As a business or blogger, positive PR and online exposure is a must. It’s one of the keys to building credibility, generating organic traffic, and introducing new customers into your brand’s ecosystem.
But if you don’t have many connections, or if your brand is still relatively small and “under the radar,” you probably assume you don’t stand much of a chance of being featured in The New York Times or on CNN.
But that might not be true.
There are a number of backlink strategies and platforms that make it possible for even the smallest of brands to generate visibility and reach the masses. HARO link building is one of them.
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What is HARO?
The year was 2008 and PR aficionado Peter Shankman noticed a shift in the marketplace. He would receive a regular and steady influx of requests from members of the press – including reporters, editors, and publications – looking for stories and sources. The topics ranged from Fortune 100 businesses to gardening and everything in between.
And while Peter could occasionally connect a media member with a good source, he didn’t have the capacity to do it at scale. So he started brainstorming ideas.
At first, he simply compiled a daily digest of the requests he got and sent them out to his rather large subscriber list of experts and PR professionals. Then, as he saw how effective this impromptu matchmaking service was, he decided to expand it into a full-blown platform.
It was out of this idea that Help a Reporter Out – better known by the acronym of HARO – was born.
In the simplest form, HARO link building is a popular online service that journalists and other media members use to gather feedback, collect quotes, and engage expert sources for new pieces and articles.
HARO link building strategy is a mutually beneficial database of sources for stories and it rewards people for their willingness to help. Media members benefit by getting sources for their stories (making it easier to write compelling and authoritative pieces) without having to expend tons of energy tracking down sources. Businesses, entrepreneurs, and experts benefit by getting exposure in authoritative publications.
Anyone can sign up to be a part of HARO link building & avail quality backlinks. While it was originally designed for journalists, it’s used by reporters, influencers, bloggers, content writers, brands, and other media players. It can be used by brands looking for link building, backlinks for SEO / high authority backlinks, high quality backlinks and exposure, websites that need guest bloggers or content, and even non-profit businesses that need visibility and buzz.
How HARO Links Works
HARO Links emails are sent out three times daily, Monday through Friday. While the list is so large now that emails often get sent at different times, the typical time slots have been 5:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., and 5:45 p.m.
Each email contains a number of queries from experts on trending topics. Each query includes a topic, deadline, and anonymous email address so that people can pitch their expertise and provide commentary.
As a business owner, blogger, or brand looking for exposure, the goal is to identify queries that match your expertise and then make a pitch as to why you should be interviewed, quoted, or referenced as an expert.
With the rapid growth of HARO link building service over the past few years, it’s becoming more competitive to earn opportunities & quality backlinks. This makes the pitching process even more important.
Signing Up for HARO
There are more than 55,000 journalists and bloggers using HARO link building. It’s easy to join their ranks. Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for a HARO account (provide basic contact information and preferences).
- Set up your profile and confirm whether you’re a reporter or source. (Assuming you’re looking for link building & high authority backlinks or PR, you’re a source.)
- Choose your preferences, which tells the HARO links platform which lists and emails to add you to. (Pick your industry, as well as industries related to your niche, To have relevant links.)
- Begin checking your email on a daily basis and responding to queries that you feel are a good fit for your expertise.
The key to being successful with HARO link building is to act quickly and with precision. If you find a topic that you have knowledge on, be sure to read all of the details very carefully.
The journalist or blogger on the other end is likely to get dozens or hundreds of responses. In order to be noticed, you’ll have to show attention to detail. You’ll also need to create a compelling pitch that resonates. (More on that later in the article.)
The Benefits of Using HARO
Used strategically, our HARO link building service can act as your own media outreach and PR team. Potential benefits include:
- Visibility. When you’re a small brand – or even a rapidly growing business – getting visibility outside of your specific niche can be tough. When you use HARO link building service, you have the opportunity to get visibility above and beyond your own little corner of the market. This puts your brand in front of thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t know you exist. That’s what we call winning!
- HARO SEO. When you’re quoted or referenced in a news piece, blog post, or article, it’ll almost certainly contain a backlink back to your website. This enhances your HARO SEO and plays a direct role in making your website more credible to search engines. So it’s a great building links tactic to Build links & most importantly relevant links.
- Traffic. A backlink to your website does more than tickle Google’s fancy – it may also provide a burst of traffic back to your website. The ramifications of this are quite obvious and don’t need to be discussed in any further detail.
- Relationships. Every time you become a source for a journalist or provide a blogger with useful information that they can use to develop a more credible and compelling piece, you invest in a relationship. And if nothing else, your willingness to help is going to be very effective in your pursuit of networking.
- Thought leadership. Every time you’re mentioned by a reporter, it instantly boosts your credibility. People automatically assume that you’re a thought leader in your space and will give you the credence that comes with this. Like other great tools for building links, you can think of HARO link building service as a tool for building trust with the marketplace. (And if you get featured in a major publication, such as Forbes, you can include this on your website and social media profiles: As Seen in Forbes.)
- More publicity. Publicity breeds publicity. When other journalists, reporters, and bloggers see that you’re featured in a high-profile story, they’ll be more likely to quote you in the future. This gives you access to a powerful and self-feeding PR cycle.
- Expense & cost. HARO link building is free service. If you’re working on a small business digital marketing budget, you don’t want to overpay for SEO to SEO agencies & can build links for free. HARO link building service is a great way to build links affordably.
While these benefits are attainable, you shouldn’t expect HARO link building service to be easy or hands-off. It takes a lot of work, time, and energy to get connected with the right journalists and stories. But once you figure out the secret formula of pitching them, a whole new world of opportunity emerges.
7 Tips for Pitching Reporters on HARO
As you’ve likely picked up on by now, the key to successfully leveraging HARO link building is to learn how to pitch reporters in order to be chosen as a source. Here are a few of our top suggestions:
1. Read the Description Very Carefully
Attention to detail is extremely important. A HARO Links reporter is going to get dozens (if not hundreds) of replies to a query. If you can’t follow their basic instructions, you will miss out on the opportunity.
Read every single word of the query…then read it again. Some requests might even include a hidden statement in the middle of the query to include a secret word in your response. This is designed to help reporters weed out people who are only skimming the query and don’t actually read it all the way through.
2. Move Quickly
Don’t rush your response, but do move quickly. Reporters are often working on tight deadlines where they need to have a story ready in 12 to 24 hours. If you don’t give them a response within a couple of hours, they’re probably going to go with one of the other resources they have. (This isn’t always true, but it’s a good rule of thumb. Unless otherwise stated, assume that they need a source right away.)
3. Show Your Expertise
There are two main components of your reply that a reporter is looking for: substance, credibility and expertise. Substance refers to the message. Credibility basically answers the question, why should my audience care?
Your reply to a HARO links reporter is not the place to be modest or reserved. Brag on yourself and share your credentials. Use specific numbers, data points, and past accomplishments when relevant. It’s better to come off as slightly arrogant and full of yourself than it is to look unprepared and not credible.
4. Be Interesting
With as many responses as a HARO link building reporter is going to get, you have to find a way to stand out. Humor, clever wording, or a unique angle is a great way to hook them in and make your pitch stand out. (Having said that, you should always be cognizant of the topic and subject matter. If it’s a serious topic, keep a professional tone. Flippancy is not attractive to a journalist.)
5. Be Concise
Keep your pitch as short as possible, while still communicating everything you need to say. Avoid a long lead-in and get straight to the point.
Here’s an example of what not to do: “Hey, I got your query this morning and was so excited to see that someone else is passionate about raising goats. It’s such a cool little “hobby” and I don’t hear about it very often. Anyway, I sat down and started thinking, what’s my best advice for readers…”
Do this instead: “I’ve been a goat farmer for 20 years and currently have 43 of them on my farm. To answer your question, the best way to…”
See how long-winded and fluffy that first response is? Sure, the journalist can tell that you’re passionate about goats, but he has to weed through all of the platitudes just to get some substance. The second response builds credibility and dives right into the question.
6. Include Your Info
Make it as easy as possible for the journalist to quote/reference you as a source by including your name, location, title, contact information, website URL, etc. If a reporter has to track down this information on their own, it’s less likely that they’ll use you as an expert resource.
7. Avoid Attachments
Finally, avoid any attachments in your HARO pitches. HARO will automatically strip these out. If you’re depending on an attachment, the reporter will be unable to access the information it contains. Stick to a concise yet informative response within the body of the message.
HARO Pitch Example
We’re a little bit leery of providing examples for HARO pitches, because we don’t want you to copy and paste them. (Not because they’re secrets, but because you need to let your voice shine through.) Having said that, here is a quick illustration that you can reference to get a feel for what a good HARO pitch looks like.
Query: We are writing a piece about first-time homebuyers and how they can avoid making major mistakes. We need someone to provide useful insights into tips for saving up for a down payment. Please provide information about who you are, why you’re a credible source, and what your best advice would be.
- Who am I? My name is John Smith and I’m a Certified Financial Planner in the New York City Area.
- Why am I credible? I’ve owned my own financial planning practice for 25 years and have a total of $125 million in total Assets Under Management.
Many of my top clients have been with me for 20+ years and I’ve played a role in helping them make wise decisions with real estate (as well as the rest of their finances).
- What’s my best advice? While everyone is going to tell you to make sure you plop down 20 percent on your home’s down payment to avoid PMI, I’d encourage you to think critically about this advice. Yes, avoiding PMI is great, but think about how cheap money is right now. You’re much better off keeping more cash so that you can put it to work in other ways.
Information: John Smith, CFP, New York City, NY. (JohnSmithCFP.com)
There are a few things that make this pitch effective.
- For starters, John followed directions. The journalist provided three very clear instructions (provide information about who you are, why you’re a credible source, and what your best advice would be) and John broke his answer down into three specific parts.
- John also did a nice job of making the pitch readable by using numbers, bolded words, and short sentences.
- John’s advice is unique and runs contrary to what most people are going to say, which positions him as a unique voice.
- John establishes credibility by providing very specific data as to why he should be trusted. (Mentioning specific data is much more appealing than a generic statement about owning a financial planning practice.)
- John includes all of his information at the end – including his title and a link to his website. This makes it easy for the reporter to use him as a resource without having to initiate time-consuming follow up.
Again, this is just one example. You shouldn’t copy and paste it (or even use it as a template). The point is to show you how each of the aforementioned principles can be put into action to develop a compelling pitch that gets noticed.
Other HARO Tips and Tricks
While successful pitching is the key to getting results with HARO link building service, you’ll also want to implement a solid strategy on the back end. This helps maximize your results. We recommend doing the following:
1. Monitor Your Mentions/Set Up Alerts
You might be surprised to learn that there isn’t a lot of hoopla after you get media mentions. In fact, the reporter might not even let you know that they’ve used your quote or data. (Some will, but there’s no obligation. And since time is usually of the essence, they won’t always have space in their schedule to reach out.)
The best way to know if you’ve been used as a resource is to set up a Google Alert for your name, company name, and possibly the reporter’s name. This will help you stay informed when you are mentioned.
2. Nurture Your Connections
Getting mentioned once by a reporter increases your chances of getting mentioned again. It’s important to nurture your connections after the fact with strategic networking.
Don’t bombard a journalist, but do touch base every few months to let them know what you’re working on and that you have thoughts on specific topics and trends. You can also connect with them on LinkedIn to stay abreast of what sort of content they’re publishing.
3. Maximize Your Brand Mentions
- Share the article with your social media followers
- Send an excerpt and link to your email list
- Update your website to say “As featured in…”
Credibility and social proof are massive in today’s noisy business world. The more you can accumulate, the more trust you’ll establish with prospects and customers.
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