HARO, short for 'Help A Reporter Out', is a service that links journalists with sources. In this article I’ll show you how to use HARO to get backlinks from high domain authority websites.
The idea behind HARO is that journalists are frequently racing to meet deadlines and they often need quotes to use in their articles at very short notice.
And that’s where you come in. When you register at HARO as a source, you can respond to journalists’ queries and get linked to from their websites.
What sets HARO apart from other link-building strategies is that the queries come to you. Instead of cold pitching people who are probably not interested in hearing from you, these are people who are actively looking for content to include on their websites. And that’s what makes HARO such a powerful link-building strategy.
Although HARO started out as a service for journalists working in the media, in practice most of the people posting queries on HARO are content marketers and website owners. So the word ‘Journalist’ when used on HARO simply refers to someone who posts a query as opposed to someone who answers a query.
How To Use HARO: Getting Started
Here’s how to start using HARO to get backlinks.
When you first visit HARO you’ll see an option to sign up as a Source or as a Journalist:
Sign up as a source. Then choose your preferences for the type of query that is relevant to you.
Once you have signed up, you’ll receive emails three times a day Monday to Friday at the same time each day: 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. ET.
You can choose the Master HARO, in which case you’ll receive all HARO queries, or you can choose to receive individual categories.
In the HARO emails you’ll see a list of the queries, with the title of the query followed by the name of the publication:
The Master HARO emails are divided into categories, such as Business & Finance, Biotech & Healthcare, Lifestyle, High Tech, Lifestyle & Fitness, etc.
Which HARO Queries Should You Respond To?
There are four key questions you need to ask yourself when deciding whether to respond to HARO query:
- Do I have something useful to share on that topic?
- Is the topic within my website niche or closely related?
- Do I feel motivated to respond?
- Do I fit the journalists’ requirements?
Always read the requirements
Always read the requirements carefully. For example, if the topic is SEO and the poster only wants responses from people who work in marketing agencies, there would be no point responding if you are a solopreneur or a lone blogger. Or the topic might be diet and you might have some great ideas, but if the poster stipulates ‘qualified dieticians only’ and you aren't a qualified dietician, then there would be no point responding.
Is the query within your niche?
Another issue is whether the query is within your niche.
Don’t respond to queries that are completely outside your niche, because backlinks from those sites won’t help you. For example, if you run a fashion blog and you contribute a recipe to a cooking site, that backlink is not going to build your domain authority.
But on the other hand, if you only respond to queries that are strictly within your niche, you may be limiting yourself to such a small pool of queries that you never get the volume you need.
To a great extent HARO is a numbers game and you need to be responding to a certain minimum number of queries per week in order to stand a chance of getting significant backlinks.
What is the domain authority of the website?
The domain authority of the website behind the query is another factor you should take into account.
I always look up the DA of the posting website before deciding whether or not to respond. If you have a domain authority of 35 and the posting website has a DA of 11, a backlink from that site is not going to help you.
One other thing you need to take into account is ‘Anonymous’ queries. These are HARO queries where the publication is marked ‘anonymous’.
The standard explanation for ‘anonymous’ queries is that it indicates a big publication like Forbes, or Entrepreneur, and they don’t want to disclose who they are for fear of being inundated with hundreds of low-quality pitches from people desperate to get a backlink.
But in my experience, ‘anonymous’ can also mean the opposite. I’ve responded to anonymous queries on HARO only to find that the posting site has a DA of 5 or 6. In other words, people mark their queries as anonymous because their website's DA is so low that no one would respond if they were transparent about who they are.
When trying to decide whether to respond to an anonymous query, look carefully at the wording. If the query is from a big website with high DA, the wording in the query will be professional, well thought out, and well formatted.
13 Tips For Getting Your HARO Responses Published
Here are 13 tips that will help you pitch your HARO response and get linked to.
#1. Address the HARO poster
Always begin your HARO response by addressing the poster in person. The name of the person posting the HARO query is always provided in the email, so make sure to use it in your response.
#2. Introduce yourself
In the first line of your response, introduce yourself with a sentence like this: “This is [your name] here from [your website URL] responding to your HARO query”.
#3. Explain why you are qualified
In the second sentence of your response, mention briefly why you are qualified to answer their query.
I’m not talking here about formal qualifications: just explain that you have experience with this particular issue or topic, that you have a website on that topic and you’ve published x number of articles on that very topic and you’ve been published on major websites within that niche.
#4. Subject line
For the subject line of your response, use this format:
Re: [exact title of the query] (HARO).
Don’t get creative with your subject line - the person who posted the query is going to get flooded with responses and they need to be able to quickly identify that you are responding to their HARO query.
#5. Doing research
If you can answer the query entirely from your own experience / knowledge that’s fine. But if you need to do some research, that’s fine as well.
In that sense, it’s no different to writing a blog post.
#6. Match your style to the website
Have a look at some articles on the posting website to get an idea of the writing style they prefer. Try to make your response consistent with the style used on that website. That will increase the chances that your response gets published.
#7. Be original
Try to offer an unusual or counter-intuitive point of view. This will make your response stand out from the others and make it more likely that they use your contribution.
Another way to make your response stand out from all the others, is to include concrete examples from your own experience.
#8. Read the requirements
Read the poster’s requirements at least twice and make sure you cover all the points they raise in their query.
#9. Make it easy for them to use your input
Try to write your response as a piece of text that they can simply copy and paste into their article. The easier you make it for the journalist, the more likely they are to use your contribution.
#10. Proofread before sending
Carefully proofread your response before hitting send: nothing puts editors off so much as spelling mistakes and typos.
#11. Don’t promote yourself or any product
Never promote yourself, your website, or an affiliate product: the link that you will hopefully get from the other website is the only reward you should be looking for.
#12. Create a swipe file of contact info
Most HARO posters require a few standard items of information in order to properly attribute your input.
These items are:
- Your name
- A link to your website
- Your title
- A link to your headshot
It's a good idea to create a swipe file of these four items of information so that you can just drop them into your HARO response - it’ll save you a ton of time.
#13. Time is of the essence
And finally, time is a big factor with HARO.
Queries will often be marked as having a deadline 2 or 3 days away but the quicker you get your response in, the more likely your input will be used. Editors are busy people and they will often just use the first responses they get.
Try to respond within 30 minutes of receiving the HARO email.
HARO Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to questions people frequently ask about HARO.
How do I submit to HARO?
To submit to HARO, open an account on HARO and then watch for the 3x per day emails that HARO sends. If there is a query in a HARO email that you can answer, click on the email address in the query and type your response to the query.
Make sure to include the first name of the person who posted the query and remember to include whatever details the poster asked for (e.g. website URL, link to your headshot, Twitter profile, LinkedIn profile etc).
How do you respond to HARO?
To respond to HARO, just click on the email address in the HARO query and include:
- your response to the query
- your website URL
- your title / position
- a link to your headshot
- links to relevant social media profiles
How do you get featured on HARO?
You don't actually get featured on HARO but on websites belonging to people who post queries on HARO. To get featured on a website that uses HARO, just sign up to a free HARO account and then check the emails you get three times a day.
If you see a query that you can answer, click the email address in the query and send your response. That's all there is to it.
Paid HARO Accounts
Although HARO is free to use, there is a paid option.
The paid option gives you four benefits over the free version:
- With the paid option you can create a bio that automatically gets attached to your HARO responses.
- With a paid account, you can also set up alerts that are triggered by certain keywords. For example, if you had a website about pet care, you could create an alert for the word ‘pets’. That way you would never miss a relevant HARO query.
- With a paid account you also get the ability to browse queries online, by category and keyword.
- And finally, people with a paid HARO account get their email notifications 15 minutes before everyone else. So that gives you a slight advantage over the competition.
But I've earned many high authority backlinks using the free version - so if you're on a budget, stay with the free version.
Getting Links From HARO Queries
There is no requirement by HARO that query posters link to your website: all they are required to do is mention your name if they use your input.
And it’s important to remember this, to avoid being disappointed when you don’t get a link.
Although most HARO posters will give you a link if they use your HARO response, some will link to you with a do-follow backlink, others will link to you with a no-follow backlink. And, as I mentioned, there are others who may not even link to you at all.
Don't Give Up
It takes time to learn how to use HARO so don’t give up if it doesn't work for you after just a few attempts. Keep responding to HARO queries and you will get high authority backlinks.
If you find yourself getting discouraged, think of HARO as a kind of mini guest posting with this key difference: people are knocking on your door three times a day asking you to write something for their website.
That’s a much more attractive proposition than sending out cold pitches begging for guest posting opportunities.
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