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Digital PR terminology demystified for new starters

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]


Interested in our content marketing and digital PR services? Get in touch.

Why your content needs expert collaborators (and where to find them)

Producing newsworthy content for our clients means communicating a level of authority between industries that we (quite often) have no first-hand experience of working in and journalists who have years of experience covering sectors that our clients sit within.

Often, we can rely on client spokespeople to provide comments for the press and which analyse the work we produce. But content that is built to earn links can also cover topics and conversations that stretch beyond a client’s product while still remaining relevant for them to talk about, which means we often look further afield to find people who can offer valuable perspectives on our stories, or help us construct our content from the very beginning.

In my time at Verve Search, I’ve been lucky enough to work with world-renowned scientists and academics, artists, authors, photographers, gamers, and experts on more subjects than you can shake a stick at. All of these individuals and organisations have taken our stories from being a collection of interesting statistics or attractive pieces of content to something more newsworthy, which is brought to life by the authority behind their words.

How we work with collaborators depends largely on which gaps of authority exist within the production and PR strategy of each piece of content. Here are just some examples of how we’ve worked with expert collaborators in the past:

  • We’ve worked hand-in-hand with charities like Colour Blind Awareness and Student Minds to highlight important issues and sensitive subjects 
  • We’ve partnered with world-renowned academics and specialists to plan and execute our campaigns, like we did here with Harvard University for Babylon Health
  • We’ve tapped into the unique resources of subject specialists to create in-depth campaigns with data that is normally unavailable to the public. We worked with Ian Shirley (editor of Record Collector magazine’s ‘Rare Record Price Guide‘) to put together reams of imagery and information not found elsewhere about hugely valuable vinyl records
  • We’ve received valuable commentary from industry experts on our survey results and independent research. For Influencer Investors, our Paxful campaign about stock market guidance on TikTok, we asked financial planner and psychologist Dr. Brad Klontz for his expert analysis of our findings and created a valuable Q&A asset

The Outreach case for finding collaborators

One key indicator to any campaign’s success is how many high-quality and authoritative links it generates, and it should almost go without saying that journalists will appreciate a story being sent their way that is supported by reliable and authoritative experts within a relevant field. I spoke to Tonje, one of Verve Search’s super-talented Outreach Specialists, to ask about why the team finds it useful to lean on the expertise of external sources…

Q&A with Tonje Odegard, Outreach Specialist

Why is outreaching more successful when there’s an externally-sourced expert attached to the story?

First of all, in addition to a credible data source, journalists always need quotes in order to complete a classic news story or feature. If we can provide these from a relevant and credible expert or collaborator, it will save the journalist having to source these from elsewhere, increasing our chances of them using our content (and ultimately linking). Alongside having graphs and illustrations from the campaign, we’re essentially providing a one-stop shop for the journalist.  

Secondly, having expert commentary or quotes adds substance, credibility and gravity to the pitch, which again increases the chances of it being covered. For instance, when working with Babylon Health, we used expert commentary from the doctors there on several occasions in our campaigns and outreach. Overall, we secured links in high-punching publications such as The Telegraph, City AM, Time Out, Metro, New York Post, Houston Chronicle, Forbes, and Cosmopolitan as a result.

A screenshot of coverage we received from 'HELLO!' magazine that features the comments of the client's spokesperson.
The top-tier coverage we received featured guidance from a client spokesperson.

What kind of things do you think journalists are interested in when it comes to experts and collaborators? 

The clue is in the name; the purpose of experts and collaborators for journalists is exactly that – to provide their expertise on the subject the journalist is covering. They are an essential part of any news story or feature as it helps break up the article into a more digestible format for the reader as well as offer credibility. In essence, experts help explain the topic covered in a story.

Are expert Q&As useful to have on hand?

Q&As are a formidable way to convey information in a conversational tone that is easy for the journalist to turn into quotes – if they’re feeling really lazy, they can even copy and paste it entirely. But having the expert ready at hand to answer any additional follow-up questions is also key as many journalists want something unique or more specific to use in their article. 

Do you think journalists find campaigns more reliable when they are backed up with an external expert’s data and imagery rather than completely in-house assets?

Yes, I definitely believe so. Having an expert involved who is willing to endorse the campaign’s message demonstrates to the journalist that this is a legitimate and reliable source of information. If the expert comes from the client we are representing, there is a danger that the pitch can appear too commercial, but this will usually not be the case if the expert is relevant and credible – so always make sure they are. Using an external expert can often add more credibility.  

How important is it to journalists that a field expert provides commentary and context on independent research findings?

As mentioned above, it helps cement the credibility of the data and message of the campaign. Any good journalist would seek to back up claims made in their article and as such, they would try to hunt down a relevant person to comment on the findings. If we can present this person at the same time as pitching them the research, both us and the journalist have killed two birds in one stone. 

So, where should you begin?

Identify your needs

There are different ways you can incorporate an outside expert in your campaign. At what point they enter the production process depends on how best you think they’ll be able to contribute to the project. In my time at Verve, our collaborator partnerships have usually fallen into one of the following categories:

  • They comment on our in-house study. This means we’ve sourced our own data and broken it down into key findings. We may have run a study and come to some interesting conclusions, or collected a huge variety of new information via freedom of information requests. Either way, we’re looking for an authority on whatever the subject may be to give us some all-important context to what we’ve found out. We want them to answer some burning questions that have arisen because of surprising or even predictable discoveries we’ve made – answers that journalists love to feature and readers instantly trust. Ask yourself whether you need someone to answer your burning questions. 
  • They advise us on a methodology and provide commentary where necessary. Sometimes we need collaborators to help shape the building blocks of our campaign. It means we have the story in our mind, but we need specialist guidance on how to execute something that needs an expert eye. We ran a campaign called Understanding Dementia and knew that the subject needed an official figure on dementia to ensure our campaign handled the subject with the sensitivity and authority it deserved. We worked with a leading dementia expert to give us her vision for how our planned games and puzzles could successfully emulate the confusion and frustration associated with the condition. We’ve also worked in this capacity with world-renowned academics and specialists who’ve advised on our campaigns at early junctions, like planning survey questions, helping shape extra angles to our research. Ask yourself whether you need expert guidance to build your project.
A screenshot of our puzzle game 'Understanding Dementia' for Babylon Health. The screen shows how we incorporated the expert's comments into the campaign results page.
We incorporated our expert’s comments into the Understanding Dementia puzzle game to create a narrative that puts the user’s experience into context.
  • They lend us resources that are otherwise not openly accessible. Some campaigns rely on the knowledge and resources of industry professionals. We’ve worked with all sorts of individuals and companies over the years that have given us their time and expertise to help create a more valuable piece of content for the news landscape. For example, Wheeler Dealer for GoCompare saw us partner up with an expert on vintage toy cars who gave us lots of specialist data and imagery…
Wheeler Dealer used the data and imagery provided by an expert on vintage toy cars.

…and we tasked the talented 3D-modelling artists at 3DLines with creating fantastic photorealistic mock-ups of familiar TV and movie rooms remade for the modern-day. Ask yourself whether your campaign needs the unique resources of an interesting individual or company.

But where can you find the right expert?

Where to find an expert

  1. Use free find-an-expert search engines 

Some of the best universities in the world have find-an-expert indices that list the academics and experts open to helping out the media. Here are some key ones: 

You can usually search by field of study to help you track down the best person for your needs. If you’re going down the academic route, you should also try googling scientific studies and research institutions relevant to your subject to discover their authors. Why not try reaching out to them? We went to Professor Daniel Russell, a leading loneliness expert who developed the globally recognised UCLA Loneliness Scale, for guidance on our loneliness project with former client Echo. 

A screenshot of an excerpt from the News Guardian's coverage of our campaign on loneliness for our client Echo. The expert Daniel Russell is referenced in the excerpt.
  1. Use social media 

One of the best resources for widening your network is Twitter. Search out highly followed and influential people on the subject you’re working on. We contacted Matt Huxley, an esports lecturer at Staffordshire University, through Twitter, and he agreed to help us out with our project Esports Elites for Casumo. Matt had a large social media following and was used to being featured in the media, so we knew he was a fantastic authority to comment on our findings. 

  1. Find a book 

Don’t worry, you won’t need a library card for this one! We’ve found expert collaborators by searching for books around our subject of interest. If you can track down and contact the authors or researchers (perhaps through their personal websites, social media, or publishers), you might just find that they’ll be really enthusiastic about your project. 

In the past, Amazon has proved to be a useful resource for finding the right books. We used this method to find an expert to help us answer some questions for our project Crep Check for Farfetch. Crep Check is a database of the most valuable trainers in the world, and we included rankings for the shoes that have appreciated the most in value from their original retail price. We knew that finding a top sneaker expert and having them answer some questions would give journalists an extra angle to feature, so we searched online for experts and found one in the form of Mathieu le Maux, author of ‘1000 Sneakers: A Guide to the World’s Greatest Kicks, from Sport to Street’.

We sent Mathieu a message over Twitter and it didn’t take long for him to get back to us. The result? GQ magazine and the Daily Mail featured some of his comments prominently:

A screenshot of coverage we received from GQ magazine that features the comments of an expert we used for a campaign.
A screenshot of coverage we received from the Mail Online that features the comments of an expert we used for a campaign.

We used this method again to search for a reputable source of data, high-quality imagery, and expert commentary for Record Value, our project with Australian life insurance company NobleOak. Our answer came in the form of Ian Shirley, editor of ‘The Rare Record Price Guide’. Ian was the perfect fit for our campaign and gave us plenty of resources to work with as well as giving us valuable information about each of the 75 records in the final campaign. 

A screenshot of coverage we received from NME magazine that references an expert we used for a campaign.
  1. Find a charity

We’ve partnered with lots of charities over the years and the benefits of attaching the campaign to the name of a reputable and established charity are numerous. 

With Understanding Dementia, our Babylon Health campaign that attempted to reflect the effects of dementia with a series of frustrating games and puzzles, we partnered with Professor June Andrews, a renowned dementia expert to help us out.

June provided guidance on what effects we could attempt to reflect with our games, plus commentary on our games to help the user understand what aspects of dementia they were experiencing. 

A screenshot of coverage we received from the Mail Online that features the comments of an expert we used for a campaign.

We partnered with two mental health charities for another project with Babylon Health called Student Stress. Both charities appealed in person and on their Twitter and social media accounts for students to tell us what stress felt like in their own words. We received lots of evocative descriptions of mental health from students all around the world, and our talented designers went to work illustrating them. 

  1. Keep up with the news

We’ve secured collaborators in the past by reaching out to them as a result of seeing their work in the news. It’s a surefire way to find names that are trusted by journalists as an authority on a subject. 

And finally…

When should you budget for expert collaborators?

It’s always worth keeping a budget in mind if you expect to ask a collaborator to do a large amount of work for you.

Before you reach out to someone, ask yourself:

  1. How much of their time are we asking them to take up?
  2. Are they just doing their day job, but for us? If so, they’ll expect to be paid.
  3. Is this specific expert absolutely vital to the story earning coverage? If they require a fee, it’s worth thinking about putting aside some of your budget to cover it.

Sometimes, budgets will be tight. In many cases, you’ll be able to get a collaborator on board for free just by outlining the (credited) coverage they themselves will receive by taking part in your project. For a lot of people, this is sometimes compensation enough for being involved, especially if we know we’re presenting them with fascinating new insights around their specialist topic.

Keep your communication respectful of your collaborator’s energy and time and you’ll be able to build a creative partnership that will always be useful to have on hand.

Further reading:

  • How to enhance your Digital PR outreach with expert quotes [1]
  • 20 examples of great quotes for your press release [2]

Interested in our content marketing and digital PR services? Get in touch.