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How To Help A Reporter Out [HARO] For PR Link Building

HARO is a way for bloggers and business owners to get featured in major publications and news outlets. All they have to do is respond to a journalist’s query to potentially be featured in their story. 

Both parties benefit from HARO. Journalists can quickly and easily find sources, saving them valuable research time. Sources can expand their reach and improve their credibility. They can also acquire high quality backlinks, if the journalist chooses to link to them.

Let’s explore how you can use HARO for high quality PR link building. 

What is HARO?

HARO, or Help a Reporter Out is an online platform that connects journalists looking for information with sources who can provide relevant answers. Journalists and writers use it to post questions about a topic they are covering.

In exchange for an expertly provided answer that will enhance their piece, they will often link back to the source. 

HARO provides a simple and effective way to get a diverse range of responses for a query related to social media, marketing and technology.

Other categories that are also available include finance, education, fitness and travel. 

HARO is used by both journalists from major news outlets like Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as smaller, niche websites. 

How does HARO work for journalists?

Help a Reporter Out is very simple to use for journalists. Creating an account involves providing your name, company and email address, and selecting a password.

You can immediately post your query. 

Here is an example of a HARO query in the digital marketing space: 

You need to provide the name and URL of your media outlet, write a short description of the information you are looking for, and list any requirements you may have. 

You also need to choose the primary and secondary categories for your query, and set a due date. You can also check the “urgent” box to speed up response collection. 

HARO will not share your real email address with recipients, so you don’t have to worry about spam or abuse.

Once you submit your query, it will be sent out in one of HARO’s daily emails. You have the complete freedom to choose which responses (if any) you want to include in your final article.

You are also not required to link to the source. 

While HARO does have paid subscription options for sources, creating a basic account is free.

The platform gives journalists the opportunity to tap into smaller voices that might otherwise not be able to contribute to the conversation.

That way, they can find unique experiences and tell previously untold stories. 

The advantages of HARO for journalists

HARO provides easy access to expert opinions and experiences. It helps journalists keep up with market trends and the latest developments in the industry they are writing about. Here’s what makes it so useful and unique: 

Easy access 

One of the biggest benefits of HARO is that it provides easy access to expert opinions. Journalists don’t have to spend any time looking for reliable, relevant sources.

The sources will come to them.

Relevant subject-matter experts will assess the query and respond if they are able to provide a meaningful contribution. 

While there is a lot of spam on HARO, and journalists get bombarded with dozens of irrelevant responses, a trained eye can filter them out in a couple of seconds. 

Access to expertise 

Journalists who use HARO can be confident that the replies they receive are authentic and high-quality. They are able to easily check the credentials and references of the person responding to their query with a simple Google search.

If a source does not seem reliable, they can simply go back and read the rest of the replies they have received. 

High-quality content 

HARO pitches are received from experienced individuals in the domain the journalist is writing about.

They are insightful, often based on personal experience and provide a unique take on the subject. 

This ensures that the content is based on facts. If the journalist has provided clear requirements, the pitches they receive will be practically ready to use, requiring minimal edits. 

How does HARO work for content marketers?

HARO provides content marketers with the opportunity to be featured in high-profile publications they may otherwise not have access to.

The potential quality of links obtained through HARO link building is significantly higher than with any other link building method. 

These kinds of high-quality backlinks can improve your rankings because search engines will begin to view you as a credible and relevant source of information.

Your referral traffic will also increase.

Since the leads who visit your website will be highly qualified, you have a high chance of converting them. 

Note that HARO has become oversaturated over the years, and it is now more difficult to get featured.

With 800.000 users competing for the attention of 55.000 journalists, you need to select your pitches carefully. 

Also note that journalists often don’t have the time to notify you about the status of your response.

To make sure you never miss a mention, set up Google Alerts for your name to get notified every time you get featured. 

How to get started with HARO 

To start using HARO, you will need to sign up as a source on the website. You’ll need to provide your contact information and list your company. You then get to choose your HARO preferences. 

Here’s what you can select: 

Only choose to receive queries on topics you are actually an expert in. This will increase your chances of getting featured and boost your visibility for the most relevant terms. 

HARO sends emails to its registered users three times a day: at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m., and 5:35 p.m. Eastern Time. 

When reading through the list of queries, ask yourself how you can contribute to each of them.

  • Is the query relevant to your business?
  • Can you offer a valuable and meaningful contribution?
  • Is this an article you would like to be featured in? 

Don’t send poor replies to high-profile queries.

It’s better to wait for one you can provide a great answer to, than offer semi-relevant responses that will only waste the journalist’s time. 

The benefit of HARO for content marketers

HARO helps content marketers and business owners reach a wider audience and increase their brand awareness. By helping a reporter out, you can demonstrate your expertise and showcase your experiences to a relevant and engaged readership. 

Here are 3 HARO benefits for content marketing insiders: 

Acquire high authority links

HARO link building is one of the simplest and fastest ways to generate backlinks from the most authoritative and relevant websites in your niche.

HARO links are of higher quality than those acquired through regular guest posting.  

Instead of sending out unsolicited emails looking to get featured, you are answering clearly defined questions. HARO can cut your outreach time in half.

You don’t need to do any prospecting, nor do you need to come up with a pitch topic yourself. All you need to do is provide a comprehensive answer to relevant queries. 

Improve brand visibility 

HARO also helps boost your visibility. Your personal brand will grow and reach a wider audience if a reporter features it. 

As you are presented as a subject-matter expert, the audience you are exposed to will see you as trustworthy, authoritative and experienced.

This will make it more likely for them to check out your business. 

Establish yourself as a thought leader 

Getting featured in relevant media outlets allows sources to position themselves as industry experts and thought leaders.

This passive credibility-building is a great way to not only attract qualified leads, but it will also help your search engine rankings.

Algorithms tend to favor brands that have demonstrated expertise.

A backlink and mention from a high-value source are worth more than dozens of low-quality ones. 

How to use HARO for PR link building in SEO

Using HARO link building for PR and increasing brand awareness helps you acquire high-quality backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites.

It establishes you as an expert and industry forerunner, generating more traffic and qualified leads. 

Here’s how to make the most of it: 

1. Filter HARO Results

To ensure you don’t miss any HARO emails, set up an email filter for them. By sending them to a specific label, you won’t accidentally overlook them in a crowded inbox. 

You can create a filter in Gmail’s Settings.

  1. Click on the cog icon and select See all settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses.
  2. From there, click on Create a new filter.

You can also open a HARO email and click on more (⋮) > Filter messages like these. 

When you get to the filter creation form, add the HARO email address to the To: field. Click on Create filter, and select Apply the label

Name the label HARO (or anything you’d like).

You can also check the Skip the Inbox (Archive it) box.

This will prevent HARO emails from showing up in your inbox, and you’ll only be able to find them by clicking on the label you’ve created.

If you prefer to see them in your inbox too, you don’t need this option. 

You can also create another filter, where the To: field will contain the HARO email, and the Has the words field will contain any relevant keywords you want to filter out.

Make sure to create separate labels for each keyword. 

You can also consider becoming a paid HARO subscriber.

The different tiers come with different perks, but all of them feature a keyword alerts option. This allows you to set up an alert for HARO requests that contain a specific keyword.

For example, you can add a filter that contains the keyword “AI”, and get notified whenever a query related to artificial intelligence pops up. 

  • The Standard plan gives you one keyword alert.
  • The Advanced one gives you three, and you have unlimited keyword alerts with the Premium plan.

When you receive a HARO email, carefully choose the queries you want to respond to. Ask yourself: 

  • What are the website's parameters?
  • Is it relevant to your business?
  • Are you qualified to answer?
  • Can you provide unique value? 

Note that authors sometimes post HARO queries anonymously: You shouldn’t skip them if your answer to the other three questions is “yes”.

Well-known publications sometimes choose to go anonymous to try to avoid getting spammed by low-quality pitches and opportunistic link builders. 

2. Perfect your pitch

Since HARO is free to use for sources, you will be competing against many people providing answers to the same queries.

To stand out and get featured, you will need a strategic approach. 

Write a catchy subject line 

Start by writing a great subject line. 

The reporter will receive hundreds of responses to their queries. Some of them will also be working on multiple articles at a time.

It’s important to make your subject line stand out and clearly state the query you are responding to. 

A good formula for a HARO subject line is outlet + variation of query.

By using relevant keywords, you will also make your email easier to find. 

Use brackets to stand out and establish your expertise. Here’s a template you can use: 

[HARO] Expertise + Power Word + Subject 

For example, if you are pitching a query that is looking for productivity tips for night owls, you can go with [HARO] Night owl’s best productivity tip: manage your social calendar. 

You don’t need to include the pitch in the subject line: it will however help you get noticed immediately. 

Test out various subject line styles to see which get the highest conversions. 

Lead with expertise 

Open your HARO pitch by proving your expertise. Keep this section short: one or two sentences are enough.

Don’t be afraid to brag.

The more authority you are able to demonstrate, the higher your chances of getting featured. Make sure you don’t sound sales-y though. 

Here is some of the information you can include:

  • Name and title
  • Publications you have been featured in 
  • Relevant links to your business or blog
  • Awards or certifications, if relevant

Here’s a template you can use: 

Hello [journalist name],

My name is [your name], and I am [your title] at [your company]. [List experiences relevant to the topic]. I’ve been featured on [name of publication] and [name of publication], and would love to share insight on [topic of query]. 

Always list the credentials that are most relevant to the topic in question. Include links to the publications you mention and your own blog or website. 

Add a link to your LinkedIn profile to show that you are a genuine industry insider. If you already have a blog post that addresses the query, be sure to include it as well.

Remember that you'll be competing against others for high authority backlinks, so the more you can establish your credibility, the better.

Always address the journalist by name, if possible. It will establish better rapport, and show them you have at least put the effort in to get their name right. 

Format your reply

When sending your pitch, check these boxes: 

  • Keep the pitch under 300 words
  • Use short sentences and break the content up into paragraphs
  • Spell-check twice with two different tools 
  • Use bullet points to make the pitch easier to skim 

If you are copying and pasting your pitch, remove all formatting. You don’t want several different font styles and sizes to show up.

It will make you look unprofessional. Then reformat the text if you need to add any bullet points or highlight any words. 

When sending out messages, it's best to use the email you got in the query. That way, you can format the email the way you want. HARO's system strips the text of all formatting, delivering a mess. 

Pitch a unique angle

To maximize your chances of getting featured, try pitching a unique angle that is less likely to pop up in others’ replies. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Share a personal anecdote or experience
  • Link to original research that your company has published 
  • Be controversial or debunk a popular misconception
If you want to go the extra mile, you can do some research about the journalist.

Read their older pieces and figure out what kinds of pitches work best.

Adopt a tone of voice and approach that you notice they usually use. This will help you stand out. 

You will also demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the subject. 

Follow the query’s rules 

This should go without saying, but always make sure to follow the requirements and conditions of the query to the letter.

If the journalist has asked for something specific to be included or wants a certain format to be followed, stick to it.

Failing to do so will eliminate you from the race.

While you can use a template for the introduction to save time, make sure to tailor it for every pitch as needed. 

Remember that your HARO pitch needs to be relevant. If the author of the query asks for a CMO to answer, it'd better be the CMO that's answering.

They will just glance at the pitch and delete it from their inbox because it's not relevant. 

This is arguably the most important aspect of pitching.

If the reporter is clear about what they're asking for, they won't take a pitch from someone who doesn't meet their conditions. 

Don’t forget these important HARO rules either:

  • HARO does not allow link swaps or payments. Never offer one
  • Don’t pitch products
  • Link to images, as they won’t be included if attached 
  • Don’t add any attachments at all, as your reply will be marked as spam 

Provide a timely response 

To boost your chance of getting featured, reply to queries as quickly as possible. Journalists will get hundreds of responses.

They won’t go through half of them. If they spot your reply early on and like it, they are more likely to use it.

To avoid being overwhelmed with pitches, journalists frequently set same-day deadlines. If you see a query you like, respond to it immediately. 

Don’t rush it though.

Make sure that the pitch is well-written, formatted and grammatically correct. 

You can also send your pitch in right before the query’s deadline.

Writers often like to take one last look before completing their article. This can be your chance if you missed the opening window. 

3. Choose Quality Over Quantity

When you first start using HARO, you may want to reply to as many queries as you can. However, this shotgun approach isn’t the best.

Instead of providing high-quality, relevant responses, you will end up sending subpar answers that are less likely to get quoted. 

Select a few queries and focus on them.

Use the parameters we’ve outlined above: how relevant the media coverage is for your business, and how relevant your expertise is to the query. 

4. Build relationships with journalists

Building relationships with journalists can significantly boost your HARO efforts.

By establishing good rapport and making yourself memorable, a journalist is likely to favor you in the future, even if your first pitch didn’t work. 

Here’s how you can stand out:

  • Share and promote their content. Make sure you tag their profile directly and not just their outlet. 
  • Send a follow up email showing interest in future collaboration. 
  • Be as helpful in your pitches as you can.

Track the work of journalists who write about the topics you are an expert in. File their contact information for future reference.

Get in touch if you have information, news or an idea that might be relevant for them.

You won’t have to wait for a HARO query if you’ve already worked with a journalist and they know you to be a reliable and trustworthy source. 

Note that pitching a journalist outside HARO doesn’t usually work if you have no prior relationship with them.

They see hundreds of pitches a day, so unless your suggestion is top-quality, they are less likely to respond. 

5. Create data driven content

Creating content on your website that will enhance the value of the journalist’s piece will make it easier to pitch HARO queries. 

By publishing data-driven content, such as case studies and white papers, you will have to spend less time proving your expertise and experience. 

Our CPO's test on Surfer's NLP vs Google's NLP is a good example.

These linkable assets can be used to passively earn links from non-HARO sources as well. 

Key takeaways

  • HARO is a win-win situation for journalists and sources: the former get access to expert insight, while the latter are featured in major publications. 
  • You can create a free HARO account in a couple of minutes and start receiving journalist queries three times a day. 
  • To increase your chances of getting featured, adhere to the query’s requirements, pitch a unique angle and double-check your grammar and spelling.
  • Being among the first to send a quality reply, building strong relationships with journalists, and creating data-driven content on your website are great tactics to try yourself instead of hiring external HARO link building services.
  • While HARO does have a low conversion rate and it can require a lot of time and effort to write a great pitch, the long-term benefits of acquiring high-quality backlinks through HARO link building can’t be beaten with any other kind of link building approach.  

Conclusion

HARO is one of the best link building strategies for content marketers and business owners. It can get you featured in major publications, establish you as a thought leader and authority in your niche and earn you high-quality backlinks. 

Try your hand at HARO and see where it takes you. The ideal query might land in your inbox later today. 

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