The industry of backlinks is “money-driven”. If you are willing to pay enough for a link, you will get a link, but that is if the publisher will listen. Many times, publishers completely ignore your request even if you are willing to pay. Rejection rates are high.
Thus, I love buying sites that have existing links because I am leveraging the previous owner’s time, efforts, and stress they went through to get links.
This was up until I got introduced to Help A Reporter (short for HARO). HARO is a digital PR platform that connects journalists with sources. If you can help a journalist with their article, you will get a backlink, usually from very high authority sites. Easy win!
In this write-up, I cover the following:
- How does HARO work?
- TheWebsiteFlip.com outsourced HARO outreach and obtained 12 backlinks, average cost of $108/link
- Step-by-step process to do HARO outreach yourself
- Common questions
Let’s get into it!
🤔 How Does HARO Work?
The process is as follows:
- Journalists submit a pitch
- That pitch (query) is sent to everyone signed up as a potential source (with a bunch of other queries)
- Sources reply to relevant queries
- Journalists get their article published using some of the replies from the sources which include a backlink crediting you and your site
Anyone can sign up to HARO as a source or a journalist (or both). Assuming that you’re looking to score links for your site, then you sign up as a source.
When does HARO send out requests?
Three times a day on each weekday (excluding holidays), an email from HARO will land in your inbox. The emails are sent out at:
- 5:35 a.m. EST,
- 12:35 p.m. EST, and
- 5:35 p.m. EST
You can, however, pay to have the emails sent to you sooner. This is part of their premium version.
Those thrice-daily emails are just a list of queries from journalists seeking quotes from people just like you.
What do I do with HARO requests?
As those emails hit your inbox, you need to go through them and check the opportunities for anything that’s a good fit for you. Every query has a deadline that you need to pay attention to. Sometimes the journalist is on a tight deadline and you only have an hour or two to get your response in.
Once you find a query that’s a good fit for you, just reply to it before the deadline. If you send a reply after the deadline, it will not reach the journalist. Journalists can also close a query early if they get enough responses to meet their needs before the deadline, so don’t wait until the last possible moment to reply.
Here’s an example of a HARO request:
What happens after I reply to a HARO request?
A few different things can happen once you’ve sent a reply to a HARO query. You may get a response that you’re not a good fit. You may get a response with follow-up questions or a request for a phone interview. You may get a response with a link to the live article. You may never get a response (this is the most common).
Ideally, you send a reply that meets the needs of the journalist and you end up getting quoted in their article with a link back to your website. The journalist finishes their story on time and you get a link, it’s a win-win.
But you should know that there is no obligation on their part in regards to you getting that backlink. Sometimes it’s out of the control of the journalist. Sometimes the outlet will tell you that you must link back to them or they’ll remove your link. And some outlets just never link to anyone.
That’s practically it! Now let’s get to the actual results using HARO outreach!
🚀 Case Study: TheWebsiteFlip.com Received 12 Links!
In January 2021, I outsourced my HARO outreach to an agency. The agency handles everything from checking out the requests by journalists, responding on behalf of The Website Flip, and monitoring for backlinks.
The agency provided 20-hours of outreach labor for a fixed fee upfront.
I notified the agency that I ONLY wanted to participate in the HARO requests that were in the Business & Finance category. This did reduce the number of replies but it ensured topical relevance at all times.
Here are the high-level stats:
- Agency start date: 01/18/2021
- Agency hours spent: 20 hours
- My time spent: 0 hours
- Total HARO replies sent: 53
- Total successful links: 12 links
- Link success rate: 22.64%
12 Backlinks with an Average DR of 55
The agency obtained links from the following notable sites so far:
- And a few smaller blogs.
The average Ahrefs DR across all links was 55 with the max DR being 82 from GoodFirms, and the minimum being 7.
Here’s an example link from AppSumo that I got:
Here’s another from DataBox:
To check out all the backlinks, plug the TheWebsiteFlip.com into Ahrefs or SEMRush. For Ahrefs backlink report, go here.
Average Link Cost: $108
Each link cost was just $108 on average! This metric can be compared to traditional guest posting and/or niche edits.
Obtaining high DR links like the ones I obtained are impossible to get through traditional methods of guest posting and niche edits.
I am targeting the Business & Finance category only and thus over time, the same journalists representing the same websites send in requests.
At some point in the near future, after I’ve obtained links from the big publications, it may not make sense to continue HARO.
There will be diminishing returns as obtaining multiple links from the same publication has less SEO value.
6 Step Do It Yourself (DIY) HARO Process
Step 1: Set Up
Sign up as a source at Help A Reporter. When you sign up, keep in mind that every query you respond to results in the journalist seeing the name and company name that you’ve put on your profile.
Make sure that you don’t use a generic email like email@example.com because those daily emails won’t land in your inbox at all (though your account is still valid and you can send in replies).
Step 2: Analyze HARO Queries
Read through the daily HARO emails as they arrive to look for queries that you can respond to. Make sure you fulfill all the listed requirements before replying, otherwise it’s just a waste of your time. And pay attention to the deadlines!
Here’s an example of what the HARO emails look like in your inbox:
Here’s an example of a HARO request:
Step 3: Write The Email
Craft a professional email that gives the journalist exactly what they are asking for from you.
If they say that they want four sentences, then only give them four sentences. If they have six questions for you to answer, then answer all six of them unless the directions state otherwise.
Step 4: Double-Check Your Email
Make sure you’ve met all requirements and that you’ve included all of your relevant info at the bottom (company name, URL, LinkedIn, bio, headshot, etc.) And never attach anything to the email because the journalist will not see it.
Step 5: Use a Google Sheet
Keep track of the replies you send in a spreadsheet so that you’re better able to track your progress and success.
Step 6: Monitor Backlinks
Check for new backlinks in Ahrefs, or your preferred tool, because most journalists don’t tell you when they’ve used your response.
Due to the sometimes overwhelming amount of queries in the HARO emails, you may be tempted to create filters in your email so that you only have to look at those that meet certain keywords. While this is a good idea if you only want niche-relevant opportunities, it does eliminate the possibility of great links from general topic queries.
DIY Email Templates to Use for HARO Outreach
While you should never send the same exact replies to different HARO queries, you can create some templates, or swipe files, to make the process a bit quicker.
There are three parts of your HARO replies that you can safely template:
The body, which goes between the introduction and closing should be unique for each HARO request.
The intro should be short and to the point. This is where you let the journalist know your qualifications.
Of course, you won’t need to state your qualifications for every reply, just those where it’s relevant and may give you an edge over other respondents.
For the closing section, it’s a good idea to let the journalist know that you’re available for follow-up questions and comments. There’s no need to go into your scheduling availability, just a short sentence will do.
You can also offer your assistance with other articles since some journalists are freelance writers who pitch multiple outlets.
For your email signature, you’ll discover that most journalists ask for the same information. So, you can just set up your email signature once and leave it as-is for most replies you send.
There are times when you’ll want to edit your signatures, such as if the journalist specifies that they only need your name, position, and company URL. And remember, never send your headshot as an attachment because it won’t go through to the journalist.
How To Make Your Site Standout to HARO Journalists
Remember that the HARO requests get sent to thousands of people with websites. They are all doing it for the same purpose: to gain backlinks.
Assuming your answer is similar to others that respond, what will be your differentiation factor? Your website’s “authority”. This is something you can control by improving the look and feel of your site.
Here are some quick wins you can do:
- Create a well-branded homepage with a quality logo and featured images
- Create a detailed About Us page with author bios, author picture, site history, and contact information
- Use real author images throughout your site including bio boxes in articles
- Add a phone number, address, and email address to your Footer
For more quick wins and examples, check out this article on how to make your site look like a real business.
While these are things you should do anyways for your niche sites, you will be amazed at how many people don’t. This gives you the edge over others when responding to HARO queries.
Common Questions about HARO
Are these backlinks safe?
Yes. These are safe as you can get. You are not paying for the links; they are “earned links”. Journalists in the real world get their information from various sources. You are acting as a source through HARO. You are providing value to the journalists and they are rewarding you with a reference (backlink) in the article.
How many HARO links should I expect?
In general, obtaining backlinks can be a hit or miss. It really depends on many factors: how legit your business is, how well you answer the HARO query, who else answered the question and how it relates to your answer, etc. In short, the answer is it depends.
Can I hire a contractor to handle HARO link building?
Yes, you can hire a contractor to do HARO outreach. There are three types of ways to outsource this:
Agency: they handle everything. You are hands-off. They charge a fixed fee for a specific set amount of labor, or they charge per successful link based on its DR.
Virtual assistants (VA): you can hire a VA, train them, and pay them by the hour. Expect to pay anywhere from $5-$15 per hour.
HARO consultants: There are HARO specialists out there that will work on an hourly basis or a fixed fee per link obtained. They charge more but you will not need to train them.
In my opinion, using an agency or a HARO consultant is what I prefer. I do not have time to train up a dedicated VA to learn HARO. But of course, if you are doing this at scale for multiple sites, it will make sense to hire a dedicated in-house person and train them up.
In summary, HARO has been an excellent way for my business to obtain backlinks. At an average cost of $108/links with hiring the HARO agency, it’s been a great return on investment.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Answer the questions you know the answer to
- Get straight to the point
- Reply as quickly as possible
Is HARO right for everyone? No. You need to have a really legit website. The typical run-of-the-mill Amazon affiliate sites will not cut it.
Good luck in your link-building journey!