Backlinks are an important factor in how your website appears in search results. Building a high-quality, diversified backlink profile can help you gain favor with Google (and other search engines). HARO is an excellent tool to help you do just that.
With the latest SEO statistics telling us that 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find information, the power of rising up the search results can’t be overlooked. Backlinks are commonly cited as one of the top factors in boosting your search results.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is one such solution.
What is HARO?
HARO is a website where journalists source content from subject matter experts for inclusion in articles they’re working on. As a source, you can opt for the free option which sends you three emails per day with inquiries from reporters from categories in which you are a subject matter expert.
You can then pitch your expert answers to their inquiries in the hopes of gaining mentions and links on high-profile websites, while also gaining exposure for your brand.
There are also several paid tiers that offer more in-depth options and things like keyword alerts, additional profiles, and earlier notifications of new inquiries to ensure you get a jump on submitting your answers to queries.
I recommend, however, starting with the free version. This is enough for most small- to medium-sized organizations. As you grow and your content strategy and SEO strategy become more complex (and your budget becomes larger) you can opt for the paid options.
With this better understanding of HARO in hand, let’s dig into how you get started using HARO with a simple, step-by-step walkthrough of how you can get your account up and running and become an expert source for reporters.
How to get started using HARO
The first thing you need to do is setup your HARO account as a source. Setting up a HARO account is simple. Just follow these five steps.
Step #1 – Visit helpareporter.com to get started.
Step #2 – Click on the “sign up” link at the top right corner of the HARO website. This will redirect you to the signup form.
Step #3 – Submit the required information on the signup page. Fill out each field, confirm you are not a robot, and then sign up.
Step #4 – Finalize your account details and select the lists from which you wish to receive HARO inquiries in your inbox. I recommend starting by signing up for the Master HARO listed and 1-2 additional lists related to your area of expertise.
Step #5 – Check your inbox to ensure you’re receiving HARO emails and browse for inquires. The categories are highlighted in bold. You can then click on a particular inquiry that sounds interesting and the email should skip down to the full inquiry. More on what individual inquiries look like later.
Now that you’re set up, you can start browsing through inquires and submitting responses. Most people I talk to seem to have around a 10-15% success rate with their pitches. I find that to be the case for myself as well.
To increase your chances of success, I’ve put together some tips from things I’ve learn along the way that have worked for me as well as a number of my colleagues and other marketers out there executing their own organizations’ SEO and content strategies.
Let’s dive into a few ways you can pitch HARO reporters successfully.
How to pitch HARO reporters successfully
First, make sure you mark emails from HARO as “not spam” to be sure they show up in your inbox. If you aren’t receiving the emails, your efforts will be worthless.
Emails go out at 5:35 am, 12:35 pm, and 5:35 pm EST. Get in the habit of checking your emails around those times and respond quickly if you see an inquiry that makes sense.
Also, keep in mind that each pitch has a deadline. You will want to be sure to get your response in quickly. If you aren’t able to get the response in right away, you need to at least make sure to submit your answer prior to the deadline.
The image below is an example of what each individual inquiry looks like when you receive the emails from HARO. As you can see, each one has a specific deadline.
If you submit your response after that deadline, you will receive a notice from HARO that the inquiry has expired. So, make sure you stay on top of the HARO emails and respond as quickly as possible to increase your chances of success.
Prioritize the Right Sites
Most content creators and journalists on HARO will list the publication they’re working for (although some will keep it confidential). This gives you the opportunity to assess the quality of the site so you don’t waste time pitching for low-quality backlinks.
Before you spend time developing and submitting your pitch, make sure the publication you’re pitching is:
- Relevant to your audience
- Authoritative and high-quality
Making sure the publications you pitch have the qualities listed above ensures the backlinks and mentions you earn are high-quality, help drive eyeballs to your website, and make an impact on your business or blog.
To help you get started, here are 13 of the easiest sites to earn HARO links.
Craft an Appropriate Email Subject Line
The subject line you use in your email responses to HARO inquiries is critical. Don’t just use something like “Response to your HARO inquiry.” Trust me, I made that mistake when I first started using the tool, and I was lucky to get accepted maybe 2% of the time.
Once I began giving more thought to the subject line of my emails, my success rate increased significantly.
I’ve found that, when crafting the headline for your email response, the best chance at getting noticed is to use the following formula.
Subject: Your expertise + the inquiry title
For example, if the inquiry subject is “finance tips for parents with college students” and you are a financial advisor, craft a subject line such as the following:
“Experienced financial advisor with finance tips for parents with college students”
Don’t underestimate the power of a well-crafted headline. This can give a serious boost to your success.
Get to the Point and Highlight Important Items
It’s important to get straight to the point and make sure you include certain pieces of content in your pitches. To enhance your HARO response, follow these tips.
Use bold to make certain things like the pitch, your title, etc. stand out. I’ll share an example of this in just a bit.
Additionally, make sure to highlight your credentials and then add a URL to whatever you’d like to gain a link to somewhere within the email. I typically add one right below my credentials and make an ask for incorporating the link into the piece.
An unlinked mention does have some value to it in exposing you as a thought leader and gaining some brand recognition, but overall your goal should be to grab the thought leadership and recognition complete with a nice backlink.
In the email below, you can see that the focus is on letting the reporter know your intentions and then jumping into the pitch.
HARO Response Email Example
Shoot for One, But It’s Ok to Offer Two Quotes
The goal is to submit one complete quote. That said, if you have more than one quote, It is ok to drop multiple quotes into your response. This gives the journalists more options to choose from.
That said, only add two quotes if you really have something extra of true value to add and if the journalist doesn’t specifically state that they only want one. Failing to follow instructions, as we’ll look at in a bit, can lead to your email being ignored.
If you do add more than one quote, make sure to add a 1) and 2) to differentiate each quote. Also, make sure you let the reporter know in the sentence before that you are providing two quotes. This way, it’s clear that the answers may relate to the same question, but they are indeed separate thoughts.
Read HARO’s rules before getting started
The first thing you should do before writing your first response is to familiarize yourself with HARO’s rules. To do so, stop by this link or drop by the home page and click on the “I’m a Source” tab. HARO Rules
Never promote your products or services
Make sure you are only offering advice, not promotion. You can grab a link to your website when the author sites you as the source, but never specifically pitch a product in your quote unless the inquiry asks for you to do so.
You can pitch your expertise and brand name in the line offering your qualifications, but in your quote, focus on providing advice with the following characteristics:
- New insights into a popular subject or trend
- Actionable advice that readers can take and put to use
- Innovative solutions to a problem
- A unique perspective on a topic
Following the above bullets will help you get selected for inclusion in more articles. Pitching your products will get you shut out.
Follow the pitch instructions
Be sure to thoroughly read through each inquiry. While one inquiry may ask for you to submit a 3-4-sentence answer, another may be looking simply for your credentials and then will follow up about scheduling a phone interview. If you fail to reply according to instructions, you’re guaranteed to be denied.
Here are two examples to give you an idea of the differences. Keep in mind that the requirements can get far more complex and exact than this:
In the first example, the reporter is looking for responses in the form of a few sentences offering expert answers. In the second example, however, the reporter is looking to gain insight into the quality of your expertise with the goal of setting up a further conversation to talk through your answer.
Do Not Include Attachments
Any attachments you include with your answer will be scraped from the email before it winds up in the hands of the reporter. As such, you should never attach any supporting files to your responses.
If you do have supporting material, you can do one of two things.
- Include a link to any supporting material in your response
- Add a note that you have supporting material and that you are willing to send it over if the journalist feels it would be useful
How to benefit from earned quotes and links
So, now that you’re set up to find HARO success, what do you do when your quote does get accepted? The backlink you gain, in and of itself, does bring a lot of value. However, you can add a ton more value and exposure to that link if you take a few additional steps.
Let’s look at two steps you can take to increase the value of your HARO successes.
Set up Google Alerts for Brand Mentions
More often than not, reporters will be quite busy with multiple assignments at any given time. As a result, you will not always receive a notice that your quote was used.
To avoid missing out on opportunities to increase the reach of the mentions and backlinks you earn, you can set up Google Alerts.
To ensure you don’t miss out on mentions of your brand resulting from your HARO responses, follow these steps to set up Google Alerts.
Setting up Google Alerts will send you an alert directly to your email inbox whenever your brand is mentioned. It also allows you to uncover instances in which your brand may have been mentioned in a quote, but your link wasn’t included. In cases such as these, you can reach out to the website owner and inquire into the possibly of adding in the link after the fact.
Promote the Links and Quotes You Earn
Backlinks are hugely valuable in your SEO strategy. As such, the quality links you will gain through using HARO can really give your site a boost.
To gain even more value from the links you build through your HARO efforts, make sure to promote each link you win on your social media channels, especially the ones from high-profile websites.
Gaining links is great, but if you can grab one from a really high-profile site, you’ll want to pay extra attention to promoting it. Appearing as a subject matter expert on a high-profile site, such as Content Marketing Institute, Forbes, Inc, or the like, for example, can do a lot for your personal brand.
Here’s an example of a couple of links I gained in 2017 on Forbes.com, a site with a 93 Domain Authority, from one HARO response.
Links from high-quality sites like these add a ton of value, and when someone clicks on these types of links, that gives you a lot of quality referral traffic. To increase that traffic, you can publish posts containing your earned links on your social media channels.
Each time you gain a link, add that article to your social media calendar. As you send more people to that article, you will likely see a bump in the referral traffic to your website.
This is a positive factor when it comes to Google valuing your website in search results. It also helps your thought leadership reach further. So, be sure to do some serious promoting when you gain links.
Wrapping it up
HARO is a hugely valuable resource, and it’s a great way to give your brand and your content a boost. Like every other marketing tactic, however, it should be done with a strategy in place.
If you jump into HARO without a strong direction, you will likely be wasting your time sending in responses that reporters simply ignore.
If you do decide to take on the world of HARO, work with your team to develop a focused strategy. Make sure you track the links you gain on a spreadsheet or elsewhere and consider HARO a part of both your content and SEO strategies.
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