If I told you there was a magical place where journalists were just waiting to link to you from authoritative websites, you'd be over the moon, right?
High quality backlinks are a luxury in modern SEO thanks to the ever-crowding market, so it's no doubt that building links is getting harder and harder.
HARO links have become one of the best ways to get high authority backlinks from established publications. These links often tick both boxes of being authoritative and sending you some referral traffic in the process.
In the eyes of search engines, that's a win win situation.
So what exactly is HARO and how can you utilize HARO as part of your SEO strategy?
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out. Every day, hundreds of thousands of new articles are published on media outlets and the journalists writing these articles are often looking for quotes and sources.
It's tough for a journalist who needs to meet deadlines to dig for sources every time, which is where HARO comes in.
Journalists submit their queries to HARO, and HARO then sends out an email digest to potential experts and sources. That could be you!
The beauty of HARO compared to other link building strategies is that it flips the whole link building paradigm on its head. Instead of you reaching out to journalists and high authority backlinks, HARO connects journalists to potential sources.
Signing up for HARO is free, so once you've done so, you'll receive digest of journalist queries three times every weekday: once at 5:35 AM, once at 12:35 PM, and once at 5:35 PM.
When you open the HARO emails, you'll see a bunch of queries split up into various categories.
Here's an example HARO email I received:
This email had a total of 108 HARO queries. As you can imagine, the potential is huge.
HARO emails are usually split into the following categories:
The number of relevant queries will vary from email to email, so you should just spend the 5-10 minutes it takes during the day to skim through the email and see if there are any HARO requests you can potentially respond to.
Every query will have the following info:
At the very top, you'll see the headline of the query, followed by the name of the reporter, the category, a dedicated HARO email to respond to, the name of the media outlet, and the deadline.
Below that, you'll see more details about the HARO query. Read this part carefully, as you'll want to answer the query as best as possible.
Finally, there is a requirements section where journalists usually specify what kind of people they're looking for responses from.
Now that you know that HARO is a great way to build backlinks from high authority publications, let's dive into what is an effective HARO SEO strategy.
As you probably saw from the various categories available, HARO outreach requires you to think very broadly in terms of your niche.
It's very rare that you'll get a 1:1 query for a very specific niche, so most of your outreach will need to be for shoulder niches.
So if you have a website about cameras, you can target all queries within the technology category.
Travel and lifestyle are also two very broad categories that you can pitch to.
Determining which are relevant link opportunities will be a very subjective process, so you'll just have to play it by ear and analyze each list of queries as it comes.
When you browse through the list of HARO queries, you'll be able to see which publication is asking for the pitch in parentheses next to the topic.
You should vet the queries you'll potentially respond to beforehand.
There's very little barrier to entry for publications to use HARO aside from a small fee, so it's not uncommon to see smaller sites submitting queries as well.
Not that it's a bad idea to get links from smaller relevant sites: you should just be aware that not all pitches come from large publications.
If you can get high quality links from sites like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc, or any of the other big news sites, then you should absolutely pitch to those queries.
Some queries are anonymous requests. With these, there's very little chance of obtaining backlinks, simply because you don't know where your quote will be used!
Other queries will state that the journalist is looking for sources for a TV spot or a print article. For these, you should see if this fits into your overall strategy.
If you're responding to smaller sites, do a quick check on the domain rating and the website's credibility to make sure the site is worth your time and effort.
Domain rating is not the end-all be-all, as all big sites start out small, so as long as it's relevant, you can certainly send a pitch.
In fact, smaller sites may accept your pitches more readily than larger publications, and who knows, maybe the small site you respond to today becomes a behemoth in the industry in 2 years!
The next step in successful HARO link building is crafting an effective pitch.
Because HARO is a free service, journalists probably receive a LOT of HARO responses.
That's why your response needs to stand out and blow everyone else's out of the water.
The key to effective HARO pitches is being unique.
If you're just regurgitating common knowledge in your HARO response, chances are, the journalist also knows the exact same thing and you don't have anything new to offer them for their content.
Journalists go through the HARO process to get new ideas and insights for their pieces. That's why you have to be very creative and have a new angle.
HARO requests have a deadline, and depending on how busy the journalist is, the deadlines can be very tight.
I've seen queries that have deadlines of just a few hours, so if you don't open the email fast enough, you may see that a prospective query's deadline has already passed by the time you get to it.
Another factor to consider is that most journalists using HARO often receive multiple replies for their queries. For this reason, the faster that you can reply, and the more unique your reply can be greatly increases the likelihood that your pitch will be used.
Since the HARO emails go out on a very set schedule, you can sit at your computer during those times to try and catch relevant queries as soon as they come in.
HARO backlinks don't come by from sending an email every now and then. The way to grab great links from big publications is to be very regular in your HARO strategy.
If you look at the sales pages of most HARO link building services, you'll see that their pricing is based on the links that they land.
You won't get a link for every query you respond to, so the only way to be successful is to be consistent.
At the start, it may seem like a fruitless endeavor, but it boils down to a numbers game. The more queries you can respond to, the more potential links you can get.
As relevant backlinks(the white hat links of 2022 and beyond) are more and more difficult to come by, HARO remains one of the best means of building links that are truly natural and don't violate Google's guidelines.
Here's an example query from HARO:
Notice how this is a really great query to respond to:
Spewing out the same information that can easily be found with a simple Google search will not land you any good backlinks.
One of the most significant factors in landing a HARO link is to provide a unique angle.
This is quite easy to do if you're already an expert in your field. However, that may not always be the case.
You can do three things:
This extra research will take 10-15 minutes more of your time, but will make a huge difference in your results.
A key part of the pitching process is to show journalists why you should be trusted and are an authority in your field.
A great HARO pitch starts by establishing your credibility in one or two lines.
If we were pitching a response on behalf of our own site, we'd start the email with something like this:
My name is Robert from PrestigeLinks (https://prestigelinks.com) and I've been been helping clients rank on page 1 for the past 10 years.
Utilize the first couple of sentences to show the journalist that you are someone worth listening to.
HARO queries are often quite lengthy and journalists may ask for multiple details. In that case, you have to make sure you check all the boxes when you craft your reply.
Sometimes, there's a qualifying detail that you need to focus on.
When you're trying to churn out multiple responses, it's easy to gloss over some things.
However, with HARO, the devil is in the details, so make sure that you cover all the bases of the question.
There may come a situation where a query is very relevant but you're unable to answer all of the questions.
If you have something really unique to offer, it's worth taking a shot and sending a calculated reply.
HARO's free account is enough to get started, but if you want to really power up your HARO link building strategy, you can sign up for the paid plan.
The first tier paid plan lets you get alerts when queries with a specific keyword come up.
This is especially useful when you're already swamped and don't want to miss out on very targeted queries.
You can also browse queries online instead of sifting through the email.
HARO will additionally let you create a profile that automatically gets inserted into your emails.
Every subsequent tier has more features, but in most cases, the basic paid plan($19 per month) will do the job.
Maybe you just don't have the time or energy to do all of this work by yourself. In that case, there are SEO agencies that offer a HARO link building service.
Reputed SEO agencies that use HARO have a proven track record of consistently delivering placements for their clients.
They'll usually display some of their best placements on the home page or somewhere prominent on the sales page.
Agencies that have landed placements on Forbes and the like know what they're doing because those journalists are usually the pickiest and receive the most responses.
Another thing to consider when shopping around for an agency is whether they use fixed pricing or per link pricing.
Both models have their pros and cons.
For example, agencies that offer fixed pricing are a good way to start with HARO link building if you don't have much of a budget.
You pay a set amount per month and that can land you any number of links.
With per link pricing, you'll be charged a set price for every category of link you receive, usually sorted by DR.
Some of these agencies also have a minimum threshold, so in case you receive a link with a DR lower than a certain number, the link is free.
Using HARO for link building is a great way to land multiple links every single month and grow your organic traffic.
It's not easy, but if you're consistent, you can land some really good links in the long run.
If you're not already doing it, it should definitely be a part of your link building repertoire.
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