and bloggers.
  • Linking from one's own site to other relevant sites.

PR vs. link-building: How different?

PR vs. link-building goals

The ultimate goal for both link building and digital PR for SEO is to gain links and increase the site’s authority. However, the methods and aims are dissimilar. 

PR aims to increase your brand or product exposure in the media. You can use this exposure to drive new business, but it’s not as effective as paid advertising or PPC ads in terms of conversions.

Link building is usually done to get backlinks to your website, which will increase its authority in Google’s eyes. The more authoritative your site is, the higher it ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), which means more organic traffic.

The approach

Digital PR drivers are keen on impressing people, compelling them to create things that people will naturally talk about. Link Builders or link-building agencies, on the other hand, are focused on the prize and try to impress Google to improve their rankings.

PR is about reaching out to journalists and bloggers to get coverage for your product or service. This can be done via press releases or by guest posting on popular blogs. PR is usually focused on generating awareness for your brand rather than driving revenue directly.

Link-building is about building links from other websites back to yours to increase your search engine ranking. There are various ways to do this, namely 

  • Writing content that others will want to link to naturally (like a blog post).
  • Buying sponsored links. 
  • Creating infographics that provide value for readers and encourage them to share the graphics with their friends.

The best way to use these tactics together is by doing both types of outreach at once:

  • Write a press release about something interesting currently happening in your industry 
  • Reach out to bloggers covering that topic regularly and ask if they’d like a quote or an interview with head honchos from your company.

The methods

The main difference between PR and link-building is that PR is a process of gaining editorial coverage while link-building aims at gaining links.

Public relations professionals use several tactics to secure editorial coverage, such as pitching story ideas to reporters, sending them press releases, or writing guest blogs for their websites. 

PR can also include:

  • Writing press releases about your new products or services for distribution via wire services like PR Newswire or Business Wire.
  • Sending out pitches for coverage on specific topics, such as new hires or product launches. (A pitch is simply an email asking someone if they'd like an exclusive story about something.)
  • Setting up interviews with reporters at trade publications or local TV stations for executives at your company.

Link-building is about getting other sites to link back to you. This can be done by writing articles and press releases and contacting bloggers and other webmasters. The more high-quality links your site gains, the better it will rank in search engines like Google.

A link-building campaign ends when all link KPIs are hit. However, you can call it a successful campaign only if the site improves its ranking, making it crucial to measure the value of link building.

The risks

A PR campaign can be a powerful way to raise awareness, drive traffic, and increase sales.

But it's also a risky game.

Some of the PR-related risks you should be aware of

  • Risks of exposure and defamation.
  • The risk of getting negative press coverage
  • Risks in SEO, such as the inability to meet the requirements of Google’s algorithm.
  • Misleading bot traffic.
  • Trademark infringement.

Link-building risks include:

  • Link value gets diluted by 301 redirect URL.
  • Link value is wasted on URLs that don’t exist.
  • There are duplicate URLs in Google’s index.
  • Link value gets spread thinly over two or more URLs.

When to use PR and link-building strategy?

The question of whether to use PR or a link-building strategy is one that many businesses are asking. The answer? It is based on your business goals and the stage at which you are in your business.

If you're just starting out, PR can be a great way to get some traction and get your name out there. It's also a transformational way to drive traffic to your website and increase visibility within your industry.

If you have already built up some traffic through organic search, then PR can help you convert those visitors into customers. PR is also useful when trying to build relationships with other companies in the industry. 

Link-building strategies are often more effective when combined together with other tactics, namely content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing. Link-building could be a better option if you seek more immediate results. 

Link-building strategy or PR? Decide which is right for you! 

Digital PR and link-building strategies are necessary for a successful marketing campaign. Both are valuable tools, but PR won't replace the need for good link building and vice versa. These two strategies offer different perspectives on bringing your company or client's story to the public sphere. 

Although both PR and backlinking require some outreach strategy, including pitching editors and getting found naturally on the search engines, it is essential to realize that each process will get you links differently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Michael Rarick is the CEO and Director of Sales at MediaBerry. His mission is to help SaaS companies grow their market share through white hat, relationship-based SEO. Connect with Michael below!

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