HARO link building: a legitimate tool for beefing up your backlink profile or just a gigantic waste of time and effort? If you stay current with SEO (search engine optimization) trends and tactics, you’ve probably heard the buzz about HARO. A free tool for building credible backlinks and bolstering your SEO strategies? It sounds too good to be true, but thankfully, it’s not. If you learn how to use HARO properly, it can be a gold mine of powerful backlinks for your website. Best of all, it really is free! I’m going to explain all about HARO link building and how you can integrate this platform into your digital marketing and SEO strategies, so let’s dive right in.
What Is HARO Link Building? HARO = Help a Reporter Out
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HARO is a useful acronym in today’s digital landscape that stands for “Help a Reporter Out.”
Cision, a PR and communications behemoth, owns the HARO platform. Essentially, it’s a means to an end: HARO connects journalists, bloggers, and content creators looking for information with authoritative and credible sources who can provide the answers they seek. Even better, it’s free. Even though you can opt for paid services from HARO, you can still benefit from its services without spending a dime.
How Does HARO Link Building Work?
The people who use HARO to find credible sources of information span a broad range of industries. We’re not just talking about self-proclaimed “experts” spouting nonsense from their parents’ basements, either. Some of the world’s best-known and respected news and media companies use HARO, including Forbes, ABC, TIME Magazine, and The New York Times. However, it’s also a valuable resource for people with smaller, niche-based blogs.
The following is a breakdown of how HARO works:
- Reporters/journalists/bloggers send requests for information on the HARO platform, hoping to reach credible potential sources.
- HARO sends those information requests via emails (three per day) to people registered as sources.
- Those sources sift through the emails and requests, looking for relevant queries they can answer.
- The journalists and reporters review the responses from each source and choose the best one, which they may publish in their media channels or content.
- These published answers include a valuable backlink to the source’s website.
HARO is like that tiny shrimp that lives in the mouths of bigger fish and cleans their teeth — both parties benefit from each other. Journalists and reporters gain a valid source and the answers or information they need, while the responders gain high-quality backlinks using a white-hat technique, lending credibility to their websites and boosting SEO performance.
How To Sign Up for HARO as a Source
The first step to using HARO is signing up as a source. The process is straightforward:
- Head to the HARO homepage.
- Fill in your information on the form.
- Verify that you’re not a bot in disguise.
- Click your consent to HARO’s privacy terms.
- Check your inbox for a confirmation email, and click the link to activate your account.
- Complete your HARO profile.
After activating your new HARO account, the site will redirect you to a Welcome page and the My Account screen. Under the “Account Options” section, check the box that says “Source.” Then, input your location.
Select Your Industry Preferences
HARO automatically subscribes every new user to the master email list. However, the master query list contains so many requests that you’d have gray hair by the time you read through them all. Instead, scroll through and select the specific industries where you have the most expertise and knowledge so you can get the highly relevant queries faster.
Scan Through Each HARO Email To Find Suitable Queries
HARO sends three emails per day at the following times:
- 5:35 a.m.
- 12:35 p.m.
- 5:35 p.m.
Whenever you receive an email, check it thoroughly for relevant queries that could be a backlink opportunity.
When you’re ready to respond to a HARO query, be sure to include the following:
- A complete response that answers the questions directly
- A URL to your website and links to your social media profiles
- Your title or position
- A link to a headshot and personal bio
Pro Tip: If your primary objective is to get backlinks for SEO purposes, it’s okay to discriminate. You don’t need to spend time responding to every possible relevant query. Instead, take it as a valid excuse to be a Domain Authority snob: Any media outlet with a Domain Authority lower than 50 probably isn’t worth the time and effort it takes to write a decent pitch.
Responding to Queries: Don’t Start Pitching Without Reading This Advice
One of the major drawbacks of using HARO is its popularity. As more and more people have become aware of HARO and the many benefits it can provide for link building and SEO, oversaturation has been inevitable. Nowadays, there are so many people using HARO that to capture the attention of journalists and get the grand prize (a backlink), you have to stand out by demonstrating the value you provide. Here is a quick breakdown of what you need to know about the pitching process:
Time Is of the Essence
If you don’t respond to a query almost immediately, you’re lowering your chances of success. Your best bet is to set an alert. That way, if something good comes along, you’re primed and ready to take advantage of it before someone else does.
Don’t Be Boring
One of the biggest obstacles to getting a backlink on HARO is the vast pool of people you’re competing against. Any pitch that’s bland, boring, conventional, or mediocre isn’t going to cut it. Be unique or provide a fresh perspective without going overboard.
If the journalist who sent the query is asking a question, answer it directly! Yes, you should be unique and stand out from the masses in the best way possible, but that doesn’t mean you should ramble and get on some completely unrelated subject. Answer the question and follow the requirements to a T, or you’re only wasting your time.
Be Authentic and Skip the BS
Every successful journalist and reporter has a built-in BS detector and a second sense for people who are disingenuous or lying. Their careers often depend on it. In light of this, take care to be your most authentic self when pitching in response to a query.
Don’t pretend you’re an expert on a topic just to have a chance at landing a backlink from a site with a high domain authority — most people will see right through the fluff and keep scrolling. By then, you’ve already wasted their time and yours. Be genuine, and only respond to queries where you have authentic expertise or first-hand experience.
Make Yourself Readily Available
If you’ve been spending a lot of time and effort writing pitches and getting a big fat zero in response, the problem may be that you lack enough of a digital presence. Are you including links to all your social media pages and website URLs? What about a headshot and a cool bio? It should be easy for people to communicate and engage with you online. Plus, this type of “social proof” establishes your credibility as a source and increases your chances of scoring a backlink.
You’ve Been Accepted: Now What?
You open your email, and all of a sudden, the angels start to sing: There’s an acceptance email from HARO in your inbox! I know how great that feels, believe me, but don’t let it distract you — there’s still work to be done. When you first receive an acceptance email, respond as quickly as possible by thanking the journalist or reporter who accepted your pitch. If they ask you another question in response to your pitch, take the time to send a thoughtful and well-crafted follow-up.
Most journalists will send you an email with the published link, at which point you should respond with a list of the webpages or platforms where you’ll share it. It’s important not to skip this step, as it can give you added exposure and increase your chances of getting referral traffic or another backlink in a different article.
Journalists don’t always notify the sources they choose to link to. In that case, you can use tools like Ahrefs to check for your link. However, it may take some time for your link to show up, from a few days to a few weeks.
Is Paying for HARO’s Premium Features Worth It?
While HARO is free to use, it does offer a premium subscription for those willing to pay for it. By choosing this option, you gain the following benefits:
- Automatic alerts for specific keywords
- A bio that attaches to your responses
- The ability to browse through queries online by keyword and category
- 15-minute head start on email queries
So, is it worth it? That’s your decision. You can still use HARO to build powerful backlinks for your website without paying anything at all.
A Hard Look at the Pros and Cons of Using HARO as a Link-building Resource
HARO is an undeniably valuable resource for building powerful backlinks from websites and media platforms with high domain ratings. However, it offers far more benefits than just that. On the other hand, you should note a few drawbacks. Let’s break them down now:
Pros: Why You Should Use HARO
It’s Free: For cash-strapped bloggers and web admins, HARO is an excellent way to get a boost in the SEO department without spending any money. Yes, it does take time, but it’s one of the most budget-friendly SEO tools out there.
Visibility: If your pitch does end up on a media platform, your website could gain a huge boost of organic traffic. That kind of exposure can net you immeasurable rewards.
High-quality Backlinks: Many of the reporters, journalists, and publications using HARO to find credible sources come from well-known, well-established media outlets and platforms like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other names you would immediately recognize. Therefore, the quality of the backlinks you receive is much higher than getting ten backlinks from obscure blogs that nobody knows about.
SEO Benefit: Search engine optimization is the primary benefit of using HARO for link building. Creating a successful SEO strategy requires the integration of many different factors, and using HARO for quality backlinks is an excellent way to bolster your performance.
Cons: The Drawbacks of HARO
Extreme Competition: Over the years, HARO has become flooded with people hoping to gain exposure and backlinks from journalists and media sites. It isn’t easy to stand out in such a vast crowd.
Time-consuming: There’s no quick fix for crafting decent pitches, and time is of the essence when using HARO. Plus, you have a low response rate, which means most of your pitches will go unanswered.
Variable Link Quality: While many of the sites searching for sources are well respected, there are plenty of low-quality queries on HARO. Take the time to sort through your queries to ensure you’re working with a reputable organization.
HARO Link Building: The Free Source for Building Quality Backlinks and Boosting SEO
Nobody said that SEO is easy; it’s one of the most difficult and time-consuming aspects of digital marketing to get right. Building a strong, credible backlink profile is vital to any SEO strategy, though it can be just as difficult as developing your overall action plan. Thankfully, you can use HARO link building as a free tool to help you gain powerful backlinks from credible websites with high domain authority. It might take some time and effort to get everything right, but the rewards can be worth it in the end. For the thousands of us out there who don’t have a ton of free time, consider partnering with an SEO expert or professional agency. Then, you can harness the power of HARO link building without any of the hassle. What are you waiting for? Start pitching!