We live in a world where stories, voices and ideas are generated every day. The internet is home to billions of websites, giving a voice to everyone on the planet. However, with so much going on, it’s only natural that businesses have a hard time being heard. Having your own voice is challenging, especially if you’re starting out. Marketers are successful in reaching people because they know that positive PR and lots of online exposure are needed to take brands and businesses from zero to a recognisable brand.
The 2 factors that can make a significant difference in generating organic traffic are backlinks and building credibility. Credibility is needed if you want to be seen as trustworthy; without this, you’ll be seen as untrustworthy and struggle to find leads as a consequence. While there admittedly are many ways to garner more visibility for a website, blog or brand, the one strategy that works without being highly experienced is using HARO. The only drawback is that HARO, as we’ll examine, is a time-consuming strategy, but it works!
We think that HARO is a largely underutilised link-building tactic, which we’ve been able to wield with a great deal of success. While most business owners can DIY their own HARO, keep in mind that it will take a couple of hours each day, especially first thing in the morning and then in the evening, in addition to several days before you score that first mention with a link.
What is HARO?
HARO is an abbreviation for ‘Help A Reporter Out .’ In essence, you’re helping out a reporter by providing valuable bits of information relating to your experience or industry. The idea isn’t new, having been around since 2008, but it’s only as of late that SEOs have discovered the treasure trove of authority and traffic that a well-placed link can bring to a website.
Created by Peter Shankman, who is a businessman and PR aficionado, it is an online service that connects members of the media and journalists to regular people to get their feedback. Usually, the sources they (the journalists) want to connect with are experts. The news piece will often quote articles, and blogs, in addition to linking back to them.
Shankman created HARO after he found that reporters would send him a consistent stream of requests, looking for stories and sources on everything from wildlife to tech. Whilst he was able to connect some of these requests, it was nearly impossible for each one. So, he created HARO to remedy the issue.
The platform he ended up creating can handle the large scale of requests and the information being passed between journalists. Furthermore, HARO has transformed into a database used by an increasing number of writers and journalists seeking quotes from people looking to get their names and link to their site published.
Fast forward to the present day, and HARO is used by large media outlets like TIME Magazine, The New York Times, ABC etc. Journalists working for large publications will use HARO to find expert sources that can bolster their content.
If you are an expert with certain topics and want to grow your organic traffic and consequently leads, HARO is certainly worth the effort.
How HARO Helps with SEO?
Many people may not realise this, but a major part of SEO is understanding what your target audience does in terms of how they search for businesses like yours. HARO offers an opportunity to connect with some of the top names working for highly credible brands. It is a goldmine of information, and for a business, it’s an opportunity to land excellent quality links that bring in lots of good referral traffic. Compared to many other link-building strategies HARO, we’d have to say, it is the safest but not necessarily the most cost-effective especially, if you’re spending time doing it yourself; after all, there is cost value associated with your time.
Generally, we’ll recommend that business owners who want to do HARO for themselves spend around an hour a day twice a day doing it. Sifting through HARO requests each day in your email is easy, but the challenging part is seeing how you can answer a request in the best possible way. Also, you’ll be looking for queries that align with your expertise. For instance, an SEO company may probably answer queries about maybe how SEO businesses survived the pandemic.
You also need to realise that there is no guarantee that your response will be cited or published, but it does happen depending on how well your response is framed. However, when you do earn a link, it is often from a domain with excellent authority and lots of traffic. The link can help:
- Raise awareness of your brand and products.
- Lead to more brand mentions.
- Get more referral traffic from readers who are clicking on your links.
- Earn a valuable backlink, which is a well-known ranking factor.
- You also have the opportunity to nurture an ongoing working relationship with the journalist who cited you.
How HARO Helps with Digital Marketing?
We often tell clients that digital marketing should be a part of their SEO strategy. However, the question is: how does HARO fit into the grand scheme of digital marketing for your brand?
We’ll start by saying that HARO is a platform for everyone, regardless of your brand, but there is a lot to sift through; some topics understandably have a much higher profile than others. Then there are some niches, which may have a much larger following, and then there are those which do not receive as much attention.
The important step is knowing if HARO is the right platform for your PR and link-building efforts. We’ll go into that with some interesting findings from a recent study:
- Interestingly only 33% of queries tend to be published, which means 3 in every 10 are accepted and consequently published.
- The highest number of queries are in the finance and business niche.
- Biotech and high-tech are the fourth and sixth most common queries, respectively.
- Queries originating from a DR 50 or higher domain, considered highly authoritative by search engines, are a lot more common and hence good for SEO.
- Out of 1500 queries, 68% of them had a domain rating of above 50.
- 89% of queries published had a DR of 50 and higher.
- Out of the 1500 queries, around nearly 70% received 1000 organic visitors each month. Often queries for websites with over 1000 monthly organic visitors are considered highly trustworthy and authoritative.
- 87% of websites that published queries had over 1k organic monthly visitors.
- Half of the published articles had a do-follow link, which is excellent for SEO since it passes link juice.
How to Use HARO For SEO?
We can tell you from experience that HARO is an excellent way to build links for most niches. However, since there is no guarantee that your site will be mentioned or quoted, many people get turned off because there is a lot of time and effort involved. That said, based on our experience, the practice can be tricky but once you learn to respond quickly and correctly as we do, it can pay off big time in the way of excellent quality links.
To start using HARO for link building, follow these steps:
- Start by signing up as a source for HARO.
- Choose the categories that you may want to contribute to or feel contributing to. Some of these categories include travel, tech, education, lifestyle and fitness, entertainment, education, and healthcare.
- You will receive 3 emails a day, mainly from bloggers and journalists.
- All you need is to reply to the requests you feel the most comfortable with. However, please don’t waste your time replying to queries about industries you don’t feel comfortable or don’t have experience with; leave it to the experts.
- Finally, wait a couple of weeks, and you may see your brand mentioned and a backlink from a high-traffic site.
Responding to HARO Queries
Trust us when we tell you it will not be long before you find the perfect HARO query to answer. There are essentially two ways to answer a journalist.
- The first is doing it via the HARO dashboard and click under “My Pitches.”
- The other way is to email the reporter directly.
Honestly, you can take either approach, and the process is pretty similar. If you’re taking the email route, just copy and paste the reporter’s email in the query, then send them your pitch. By the way, the email address is anonymous, so you can’t tell who the reporter is or what publication they are working for.
Regardless of if you email reporters or send them a message via your account, they will be visible under all past pitches listed under the account.
The Perfect HARO Pitch
The above was the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to write the perfect pitch. Based on our experience, here are a few things that improve your chances of getting through:
Be concise – Eliminate fluff, and get straight to answering the question. After all, most reporters and bloggers are using the platform to save time. With this in mind, nobody is going to want to read a long-winded pitch. The key is offering as much information as the shortest answer. In our opinion and experience, 2 to 3 paragraphs per pitch are ideal. If you can do it in fewer lines, even better. Keep in mind that some queries also have a minimum word count mentioned. Also, try mixing and matching how you answer these queries.
Keep the deadline in mind – Many people we see doing HARO overlook that these journalists are on a deadline, which is often mentioned. That’s why there isn’t always a lot of time to answer. Some reporters may be active, while others will check the queries after the deadline. Ideally, send the pitches hours before the deadline expires.
Conduct research – You might want to do a bit of research before answering HARO queries, especially if you are doing it for SEO. However, if you are an established expert in the field, research would probably not be necessary to answer most questions. But you might want to double-check dates, times and events if needed.
Having a solid background – The reporter should have a very good idea of who you are and your expertise. The background brief should be professionally drafted, located either at the end of the pitch or the beginning.
Include personal details – HARO is rewarding in terms of SEO and traffic only if the blog or website publishes a link back to you. However, you need to mention your name and the company’s name and add a link to the website for that to happen. Also, add other links to your social media profile or pages.
Link to a professional photo – We know that some reporters and websites will require a photo. Though most still don’t. However, you don’t want to risk getting your pitch turned down because you don’t have a professional-looking photo. That’s why adding a link to a photo is a good idea. You can’t add a photo as an attachment with HARO, so you’ll need to probably host it on Google drive and then paste the link.
Don’t try to sell anything – Finally, unless the query is about your company’s story, try not to sell your products, services, or you as a professional. If anything, these reporters are not looking to hire your company or promote your service on their site.
We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again; link building is a major part of SEO, but it isn’t the only part. If your website does not have enough content, does not appear professional or hasn’t been around for long, doing HARO is pointless. It is only for those who have managed to get past building a professional-looking website, have a bit of content, and also engage in other White Hat link-building strategies. The effort required to do HARO is in our books worth it!
If you don’t have the time for HARO, you can always hire a professional service to do it for you.