Pre-requisite Knowledge

HARO is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out. Owned by CISION, it is a sourcing platform that matches journalists, freelance writers and bloggers with expert sources.

Journalists are often time-poor and have multiple competing deadlines. To make their articles resonate with their audience, they seek to quote export sources on various topic subjects ranging from finances, health, lifestyle to politics.

This is where the ‘link-building’ aspect of HARO comes in. In return for providing an interesting and quote-worthy commentary, you may receive a do-follow link from where ever the article is published. In many cases, writers using HARO represent popular media publications such as Huffpost, Forbes, Mashable, Bustle, and CNBC.

Broadly speaking, there are three pillars of SEO.

  1. On-page SEO
  2. Technical SEO
  3. Off-page SEO

When done in combination, technical SEO moves the spider, content moves the user, and links move the SERPs.

Links are valuable assets for competitive searches. That is, when comparing two web pages with similar domain age, optimized technical SEO, and conversion-driven copywriting, the page with more authoritative backlinks tends to rank higher in the SERPs.

There are all sorts of link acquisition strategies and the best type of link building for you will depend on your goals, your budget and your timeline. On top of this, your appetite for risk will also determine how aggressive you will go with acquiring links to your website and its pages.

Here are a few common link building strategies used by SEOs:

  • Resource link-building
  • Editorial inserts (or niche edits)
  • Directory citations
  • Web2.0 links
  • Guest posting
  • Manual outreach
  • Sponsored content
  • Article directories
  • PBN links
  • Pitching stories to journalists
  • HARO / Sourcebottle
  • Infographic
  • Press releases
  • Fiverr (please don’t ever order links from Fiverr)
  • Reciprocal links

Recommended reading: What Makes A ‘Good Link’ (Actually) Good?

As soon as possible! This is because building links can take considerable resources and time. The earlier you can start link acquisition the better!

If you’re starting a brand new website, invest a hour or so creating social fortress links. That is, create a Facebook Page, LinkedIn company page and Twitter handle that is associated to your new brand. Create a Google My Business profile and start filling it out as you wait for your verification card. All these are essential links that most credible businesses and brands will have.

If you’ve been running a business for over a year and want to improve your visibility in the SERPs, link-building is probably something you should invest into.

Recommended reading: What Makes A ‘Good Link’ (Actually) Good?

There is no magic number and more links than your competitors should not be your primary objective. Instead, you should analyze what link acquisition strategy your competitors have to understand why they are ranking above you. Ahrefs and SEMrush are great premium tools to look at the backlink profile of any website.

I’m of the opinion that quality trumps quantity and when it comes to link-building, having a fewer number of high quality links from trusted referring domains will always be better than a high number of trash, spammy, and toxic links.

Recommended reading: What Makes A ‘Good Link’ (Actually) Good?

Signing up to HARO as a source is free. Anyone with a valid email address can create an account on HARO and respond to journalist callouts.

However, as you will discover, there is an art and science to pitching freelance writers and journalists and this is why we offer a done-for-you HARO link-building service.

This is what we charge:

All prices are in USD.

3x DR30-49 links | $450
3x DR50+ links | $750

10x DR30-49 links | $1,420
10x DR50+ links | $2,400

20x DR30-49 links | $2,700
20x DR50+ links | $3,900

Click here for full pricing and details.

Introduction (HARO) can be a great and ‘free’ way to earn hard-to-get backlinks from established and authoritative websites such as Mashable, The New York Times, CNBC, American Express, and Bustle. In this guide, you will understand how HARO fits into the jigsaw puzzle of SEO.

For those of you who are relatively new to SEO or link-building, please take a few moments to read the prerequisite material.

Recommended reading: What Makes A ‘Good Link’ (Actually) Good?

Advantages Of HARO SEO

It’s completely FREE! HARO was developed by CISION to help journalists and freelance writers find expert sources. Anyone can sign up for to HARO with a free account. There are premium accounts but for most business owners, marketing executives, or freelance SEO professionals, a free account is all you will need to earn major backlinks wins via HARO.

HARO is a great way to supplement your existing link acquisition strategy. Strictly speaking, when you’re responding to journalist queries, you are not actively link-building, but rather, sharing knowledge. Therefore, links from HARO can appear natural and should not trigger any spam warnings.

Backlinks often come from well-known websites which would normally be very difficult to get a backlink from. For example, pitching a content idea to a writer at American Express or CNBC is difficult unless you’re a PR professional with extensive contacts. For the average business owner or freelance SEO, getting in front of editorial decision-makers is not easy and this is what makes HARO so attractive.

Disadvantages Of Using HARO

Some publications may have a zero link-out policy – often you will not find out until you’ve already sunk considerable time into responding to the callout. For example, I spent an hour on the phone speaking to a freelance writer for a piece that was going to be published on Psychology Today. Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the interview when I asked if my business could be cited, I was told that the publisher had a no external link policy.

Backlinks tend to be homepage links.

Link wins are difficult to track. Of all the pitches we make only a very small percentage of journalists inform us that they have used our material. Therefore, for someone who does not have access to Ahrefs of Monitor Backlinks, it can be difficult to track HARO ROI. A workaround you can implement is to track your brand name in Google Alerts.

Referring domains may not be industry relevant to your business or brand.

Short deadlines – many of the big media publications have very tight deadlines. By the time you open the email, you may have only a matter of hours to craft a response. FYI, when you respond to a journalist past their deadline, you will be notified via email that your response was not successful. Therefore, to avoid wasting your time, check the deadline before responding to a callout.

Inability to choose desired anchor text.

Some earned links may have nofollow metatag. In some circles, the only desirable type of backlink are dofollow links. This is because some people believe that nofollow links do not pass any ‘link juice’. Personally, I think nofollow links are just as important as dofollow links.

Your link may be one of many outgoing links – this is especially the case for roundup style content pieces.

Why Using HARO Is Good For Your SEO

There is a concept of ‘authority’ in SEO whereby trust is a ranking factor for competitive SERPs.

When you think of academic papers, credibility of an argument can be based on the data and on the number of references cited. The more reputable references cited; the more trustworthy and plausible the paper/argument is.

The same principle apples to SEO.

In terms of organic search, remember that Google wants to deliver the most relevant and accurate solution to its user base. And one of the ways Google understands web pages at scale is by looking at its trust signals.

In short, the more credible links your website has from relevant and reputable sources, the more trustworthy your website is. What this means for your web pages is that pages with these links tend to before higher in the SERPs than pages without.

Recommended reading: Link Building Strategies That Don’t Work (And Ones That Do)

Therefore, every time you earn a backlink from HARO and gain a new unique referring domain (i.e., a website that has not linked out to you before), you’re strengthening the overall authority and trust signals of your website and internally link pages, and thus, the better chances of your web pages have at getting maximum visibility for your target keyword(s).

What Makes HARO Difficult?

It is difficult to know what the journalist is looking for. Many HARO queries do come with specific questions for you to answer. However, no matter how detailed or interesting you make your response, there is no telling whether your efforts will be rewarded.

It is a volume game – the more requests you answer, the higher the probability you can earn an online mention. As previously mentioned, there is no way of knowing whether you’re on the right track. Therefore, the combination of high volume and uncertainty makes HARO a difficult task for many to stick with across time.

There’s no room for personalization. According to 33 percent of journalists, lack of personalization is the #1 reasons why they reject pitches (even relevant ones). Bad timing comes in at a close second (32 percent). Ironically, when it comes to responding to HARO queries, personalization is a complete waste of time. This is because you’re not pitching a journalist with a new idea, but rather, answering their questions. Journalists want the answer quick and fast without any fluff – which sucks because you end up being a nameless commodity to them. The good news is that we have a few hacks that improve our odds of getting noticed by journalists when responding to HARO (and this is how we are able to earn quality mentions for our customers and their clients).

Some of the biggest link wins come from unsuspecting requests – this is perhaps my biggest frustration with HARO. When submitting a request for comments, a journalist does not have to disclose where their content is going to be published. That is, they have an option to mark their publication as ‘anonymous’. This is a double-edge sword as many freelance writers who are contracting for the biggest publishing giants do this to ensure only passionate experts respond. If they were to disclose that they are writing for a Forbes feature piece, they will get inundated by every SEO and their dog. At the same time, some less-than-desirable websites mark their requests as ‘anonymous’ and this can be frustrating if you happen to put in a lot of effort in crafting a detailed response in hope of being featured on a popular website.

So How Should You Use HARO For Your SEO?

Now that you have a better idea of the role links play in search engine optimization, you can begin to see how Help A Reporter Out can be a great resource and tool for building out your business’ organic visibility.

Recommended reading: What Makes A ‘Good Link’ (Actually) Good?

HARO should not be your only link building strategy. You should be exploring a mixture of link building campaigns (guest posting, niche edits, resource links paired with skyscraper outreach). HARO should be a supplement to your link building goals as the conversion rate is relatively low (5-19 percent). But compared to outreach blasts, HARO can yield better results as long as you do it properly.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. If you haven’t already, sign up as a source on HARO.
  2. Subscribe to the global newsletter.
  3. Setup appropriate Google Alerts to track HARO mentions.
  4. Start reading the newsletter (3 newsletters come out Monday – Friday).
  5. Take special note of deadlines.
  6. Make sure you are a relevant person to comment on the request.
  7. Write a catchy email subject line.
  8. Do not bother saying hi or asking how they are – get straight to the point.
  9. Respond with 2-3 sentences, each with a few supporting bullet points.
  10. Keep going (every newsletter has at least 1 potential query).
  11. Keep going.
  12. Make sure you keep going.
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