One of the biggest challenges of building a successful blog, or any other type of online business for that matter, is maximizing the search engine traffic to your site.
Google search visitors are extremely valuable and there’s a lot of competition for a limited number of spots on the first page of search results.
If you want to outrank other sites and get your content to the top of Google, you’ll need links from other sites leading to yours. And not only do you need links, but you need links from quality websites that have some authority.
There are many different link building techniques that you could try, and one of those options is to use a free resource that makes it possible to get extremely valuable links from high authority websites, at no cost.
What is HARO?
HARO is short for Help a Reporter Out. It’s a free service that helps reporters, journalists, or writers to find sources for their stories. If you’re looking to build links, you would sign up for HARO as a source.
When a reporter needs a source, he or she will submit a query to HARO. The query will include the information that they need or the questions that they need to answer, as well as the requirements or qualifications that someone should have if they respond.
For example, a journalist writing an article on entrepreneurship might submit a query that asks for your best tip on surviving your first year in business. The qualifications may state that only business owners should respond.
Some queries have no qualifications listed, and others have significant qualifications that will limit who can respond. A tax-based query might require sources to have a CPA in order to respond.
Each weekday, HARO sends three emails (early morning, noon, and evening) with a list of the current queries organized into categories.
When you create your account as a source, you can choose to receive the email with the list of queries for every category, or only those in specific categories that are most relevant to you (you can change this selection at any time from your user dashboard).
HARO requires reporters to credit the source in their article. They are not required to link to the source, but in most cases, a link will be included. Sometimes the link will have nofollow tags, but many times, you’ll be able to get a followed link if your response is used by the reporter.
The key there is “if your response is used”. Reporters tend to get a lot of responses and they’ll only use the ones that are the best fit for their articles.
Why Use HARO?
There are many different ways that you can build links to your website or blog, so why should you consider using HARO?
Many of the Links Will Come From Websites With High Domain Authority
HARO has specific requirements for reporters in order to be able to submit a query. If the reporter is submitting a query for an article that will be published online, the website must have an Alexa ranking of 1 million or less.
While this is not an extremely high bar, it does prevent low-traffic websites and brand new websites from using the service as journalists (there are no such requirements to be a source). As a source, this means that the queries will be coming from legit sites that are capable of providing stronger links to your site.
You’ll find that HARO gives you the opportunity to get backlinks from some very high-authority websites. These links would be difficult to get with any other link building method.
Many of the queries will list the publication, such as the New York Times. Others are anonymous, so you won’t always know the publication before responding.
When it comes to link building, the site that is linking to you is very important. A link from a high-authority website will be much more valuable than a link from some brand new blog that has no authority.
HARO is definitely one of the best ways to get really valuable links from high-authority sites.
Let’s be honest, Google doesn’t like link building. There are a lot of link building tactics that have the potential to get your site penalized, or Google may eventually de-value certain types of links.
The types of links that you’ll get from HARO are very natural. It’s hard to imagine that Google would ever penalize or de-value a link from a high-authority website that is quoting a source within an article.
If you don’t want to spend countless hours building links that might eventually be worthless or even harmful to your site, you’ll probably like the long-term prospects of the links you’re able to get through HARO.
Build Your Credibility
Have you ever visited a blog that had an “as seen on” section and logos of a lot of really well-known companies or websites?
HARO is one of the best ways to get featured or quoted on high-authority sites, and once you accomplish that, you’ll be able to put an “as seen on” section on your own blog.
This is a great way to brand yourself as an expert in your niche and to boost your credibility.
Syndication Can Lead to More Links
Articles that are published on major news websites are often syndicated and re-published on other websites. When you get a link in an article that winds up being syndicated, you’ll get links from multiple websites for the same amount of work, and some of those syndicated links can be pretty good as well.
One of the first links that I landed through HARO was from the site ValuePenguin.com. That article was re-published on Yahoo! Finance, giving me a nice link that I wasn’t expecting.
HARO does offer some premium plans, but they’re not necessary. I’ve landed about 100 links through HARO and I’ve never used one of the paid plans. I know other bloggers that have landed more links and better links through HARO than me, and they’ve also never used the paid plans.
My Experience With HARO
I’ve used HARO to gain exposure and build credibility in the personal finance industry. While I don’t use HARO every day, I’ve gone through a few spurts when I’ve been more active with it.
Overall, I’ve been quoted or featured about 100 times as a result in HARO. Most, but not all, of those mentions included a link to my blog. I’ve found HARO to be well worth the time I invested into it.
I’ve also used HARO several times as a journalist. This provided a really great experience to see how things work on the other end. My experience using it as a journalist helped me to understand some of the ways to be more effective when I’m responding to journalists.
The Honest Truth About HARO
HARO is a great resource for gaining exposure and building links, but I don’t want to make it sound like it’s the perfect solution. I want to present a balanced view, so here are caveats that you should know.
Building Links With HARO Takes a Lot of Time and Effort
HARO can be great for landing very strong links, but it’s not easy. There are a lot of other people trying to build links through HARO as well, so you’ll have competition.
Responding to queries takes time. Some of them may only require a quick answer, but others may involve writing a few paragraphs. You should plan to spend about an hour a day if you really want to get the most out of HARO.
Your Success Rate is Likely to Be Low
HARO has been around for several years and it’s become extremely popular. Many bloggers, entrepreneurs, and marketers are using HARO to gain exposure and build links, which means it’s become more competitive than it was a few years ago.
Many of the queries on HARO generate a lot of responses, especially in the popular categories. Even if you’re successful with HARO, most of your responses will go unused.
If 10-20% of your responses are used by reporters, you should consider yourself successful.
While it can be frustrating to respond to 10 queries and only get quoted 1 or 2 times, you have to look at the links you’re able to land. In many cases, these links are well worth the amount of time that you’ve invested, even considering all of the responses that aren’t used.
There Are More Opportunities in Some Industries Than Others
If you want to get links to your blog, you should be responding to queries in a related industry. For example, a journalist that is writing an article on money-saving tips would be likely to link to your finance blog if they like your response to the query. But a journalist writing an article on health tips would be much less likely to link to your blog on tattoos.
The truth is, there are more opportunities in some industries than others. If you have a blog in a popular industry like business, finance, health & wellness, or fitness, you’re likely to find a lot of relevant queries and link building opportunities through HARO. But if you have a blog in a more obscure niche, you may not find many relevant opportunities.
There Is a Learning Curve
When I first started using HARO, I probably responded to 20 or more queries before I got any response and before I got my first link. I’ve talked to several other bloggers that also had no success for a while.
But once you get a little bit of experience and you see what works and what doesn’t, you’ll be able to respond more effectively. The tips covered below will help you to shorten the learning curve and eliminate some of the common mistakes.
How to Build High-Quality Links With HARO
Follow these tips to get started with HARO and build quality backlinks.
Sign Up for a Free Account
Although there are some premium plans available, the free account gives you everything you need. The Advanced plan (currently $49 per month) gives you alerts to opportunities before free subscribers, but it’s definitely possible to get results without paying for this.
Choose to Receive ALL the Inquires
When you create your account, I recommend opting to receive all of the queries, not just the ones in a specific category.
Most of my experience with HARO was used for the purpose of building links to a finance blog and HARO has a business & finance category. Although that category is a great match for me, I’ve found many relevant opportunities in other categories like high-tech, education, lifestyle, and general. If you get too specific, you might miss out on some good opportunities.
Set Aside Time Each Day
The emails arrive around 5:45 AM, 12:45 PM, and 5:45 PM Monday through Friday (Eastern time, US). Since you know when the emails will arrive, set aside some time to scan the queries and respond to any that are relevant to you.
You don’t necessarily need to set aside time for each of these emails, but pick at least one or two that will fit into your daily routine.
Respond as Quickly as Possible
You’ll have the best chance of being quoted if you respond quickly. Once journalists get a response that they like, they’ll use it and other responses will be too late. If you’re responding a few hours after the email went out, you might be too late.
HARO provides reporters with a dashboard where they can view all of the responses to their queries. The responses are listed in the order they are received, with the earliest responses at the top.
Address the Reporter By Name
Most of the queries will list a name for the reporter, although some are anonymous. Whenever a name is listed, address the reporter by name in your response. It makes your response more personal and shows that you took the time to notice them.
Keep Your Response Short and To the Point
Remember that the reporter is getting a lot of responses to their queries. They want to get the information they need as quickly as possible, so avoid rambling in your responses.
Some queries will tell you exactly how much content they want. For example, it might say to send a response in 150-200 words. Others are very general and open-ended. If the query does not list a particular length, I recommend a paragraph or two.
Quickly Point Out Your Credentials as Applicable
At the start of your response, quickly explain why you are qualified to be a source, but keep it short. This can usually be done in a sentence or two.
If the query has specific requirements listed, show that you meet those requirements. If there are no specific requirements but you have some credentials that would help you to stand out, quickly mention those credentials.
Provide Them With a Quote That is Ready to Be Published
Make it as easy for the reporter as possible. Don’t simply respond and tell them that you would be happy to speak with them and answer any questions that they have. They’re usually working on very tight timelines and they don’t have time to go back and forth with multiple emails or calls.
Give them a response that they can simply copy and paste into their article. If you make it easy for them, they’re much more likely to use your response.
Provide Them With Something Unique
Remember that the reporter is getting responses from a lot of different people. I recommend avoiding the most obvious responses, because it’s likely that several other people will have a very similar response. Take some time to think of a unique response that is likely to be different than what they’re getting from everyone else.
For example, if the reporter is looking for tips on how to lose weight, don’t respond and say daily exercise. That’s too obvious and many other people will have a very similar response. Come up with an interest or unique tip that the reporter hasn’t seen before. The more unique your response is, the better chance you have of being quoted.
Tell Them How You Would Like to Be Credited
HARO requires reporters to credit sources, but the requirements are pretty vague. I recommend adding a short sentence at the end of your response that says how you would like to be quoted. For example, I would simply say “If you use my response, I can be quoted as Marc Andre, personal finance blogger and writer at Kikolani.com”.
If you don’t give them instructions, they might not know how you want to be quoted. My response gently indicates that I’d like a link to my site, but it’s not very aggressive or offensive.
I know other people who specifically ask for a link to their site or even ask for a dofollow link. Personally, I think that’s a little too forward. The journalist usually has no say in the matter when it comes to links. They’re just following the linking guidelines of the site that they’re writing for.
Follow Any Instructions That They Provide
Some queries will have very explicit instructions. Whenever instructions are provided, be sure to follow them. If you don’t follow the instructions, you’re just wasting your time.
You might be surprised at how many people do not follow simple instructions. When I’ve submitted queries as a journalist, about half of the responses are really terrible. If you simply follow the instructions, you’ll easily increase your odds of being quoted.
Have a Headshot Ready to Use
Some of the reporters will ask for a headshot photo that they can use in the article if you’re quoted. It’s best to have your photo ready ahead of time so you can respond quickly.
If You Don’t Hear Back From Them, Don’t Follow Up
Reporters do not want to get emails following up on responses that haven’t been used. If they don’t use your response, they won’t let you know (they get too many responses to reply to them all). Respond to as many queries as you want, but don’t follow up unless you’ve received some type of response from the journalist.
Keep Track of Your Successes
I have a Google spreadsheet that I use to record all of the mentions that I get through HARO. In many cases, the reporter will email you after the article has been published to let you know that you were quoted. Sometimes, you might not get an email, but you might notice the referral URL in Google Analytics, or you might see the link in Ahrefs or some other link monitoring tool.
It’s a good idea to keep track of your successes because it helps you to see what you’re actually gaining from your effort with HARO. You can also use these links when you want to show where you’ve been featured or mentioned.
HARO can be an outstanding resource for building links to your website or blog. It does take effort and some patience, but you’ll have the chance to land links that you wouldn’t be able to get with other link building methods.
Aside from the SEO impact of the links, being quoted on other websites helps you to establish credibility and to brand yourself as an expert in your industry.
If you’re ready to get started, head over to HARO and create your free account as a source. Remember that you might not get results right away, but if you stick with it and follow the tips in this article, you should have some success.