This is a step-by-step guide to HARO link building in 2022.
If you’re like me who survives (and thrives) on an income online, you probably know how important backlinks are to your online success.
When it comes to SEO and search traffic, the impact of backlinks is huge. It is a well-known fact that links are one of the most important Google ranking factors. At the same time, acquiring backlinks is the hardest part of growing your online business, particularly when you are first starting. After all, it’s frustrating to keep sending cold outreach emails over and over and not getting a favorable response.
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Many new site owners struggle to get backlinks and that discourages them to the extent, that either they tend to look for some shortcuts or think of quitting it altogether.
If you’re one of those people who are on the verge of quitting, here’s a light at the end of the tunnel – that’s HARO link building.
Now, here I am not going to tell you what backlinks are and how important are they? Etc. I assume you already know. Instead, in this HARO link building guide, I will show you the exact steps I followed to get some of the most valuable backlinks for my sites as well as our clients.
How much valuable? To give you an idea, some of the links we get are from top publications like Forbes, TechCrunch, Yahoo, BuzzFeed, etc.
So, without much ado, let’s dive into the HARO link-building strategies we’ve successfully implemented.
Let me begin with a little background on HARO for those unfamiliar with the platform.
What is HARO?
HARO stands for “Help a Reporter Out”. It’s a free platform for journalists (reporters) seeking newsworthy stories and the people (sources) looking for opportunities to be featured in top publications.
On the platform, journalists ask questions (queries) and people like us (sources) respond to them (pitch). If a reporter finds your response useful, they will mention you in their article and will often give a credit link to your site.
It’s a win-win! Isn’t it?
With this short introduction, let us move on to the actual HARO link building strategy…
HARO Link Building: How It Works?
Joining HARO is straightforward. Here’s a step-by-step process:
Step 1: Sign Up
First, you need to create an account on HARO. Head over to the HARO site and create an account following the steps provided.
Depending on your goal, you can join HARO either as a reporter or a source. For example, if you aim to get content insights (news reports, interviews, expert opinions, etc.) you want to sign up as “I’m A Journalist”. On the other hand, if your aim is marketing (such as PR exposure, backlinks, traffic, etc.), you want to select the “I’m A Source” option.
Step 2: Account Settings
After signing up, you’ll need to set your preferences.
This includes providing a few details such as providing your contact details such as an address, phone, etc. (though not mandatory) and selecting the industries of your choice.
Selection of the correct industry is important. So that HARO sends you only those queries which are relevant to you.
HARO sends emails three times a day, Monday through Friday. These emails contain hundreds of queries from journalists in different categories – such as Biotech and Healthcare, Business and Finance, Travel, Legal, Lifestyle and Fitness, Education, High Tech, Entertainment and Media, General, etc.
Here, if you are just starting, don’t get tempted to tick off every industry. Since HARO sends out 3 different emails every day for different categories, there will be a lot of duplicate entries. You will get overwhelmed by the sheer number of queries.
That’s why we subscribed to the “Master HARO” list only as it covers all the industries. Now we receive only 3 emails per day where we get queries from all industries in a single email.
Disclaimer: When I say that HARO link building is very effective, please note that it is not the only way to build backlinks to your site. Furthermore, I don’t even claim that this is the best link-building strategy. It all depends on your specific goals and the available resources and time.
That said, HARO link building is one of the best ways to acquire authority backlinks.
According to author RH Kanakia, for a new writer, the chances of getting featured in publications like The New Yorker is less than 0.0025%, that is, 1 in 40,000.
That’s such a low probability that, she adds, for new writers, it’s not even worth imagining.
Not only that, it’s completely impossible to get published in The New Yorker if you pitch through their online submissions form.
On the other hand, if you follow the HARO route, you have a fair chance of getting featured in the top publications like the New York Times, Forbes, Business Insider, HuffPost, The Wall Street Journal, and more.
What did you say?
Too good to be true… Can’t believe it?
Keep reading, I’ll show you it’s possible, and it’s much easier than any other method.
How to get featured on top publications (and get authority backlinks) through HARO?
Once you created an account, it’s time for action. This is the holy grail of the HARO link building.
Based on the priorities you set in step #2 above, you will receive questions related to your industry. You will pick the queries that best suit your niche/topic and answer them as required by the reporter. It can be anything from news stories, case studies, research reports, insights, expert inputs, etc.
However, while it sounds straightforward, and to some extent it is, there are some smart tricks that you need to know to get optimal results from HARO link building.
What are these tricks? Let’s dive into them right away.
1) HARO Link Building: Responding to Queries
Now that you’ve created an account on HARO and set your preferences, HARO will send emails containing queries – THREE times a day.
In the beginning, it might seem overwhelming as the emails contain tons of queries. But don’t fret. If you know the tricks it will be relatively smooth sailing.
Here are the exact steps we follow:
Step #1: Be Selective
While there are numerous questions from journalists, you don’t need to answer every query out there.
You need to be selective.
Quickly scan the emails and look for the questions that best fit your business. For example, responding to a query on bathroom design may not be useful if you are running a marketing site. Similarly, if you run a cryptocurrency blog, you will not want to answer a health-related query.
So, it’s most important that you pitch to a query that matches your industry.
Pro tip: While choosing a topic, it need not be an exact match, but should be loosely related. For example, if you run a fitness blog/site, a recipe-related query might also work. Though it’s not an exact fit, food is somehow related to health and fitness.
That means while you will want to pitch the fitness blogs, sometimes you can also respond to related niches such as food, lifestyle, wellness & general health, etc. sites.
Because, if you work in a tight niche, there might be a limited number of HARO queries. This will limit your chances drastically.
So, first, look for the exact niche. If you don’t find them, you can look for the other closely related niches.
Step #2: Be Quick, Really Quick
Yes, journalists are always in a hurry. It’s truer for those working with big publications. So, they usually pick the first few pitches and leave the remaining. They will only look for the remaining responses if they don’t get the desired answer from the initial pitches.
So, if you want to maximize your chances of getting featured on top sites, be quick, really quick in responding.
Pro tip: Aim to respond within the first hour. We have repeatedly observed that whenever we responded within an hour, journalists picked up our pitches more than the ones sent 5-8 hours later or the next day.
Step #3: Be Insightful
Pitch only if you know the thing. Else, you will waste your time and efforts.
I’ve seen people copy content from different sites, rewrite it, and send it to journalists.
If you are going to answer their questions by doing Google, then keep in mind, that they could have done this themselves.
Then why would they post it on HARO?
Journos are on HARO because they are looking for some expert insights… something they can’t easily find on Google.
Therefore, copying, rewriting, reformatting, etc. tricks won’t work with HARO. You should be (or at least appear to be) an expert in the topic you are responding to. That is, your response should be ‘genuine’ and insightful. This should add value to their audience.
Step #4: Rambling Won’t Work
Most of the HARO queries ask for a paragraph response. So, provide exactly the same.
Many people send long article-type responses as if they are pitching for a guest post. It’s not necessary at all. Journalists neither have the time nor are they interested in your detailed articles.
So, you don’t need to waste time writing long responses. Save it for your own blogs or guest post pitching, and provide a concise, to-the-point response that they can use in their articles.
That said, you can certainly send a long pitch when a query clearly calls for a detailed response. Although this happens rarely.
Pro tip: Many times I have seen queries where journalists ask for in-depth answers. In addition, there are also a certain amount of fake (or pseudo) reporters who abuse platforms like HARO and want you to write content for free and not even give you credit.
So, my advice is to avoid such queries, as most of these tend to be low-quality sites. Also, instead of writing a long post and not getting links, you can use your time to write more pitches for relevant and genuine sites.
This leads to the next step.
Step #5: Know Who You Are Pitching To
Before you write a pitch, you need to determine if the site is worth responding to.
Yes, this is very important.
How to do this? We follow these steps:
#1. Check for their DA/DR: Usually most of the queries include a media outlet. You can search for the site and once you get their website URL, check for their domain authority (DA) or domain rating (DR). When looking for DA/DR, aim for the sites that have similar or higher ratings than yours. For example, if your site has DA 45, targeting a site with DA 45 or higher is the best bet. You can use any SEO tool to find DA/DR.
#2. Spam Score: Another important metric to watch is the Spam Score (SS) of the target site. Because some sites with very strong DA may have been heavily abused/spammed in the past. Getting links from such sites can hurt your SEO. Therefore, it is important to check their spam score. If it is more than 10%, then it is better to avoid such sites.
#3. Organic monthly traffic: Similarly, another important thing to check is the monthly traffic of the site. We use the SimilarWeb SEO tool to find out the site’s monthly traffic and its traffic sources. For us, the rule of thumb is the target site should have at least 10k monthly organic visitors. From an SEO point of view, we believe, that if a site is driving this amount of traffic, it is safe to get links from it.
#4. Link Type: Last but not least, it is also important to know what kind of link you are going to get from a particular site. Many sites will give you a link back but nofollow. As everyone knows, when it comes to SEO, nofollow links do not have much link value as they do not pass the link juice.
Therefore, before pitching, you will want to visit their blog posts and check whether their outgoing links are dofollow or nofollow. If all outgoing links are nofollow then it is better to avoid such sites.
You should only pitch such sites if the site is really huge and you are likely to get more exposure and referral traffic.
The Skinny on Anonymous HARO Queries
On HARO, you will also see several anonymous queries. It’s like a shot in the dark. Because it could be a really high-profile reporter working with top authority sites (like Forbes) or someone from a low-quality site who is wasting your time.
While it is true that some journalists prefer to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons, most anonymous queries on HARO are from poor-quality publications.
Therefore, you need to take them with a pinch of salt. Read their queries carefully. Check their style, grammar, word choice, etc. Finally, go with your gut feeling. If you think the query is worth your time, go ahead, otherwise skip it.
By following these HARO link building strategies, we have earned some of the most valuable backlinks for our as well as our clients’ sites.
Want to learn more about our HARO backlinks service?
Check them out here: HARO Link Building Services