Does landing backlinks from HARO media outlet websites increase your domain rating?

No really. HARO backlinks (alone) will not do much for your DR score.

I could end things here but I suppose you want to know why HARO links will not boost your DR and in order to do so, you will need to have an appreciation of how domain rating is calculated.

But first, if you’re new to this dark art called SEO, take a few moments to give yourself a leg up.

Pre-requisite SEO Knowledge

Full disclosure: a significant amount of my personal income is derived from selling you HARO link building. So keep this in mind as you read this.

Essentially, I believe that you will achieve the best results from link building when you diversify your link profile. That is, you do a bit of guest post outreach to secure backlinks, you do a bit of HARO to secure some referring domains, and you can do a bit of link injections.

But securing a guest post from an awesome website is not cheap. Even if you can land it free-of-charge, think of the time that you will need to sink into the task. Plus, pumping out quality content for others at scale is not sustainable or feasible. Similarly, the same applies to link injections. Even if you were successful in finding suitable web pages, you will still need to outreach and convince a website owner or manager to insert a link to your content.

HARO isn’t exactly cheap either. You can spend hours each week reading and responding to journalist requests and get nothing in return. This is what our team does every day; we monitor each newsletter, vet websites, identify opportunities for our clients, then write responses – it’s a big time investment if you want to do it properly.

The main reason why I believe HARO links are worthwhile is because the referring domains found on Help A Reporter Out are typically websites that are difficult to guest post on as a contributing author and near impossible to get a niche edit on (read: journalists tend to loathe SEOs). And if you don’t have an established relationship with the media outlet, it is going to cost you a lot more time to do this than responding to an expert source request.

Another strength of HARO link building is that it complements your other link building strategies. A disadvantage of HARO link building is that they may not assist in building topical relevance for your chosen keywords. However, by having high DR and trusted websites linking to you, your overall trust and authority against your competitors may better theirs. Therefore, to get the most out of HARO link building, invest in high quality links from industry-relevant websites.

A third reason why HARO should be a part of your link acquisition strategy is because it is relatively safe. In exchange for a (possible) link back to your website, you’re providing someone with value (i.e., expert insights). In addition to this, the anchor text tends to be branded instead of exact or partial match and the inclusion of the link usually looks natural. Therefore, if we were to compare this with other types of link acquisition, links earned via HARO are less risky.

And for those who prefer to operate in the grey, tier 2 PBN links.

Domain rating (commonly abbreviated to DR) is a proprietary metric created by SaaS company Ahrefs. Put simply (and lifted straight from this blog post of theirs), “DR shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile.”

It is not a linear scale, but rather, a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being the weakest ( – pictured above) and 100 being the strongest ( – pictured below). What this means is that the higher the DR-score, the more difficult it will be to increase it by a few points.

Therefore, a brand new website such as this one (at the time writing anyway), can increase its domain rating far quicker than a website with a DR score of 50-70 range (and even more so once you hit 80+).

I’m absolutely shit at maths so I highly recommend that you read Ahrefs’ CMO Tim Soulo explain it.

To put things simply, we calculate the DR of a given website the following way:

  1. Look at how many unique domains have at least 1 dofollow link to the target website;
  2. Take into account the DR values of those linking domains;
  3. Take into account how many unique domains each of those websites link to;
  4. Apply some math and coding magic to calculate “raw” DR scores;
  5. Plot these scores on a 0–100 scale (which is dynamic in nature and will “stretch” over time).

But the above information might be totally meaningless to you. So let’s reframe it in a much more actionable way:

  1. The second, third and subsequent links from the same website will not improve the DR of a target website;
  2. The more unique websites a site links to, the less “DR juice” it will transfer to each of them;
  3. If the website is only linking to you via nofollow links, it won’t increase your DR;
  4. If the linking website gets more backlinks and their DR increases, that will positively affect the DR of each website that they link to (with dofollow links).

Again, if you want to find out more, refer to their official documentation.

How can I increase my website’s DR?

In 2020, increasing your domain rating will cost you a lot of resources. Using Soulo’s description of how Ahrefs calculates DR (see above accordion), a website will need to acquire a sizeable number of unique referring domains from high-DR websites.

For a brand new website with a DR score of less than 10, scaling up to 30-40 is relatively simple. You can achieve this with the link building strategies described in this blog post.

For more established websites with a DR score of 50+, each incremental jump is going to get even more resource-intensive. That is, for each bump in domain rating, you will need to acquire more unique referring domains due to the logarithmic nature of the metric.

This is why buying expired/dropped domains with an existing link graph and 301 redirecting it to your target site continues to be a popular practice within the SEO community.


Google does things its own way and I doubt anyone outside of Google will ever know the exact mechanics of how the algorithm compares and judges web pages. I certainly don’t know.

So Why Do SEOs Keep Referring To DR?

In my opinion, DR is a vanity metric that should be one of many metrics that you draw a personal opinion from. Domain rating should never be the only metric that you use to make a decision.


An uncomfortable truth when it comes to SEO is that no one can for certain tell you why something works or does not work. We are not privy to how Google prioritizes web pages and this is what makes SEO such an interesting field.

Circling back to why DR is so commonly cited is because it is a data point. Domain rating can be used to quickly make a passing judgement on whether a target website or page is a suitable candidate for a link.

Most SEOs will agree that links matter and I’m of the opinion that getting a handful of backlinks from highly relevant websites will far outweigh hundreds of low quality websites.

DR matters because a higher DR target website, in theory, can pass more link juice to you when you get a backlink from them. This is because of how DR is calculated.

Think about it, would you rather get a link from a website that rarely links out to other websites or would you rather get a backlink from a website that will link to pretty much anyone?

Personally I choose the former.

The harder something is to get, the greater the reward – that’s my SEO philosophy.

For example, looking at the above screenshot – DR70 and an Ahref Rank >100,000 is enticing isn’t it?

I know many SEOs will get excited to get a backlink from this target website.

Here’s the thing – the domain rating of 70 doesn’t tell the whole story (just like the screenshot). Take a look at the following screenshot taken using Ahrefs for the same website.

What does this tell you?

Next, what websites does this target website link out to? What content is being published on the target website? Are they niche-specific and relevant to you or do they publish pretty much anything under the sun? What anchor text does the publisher allow? Do you see a high number of exact match anchors? And what pages receive the bulk of the traffic? Does the website even get any organic traffic?

Again, DR is just the first data point to inspect. I hope I have demonstrated that domain rating can be inflated and hacked. Just because a site has a high DR (anything with a DR score >50 is typically desired) does not mean it will give you any real world benefit in traffic and/or visibility for your chosen keyword(s). In some cases, it can do more damage than good ..

Similar to DR, domain authority is also a proprietary metric. DA, as it is commonly abbreviated to, is a search engine ranking score created by Moz.Unlike domain rank, domain authority (DA) starts from 1 and the scale goes up to 100. That is, the maximum DA a website can score is 100 and the lowest a website can score is 1. Taken directly from Moz, “websites with higher scores correspond to a greater ability to rank.”

Again, I’m going to copy and paste the exact words from Moz so that nothing is lost in translation:

“Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and the number of total links, into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing websites or tracking the “ranking strength” of a website over time.”If you want to know the specifics of how DA is measured and calculated, I highly recommend that you refer to the official documentation.

I like how on the Moz documentation it states the following: “Domain Authority is not a metric used by Google in determining search rankings and has no effect on the SERPs.”

Case closed.

Now that you know you shouldn’t blindly rely on either DR or DA, what then?

Google uses something called PageRank but how they measure this and the PageRank that a website or web page has is not something that we can access.

I highly recommend that you watch the following video to understand the concept of PageRank.

Great – we don’t know PageRank, DA is useless, and DR is just one tiny indicator. What now?

I’m always going to look at the following things when I’m judging the appropriateness of a target website:

  1. Traffic. I want to see real organic traffic. Why? Because if a website receives organic visitors this indicates that it has SERP visibility.
  2. Relevance. Does the target website offer a product/service or has visitors that overlap with mine? For example, there is no point having a website that is automotive focused link to my wedding photography website.
  3. Referring domains. What links does the target website have? Do they look like quality backlinks or do they look like typical guest post farms?
  4. What does it actually rank for? If a target website passes the initial organic traffic litmus test, I then dive into the keywords it ranks for. Just because a website gets organic traffic does not mean that the traffic it receives is relevant to my needs.

You can read more on my thoughts on how to judge a prospective target website in this blog post.

Let me make this clear – I am not an expert and I am certainly no self-anointed marketing guru. I’m just your usual business owner who has invested tons of time into learning, testing and measuring shit. I used to be a wedding photographer for ten years!

And when it comes to SEO, I believe that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all silver bullet. You just have to spend a few minutes scrolling through threads and their comments in SEO Facebooks to realize how much misinformation exists.

As I said, I’m 100% self-taught but my big break in SEO came when I joined an agency at the end of 2018. This is where I got to test even more SEO strategies and get access to a depth of knowledge from others in the field far more experienced than I.

I’ve worked on and ranked multiple sites with various degrees of success and these days, I run HARO Liaison – a done-for-you specialized link building service.

Before We Begin: Know Your Why

Everyone has an opinion when it comes to SEO. Everyone (myself included).

Most of us can, however, can agree that content, technical SEO and links are critical pillars. But put ten SEOs in a room and you’ll get ten different opinions on what they think moves the needle. And when it comes to links, types of links and how to acquire said links – we’re a divided bunch.

This is what makes SEO so fun and challenging at the same time. If you’re new to SEO or if you’re a technical SEO gun but don’t know much about off-page SEO, the majority of ‘advice’ you will come across will be inaccurate, inappropriate, or downright wrong.

Some people still use 10-year old metrics such as domain authority. Some people don’t even know what PageRank is. Then there are some who swear by web2.0s, comment links, and value quantity of backlinks over quality. There are those who preach earning links versus buying them. There are SEOs who don’t believe in link-building and then there is the majority – those who have no clue at all but want quick results.

I used to be one of those ..

Domain Rating (DR) and Domain Authority (DA) are metrics that a lot of people want to inflate. People on SEO focused Facebook groups regularly ask how they can quickly increase their DR. Whilst there is some merit in domain rating, it is just one data point – by itself DR is meaningless and those seeking to quickly increase their DR usually want to sell content placements to people who do not know any better. DA as a metric is so outdated and irrelevant that this is all I will say on the subject matter.

So when it comes to link building, what matters to you is having an understanding of why are you doing it and the outcomes you are seeking.

For example:

  • Is your website brand new? If so, why are you acquiring referring domains to it right now when it has zero organic traffic and social signals? Does it make sense for a brand new website to have backlinks yet minimal search traffic?
  • Do you want more referral traffic? If so, how will link building help you achieve your goal and what type of websites are going to give you the referral traffic you seek?
  • Are you link building because everyone else has told you to do so? If so, stop and gather your own data on relevant SERPs.
  • Are you building links because your competition is clearly winning in the SERPs because of their backlink graph? If so, what link building strategy are they pursuing and how much of it can you replicate? Similarly, how does your content and site structure and technical SEO compare to ranking websites? Should those be a higher priority than links right now?
  • Does your website lack authority? If so, where can you get links from that will increase your authority in your particular niche?

We all have our own reasons as to why we want links and we all want results quickly.

At HARO Liaison, we have a range of clients – some run affiliate websites, some are companies with 50+ staff, and the remainder are small business owners. Each one of our clients have their own reasons to why they want to acquire more unique referring domains. However, the onus is on you to be honest with yourself, your budget, and your timeline so that you can pair them with an appropriate strategy. Only then can you decide what course of action is best for you.

So now that I got that off my chest, let’s dive right into whether or not links earned through HARO outreach help move the DR needle.

Are HARO Backlinks Any Good For SEO Purposes?

On any given day, you will come across journalists who write for Finance Magnates, Marpipe,, Reader’s Digest, Medium, Oro, Lifney, HuffPost, Healthline, Cheapism, Business Insider, INSIDER, Livestrong, and American Express.

As you can see from this list, these media outlets cover a range of niches and websites with varying domain rating scores. You may be familiar with some of them already as they’re well-known brands or publications.

To answer the question, let’s take a look at them in more detail using Ahrefs Site Explorer.

1. Finance Magnates

Finance Magnates claims to be an independent news source on multi-asset trading news, research and events. It regularly covers topics on electronic trading, banking and various modalities of investing.

The good: As you can see from the above screenshot, Finance Magnates receives a decent amount of monthly organic traffic and has a DR score of 77. Similarly, the main sources of traffic original from the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. In terms of DR score and ‘link juice’, Finance Magnates has in excess of 8,000 dofollow referring domains with many coming from authority top-tier sites such as,,,,, and

The bad: They rarely link out to the expert sources they have quoted but they will allow dofollow links for sponsored content.

Verdict: This is an impressive site and could be worth pursuing if your goal is to get mentioned in press. However, if you’re after a backlink through contributing to HARO requests, this may not be the best use of your time.

2. Marpipe

Marpipe is a solution for digital advertisers to test and identify creatives that convert well so that you may scale those ads.

The good: Marpipe is regularly posting requests for anyone who has first-hand experience with digital marketing. It has a domain rating of 31 which isn’t too shabby if you’re lacking in referring domains. What it lacks in organic traffic, it has keywords that have some visibility. This suggests that this site has potential (or at least, does not have a penalty).

The bad: There isn’t a whole lot of DR juice to flow onto you. Marpipe doesn’t have a whole lot of referring domains to begin with (at the time of writing) and there are only a handful of juicy high DR sites. Plus, from the above screenshot from Ahrefs (see above), this website doesn’t get much organic traffic.

Verdict: It wouldn’t hurt to add Marpipe to your list of RDs, especially if you wish to build out your personal brand as a marketing director or marketing professional. However, don’t expect it to do much for you in the SERPs.

3. Healthline

I’d be very surprised if you haven’t heard of It has an Alexa ranking in the top 300 global sites. It is one of the top 150 websites visited in the United States (according to As shown in the below screenshot from Ahrefs, Healthline has a domain rating fo 91, over 100 million monthly organic visitors, and an impressive list of dofollow referring domains (>152,000).

The good: The organic traffic trajectory of this website is undeniable (see below screenshot). The good news is that does link out and the majority of its outbound links are dofollow. And from looking at the outgoing links, they are willing to link out to low DR websites. Some even look like HARO-style link wins.

The bad: It’s not easy scoring a link win on Healthline, especially via HARO. You or the client your represent will have to be a M.D. or board-certified nurse and the credentials to prove it.

Verdict: The DR juice that offers is lucrative but there’s no point responding to journalist requests unless you are a dietition, nutritionist, registered nurse, or medical pratitioner.

4. is a frequent source of information for business owners, entrepreneurs and marketers. It receives over a quarter of a million monthly organic visitors and has a DR of 85. It ranks 11,865th in the word according to

The good: There’s plenty of DR juice coming from high DR websites such as,,,, and nytimes. Staff and freelance writers at frequently request for expert sources quite. What this means for you is that you can usually come across at least one link opportunity from this DR85 website per fortnight. For SEOs and link-builders, you will be happy to hear that they do link out and they’re usually dofollow.

The bad: None. But your pitch has to be on-point as competition will be tough.

Verdict: is a website worth adding to your link graph. If you see an opportunity come up, respond to it ASAP if you or your client is a relevant expert source.

5. Lifney

Lifney is an affiliate marketing. You can easily spot this by the multiple ‘best X for Y’ articles they have on their homepage. There’s nothing wrong with websites that derive revenue from affiliate commissions. After all, many of our clients do the same thing as long as they deliver valuable insights to their audience, they’re deserving of their visibility.

Here’s a snapshot of according to Ahrefs.

The good: A domain rating of 40 isn’t too shabby- especially if you don’t have many backlinks yourself. Since is always seeking commentary, you can easily land this site as a referring domain. Plus, the requirements are pretty basic to meet.

The bad: First, let’s look at the organic traffic estimate from Ahrefs (see above). It seems suspiciously low for its domain rating score. Secondly, of its 139 referring domains, 91 are dofollow and of these, there aren’t any great RDs if I’m being completely honest with you. There are only 5 RDs with a DR score greater than 50. So there isn’t a whole lot of DR juice to spread around. Then factor in the overwhelming number of outgoing linked domains has and you pretty much will get no PageRank benefit at all.

Verdict: Being an easy win, this site will not do a whole lot for your SEO. But hey, it’s an easy win so take it if you need to. Whilst the organic traffic is lower than expected, at least it is receiving visitors from Google search. And what does this tell us?

6. HuffPost

HuffPost is a news aggregator and blog. It has both localized and international editions. When it was sold in 2011 to AOL for US$315 million, it had 30 million unique visitors. Staff writers and freelance writers regularly seek expert sources for HuffPost on HARO.

The good: HuffPost is a media giant. Most people in the United States, Canda, UK, and Australia will have heard of it. As you can see from the Ahrefs metrics, HuffPost has a domain rating of 91 and has over 20 million monthly organic visitors. According to, it is one of the top 1,000 websites in the world and over 60 percent of its visitors are based in Northern America (US + Canada). What makes this target site attractive is the potential DR juice you can score from a backlink. Based on Ahrefs Site Explorer, HuffPost has over 160,000 dofollow referring domains and just over 1,500 outgoing dofollow linked domains.

The bad: Landing a link win from HuffPost is not going to be easy. Like you, every other SEO is going to try to win a mention. You’ll really have to stand out from the competition if you want to get this lucrative win.

Verdict: This is one of the best referring domains you can potentially score from HARO. Each time you see HuffPost opportunity read the requirements carefully and if you’re a good fit, invest some serious time crafting a pitch that will make it stand out.

7. Business Insider

Similar to HuffPost, Business Insider is also a news aggregator and a blog and it covers a very diverse range of topics; from fitness to financial investing. According to its LinkedIn page, it has a network of sites that reaches 100 million unique monthly visitors. Compared to HuffPost, Business Insider has more referring domains, a higher DR score, and a lot more organic traffic. The best thing about getting a HARO link win from Business Insider is that your link is placed on most of the BI network.

The good: The difference in inbound links betwen DR91 and DR92 is subtantial as domain rating is not a linera measurement. And the Ahrefs metric echoes this story; Business Insider has avery healthy organic monthly visitors and close to half a biliion inbound referring domains. These include the likes of,,,,,,,, and But that’s not all, writers for Business Insider are frequently sourcing expert comments on HARO.

The bad: Not much to say to be honest. The ratio of inbound and outgoing domains is in the favour of a good transfer of DR juice. Nail the brief and you can add BI and its network of sites as referring domains.

Verdict: Just do it.

8. Livestrong connects visitors with tools information and a community of like-minded people who are seeking a healthy lifestyle. Since it covers topics that fall under medical advice, diet and fitness, falls under the YMYL category and as we all know, YMYL has been hit hard since August 2018.

The good: As you can see from the above screenshot taken from Ahrefs, has an enviable domain rating (89). It receives a decent amount of monthly organic traffic and has 84,000 dofollow referring domains coming into its site. These range from .com, .gov, .uk, .au, and .edu TLDs.

The bad: This is where looking at snapshot metrics fails; you should always dig a little deeper. Since we know is in the YMYL category and that Google has penalised many YMYL sites, let’s see how the traffic and visibility for the domain has fared. From the below screenshot we can see that organic traffic has been on a consistent downward trend since January 2018. But that’s not all – when links out, they tend to apply a nofollow meta tag. And as well all know, a nofollow link ain’t really worth our time.

Verdict: At first glance, appears to be a great referring domain. However, after some digging around, it is probably not worth your time to invest in responding to HARO request when all you will probably get is a nofollow backlink.

9. American Express

American Express needs no introduction but this subfolder – ‘Business Trends and Insights’ frequently seeks expert opinions and insights on HARO. As you can see from the below Ahrefs screenshot, the root domain has a DR score of 91 and the subfolder gets a good amount of monthly organic traffic.

The good: The DR score is impressive and there are over 16,000 dofollow inbound links with many of them from authoritative websites such as,,,, and (all are DR90+ websites). Best of all, writers will happily link out to extremely low-DR websites.

The bad: There are more outgoing dofollow links than incoming. According to Ahrefs, this particular subfolder on alone links out to 17,292 websites. Say goodbye to DR juice.

Verdict: Getting a backlink from American Express is unlikely to give you much link juice but saying that your business has been featured on can give you some serious street cred. Maybe.

10. CEO Blog Nation

Gresham runs a website dedicated at helping founders, entrepreneurs and business owners build their personal brand. It frequently publishes roundup posts seeking personal commentary.

The good: There’s a good amount of referring domains and digging deeper, there’s no shortage of dofollow backlinks from high DR sites. The best thing about is that you can usually land a DR71 link win as long as you answer the HARO requests well. According to Ahrefs, the majority of the organic traffic to comes from the United States.

The bad: This domain may have many high DR referring domains but the DR juice is spread extremely thin. On any given blog post, will link out to at least 10 websites and it publishes at least 1-2 blog articles per week. Secondly, with such a high domain rating you would expect to see more monthly organic traffic.

Verdict: If you’re chasing DR RDs, is a no-brainer to add to your list. It won’t, however, help you increase your DR as it has more outgoing links than incoming.

Can HARO Links Help Increase Your Domain Rating?

So where does this leave us?

From our sample of 10 websites, you should have a clearer picture of what you can expect from HARO links and why you cannot take DR at face value.

If you’re hoping to increase your DR score via HARO, I’ve got some bad news for you. From my experience, having a website such as Huffpost, Bustle, Forbes, CEO Blog Nation, Databox, and American Express will not really help your website jump in DR, especially if your website has already 150+ referring domains and a DR > 25. However, if your website is relatively new or has hardly any decent backlinks at all, you may see an incremental boost to your domain rating initially.

Most sites who use HARO to find expert sources will not give you a DR boost.

This is because the way Ahefs calculates DR – “The more unique websites a site links to, the less ‘DR juice’ it will transfer to each of them.”

Some of the links we get at HARO Liaison have up to 30+ dofollow outgoing links. And if the website consistently publishes new content with multiple outbound links, the ‘DR juice’ dilution problem is real.

However, it’s not all bad news.

For sites that have not had a whole lot of link building and have a low DR-score to begin with (i.e., <15), Help A Reporter Out may be a good starting point.

To illustrate, a client site has gotten some high DR wins from HARO in the past 6 months. These include:

  • (DR89)
  • (DR77)
  • (DR74)
  • (DR71)
  • (DR70)

Apart from HARO, we did no other forms of link building. Instead, we focused on getting the on-page content right and allocated some time towards HARO links.

Over the course of the past 5 months, the site has gone from a DR score of 8 to 11 so we did see an increase to its domain rating (remember that DR is a logarithmic scale). But more importantly, DR has never been important to our SEO strategy as our goal has been to increase the visibility of certain money pages for this client. Ad we have been able to do this primarily through on-page SEO. To us, the addition of high DR referring domains gives us a bit of an edge when it comes to our link graph. That is all.

So What Does This Mean For You?

HARO can give you some referring domains that would otherwise be very costly to acquire through other means. Only recently, a journalist outed an SEO on Twitter for asking for a link insert into an old article. This got the attention of one Gary Illyes – definitely not something you want.

If you are going to pursue HARO, do it for the right reasons.

If you are seeking to quickly boost your DR, don’t bother.

If you are hoping HARO links will be enough to help you rank, think again.

But if you have various link building strategies in play and have great content both on-page and off-page then HARO should definitely be part of your marketing mix because landing contextually relevant links on big media publications are not exactly easy to come by. If your competitors aren’t doing it, this is your competitive advantage to climb or maintain your position in the SERPs.

And if you’re willing to go grey there’s nothing stopping you from getting quality PBNs as tier 2 links (well, except for the ethics of building links to assets you do not own).

In Closing

Stop relying on vanity metrics such as DR and DA – they’re meaningless by themselves and don’t tell you the big picture.

If you believe in link building, don’t just go deep on one strategy (ie., don’t go all in with niche edits, don’t go all in with (paid) guest posts, don’t go all in with HARO).

If you think HARO is right for you, hit us up.

Scroll to Top