The Link Builder’s Guide to HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

Imagine there was a simple but effective way for you to get backlinks and secure media coverage at some of the greatest media outlets out there. What if we told you there’s a service that enables you to get quoted and linked to by NY Times, Forbes, INC, CNN, and other media giants? We introduce you to HARO.

What is HARO?

HARO stands short for Help a Reporter Out.

The Link Builder's Guide to HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

It started out as a simple Facebook page but has gradually become the most powerful database of sources for journalists and a daily opportunity for sources to get priceless media coverage.

The Help a Reporter Out service was created in 2008 by Peter Shankman, a public relations expert, who created a Facebook page for writers, bloggers, and journalists to post PR opportunities other people could easily access and reply to. As the service grew very rapidly and the number of users became too much to handle on social media, they moved to their own platform and switched to a daily email list format.

Today, HARO is almost like a dating service. It connects journalists and bloggers who need sources for their new stories and people like you trying to get some exposure for their brand or looking to build some valuable links.

HARO is often described as a PR agency’s worst nightmare.

Zalmi Duchman, the founder & CEO of Fresh Diet, used this free tool to secure media mentions in many top media outlets such as NY Times, USA Today, CNN Money, and INC. Here’s how he compares it to PR agencies:

“Over the years my company hired at least three PR agencies that we paid a total of almost $100,000, but I can honestly say that HARO performed better at zero cost. Finding HARO was a big reason why The Fresh Diet and I had such great PR success.”

Why You Should Use HARO

If 800,000+ sources and 55,000+ journalists and bloggers already using it are not a reason enough, here are some thoughts from the leaders in the field of marketing:

“You can get published on a news website or a magazine like Entrepreneur.com, which makes HARO a great place to pick up high-quality backlinks.” Neil Patel, Quicksprout

“HARO is one of best ways to get killer backlinks from authority news sites.” Brian Dean, Backlinko

“Links from the media are among the strongest and most authoritative backlinks you can build to your site.” Ahrefs

What makes HARO so great, in terms of link building, is that you don’t need to do any classic outreach – the journalists and bloggers are doing most of the work for you.  

What makes HARO even better is that many huge media companies are also using it – the likes of the Time, New York Times, Reuters, Fox News, Mashable are all finding sources for their stories through this online tool.

As a marketer or business owner, you can use HARO to:

  • Establish authority (present yourself as an expert in your field)
  • Get quality links
  • Build brand exposure

And now we’re going to show you how.

How to Help a Reporter Out (aka How to Use HARO)

The first step, obviously, is to head over to Helpareporter.com and sign up for a HARO account.

There are two ways of using HARO. You can register either as a journalist or as a source. As our aim here is to build links, we’re going to sign up as a source.

The Link Builder's Guide to HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

In a non-HARO terminology, sources are typically businesses, marketers, or influencers that want to be cited or get backlinks from larger publications. Journalists are the people who write for such publications.  

After clicking on the “I’m a Source” button, you get to choose from 4 different HARO packages. We recommend you try out the free version first and decide for yourself whether it’s worth upgrading to one of the paid plans (but we’ll go in more detail on those a bit later in the text).

After signing up, you’ll start receiving emails with source requests from bloggers and journalists 3 times a day (5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m., and 5:35 p.m. ET), Monday to Friday.

HARO segments all of their emails into separate categories. One such email looks something like this (there were 65 queries in the entire email):

Index

The Index contains request titles along with a media outlet in brackets. Even though categories may vary, almost always you’ll find queries in the fields of Biotech and Healthcare, Business and Finance, Entertainment and Media, General, High Tech, Lifestyle and Fitness, Travel, and so on.

So, first, you’d want to skim through the categories related to your own niche and pinpoint the requests that may be relevant for you and to which you may be able to contribute. By clicking on a shortlisted topic, you can see additional information about that particular request.

Here’s what an individual request usually looks like:

HARO request

Every request contains a title summary, category, the name of the journalist and the media outlet they’re working for, and their email (masked though). Most importantly, it contains a short query that tells you what they’re looking to get from their sources. The query usually contains specific questions or requirements that you need to answer or fulfill.

Also, keep in mind that all of the inquiries are time-sensitive, while some have very tight deadlines and may require a prompt response.

After you’ve carefully picked out the topic (once again, make sure it’s something relevant to your industry, expertise, or experience), along with the journalist and media outlet, it’s time to make the pitch.

Of course, if you pick out an outlet such as Forbes, you need to be aware they’re probably going to receive tons of responses. So, in order to break through the clutter, you need to make sure to make your response worth their time.

Making the perfect pitch

Your pitch is your opportunity to impress the chosen journalist and media outlet. In most cases, it’s your first and only opportunity to do so. So, you have to make sure it counts. Here are our 3 tips that will bring you 3 steps closer to being used as a source (and thus getting a backlink and valuable exposure) by one of the HARO reporters:

1. Don’t waste anyone’s time

Before making a pitch, once again make sure you’ve read the request carefully. This way, you’ll avoid wasting your time and make sure you’re pitching someone who’s likely to use you as a source. If you’ve missed the deadline, for example, the system won’t allow your pitch to go through. Moreover, in many cases, a prompt response can get you a few steps closer to becoming a source.

2. Make sure you answer all the questions

When responding to an inquiry, you can’t just rely on a two-line template email to seal you the deal. You need to put your time and effort into writing a proper response.

As already mentioned, in most cases, the journalist will ask some questions in the query. So, you need to analyze those questions and make sure you address each and every in as much detail as possible.

The best case scenario – in your initial reply to the inquiry you’re already giving them a piece of text they can literally copy and paste into the article they’re writing. This way, you’re making their job easier, while at the same time landing a link and some exposure for your own website, product, or service. In most cases, they’ll contact you to provide some additional information.

3. Include your own information to be cited and linked to

Your reply should also contain your author bio (exactly how you’d like it to appear in the article) and any relevant links (to your website, blog, product, etc.).

What to do after your article gets published

After you (hopefully) manage to get cited as a source in an article published by one of the media outlets using HARO, it would be a good idea to do some follow-up. Here are some suggestions on how to make sure you get the maximum exposure:

  1. Share on social media – Tweet your article, post it on LinkedIn, and share on Facebook. The fact that you’re cited in an established media outlet will surely impress your fans and followers.
  2. Post to your website – If your website or blog contains a “news” section, make sure to include a link to the article.
  3. Send a “thank you” email to the journalist – By doing so, you’re letting the journalist know that you appreciate being used as a source for the article. You’re also telling them that you’d be glad to contribute to any future articles written around your area of expertise. And who knows, if you manage to build rapport this way, maybe they’ll contact you directly for any relevant insight in the future.

HARO Pricing and Plans

I recommend that you start with the free Basic plan and test HARO for a while. Give it a spin and see if it works for you. If you manage to build some links with the free version, it’s definitely worth considering using one of the paid plans, as they offer many additional features that can facilitate your link-building process.

In addition to media opportunities (those email queries you receive 3 times a day) and email support, which are offered in the Basic plan, the Standard plan, available at $19/month, offers additional features, such as keyword and text alerts and your own profile to be inserted into your pitches.

The Advanced plan, priced at $49/month, allows for a greater number of keywords and profiles to use (up to 3) and it includes the “Head Start” option. The Premium plan is available at $149/month and has no limitations in terms of the number of keywords and profiles. Plus, it includes phone support as well.

HARO Pricing

Conclusion

On the surface, HARO is a tool that enables journalists to get relevant and competent sources for their stories. Below the surface, Help a Reporter Out is a powerful link building tool for anyone looking to drive more traffic and build greater exposure to their website.

Whether you’re a journalist or a marketer/business owner, you’re using HARO to create more quality content and back it with links so as to drive more traffic to your website. But that’s just the first step. Traffic is only the fuel for all your lead generation and sales efforts. The next step is turning that traffic into actual leads and sales, and here’s the best way to do it.

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