Link building is a long process, but HARO is a tool that can earn you high quality links from prominent media outlets for free.
How to Use HARO for Link Building
Author: Anastasiia Tatuiko, Content Specialist
Link building is undoubtedly one of the most powerful methods of building your website’s SEO authority. However, the process of finding and securing great quality backlinks is time-consuming and expensive.
One way to keep the costs down and gain powerful links is to invest your time in HARO or the Help a Reporter Out platform. All you need is your expertise and willingness to share valuable content.
In this article, we’ll show you how you can start to build links to your website using HARO.
What is HARO?
HARO (or Help A Reporter Out) is a platform that connects journalists with sources, meaning you. Your content is their fresh articles published on distinguished media outlets like Reuters and The New York Times.
HARO is a win-win situation for both parties: you get backlinks from legitimate websites, and journalists gain invaluable insights. HARO’s branded links direct traffic to your website and give an immense boost to your brand awareness.
How to Get Started With HARO?
As you read this article, you can split your screen and open the HARO platform in another window. Follow these three steps to get started:
1) Register as a Source
Click on “Sign Up” and fill out the necessary information, after which you should activate your account. When you log in, the site looks a bit different, but don’t fret; its treasure will reveal itself at certain hours. Treat it as a time-gated task.
If you decide to upgrade your account, you will have an opportunity to create your source profile as well.
2) Monitor Your Email Inbox
The HARO system may surprise you because you cannot simply log in and search for your perfect match of a topic and outlet. Instead, the platform announces fresh journalists’ requests at 5:35 AM, 12:35 PM, and 5:35 PM Eastern Time from Monday to Friday.
Here is how it will look:
I received more than a hundred queries. As you click on them, you’ll get a slightly longer description of what the journalist is looking for. Here’s what it looks like:
In the query summary, you get the:
- Journalists’ contact details
- Media Outlet
- Query topic
- Query requirements
3) Pitch Your Way Through
Finding your perfect match is half the job done. Journalists can also be picky when it comes to choosing a reliable source. Every query may have specific requirements and questions that you will need to fulfil. Prepare your pitch in a way that will spark an interest and ensure you a valuable link.
How to Use HARO for Link Building
We’ve established that HARO is a great tool for gaining brand awareness and quality links. So, how exactly can you secure your spot in a media outlet? There are some ways to be ahead of the competition, and here is how:
Choosing the Right Queries
Getting so many queries might be overwhelming, and at one point, you will be tempted to try your chances with quite a few of them.
Stop right there.
Before you start answering questions about future fashion trends while your business’s focus is on future home renovation trends, think twice. Ask yourself whether that query is relevant to your scope of work before pitching.
A rule of thumb is to focus on quality links and not quantity, even if those links have impressive metrics. This brings us to the next important factor – filters and alerts.
Set Up Filters & Alerts
To rank organically and appeal to your target audience, choose wisely and filter. With an upgraded HARO subscription, you can set an alert to match your exact keyword, e.g., SEO.
As you can see below, a free account allows you to subscribe only to a number of queries.
Having a paid account has its perks: you get to set your precise matches and SMS alerts (but only for US numbers).
The great thing about setting alerts is that you don’t have to trawl through hundreds of topics to find something that is relevant to you.
Now that you have narrowed your search, it’s time to decide whether an outlet is worth your time.
Choosing Relevant Domains
Once you find your perfect match, don’t rush all the way in. Instead, quickly investigate to understand whether you want your name to be published in a chosen outlet. You wouldn’t want your years of experience and success to be pasted next to the yellow press.
Scroll the target media outlet and see whether their content is in line with your scope of work. Next, paste a link into any SEO tool to check the quality of the website i.e. the domain authority, keyword visibility and traffic.
Here is an example of a quick analysis of a query from Digital Trends using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer tool:
The DR rating is 90 which suggests that the authority of this website is incredibly high, but there is one more thing left to check – the website’s topical relevance.
Looking at the main page of Digital Trends, it seems their main scope is reviewing devices like keyboards, tablets, laptops, etc. Ask yourself whether your target audience is based there and would truly be interested to learn more about the digital marketing trends of 2023 (a reference to the query above).
In short, make sure the query measures up to your expectations:
- The media outlet is relevant to your industry
- You can satisfy the guidelines
- You can reach out to your target audience
- The partnership will yield value to both parties
Writing the Perfect HARO Pitch
HARO journalists are spammed with responses daily. It goes without saying that you need to stand out. It doesn’t mean sending your responses multiple times but rather personalising them and writing in a clear and scannable way.
Here is how you can do it:
Work on Your Subject Line
As you would add a subject line to an email, do the same when sending a HARO response. This will help a journalist to identify the relevance of your query and prompt them to read your message.
Note that your subject line has to be concise. Typing the whole sentence won’t do any good. Instead, care to mention:
- Reference to HARO category
- Your job title
- Your expertise
- Your query subject
You are limited to using only punctuation marks, symbols, and letters, so try to make the most of them. Use brackets or parentheses and backslashes to separate your words.
Here are some of the examples:
- (Media Outlet) Your job title/Expertise + Query subject
- [HARO Response] Your Expertise + Query subject
- Your job title + Expertise + Query subject (Media outlet)
Experiment with your title to make it short and to the point. As you send hundreds of pitches, you will notice which ones get the highest responses.
Impress Them Before Pitching
The “Impress Them” part should be right after you introduce yourself with
Hello [Journalist’s name],
This is [Your name + job title] from [Company name].
To maximise your chances, consider adding your achievements:
- Interesting content that you’ve written i.e. books, articles etc
- Podcasts you’ve hosted or been on
- Work-related milestones
- Contribution to industry development
As always, keep it short and sweet, and don’t go into too much detail. The next step is crucial – the pitch.
Make Your Pitch Unique and Personal
Generating one template for all might not be a wise decision when it comes to HARO. A better approach is to be original and thorough.
Being original means citing yourself, your research, and your observations – even if they are contradictory to popular belief.
Being thorough means researching a journalist just like they would research you. Understanding journalists’ viewpoints will help you find their weak spots.
Keep in mind not to weaken your response with unnecessary information and grammar mistakes. Typos and poor grammar are red flags for journalists.
Proofread Your Response
Before sending your pitch, proofread it, or better ask someone else to edit it. As it often happens, we tend to overlook our mistakes. Make sure the spelling, grammar, and punctuation are on point.
Journalists are masters of word and editing; they are likely to spot mistakes and may become reluctant to choose you.
Don’t Neglect Guidelines and Requirements
There are two sets of rules to follow – ones from HARO and others from journalists. Let’s start with the former.
HARO doesn’t tolerate sources that break its rules. In order not to be marked as spam, do NOT:
- Bribe journalists for a link
- Offer your products or services
- Upload images and attachments (HARO doesn’t support files, you will need to link everything)
As for queries, remember to:
- Address the journalist by their names if possible
- Personalise your response rather than sending a pre-made template
- Follow the queries’ rules and answer what was asked only
This may sound contradictory to what we said before about taking your time to analyse the website BUT as soon as you get queries, you have to react immediately.
Journalists value their time as much as you do, so they will eventually stop opening new responses when the right source is found. Therefore, responding quickly is a big factor in getting linked.
HARO sends queries up to Friday afternoon when you are finishing work for the week.
Postponing HARO responses till Monday isn’t wise if the perfect match is left unopened in your email inbox. Some journalists set same-day deadlines and won’t bother checking late replies.
HARO is a waiting game that you may use to your advantage with a paid account. Focus on exact word matches and respond to those instantly. Prepare a template with an intro and sign-off that you can quickly fill out and edit.
Having yourself published through HARO is a big accomplishment, and you wouldn’t want to stop at it. Since you’ve got in touch with one of the journalists from a prominent media outlet, ideally, you would want to establish a long-term relationship with them. And maybe some of them will lead to further cooperation and become YOUR client.
- After fruitful cooperation, consider asking for a journalist’s personal email address.
- Since both of you work in the same field, consider sending a follow-up email to show your interest in future cooperation.
- Next time you share your content and want to get quality links, consider tagging journalists you’ve successfully worked with.
As you get more links from media outlets, you can build your database and evaluate which brings the most traffic to your landing page.
FAQs About HARO
Do You Have to Pay for HARO?
No, HARO offers a free and paid version with varying features. We recommend investing in a paid account as It offers more filters and alerts to make your link-building strategy easier and less time-consuming.
Are There Any Alternatives to HARO?
Yes, there are many alternatives to HARO. Here are some of them:
- Terkel: Unlike HARO, where quotes are taken, Terkel focuses on full articles. Journalists can fill out the gaps in their articles, while sources have an opportunity to share in-depth insights
- Qwoted: The platform’s users are verified; this means journalists can narrow their search by gender and location. For business owners, it means they have lower competition and can appear in a local media outlet.
- Help a B2B Writer: Sources get higher chances to be linked to and quoted on high-profile sites. Moreover, you can ask journalists to use a link to your homepage, your social media profile, or anywhere else.
The Bottom Line
HARO and its alternatives are great tools for generating high-quality backlinks. Although the start might be slow, with a bit of motivation and determination, you will soon get the result you’ve expected from the beginning of the HARO journey.
Can you solely focus on HARO to get good links? Definitely not! HARO can be a part of your strategy but not the only solution. Check out other tools that will benefit your long-term link-building future.
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