Let’s start with the obvious.
HARO is a media platform that connects journalists with sources.
Journalists are looking to get quotes from experts for their articles. You want to get links, so you signup as a source and submit replies to get quoted.
HARO works entirely through email and the platform delivers the source requests three times per day: morning, afternoon, and evening. Every source request has a unique email address that you’ll send your response to.
If a journalist likes your reply, the agreement is that they’ll publish it along with a link to your site. Sometimes the links are nofollow, sometimes they are “dofollow.”
You might already have an idea of why HARO link building is great, but let’s go over the benefits now so you can fully appreciate how awesome it is.
There are three reasons why HARO is one of my favorite link building tools.
1. It’s endlessly repeatable. The first benefit of HARO is that it gives you a continuous source of links. Building links shouldn’t be a month-long sprint; it should be a years-long marathon if you want big results.
2. The links are hard to copy. This isn’t guest posting. Your competitors won’t know how you got the link and can only match it if the publication habitually uses HARO and they submit a response that gets selected. Years of HARO links will take years to copy.
3. It can provide a great ROI. Responding to a HARO request takes a tiny fraction of the time required to write a guest post and doesn’t require any prospecting work.
While I love HARO for backlinking, it isn’t the holy grail of building links. It also has a few downsides.
First, HARO links aren’t guaranteed. A lot of your responses won’t be selected. And secondly, there are a fixed number of opportunities. While HARO link building is a naturally repeatable tactic, it’s not scalable.
While there’s no way to scale HARO links, I still think they make a great supplement to other link building activities, and at the end of this tutorial, I’ll share six tips for improving your ROI so you can land more links in less time.
To get backlinks with HARO, you’ll signup as a source on their website and select the topics where you have expertise.
For instance, I have the Business and Finance and High Tech topics selected for my account.
Once selected, you’ll get an email for each topic you subscribed to three times per day (morning, afternoon, evening).
Each email looks something like this:
The requests are listed at the top and they each link to the full request lower in the email.
Here’s an example request:
They’ll let you know the outlet they’re writing for and include a series of questions. Sometimes, the request isn’t an outright question to be answered, but rather, it’s a request to get in touch with someone in the field.
Each request also has a specific email assigned to it that you need to respond to. All you have to do is write your best response and deliver it to that address.
Of course, you don’t get a link just because you wrote a response. That’s why if you want to get a good return on HARO, you need to write competitive responses.
How to write replies that get selected
There are three steps to write a quality response that gets selected.
- Research the site
- Write three drafts
- Edit down to one reply
It’s tempting to knock out your responses as quickly as possible, but a slapped-together quote with spelling errors won’t get you any backlinks.
With a clearly defined process, you can move through these three steps and have your response delivered in 5-6 minutes.
1. Research the site
It’s tempting for me to give you a recommended word count and other tips, but I can’t.
The truth is that the length of your reply and the style you use depends on the publication. For instance, you might use an edgier tone writing for Vice than Business Insider.
That’s why the first thing you need to do is visit the publication. See what their style is like, and more importantly, check their recent posts for quotes. See for yourself the type of quotes they’re selecting and who they’re choosing as sources.
Once you’ve found a couple of expert quotes, don’t close the tab. Keep them on-screen – screenshot them if you want – and use them as a reference while you write your own response.
2. Write three drafts
You’re already a subject matter expert, so you don’t need to research the topic. Now that you know what the journalist is looking for, you can write your best response.
Rather than slowly crafting “the perfect reply,” it’s best to write three unique responses. This going to stretch you a bit, but the process will cause you to come up with ideas and references you might have otherwise missed. This is rapid-fire stuff, so each draft should only take about a minute (unless there are a lot of questions).
Then step away from the computer, or do something else for a bit. Editing immediately after writing is going to cause you to overlook glaring errors. You need fresh eyes.
3. Edit down to one reply
Once you’ve taken a few minutes away, come back to your responses and edit them down to one reply.
Make sure it matches the style and length of the other quotes that have been published by this journalist. Then run it through a tool like Grammarly to ensure there aren’t any spelling or grammar errors left.
Finally, you can send your finished reply along to the journalist.
Then you can sit back and wait to hear from them. Most of the time (not always), the author will let you know once the piece is published. Different publications move at different speeds, so the article could take anywhere from a week to a couple of months to go live.
If all that sounds like a lot of work for a link that isn’t guaranteed, I understand. That’s why I’ve put together six additional tips that will help you get a better ROI from your HARO link building.
6 tips to improve your ROI
Link building is a game of ROI.
There are always more links to get, but sometimes, it’s not worth the effort. Lots of folks try HARO but give it up after getting too few links (or none at all).
These next six tips are going to help you improve your ROI by decreasing how long it takes to reply and increasing your chances of getting a link.
1. Create an email template
Every journalist wants a few personal details. Normally, they want your name, company, your position at that company, and your website URL. Some also want a link to a headshot image (no attachments).
You can save yourself a lot of time by creating a resuable email template with all of this info included.
In Gmail, you can find the option to create and insert email templates here:
Then you can start every email with your greeting and personal details already included.
2. Always reply to “round-ups”
Always take the time to respond to requests that are obviously expert round-ups. For example, someone looking for SEO experts to share their favorite link building tools.
These articles tend to publish a lot of quotes, greatly increasing your chances to get a link.
3. Use filters to ignore irrelevant requests
If you find yourself skimming HARO emails day after day without finding relevant requests, it can get pretty draining.
One trick to make things easier is to create a filter that only lets relevant requests through.
For example, if you’re an accountant, you can create a filter that deletes (or archives) the emails from HARO if they don’t include the terms “accountant,” “accounting,” or “bookkeeping.”
Obviously, there are times when this can cause you to miss out on tangentially related topics, but it’s a good solution for anyone feeling overwhelmed by the quantity of HARO requests.
If you archive these emails, you can always browse through them when you have time.
4. Ignore anonymous publications
Sometimes a journalist won’t list their publication. This isn’t a major outlet trying to get sources “on the low.” It’s someone with a brand new website with zero audience that no one wants to write for. Sorry, don’t write for them.
5. Only respond to relevant requests
Who you are matters as much as what you say. Even if you know a lot about the subject in question, ignore it if your credentials don’t match.
Journalists are looking for experts and your credentials are the key to qualifying you as one.
6. Check the deadline before you write
Every request has a response deadline. Sometimes they’re a few days out, but oftentimes, they’re for the next day or even 5pm the same day.
If you don’t reply immediately, double-check the deadline before you write your response. The reply email address gets deleted at the deadline, so if you’re late, you’ll have no way to send your response, making it a complete waste of time.
HARO can be a lot of work, but with a few time-saving tactics and a clearly defined response process, you can get a great ROI.
Once you land your first editorial backlink on a high authority website, you’ll know it was all worth it.
If you want to keep building links and discover more reusable tactics, check out this article next:
Those are tactics that real businesses can use to build links for years to come.
What did you think of these HARO link building tips? Let us know in the comments below.