By Colin Cather, Creative Director of Oxford-based digital PR agency Bottle.
The purpose of PR (and digital PR) in the simplest version is to build brands. That brand-building has two dimensions – brand strength, and strength stature.
Authority and Brand Stature
‘Strength’ is about differentiation, distinctiveness, and relevance: standing out, getting noticed by the right people. ‘Stature’ is about renown and authority: becoming well-known, and well-regarded. Trusted.
Building that authority, when it came to PR and getting stories published in print, used to be both subtly implied, and at the same time crudely obvious.
Certain titles quite simply had ‘it’. Everyone knew. They’d been around forever, they had mastheads (or big brash redtops), they had famous journalists, they were on newsstands and your breakfast table, and the client’s breakfast table, and the client’s CEO’s breakfast table. They were fanned out on a glass-topped table in reception. They had readers and circulation.
Getting your stories into those titles was an air-punching-pick-up-the-phone-to-the-client-buy-an-armful-of-copies-and-whack-them-down-on-the-desk moment. That ‘thud factor’ was the signal of their weight, and gravitas, a PR success metric that went alongside the other winning metric of ‘blanket coverage’.
Authority in Digital PR
Today, with the vast majority of publishing (and readers) being online there’s no audible thud anymore. At best, there’s a ping in your inbox. Only now, you can actually measure the authority of an online publication. It’s got a number, and it’s called DA. Domain Authority. DA gives a simple score: It’s a 0-100 scale. It tries to predict how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (or more simply referred to as SERPs). Higher scores correspond to a greater ability to rank. High authority publishers include many of the same ‘mastheads’ as before, so the Guardian, Forbes, BBC, Mail Online, New York Times.
DA is a relative score: Domain Authority is a relative, comparative metric. It’s a ranking. Moz evaluates over 5 trillion pages and greater than that, 35 trillion links to inform Domain Authority.
DA can be too simple: beware the one-number-to-rule-them-all. It tells you something, it doesn’t tell you everything. Digital PR objectives are not all about search optimisation. Other things matter too, like whether your audience actually read that publication too. So, it depends on the brand and the strategy of which media verticals stories should appear in.
DA is not the only number: DA is the score that Moz assigns. They use their own algorithm to calculate it. Other similar tools – like Ahrefs and SEMRush – also assign authority scores to websites. But Moz DA has become the most established.
DA is a proxy: DA is NOT Google’s own score of authority. None of the authority-scores are. The only one which is Google’s score is called PageRank. And they don’t make that visible (anymore). So we use proxies.
DA gets shared: Your website’s own DA can increase when your story is published in other good DA sites – only if and when you get published with a link. A backlink. And most importantly a dofollow link. That’s why link building is often so important. Google didn’t invent links. Links (sort of) invented Google. Links pretty-much are the internet. Connections from one site to another. And because publishers don’t want to send you away, they can be reluctant to give links. That’s why the content – at the other end of the link – needs to add value to the published story. So that journalists want to link, and readers want to click that link.
DA changes: because authority grows (or shrinks). It’s one of the reasons why a relatively low DA publisher (perhaps because they are still in the infancy) can still be useful. Your story (hopefully) stays published, and your backlink (hopefully) stays intact. And as their DA grows, then so does the value of their shared authority, back to your website.
Hard-earned Earned Media
PR should be challenging. Landing good earned media should be hard-earned, right? Nothing is ever as simple as one measure, and that even measuring just ‘quality’ and ‘authority’ is not as straightforward as equating it to the DA of coverage.
But we also know it takes a hard-working, focused team, creating great stories that audiences want to read, and journalists want to publish. And that hard earned media is one of the important factors in increasing your brand’s online authority.