Today, being an expert in your niche is priceless. Having the skill to craft the perfect blog is a bonus for most marketers. Unfortunately, the online space has become too competitive. You may have 30-years’ worth of experience and a backlog of expert writers in your team, but that’s not enough. If you don’t have visibility, you don’t have a thing.
This is where authoritative branding comes in to save the day. Experts from different industries are now earning high authority links via HARO (Help A Reporter Out), which has several benefits, including:
- establishing and strengthening your brand as an expert, authority, and thought-leader
- boosting your SEO, which in turn leads to additional free organic traffic, and much more
Whether you’re new to the concept or an ardent user of Help A Reporter Out, this definitive guide will show you the best strategies to convert leads on the platform.
But first, let’s address the elephant in the room: what is HARO?
What is HARO?
“A source for every story!”
Simple but powerful. That’s HARO’s tagline. Help A Reporter Out is a service connecting journalists to experts around the world who have answers.
A typical day for a journalist is characterized by a full schedule. Journalists for high authority sites such as The New York Times and Forbes usually have a calendar for their feature stories months ahead.
However, it would be quite burdensome for these reporters to adequately carry out comprehensive research for all their publications. When on the clock to write 100 blogs in a week, you seriously need all the help you can get.
That was the case for Peter Shankman back in 2007. He started small in his apartment, answering all sorts of questions from journalists on his Facebook page. “Do you know someone who can do this or that?” Soon, the queries grew into an active email list.
At first, Shankman didn’t intend to make any money from the gig. His sole intent was to help people. But soon, advertisers were requesting to post ads on his site. And like a phoenix rising from the ashes, HARO emerged.
How does HARO work?
The service is free, although you can apply for a premium version. We would advise working with the free membership for businesses, as this option has proved most valuable for us in improving our clienteles’ backlinks.
When joining the site, you can either sign up as a journalist or become a source for journalists. Each category has its distinct set of rules. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have your account closed if you fail to abide by community guidelines. We’ll briefly mention how to use HARO both as a journalist and an expert source (although for earning links, you’ll almost certainly use HARO as a source).
How to use HARO for journalists
At the date of writing this article, Help A Reporter Out boasts of over 75,000 journalists and bloggers seeking expert material.
Once you provide your contact details, including your name and media outlets, the service will first verify the validity of your identity. You’ll be asked to provide your email address, although HARO generally masks this piece of data from other users.
As a member, you can submit a free source request that includes a brief synopsis of your story. For the query to pass the HARO editorial review team, you’ll need to indicate the expertise/qualification of the respondent and the deadline. HARO will then send you several pitches from which you can select your preferred option.
Note: You would typically not earn a lot of links by working as a journalist/reporter at HARO, although some people try to do that. It can, however, help you get crowdsourced content.
Now let’s move to the section you are probably more interested in.
How to use HARO as a source for media coverage
First, register and acquaint yourself with the rules and guidelines of using the Help A Reporter Out platform.
You can then select the topics that cover your area of interest. HARO will send you emails three times a day on weekdays:
- At 5.35 a.m. EST
- At 12.35 p.m. EST
- At 5.35 p.m. EST
Monitor and filter the requests to find the perfect pitch. Give a precise answer following the given requirements. Provide sources for your feedback (if any) and give your contact information.
Link earning has become a massive challenge for most businesses. Many vendors sell cheap SEO, which entails showing the same lists of sites that are going around in the market to everyone, and that:
- AT BEST: your competitors can attain quite easily
- AT WORST: will be toxic and cause your sites to lose traffic, rankings, sales, and more
While there exist other options for better link building, HARO is excellent as it helps you be seen as an expert apart from earning you links from high authority publications. These are links from legitimate mainstream publications and most, if not all, have a better editorial process in place to weed out the possibility of, say, one article granting links to 3 insurance websites, 3 casino websites, 1 online footwear retailer, and 1 luxury watches retailer.
More importantly, we feel that HARO isn’t about earning those do-follow backlinks alone. Since:
- No-follow links can help you have a more natural backlink profile that Google would like and appreciate.
- Unlinked mentions would help you get more social proof. For instance, when we get an unlinked mention from MSN, we use that to get do-follow backlinks from other high authority sites like Business Insider.
- Google’s algorithm updates may change from time to time, but a few things remain constant. A press feature or a backlink (even a no-follow one) through HARO will help you maximize several of the below factors at once.
Still not convinced?
Let us share our success story! We’ve sent thousands of HARO pitches and earned hundreds of links with DR as high as 90+. You can do the same!
Our journey on the HARO platform began with three first months of zero leads. But after using the tips (that you will learn in the next section), we were able to attain a 47% success rate with this service.
This including earning links like:
|INSTAPAGE||https://instapage.com/blog/market-expansion||SYED IRFAN AJMAL||84|
|Referral Rock||https://referralrock.com/blog/building-brand-awareness/||SIA Enterprises||76|
Now IF you’ve been paying attention, you may be wondering by now, why is it that none of these sites include the likes of Forbes and others that I keep talking about? Well, there are 2 issues here:
Issue # 1
Several of the more well-known sites have gone down the route of granting no-follow links only. Here are some examples of a few no-follow links we’ve earned:
|Forbes||https://www.forbes.com/sites/heidilynnekurter/2020/03/13/5-ways-to-get-your-team-to-take-you-seriously-and-stop-overstepping-you||digital marketing expert||93|
|CNET||https://www.cnet.com/how-to/turns-out-satellite-surveillance-only-sounds-like-a-major-privacy-concern/||tech expert Nooria Khan||91|
Issue # 2
If I’ve to estimate, 90% of the links we’ve earned were for the websites of our clients. You know as the saying goes, the cobbler always wears the worst shoes. And I am not that comfortable sharing clients’ links without asking them.
Now, let’s get to the most interesting part – tips on how to earn publicity & backlinks with HARO!
Top tips for earning high authority links on HARO
1. Understand the reporter’s psyche and needs
The working model of HARO is somehow like a business-customer model. The journalist is your customer with plenty of options to choose from. If you have not taken the time to understand your client’s needs, you may end up offering an unwanted product.
Nonetheless, if you blend perfectly with the journalist’s query, you may stand out from all the other responses, giving you a better chance. Make sure your experience is relevant to raised subject matter if you are to help the reporter out. Take time to assess their audience and blend with it.
2. Pick the right query
Instead of applying for topics in your category, another strategy would be to sign up for all (or most) subjects. But why exactly should you do that?
Assume you’re a fitness coach. A journalist may raise a query under the business/finance category along the lines of ‘How much does it cost to start a gym in Kansas?’ Similarly, because of the diversity of your expertise, you may be familiar with simple health tips, which you may miss out on if you haven’t checked the health category. It may seem tedious to receive all those emails, but you can create separate labels for each type.
However, you need to be cautious to pick only those queries where you can offer tips and information that is not common in the online space. If you have nothing new to offer, save yourself the hassle.
3. Grab attention with the powerful intro
A spot-on subject line followed by an enchanting intro works like bread and butter for most journalists. Remember that you are interacting with a fellow human being – and a busy one for that matter. Work on being intriguing and answer the question directly.
Kickstart the intro section by addressing the reporter by name. Prove that you meet the eligibility requirements from the journalist and give your answer. Any supporting material will come in handy.
4. Follow the Do’s and Don’ts of the body of your pitch
✓ Make sure your pitch is short and to the point. You’re not writing a book.
✓ If possible, be funny and engaging.
✓ The quicker you respond, the better for you. Reporters may open the first few pitches and find what they were looking for – you want to be among the ‘first few.’
✓ Mention your credentials, preferably in the beginning.
✓ Your material should be ready to publish. Make the journalist’s work smoother by providing copy-pastable content. This increases the chances for your pitch.
✓ Be unique. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to provide plagiarized material. The second biggest mistake is writing something that every Tom, Dick, and Jane knows about.
✓ Follow all instructions to the T.
✓ You can wind up the body by politely informing how you would like to be credited if your application goes through.
✓ Have a headshot ready and upload any other images to Dropbox (or Google Drive).
✓ Follow up using the right automation tools to save you time. Snov.io can do that for you.
❌ Don’t make the pitch about you. All the content you provide should bring value.
❌ Don’t go off-topic. Otherwise, it’s better not to write at all in the first place.
❌ Don’t be vague in your response. You’ll only waste your precious time, as well as the reporter’s, if what you have to say is, “I’ll talk to you about this.” Intelligently script down your answer and be as informative in as few words as possible.
❌ Don’t omit your credentials. It beats the logic of earning high authority links on HARO.
❌ Don’t copy-paste a response. You don’t want to make the reporter look bad, and that’s one terrible way of messing up their CV.
The darker side of using HARO
We may be too caught up in the thrill of becoming a source for journalists that we overlook the gloomier side of using Help A Reporter Out. There are some challenges startups experience, especially when new to the platform, like:
- HARO links can take a long time. It mostly features industry-leading journals that make hundreds of publications weekly. There are thousands of people now competing for a spot on these authoritative sites. Therefore, building links may take you longer than when using Help A Reporter Out alternatives.
- There is unfair competition in specific industries. You may land more relevant queries in the finance, health, and fitness sectors than in other categories.
- HARO is only ideal if you want links leading to your homepage. If you are thinking of linking to relevant pages, you may need to search for HARO alternatives. We’ve found using guest posting (on legit and real websites) while doing HARO outreach to be a good combination.
- You may get backlinks that are not ideal for your marketing strategy, such as duplicate backlinks or links from unrelated niches. There is no saying what type of link your content will receive as the reporter is bound by their site’s writing guidelines.
ProTip #1: Review previous articles of the site to find if they grant do-follow links if that’s what you want.
ProTIp # 2: If you are a service provider, maintain a database of sites to be aware of which ones to avoid in the future (such as the ones that always grant no-follow links or the ones that demand that you link back to them first).
Best HARO alternatives in 2021
As we conclude, it would only be fair to list down a couple of alternatives to HARO. Let us know whether you would like us to write in-depth articles about them. These come with their perks and cons. They include:
- Twitter (#journorequests)
- Forbes Councils
- Meltwater Media Intelligence
- SEO companies + Digital PR agencies
HARO is not a one-pill-fix-all kind of tool for marketers. Some businesses have based most of their conversions on Help A Reporter Out, making them fragile should their marketing strategy fail. HARO works seamlessly with other critical SEO and cold outreach automation tools like Snov.io.
In other words, you need a comprehensive marketing strategy that helps you generate more leads that translate to sales and revenues. And our team of SEO experts and analysts can help you get there!