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Digital PR terminology demystified for new starters

Jake Gould

Jake Gould, Digital Copywriter & Researcher

November 6, 2022

Like most industries, Digital PR has its own terminology to get to grips with.  

If you’re new to the field, you might find some of the industry’s jargon and acronyms overwhelming — especially when everyone around you seems to know them already. 

We’ve all been junior to the industry (and its terminology) at some point, so we understand how confusing these words can be, which is why we created this glossary of terms for you to refer to as needed.

In this guide, you will find definitions for the following:

  1. Backlinks
  2. Follow links and nofollow links
  3. SERPs
  4. Ranking
  5. CMS
  6. B2B
  7. B2C
  8. Domain Authority
  9. KPI
  10. Outreach
  11. Press release
  12. GDPR
  13. Copywriting
  14. Keyword
  15. Meta Description
  16. Landing Page
  17. PPC
  18. RFP

Let’s get started…

1. Backlinks 

Backlinks are links from one website to a page on another website. They are a key measurement within SEO.

These backlinks work as ‘votes’ to signal whether content is valuable, credible or useful to help search engines such as Google to decide on how a page should rank.

As a Digital PR, this is likely to be a key measurement of success in your role when working with many brands. 

Backlinks also come in different forms — not all of them offer equal value. 

When a well-established, authoritative and/or relevant website links to your page, search engines are likely to consider that as a much more valuable ‘vote’ than a smaller and/or less topically relevant website’s backlink.

At Verve Search, we measure the quality and relevance of a backlink using our in-house Linkscore tool. This tool allows us to consider various metrics when measuring how valuable a particular backlink is that we earn for one of our clients.

The backlinks that Digital PRs will be most concerned with are editorial backlinks.

Editorial backlinks are organic (i.e. not paid for), and are usually earned from building high-quality, relevant content or providing quotes from a representative of a website that publishers are willing to link back to.

The founders of Google are both from academic backgrounds and incorporate backlinks to work In much the same way as academic citations. Citations help researchers understand what research fellow academics think is important. Backlinks help search engines to understand what pages other web users think are important.

2. Follow links and nofollow Links 

Follow links can help to increase the visibility of a website in Google and other search engines.

For example, an editorial ‘follow’ backlink from a top-tier home and garden magazine to a home renovation company’s website will be seen by search engines as a credible vote of quality, relevance and trustworthiness.

Nofollow links were introduced in 2005 for bloggers that were struggling to manage spam from people who were trying to build links in the comment sections of websites.

The nofollow attribute (rel=”nofollow”) tells search engines not to follow that specific link to another page or website, in other words: the source of the link does not endorse the website it is linking to.

Whether search engines do entirely ignore or attach no value whatsoever to nofollow links is a debate within the SEO industry. However, what we do know is that nofollow links can offer potential value through other means, such as diversifying a website’s link profile and driving user traffic from the source of the link.

3. SERPs

When you type anything into a search engine and hit enter, the search engine results page (SERP) is the list of web pages that appear in response to your search.

Typically, the higher you rank in the SERPs for a given term, the more likely a user is to click through to your site.

The latest figures from Backlinko (2022) show that 54.4% of clicks are generated by the top three search results in the SERPs, and that less than 1% of clicks (0.63%) go to results on the second page and beyond. 

4. Ranking

In SEO, ranking refers to where a website is positioned in the search results. 

There are a wide variety of factors that influence how high a page ranks in Google’s SERPs, including backlinks, relevancy to the search term, mobile friendliness and site speed.

There is plenty of misinformation as to what factors Google does consider to be ranking factors, and the extent to which each factor plays a part is not known.

Digital PRs play a key role in building backlinks, relevancy and authority for a client on particular topics that can be recognised by search engines as factors in order to increase a client’s rankings.

5. CMS 

CMS stands for content management system, which is a software application that allows users to create, edit and publish digital content, such as web pages and blog posts. 

The most popular CMS is WordPress, which currently powers an estimated 43% of all websites on the internet.

6. B2B 

B2B or business-to-business describes the exchange of services or products from one business to another.  

When brands like Nike sell its goods to retailers and wholesalers, that is an example of B2B eCommerce.  

A big brand who sells to businesses as well as consumers is Apple. They supply businesses with cloud storage and computer hardware through their products. 

In Digital PR, you will likely find yourself working with many B2B brands who are looking to increase their online visibility.

7. B2C

B2C or business-to-consumer is the business of selling products directly to customers, bypassing any third parties. 

Amazon is one of the best-known examples of a B2C business, with its famously low prices being made possible by the very nature of B2C commerce: cutting out the middleman.

Digital PR is one of the most effective methods for placing a B2C brand’s name in front of new online audiences via editorial backlinks and brand mentions.

8. Domain Authority 

Domain Authority (DA) is a score for a website that describes its relevance for a subject area or industry.

Ranging from a grade of one to 100, the DA scoring system was developed by Moz to try to predict how often a website is expected to rank in Google’s SERPs, with higher scores indicating a greater likelihood. 

This scoring system is not used by Google as a factor in deciding how to rank a website, but it provides a good indication of how your website is performing compared to its competitors.

The DA scoring algorithm takes numerous factors into account, including the total number of backlinks and the quality of backlinks.

9. KPI

This probably isn’t the first time you’ve seen the acronym KPI, but it might be the first time you’ve seen it explained.

KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. 

Simply put, a KPI is an indicator or measurement of performance and refers to a specific objective or series of objectives that you agree to measure over time. 

In digital PR, KPIs that help to evaluate the success of your work will typically include the number of backlinks or pieces of coverage achieved for a client, the percentage of backlinks that are follow vs nofollow, or the number of social shares that a campaign receives.

10. Outreach

In Digital PR, outreaching is the process of reaching out to journalists and other high-authority publishers to earn backlinks and brand mentions by telling them about content or other updates on behalf of a client.

In many cases, outreach is aimed at establishing authority and credibility for search terms by gaining backlinks to a website. Websites which gain authority online for specific, relevant keywords are likely to appear higher up in the SERPs.

Outreach typically sits within a wider pool of digital PR services, that are also concerned with building and managing a brand’s reputation, and incorporating other KPIs such as brand mentions, social shares and engagement, and referral traffic.

11. Press release 

Press releases, as we know them, have been used to inform journalists about events, products and services since the early 1900s.

Digital PRs will often use a press release format when contacting journalists and publishers.

A comprehensive press release is a useful medium to use when reaching out to a wider pool of similar journalists who do not need so many details of the content or story targeted to them individually.

For example, a press release containing key quotes and a topline summary from an exclusive interview with a FTSE 100 CEO in response to a recent change in the financial market would be useful for earning the attention of journalists who are covering the live business blogs of national newspapers.

12. GDPR

General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR, is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy in the EU. 

The UK’s Data Protection Act (2018) is an implementation of the EU’s GDPR laws. It states that everyone responsible for using personal data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’ — details of which can be found here.

PR involves sending press releases to media lists, which can include journalists, bloggers, reporters, editors, influencers, and many more. 

According to GDPR legislation, these lists should be kept securely, and the recipient’s information should not be disclosed to anyone. 

In some instances, press releases have been sent to purchased email lists. This violates GDPR since the recipients were unaware that they were gathered and sold.

GDPR also applies to processing data in the construction of a campaign. If digital PRs find themselves mishandling proprietary data from a client or personally identifiable information from a third-party website, this can risk violating GDPR laws.

13. Copywriting

Copywriters research, plan, and create written content that advertises a client’s products and services through various channels. 

Ads, blogs, emails, sales letters, technical documents, and website copy are all examples of this type of content. 

Copywriting is an essential part of the digital PR process. 

Whether it’s writing press-worthy quotes on behalf of clients, or highlighting the most newsworthy statistics in a creative campaign, the end result of digital PR relies on clear and accessible copy from start to finish.

14. Keyword

A keyword is a word or phrase that best represents the content on your page or website.  

If used as a search term, you’d want users to find your page first. So, optimising a web page with specific keywords that are likely to be searched for in relation to your content is an important part of SEO. 

Keywords are commonly used in online news headlines too. Most major digital publications even hire their own SEO editorial team to ensure that articles and headlines are optimised for web search queries to discover more easily.

In digital PR, using specific keywords in an email and its subject header, which are also used by a target publisher in their articles or headlines can help to sell in the relevancy of the content you are outreaching to them.

15. Meta description

If you search for something online, your search engine returns the search results it deems most relevant to your query.

A meta description is a snippet of text – no longer than 160 characters – that appears under each URL and title tag in the SERPs. Imagine it as a kind of elevator pitch to explain to users why they should choose your page over anyone else’s.

For a digital PR campaign, the meta description can be boosted by including relevant keywords and a call-to-action that encourages users or publishers to click on it or link to it as a source of information.

16. Landing Page

A landing page is a web page that a visitor arrives at from an email, advertisement, or other digital channel.  

If your landing page has succeeded in converting visitors into customers, the user will take the specific action that the page wants them to take. This action may include joining a mailing list or purchasing its products. 

Landing pages are designed to guide visitors toward a single action, unlike homepages and websites, which encourage exploration.

17. PPC

PPC means pay-per-click and it’s a crucial part of digital marketing and online advertising. 

PPC is used to drive traffic to websites, where advertisers pay a publisher when the ad is clicked on.

Outreach and digital PR relies on organic, earned media and backlinks. However, for many clients, PPC is an essential element of their broader online marketing strategy.

18. RFP

In digital PR, a request-for-proposal (RFP) will be submitted by a business to invite agencies to make a bid with their services to meet certain business needs.

An RFP can describe both the document and the process of meeting an RFP’s requirements.

The RFP document is organised into a formal questionnaire that allows the business invited those pitching to compare the responses and services of respondents in a like-for-like format.

This format is also useful for the bidders who are responding to the RFP as they can examine the precise needs of the business they are pitching to and assess how they can best meet them.

The RFP process broadly consists of these stages:

  1. The RFP request invite to a pool of agencies
  2. A Q&A session with select agencies
  3. RFP evaluation: ensuring pool of agencies have a chance of being selected
  4. Live pitch meetings
  5. Pitch evaluation: 
  6. Agency feedback session

You will encounter plenty more technical terminology and jargon than what’s in this list

Hopefully this list of definitions will go some way to helping you understand some of the regular terminology used in the digital PR industry.

However, over the course of your career, this list will barely scratch the surface of new terms that you’ll encounter.

Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for definitions of words, phrases and acronyms that you are unfamiliar with. There’s no such thing as a stupid question in this fast-paced, ever-changing world of digital PR.

If you choose to google a definition instead, then ensure the source you use is reliable. You can often gauge how reliable an online source is from its backlinks, domain authority and ranking in the SERPs 🙂

Further reading:

  1. Moz’s glossary of SEO terminology [1]
  2. Ahrefs’ guide to nofollow links [2]


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