haro link building guide 2021

The Compact HARO Link Building Guide for 2021 [Free-Template]

Digital Marketing – a wonderful world on its own. Believe me, when I say it, few things are as awe-inspiring as it. There’s a litany of complex tools that allow us to target potential customers based on what they like, what they don’t like, their browsing habits at a particular time, etc. It’s the perfect combination of science meets art. However, all that glam fades away quickly once you get down to the nitty-gritty. That’s when you’ll realize, like every other field out there, there’s a lot of groundwork that needs to be done.

Link building is an essential part of that groundwork. Depending on what your ultimate goal is, you can’t rely on every kind of backlink too. Quality and white-hat backlinks with reputable names act as pillars that hold the foundation of your site and HARO helps you with that. Think of it as the perfect circle of trust. The more trusted your backlinks are, the more trustable you are and vice versa.

There are several link-building techniques and strategies out there. All of them promise success with minimal effort. However, few of them are as effective and as simplistic as HARO. If this is your first time hearing about HARO and don’t know what is HARO, this guide is designed to be your crash 101 course. If you have a faint idea of what HARO is, this guide will fill in all those essential gaps of knowledge. And if you’re a HARO veteran, then you’ll enjoy getting a recap of everything critical when it comes to HARO. In short, this guide is meant to cater to all kinds of HARO users. You’ll find all your HARO-related questions answered, all your doubts cleared, and most importantly, you’ll learn how to use HARO to get those quality backlinks all digital marketers dream of.

What Is HARO?

HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. In a nutshell, it is as simple as the name suggests. However, its users are far more diverse and varied than the name suggests. Reporters do use it to gain expert accounts and first-hand experiences. But over the years, bloggers and publications themselves have started using it as a reliable source of valuable information and insights. It’s not uncommon to see a request for comment from a publication like Forbes or The Washington Post.

Two kinds of users rely on HARO (Help a Reporter Out). As mentioned above, the first are publications, bloggers, and reporters who need information about a particular subject from experts. This information isn’t uncommon, but the HARO makes it easier for them to advertise their need for these comments. Why advertise this need? Well, this brings us to the other end of the spectrum.

The second kind of user on HARO are the experts or simple marketers looking for white-hat backlinks to their site. These advertisements make it easier for them to respond to each query. If their response is accepted, to gain that all-important backlink.

It is, as I mentioned earlier, a perfect cycle. Each user gets what they want; there’s minimal chance of anyone deceit. Users are free to choose whose response they wish to use or whose query they want to respond to.

How Does It Work?

Like with any reputable service, you’ll have to go to their website and sign up. The process takes less than a minute. However, it’s an essential part of using HARO effectively since this step allows you to set how you want to use it. As I mentioned earlier, different people will have different uses from HARO (Help a Reporter Out), so you specify your exact use.

The sign-up process is similar to most other sites. You have the option to choose from 4 different plans. The basic program is free and will give you access to HARO’s essential features as well as email support. The other plans are standard, advanced, and premium that comes with additional perks such as keyword alerts, text alerts, a head start over the rest of the competition, and the option to create multiple profiles from the same account. Once you’re done with the sign-up phase, you can get started straight away.

For instance, if you’re a journalist looking for an expert opinion on something like car insurance or air travel during COVID-19, you can submit that query. You get additional options to narrow down the responses you’re looking for, set a deadline, as well as hide the publication you work for if you wish. Each query is then submitted to a HARO editing team. The team doesn’t meddle in your query apart from making sure you’re not using the platform to promote a secondary service or any other illicit activity. Once this team approves the query, it is forwarded to more than a million sources registered on the platform.

These sources are the digital marketers looking for those quality white-hat backlinks to improve their website’s traffic while increasing their authority. During the sign-up phase, you’ll have the option to select topics you’re an expert in. You can choose a wide range of topics but keep in mind that most journalists only accept pitches that display evident expertise in the subject. So, I’d highly recommend sticking to the field you have a reasonable amount of knowledge. The HARO queries will arrive thrice a day. The timings will differ based on your time zone, but for an estimate, HARO sends out these emails at 5:45 AM, 12:45 PM, and 5:45 PM based on the Eastern Standard Time (EST).

I’d recommend setting the alarm on both your table clock and your digital calendar. Timing is of the essence. Why? It’s discussed meticulously below. Additionally, it’s best to devote 60-90 minutes for each round of HARO queries. Most are relatively straightforward and require the most basic responses. Some are complex that require extensive research. So, how do you ensure that you’re maximizing your chances of being approved on HARO? Read on below to learn the critical principles for success on HARO.

Success with HARO – Key Principles

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is by far one of the most effective ways to boost traffic to your site. Additionally, it’ll help you create a name for yourself within your industry. However, and this is important, none of this will be instant. HARO is by no means a quick fix. If you’re after quick and immediate results, you’re better off investing your time and resources elsewhere.

HARO is unique in the sense that it’ll act as part of your site’s content creation and media outreach. If you’re looking to build a name for yourself, establish a reputation for your brand, and ensure there’s a healthy and organic online presence for it, then HARO is the answer. Think of it as a multi-layered strategy that will start yielding results in due course.

If you’re convinced that HARO is the way forward for your site, you’ll need to keep a few essential principles in mind. These aren’t written in concrete, and you can choose to ignore them. However, these are principles that are highly recommended by most HARO specialists, including myself. They’re simple to follow, and if appropriately implemented, virtually guarantee success.

Credibility Is Important

One of my favorite elements about HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is that it does not discriminate. If you sign up as a source and respond to queries, it will not sort out your responses from other seasoned HARO veterans. For all intents and purposes, it is a level playing field. HARO sells you as an expert. This might sound great, but there’s a flip side to that. Your online presence and persona need to reflect your expertise.

Make no mistake; whoever receives your HARO responses is going to check your website, LinkedIn profile, Twitter, and any other media you’ve shared with them. All of these need to correspond to your supposed expertise. This means being actively involved with the latest developments in your field, sharing and creating relevant content, being professional, both in content and conduct.

Suppose you’ve created an excellent response to a query. Suppose the source decides to check your site. It comes across a poorly designed website, little or no original content, and a poor customer experience overall. In that case, likely, you won’t be getting a link back. You have to remember that when they quote you, they’re putting their reputation on the line too. And no reputable publication will want to be associated with a site with questionable credentials and nothing worthwhile to offer in terms of content.

The easiest way to build credibility is to be transparent. A short bio (70-80 words) that mentions who you work for and your area of expertise. Remember, less is more. Don’t go overboard as it comes across as too desperate.

For example, here’s my bio:

“Rameez Ghayas Usmani is currently working as a Founder & CEO at HARO Responders. He is a digital marketing enthusiast, and has been serving and representing over 200+ firms and agencies.”

As you can see, my bio highlights my current position as a founder of a company. Hence, whenever someone receives my HARO query, they can rest assured that my answer is backed up with my professional experience. Secondly, don’t be bland. As you’ll learn reading on, each query receives hundreds and sometimes thousands of responses. Use your bio to stand out. Add something unique. It all adds to your credibility and authenticity in the long run.

Timing is Everything

As much as I love HARO (Help a Reporter Out), this is by far the most irksome aspect of it. Allow me to explain with a little story. This is during the first few days when I started responding to HARO queries. I saw a query by someone from Forbes. Naturally, I understood what this means and the potential for exposure through such a publication. I spent the next 2-3 hours working on making sure the response was perfect. I submitted it nearly 4 hours after the query had been posted. And then nothing happened. I never received a response. And that’s when I learned there’s an excruciatingly small window for answering HARO queries.

Most of the journalists and publications that request HARO responses work on an extremely tight schedule. That means they’re likely to use the first few responses they receive. The lengthy HARO approval process further exacerbates this. Remember what I mentioned earlier; your responses aren’t directly sent over. This additional delay in the editorial process means that they’ll likely use the first handful of responses they receive. Timing is of the essence.

To highlight how stringent these deadlines are, you might respond 10 minutes later to a query, and the source may already have all the responses they need. Once you receive one of those 3 emails with the HARO queries, you need to devote as much time to answer those queries within the first hour. Fair warning, sometimes even that might not be enough. Hence, I recommend choosing wisely which queries you respond to. Focus on quality and timing, rather than quantity.

If you cannot respond to queries within the first hour, unfortunately, HARO may not be worth your time. As with most things, you can’t sacrifice the response’s quality to get in a quick response. At the same time, you can’t forego timing to craft an exceptional response. They both need to go hand in hand. That is the secret to success on HARO, no shortcuts.

Be Relevant

During the sign-up process, you’ll have the choice between what kind of queries you want to receive. The main categories involve Education, entertainment, media, high tech, lifestyle and fitness, public policy, travel, and several general inquiries. You’ll be tempted to select as many categories as possible, to give as many responses as possible. This would be a critical mistake. Only select categories that you know you have a reasonable amount of expertise in.

This will make your job easier since you’ll be able to respond quicker with minimal additional research. Secondly, it’ll help build up your reputation because that’s one of the main reasons for doing HARO (Help a Reporter Out) in the first place. Do not try to be the jack-of-all-trades here.

Once you have selected the categories you’re good at, make sure you read them correctly and respond accordingly. Sometimes a query will specify the word limits. Sometimes they’ll specify if they want the answer in bullet points, whether they want links to relevant pictures, links to purchase an item, and so on. These might not be the central part of the HARO query, but missing them could prove to be your undoing.

In the query response itself, remain on-point. Remember the first principle, establish your credibility with a sentence or two explaining why you’re qualified to respond. In case the query doesn’t mention a specific word count, a good rule of hand to follow is to keep your pitch within 250-300 words. In my experience, this is usually ample enough for you to respond adequately while making it easier for the journalist to read your response within a minute.

I should also warn you; there are times when you’ll make a superb 300-word pitch, and eventually, only a sentence from that pitch will make the final cut. This isn’t something to be discouraged by. Remember, it’s the journalist’s query, and they can choose which part of your response is useful to them. In any case, you should be happy that out of potentially thousands of responses, yours’ was one of the few to be select.

Finally, DO NOT BE GENERIC in your responses. Far too often, queries will ask for your opinions on subjects like best books on political science or something similar. Don’t respond with titles like “The Art of War” or “Why Nations Fail.” These are both exceptional books that are undoubtedly must-reads in their fields. However, they do not help you stand out. Nearly every second response will contain these books, so why should a journalist choose your response over them?

Keep yourself relevant but unique at the same time. Pick a book that’s perhaps not that well-known or recently published. In other words, make sure you have something different and purposeful to offer compared to all the other responses they’ll receive. Speaking from personal experience, it helps to provide advice on subjects like these based on your own experience. This will not only help you stand apart from the crowd but also save you the time needed for research, and ultimately, get you that much-needed head starts over the rest of the competition.

Follow Up & Promote

The final principle and perhaps the simplest one is to follow up. Once your response is accepted and published, I’d highly recommend reaching out and sending a generous and short thank you note for using your pitch. This does two things. First, it opens up future opportunities where you may collaborate again. Secondly, it builds up a reputation for you and helps in creating those all-important networks. These networking connections can be a tremendous asset for your site in the long run.

Additionally, don’t forget to promote the published articles. You may believe that your job’s done once the article with your pitch is published, but that’s not quite the case. In actuality, you can enhance your chances of future success with that publication by promoting the piece and getting a fair amount of traffic. Moreover, you can link that article to one of your existing blog posts. It could be immensely helpful to your website’s traffic and helps identify future content opportunities.

The more you promote your published pitches, the more you increase your digital presence and authority on that subject. There are obvious benefits of added traffic, publicity, credibility. Still, the most important part is what it does for your personal brand. There’s intrinsic satisfaction in being considered a reputable source about a particular subject. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is unsurpassed in delivering those results, provided you use it effectively and efficiently.

A Sample HARO Response

When all is said and done, you might wonder, “how does this all translate into an actual HARO response?”. Well, here’s a sample HARO response to give you a clear idea of how you can put these ideas into practice and get the best possible results:

“Subject Line: {Credential/Title} for {Query Topic}

Hi {First Name},

 

I’m a {title with link to website} with {experience in subject matter or product line}.

The requirements section of the inquiry is really important here. Highlight how you are specifically qualified for this story. For example, if a reporter specifically asks for a business in New York, give them your neighborhood or address. If they want a life coach, include “certified life coach” in your pitch.

In reference to your query on {subject}, I can {answer query requirements}.

Again, it’s important to follow the query’s requirements exactly. If the blogger says, “I’m looking for easy, actionable tips for women to negotiate the salary they want when being hired.” Provide one to three tips with one to three sentences describing each.

Many times, the blogger or reporter will run exactly what you send in your email reply, so don’t hold your best stuff back!

Would you be interested in talking to me further about {subject}? Please email me or call me at {contact info}.

Always end your email with a call-to-action, which could be a question, an offer to provide more information, and your contact details.

 

Sincerely,

{Name}

{Title and Business with Link to Website}

{Your Email Signature}”

 

Above I added is just a sample of one HARO response. I send out several HARO responses per day and adjust them according to the query. I would encourage you to do the same. Don’t become a one-trick pony. Learn to incorporate your twist into responses, because as I mentioned earlier, staying ahead and apart from the crowd is the secret to HARO success.

Some Final Thoughts

I’ve covered all the things you should do to make a compelling and effective HARO (Help a Reporter Out) response. It only makes sense that I should also let you know about things to beware of. On top of that list are HARO queries that ask for any personal info or money in exchange for accepting your response. Firstly, I doubt that such a query would make it past the HARO editorial team. However, in the rare instance that it does, stay as far away from these kinds of queries as possible. They’re almost always a scam and looking to exploit users.

Additionally, sometimes you’ll come across HARO pitches that ask for samples in return for accepting your HARO responses. I have to be brutally honest, respond to these kinds of queries only if you have a product you’re looking to market. In that case, the type of exposure a mention on a reputable site would bring can be useful. In all other cases, I’d say this isn’t worth your time.

Lastly, some queries will specify that they’re only looking for responses from experts with proper credentials, such as MDs or PhDs. In such a case, unless you do have a Ph.D. or MD, don’t respond to these queries. They’ll only be a waste of your time. From an ethical point, if they’ve specified, they’re only looking for specialists’ responses, it makes no sense to waste their time.

In the end, that should cover all you need to know to get started with HARO. Remember, you may not always receive a response on the success of your HARO pitch, so you may need to use tools like Google Alerts, Ahrefs, or SEMrush to track all the backlinks and online mentions. You’ll find HARO will significantly improve your written communication skills and help you write content that makes an impact. You’ll learn a great deal thanks to HARO. In return, it’ll pay great dividends in the long run, both personally and professionally.

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