Key takeaways:

  • HARO is a free service that you can use to earn links from major publications.
  • This is because journalists from major publications want to quote credible sources in their articles.
  • Journalists receive hundreds of emails per day and are time poor.
  • Answer the HARO request – don’t pitch them with irrelevant information.
  • Don’t respond to requests where you cannot provide personal/professional insight.
  • Only respond to HARO if you are willing to identify who you are (journalists want to quote a real person – not a brand).
  • Getting HARO links is a volume play – most of your responses will not be used.
  • Relying on HARO as your link-building strategy is a bad idea.

In February 2020, I presented everything I knew about HARO link-building. Watch the presentation below.

Skip to the parts that interest you:

  • Backlinks 101 | 03:19
  • What is HARO | 07:47
  • Earned vs bought backlinks | 09:12
  • How to setup your HARO account for success | 12:31
  • Does responding to HARO ASAP = better results? | 13:50
  • Email signature hack | 16:59
  • HARO pitching hacks | 17:23
  • HARO FAQs (e.g., success rate) | 30:54

How to setup HARO for optimal results.

I’ve won some noteworthy link placements for clients and for myself. This is what I’ve learned from pitching hundreds of HARO requests.

Easy-to-win topics to look out for.

If you’re a business owner, the following topics tend to be easier to land link wins:

  • Marketing (analytics, KPIs, social media strategy, SEO)
  • Running a business (accounting, meetings, KPIs)
  • HR (hiring/firing)
  • Personal finances (money management, perspectives on borrowing money).

Timing is everything (it’s also nothing).

I’ve responded to hundreds of HARO requests and I have seen no correlation between how quickly I respond with successful mentions.

The only thing that matters when doing HARO is to ensure that you respond by the stated deadline. When you respond after the deadline, the journalist will not receive a notification.

Use an attention-grabbing subject line.

All HARO emails follow a standard email subject line template. This is what it looks like on the receiving end of a HARO request:

HARO: New Pitch{title of their request}

The text in bold does not change but the highlighted text is your window of opportunity.

If you do not put in your own subject line, the journalist will see the same types of emails in their inbox.

What you want to do is to stand out from the crowd and you can do this by using your own subject line when you respond.

For maximum exposure, I summarise the quote that I’m providing and try to include an opinion in the subject line.

Be a real person worth quoting.

Journalists want to quote real experiences to add depth, balance and credibility to their articles.

Therefore, in your email signature, include a link to your website, a link to your LinkedIn profile, a link to your Twitter account, or a link to your personal Facebook profile. Trust me, journalists will check to see if you’re a real person.

And always write in first person (e.g., “I have seen ..”).

Respect the journalist’s time.

Journalists are time-poor, have many projects at once, and have hard deadlines. Therefore, only respond to a request if you can answer their question to their specifications.

For example:

  • If they are looking for a certain type of professional – make sure that you are in that profession.
  • If they are looking for an individual with a specific background – make sure that you qualify.
  • If they are looking for someone to describe a real-life experience – make sure that you describe a personal/professional experience.

They already understand the subject matter – you do not have to explain it to them.

Skip introductions and “I hope you are well” pleasantries.

HARO is all about speed.

The journalist wants a specific quote in mind and your job is to deliver it.

There is no need to introduce yourself, say hi, or wish them well.

Get straight to the point because HARO is transactional.

Do not tell them to contact you or a client for more information.

If you don’t have a quote ready for them, do not respond.

If you fit the criteria – do it properly.

If you’re representing a client, get a quote from them first instead of introducing who your client is, why they’re a good fit, and telling the journalist to contact them because they won’t.

Respond in a way that the journalist can copy/paste.

When doing HARO link-building, write in a way that is easy for the journalist to copy and paste in a few seconds. Anything that requires editing tends to be overlooked.

When responding, do the following:

  • Ensure there are no spelling errors (saves the journalist from having to correct them).
  • Use localized English based on the publication’s primary audience (American vs UK/Australian).
  • Write in short, easy-to-consume sentences.

Make it easy to link to you.

Always include the URL that you wish to be linked to.

I include this information in each response in the following format:

<job title>
<website URL>

Frequently asked questions.

Does replying to a HARO callout immediately increase the chance of being included?

It can in some circumstances but this hugely depends on how the journalist schedules their work.

You’re better off making our response as relevant as possible than trying to rush it out.

I’ve responded to lots of HARO requests. Why am I not getting any HARO links?

Winning HARO links is almost like a lottery system. Even if you have followed all my recommendations, sometimes a journalist may pass on your response for reasons out of your control.

For example, journalists may choose another person to cite because:

  • They already have responses from people with a similar experience/profile/background as you.
  • They chose to cite the first two responses that they came across.

These factors are beyond your control. I can only advise that you keep at it because HARO as a link-building channel is a volume play.

How long should I spend on replying to a HARO request?

I have spent over an hour for just one HARO request and if the publication and request is relevant to you, I recommend that you

For more general requests, 15-20 minutes per response should be your benchmark. With more practice, you’ll get quicker at spotting worthwhile opportunities.

PS – keep a bank of all the responses you have sent. You can always re-use them for future requests.

Want to learn how to apply SEO like this?

For years I have recommended clients to invest in customer education to showcase their expertise. So watch me practice what I preach by showing you the exact process I deploy for my clients.

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