Building quality backlinks is critical for SEO, but many small businesses give up on link building before they even start. They don’t have time to write guest posts, they feel awkward filling out contact forms on random websites to ask for links, and they don’t have the budget to hire someone to do the outreach for them. If this sounds familiar, HARO might just be the answer for you.
Short for Help a Reporter Out, HARO is your best option for getting a link or mention on an authority website—and a few links on authority sites are worth dozens of links on sites with lower authority. HARO will let you make the most of the time you have for link building, and best of all, it will only take a few minutes a week to manage.
What Is HARO?
Do you ever read news articles and wonder where reporters find experts to offer advice or people to share their personal stories? The answer is often HARO. You might think of HARO as one of those “you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours” kind of opportunities. Writers and journalists get sources for the articles they’re working on, and professionals and small businesses (that would be you) get free publicity.
HARO is free to use (although there are paid tiers, too—more on that below) and perfect for busy people because the leads literally come to you. For each subject area you sign up for, you’ll get three emails a day. These emails will contain a list of stories that writers are seeking sources for, along with the name of the publication in question. Publications range from personal blogs to huge media outlets like Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and The New York Times.
How to Use HARO for Link Building
The first step to using HARO for link building is to sign up. Go to helpareporter.com, then click on I’m a Source. Read through the guidelines, sign up via the link in the upper right corner, and enter your contact information.
You’ll want to sign up for the subject areas that align with your professional expertise, but don’t be afraid to be broad in the categories you choose. You might have triplets and be the perfect fit for a New York Times story about parenting multiples—while it might not have anything to do with your small business, a link is a link when it comes from such a prominent website. Selecting the Master HARO option will send you all media opportunities submitted each day.
Some SEO experts recommend only shooting for links on websites with super high domain authority—NYT or bust, basically. We think if you see an opportunity for someone with your knowledge or experience, it’s worth responding, even if it’s not a noteworthy site. These organic links are always worthwhile and if you’re holding out for the biggest of the big names, you might be waiting a long time.
Responding to a Call for Sources on HARO
If an inquiry piques your interest, you’ll send an email to the reporter through a special HARO email address, which prevents people from collecting journalists’ personal contact information. Keep in mind that reporters may be getting dozens, or even hundreds, of responses, so it’s important to make sure yours is relevant, well-written, and strikes the right balance between being detailed and concise. Here are some tips:
- Reply as soon as possible—ideally, within an hour or two
- Include a relevant subject line
- Start by listing your credentials—what makes you an expert?
- Thoughtfully answer any questions posed in the inquiry using complete sentences and proper grammar (no text speak or emojis!)
- Don’t attempt to sell your products or services
- Include a short bio—a line or two—at the end of the email
- Link to your website in your bio
Keep in mind that it’s not a reporter’s job to boost your SEO. Responding on HARO is not a guarantee that you will get a link—in fact, many major websites have a no-link policy as a result of unscrupulous reporters selling links in their stories or SEO firms spamming HARO to try to place links for their clients. Most reporters will tell you upfront if they aren’t able to include your link. Don’t push the issue if they can’t (it’s probably not up to them, anyway), and don’t ask for specific anchor text.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need a link to your website to get value out of being a source for an article via HARO. Google also looks at unlinked mentions from authority websites as it evaluates the E-A-T of content creators. Just having your name or your business name in The New York Times, Newsweek, or Washington Post is enough to boost your profile and prove your bona fides.
Should You Consider a Paid HARO Account?
Once you’ve gotten in a good groove with HARO, you may wonder if it’s worth upgrading to a paid plan. HARO has three different paid tiers:
- Includes one keyword alert, one profile to insert into pitches, text alerts, and the ability to search for media opportunities online and apply to them via the HARO website.
- Includes three keyword alerts, three profiles, text alerts, access to the online database, and extra lead time for media opportunities.
- Includes unlimited keyword alerts, unlimited profiles, text alerts, access to the online database, extra lead time for media opportunities, and access to support.
*Prices are as of this writing.
If you run a small business, we don’t think it’s worth paying for a HARO account unless you have absolutely no time to read through the daily emails to find inquiries that are relevant to you.
Should You Hire Someone to Submit Responses to HARO for You?
Ideally, no. In our view, it’s best for you to handle HARO yourself. You are the expert and you really don’t want to run the risk of having someone respond with something you wouldn’t say (or, even worse, that isn’t accurate) and end up having it quoted in a major publication. While there are services that promise links via HARO, we’re skeptical — as discussed above, there’s never any guarantee that your responses will be used.
While we don’t recommend hiring someone to respond to HARO opportunities for you, as part of our SEO services at Main Street ROI, we can formulate a link-building strategy for your business that includes HARO. Our professional copywriters can also help you craft a bio and pitch templates that get noticed.
Learn More About Our SEO Services
Our SEO team specializes in helping small businesses boost their search rankings and grow their revenue.