HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a popular online platform where journalists come to find sources for their next story. Reporters, journalists, and writers submit requests and then everybody in the world with online access can send pitches to those authors, hoping they use their submissions.
This makes HARO the ideal platform for two types of people:
- Anyone writing a piece of quality content and looking for a credible source
- Anyone looking to get more exposure through PR
Another great use for HARO is to build links to your website. And while this is not its primary use case, HARO is an amazing platform to get high-quality links from websites with high domain ratings.
Today, we’ll tell you all you need to know about HARO link building: the pros and cons of HARO link building, how to do it, and even a list of HARO link building services you can hire to do it for you.
What is HARO Link Building?
HARO link building is a process where you send pitches to journalists on the HARO platform with the intention to get featured in their content. In return for your contribution to their piece, journalists publish your quote on a website and you get a link back to your website.
The purpose is to get high-quality backlinks for your (or your client’s) website, enabling you to rank better in search engine results (SERPs).
In theory, it sounds simple, but in practice, there are quite a few steps to the process. We’ll go through them in a minute – but first…
Pros of HARO link building
This technique for building white hat links has been around for years and it is used in agencies and in-house digital marketing teams alike. It is a genuine way to boost your backlink profile without doing much but submitting your own opinion on certain topics. Here are some of the benefits of this link building method.
- You can get links from high-quality websites
In general, the journalists who create HARO queries work at pretty good outlets. You can find anything from small business websites to major platforms like Forbes, Wall Street Journal, American Express, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and others.
- You can improve your search engine rankings
The more links you get through HARO, the better your position will be in search engine results. The higher quality of websites that link to you, the better you can expect your website to perform in terms of SEO.
- You don’t need any link building knowledge to build great links
All you need is a computer and an internet connection. To submit pitches to HARO, you send emails to the journalists and that’s all there is to it. Anyone can create an account and get started, making this one of the simplest and least technical ways to build links.
- You can get PR exposure that drives new sales
Getting featured on a website such as Forbes can lead to tons of referral traffic to your website. Some of that traffic could lead to sales – and all you have to do is send an email to get the ball rolling.
- You can get new social proof
Imagine you got a quote on Forbes, with your business name and your CEO’s name, along with a link. You can now add a Forbes logo to your website’s testimonial section and say that you’ve been featured on this platform. It’s an easy way to build credibility with potential customers.
Cons of HARO link building
Just like any other link building method, HARO has its downsides. If you’re thinking about getting started with building links in this way, you may want to consider the downsides as well.
- You can’t control the destination of the link
When you build links the traditional way, you can generally ask the other side to link to a specific blog post or a landing page on your website. With HARO, journalists will choose the page they want to link to, which is usually the home page. If you want to boost the rankings of a specific page on your website, HARO is not the best method to do this.
Moreover, you want to get dofollow links but some bloggers only give out nofollow ones. This is yet another aspect of link placements that you cannot control.
- You can’t control the metrics of the websites you get links from
In traditional link building, you can pursue and target high authority websites with certain traffic and domain authority metrics. With HARO, there are plenty of anonymous sources that don’t include any information about their publishing platform. As a result, you never know which kind of website your link will get published on.
- You can’t control the relevancy of the website you get links from
With highly targeted outreach, you can get links from websites in your industry and niche. HARO requests come from a large variety of websites and you never know if you’ll be featured on an agriculture website or a SaaS blog that has the same ideal customer profile as you do.
- You’re limited in the number of links you can build per month
HARO emails go out three times per day. There are various categories you can choose from but in general, you want to stick to a few which are relevant to your industry. This means you’re limited in the number of placements because there are only so many daily emails that you can receive
How to do HARO link building from start to finish
Now that you know the pros and cons of using HARO to build links, let’s walk you through the process of how to do it yourself.
1. Create a HARO account as a source
To build links on this platform, you first need to create an account. It’s completely free and the key to receiving pitches is to register yourself as a source. The very same day, you’ll start getting new emails from media outlets.
There are also paid HARO plans that start at $19 per month but you don’t necessarily need one to start getting results. With a paid plan, you can get keyword alerts (e.g. every time a journalist mentions the word “CRM”, you get an email) and the possibility to search through all available opportunities for placements at a given point in time.
2. Choose your preferences
As mentioned before, HARO sends out emails three times per day. If you don’t choose your preferences, you’ll get all the HARO emails for the day, which usually means hundreds of messages.
To prevent that from happening and to only get relevant queries, you need to set your preferences as soon as you join. Don’t worry though, as you can change them later. Here is what they look like:
Once you tick off a box, you’ll only get emails from that category. It’s a good idea to get on two or three lists to get started and later on you can remove those that are not relevant to you.
3. Start receiving emails
The moment you tick off the boxes above, emails will start pouring in. Questions from every category are sent out as a single email.
In other words, say that you’re subscribed to High Tech, Business and Finance, and Lifestyle and Fitness. This means you’ll get 3 emails, 3 times a day, for a total of 9 emails.
The average email will have anywhere from a couple opportunities to more than 20 at a time. Not all of these queries will be relevant for you, and you’ll have to filter through them to find the ones where A) you have expertise B) the website is a great outlet, and C) you have a chance to get featured.
This is the most painstaking part of the HARO link building process. If you’re on a lot of lists, it can take hours to find relevant queries to respond to.
4. Select the most relevant queries
You don’t want to respond to every journalist out there who publishes a query on HARO. You can pick a handful at a time to reach out to and send relevant quotes.
There are countless ways to filter for the best queries, but ideally, you want to respond to the ones where you have immediate experience and can submit an actual quote rather than googling something and making up an answer.
First, take a look at the outlet and if it has a website name, load it up in a tool such as Ahrefs.
Check for the following:
- Domain authority (DR), a score from 0 to 100. Higher is better.
- The website’s organic traffic (expressed in the number of visitors per month). Higher is better.
- The age of the website and its performance over time (expressed through a graph in Ahrefs)
You can then quickly determine if a website is a good target or not for a link.
If a query is anonymous (which happens quite a bit), you have to go out on a limb and hope you strike gold. You can get a link from Harvard Business Review or a new website with a domain rating of 1 – anything goes.
5. Start sending emails
You’ll see CEOs, CMOs, entrepreneurs, and all types of successful people submitting pitches through HARO. In most cases, these are not the actual people who wrote a pitch and sent it in.
These could be SEO agencies, freelancers, or marketers writing HARO responses on the behalf of this person, hoping to land a link. Having this in mind, you can decide which person you want to represent on HARO – if you’re writing the answers on their behalf.
With this in mind, you can create a specific email just for HARO to simplify the process, but it’s not necessary. Given the number of emails that come in, it’s useful to set up a filter so they don’t clog up your main inbox.
Here’s an example of a pitch sent out through email:
It’s a common practice to send emails from one address on behalf of several people: someone from marketing, sales, operations, finance, etc. Just remember to have all the details handy. For each person you’re writing as, prepare the following in a template:
- Name and position in the company
- Email address
- Social media handles (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
- An image to go alongside their quote
Tips for sending great HARO pitches
Just sending out an email and responding to a journalist’s query is not enough. There are plenty of mistakes you can make, so here is a quick rundown of the best tips for writing pitches.
- Send early. The sooner you send a pitch after you get an email, the better the chances of getting featured. Many journalists are in a rush and need to finish a piece of content quickly
- Only answer relevant queries. A dentist giving their opinion on the stock market is not very likely to get featured in an article
- Keep it short. The best pitches are 100-200 words long. Journalists receive hundreds of emails from HARO and if yours looks like a wall of text, they won’t even bother reading.
- Get to the point immediately. Don’t write lengthy intros and answer the question in the first few sentences. That way, you save precious time for the person reading.
6. Wait for links to come in
At this point, the only thing you can do is wait for the journalist to send you an email, either telling you that your quote will be used or with a link to the published pie
Remember the email from above? Here’s the email with the live link notification:
Note that some journalists will publish a piece without notifying their sources, so it’s a good idea to use Ahrefs or a similar tool to see if you got any new backlinks.
In some cases, journalists will reach out with additional questions so make sure to respond promptly and include everything they’re requesting from you. As new links come in, you can use a tracker such as an Excel sheet to keep track of the links coming in.
You may be wondering how many links you can get from HARO. The truth is that it depends on many factors and it’s hard to say with certainty. From personal experience, you can expect 1-3 links per 10 sent pitches, provided that the pitch was great and the query was relevant.
7. Thank the reporter
If you do HARO for more than a few months, you’ll notice that some outlets and names appear often on the platform. If you get a link from someone, thank them and start building a relationship, because there is a huge chance you’ll write a pitch for them once again.
You may also need to follow up with them in case they promise a link that never goes live. Or perhaps they’ve made your link nofollow and you can ask them to turn it into a dofollow one – this approach actually works if you ask nicely.
That’s the entire process and as complex as it sounds, it gets quite a bit easier with time.
Best HARO link building services
There are quite a few SEO agencies specializing not only in public relations but also in HARO link building. They promise a certain number of HARO backlinks per month at flat fee pricing so you can hire them instead of doing the entire process yourself. Here are a few options we found:
- Loganix – offering 5 HARO links for $4,250 per month and $850 per each additional link
- HARO SEO – offering 3 links for $975 per month or 7 links for $1,995
- Dialed Labs – 25 pitches (1-3 links per month) for $749
As you can see, the pricing is quite varied, and depending on your budget, you may want to decide to try HARO on your own. While these agencies offer a white-label service, you’re not getting the true representation of a person from your company. With the right brief, they can act as someone from your business but they will never have the in-depth knowledge of a company CEO, CMO or someone from your team.
HARO link building can be a great SEO strategy if you have the time and the budget to do it consistently. However, it is hard to predict what kind of results you can expect, so it’s not ideal if this is your only way to build backlinks.
There are better, more reliable ways to build high authority backlinks – such as niche edits and guest posting. Compared to HARO, they’re easier to do (and outsource to an agency), they’re more scalable and you can get guaranteed results even with a smaller budget.
If you’re looking to build great backlinks and skyrocket your website’s search engine rankings, book a free call with us today! We’ll find the link building strategies that work for your business.