How to Build Backlinks and Get Press Using HARO [Case Study]

Christopher Gimmer

Christopher Gimmer is the co-founder of Snappa - the easiest graphic design tool you’ll ever use.

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    We all know that when it comes to link building, we aim for the authority links in the first place.

    But they’re also the hardest to land.

    And when you have a million other things on your plate, link building can often get pushed to the side.

    Recently, I started experimenting with a passive link building technique. That is, the opportunities were coming to me instead of me going out and looking for them.

    It wasn’t complicated either. I just had to use a service called HARO (Help A Reporter Out).

    In this post, I’ll walk you through the exact process of how you can leverage HARO to get press mentions and build authority backlinks.

    What is HARO?

    HARO is a free service that provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage.

    HARO (short for Help a Reporter Out) is one of best ways to get killer backlinks from authority news sites.
    Brian Dean
    Brian Dean Backlinko

    What’s great about HARO is that journalists come to you. This differs from most link building tactics where you are required to do all of the outreach.

    What’s even better is that big media outlets are using the service.

    We’re talking Mashable, Time, Wall Street Journal and New York Times just to name a few.

    The opportunity to get press and land high authority backlinks is ripe for the taking.

    How it works

    First, you’re going to sign up as a source.

    sign up to HARO as a source

    After you sign up, you’ll get three emails a day — at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. ET from Monday to Friday.

    The emails will be broken down into different categories.

    Here’s an example of the email you’ll receive:

    example of an email from Help A Reporter Out

    Each request will have a title and an outlet in brackets. You’ll want to browse through the email and find relevant topics that you can contribute to.

    In my case, I saw the following request for Inc.

    media request from HARO

    I knew that Inc.com was a big publication. But using the Ahrefs site explorer, you can evaluate the domain authority for any inquiry you’re thinking of responding to.

    Any website with an Alexa ranking under 1 million can use HARO, so not all of the outlets will be really high authority.

    Making the pitch

    The bigger the outlet, the more responses they’re going to receive. Therefore, you need to be on top of your game.

    When responding to an inquiry, make sure to send a very thoughtful response. A one or two line email is not going to cut it.

    Give them something that they can literally cut and paste into their article and make the journalist’s job as easy as possible.

    Here was the initial inquiry:

    inc-enquiry

    As you can see, the reporter is asking a few questions in the query.

    It would be a mistake to answer just one of them or provide very little detail.

    In my reply, I made sure to address each and every question in detail.

    email-response

    When replying to a query, you should also include your author bio and the link to your website. Write it out exactly how you want it to appear in the article.

    This reply took me just a few minutes to write, and because I went in-depth, I was contacted just two days later asking for my top tip regarding content marketing best practices.

    The reporter’s assistant then informed me that they would be using me as a source and they’d let me know when the article went live.

    Sure enough, a few weeks later, the article was published and we landed a link and some exposure for Snappa — an easy to use graphic design tool we built for marketers and business owners.

    link earned through HARO

    After seeing the early success of this strategy, I’ve now created a “HARO” label in my inbox and filtered all of these emails to go into that folder. All it takes is a minute or two each day to check all the inquiries and reply to anything that sounds promising.

    Just be aware that some inquiries have tight deadlines and require a quick reply.

    Recommendation
    Make sure you send valuable, quality pitches, not spam. Don’t make mistakes outlined in our experience-based article about blogger outreach.

    A few words from Ahrefs team about using HARO for building high authority backlinks

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

    However, cold pitching to journalists can be tricky, and response rate will generally be low. This leads to the common misconception that journalists don’t welcome input from third parties.

    In fact, the opposite is true.

    After all, journalists are incredibly busy people with tight deadlines, and if you can make their life easier, they will be glad of the help.

    That’s why HARO is such a great service. Instead of sending press releases and pitches that will probably not be of interest (unless you are very lucky) the journalists themselves are directly soliciting contributions.

    As Christopher mentions, the easier you can make things for the journalist, the more likely they are to include your input. It really should be a case where they can copy and paste your pitch straight into their article.

    Paid HARO Accounts

    Once you’ve given the service a spin, it’s definitely worth considering upgrading to a paid HARO account. There are many additional features that become available, which can give you a competitive edge when pitching.

    Here’s a quick rundown on HARO Premium.

    There are 4 subscription levels available (including the free option).

    haro-subscription

    For most purposes the Standard account at $19 a month will be more than sufficient.

    What You Get With HARO Paid Accounts

    The first advantage of a paid subscription is that you can set up a profile/bio that will be automatically inserted into your pitches.

    The bio includes links to web properties and social media. These all help to build credibility and authority when pitching to journalists.

    HARO profile

    You can also add details on your specific areas of expertise and any publications you have previously been featured in.

    haro-experience

    As with the free account, you can subscribe to opportunities in specific verticals, however with a paid subscription you can also set up alerts for media requests that match specified keywords. You can even get SMS alerts if you are in the US.

    In the example below I have subscribed to the ‘Master Haro’, ‘Business and Finance’ and ‘High Tech’ emails and have also set up an alert for the keyword ‘SEO’.

    haro-alerts

    From now on I’ll get an email alert like this whenever new media requests include the keyword SEO.

    haro-seo

    Another nice feature is the ability to browse and respond to queries directly through the online interface.

    haro-queries

    You can even search queries by keyword.

    HARO search by keyword

    So as you can see, the paid HARO accounts offer a nice bunch of extra features to help you secure media mentions.

    Final words

    Unlike most link building strategies, HARO is a very passive way of generating high-quality backlinks and press mentions. Just keep in mind that it requires a bit of patience and you’ll need to provide high-quality responses to the inquiries.

    Nevertheless, for the level of effort required compared to the potential gain, it’s definitely worth your time.

    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
    Neil Patel Quicksprout

    Have you had success using HARO to secure media mentions? Or any questions about the service? Please leave a comment below and let us know!

    Recommendation
    For another actionable method of gaining high authority links from the press, check out our viral content case study.
    Christopher Gimmer

    Christopher Gimmer is the co-founder of Snappa - the easiest graphic design tool you’ll ever use.

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    • Thanks for the great guide/case study Christopher! I’ve personally been using HARO for a couple of years and highly recommend their service.

    • They’re really awesome, gotten a couple of small story placements over the last couple months responding to them when something relevant comes through 🙂

      By the way, anyone have experience using HARO from the other side (getting ideas or interviews or case studies for stories from it)?

      • > By the way, anyone have experience using HARO from the other side (getting ideas or interviews or case studies for stories from it)?

        That’s coming soon 😉

    • Would using the free account put you at a disadvantage when pitching your stories?

      • I don’t think there would be a disadvantage as such as at the end of the day the most important thing is the pitch, however, it definitely makes the process easier.

        • Thanks.
          Haven’t had any luck yet so far, but will keep trying.

    • Scott Benson

      HARO has been my favorite link building tool for years.

    • Great post! I have recently started using HARO as well. I have only pitched a few, but have had two mentions so far, both on great sites. It is worthwhile taking the time to scan and see what you can help out with.

    • Certainly have peaked my interest in Haro. I am going to give the service a try. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I’ve had great success for both myself personally as Beth Bridges, the Networking Motivator and J — I.T. Outsource — I’m the VP of Digital Identity.

      I was recently quoted in an article in Self magazine, for example, and that was tremendous!

      Tech and marketing are great topics, with frequent requests. Our success rate is about 20%. It takes a lot of DILIGENCE and PERSISTENCE though.

    • Search engines can detect “real” content as opposed to stuffed and churned. So Haro is this perfect to find real authority backlinks.

    • Thanks for the post Christopher

      It has opened my eyes and I’ll definitely be signing up for the paid subscription to try this out.

    • thanks for this post .…..

    • FeaturedCreature

      I subscribe to HAROs but find that they rarely have “niche subject” questions. Do you have any recommendations for a good place to look for… say… people who write about animals? 🙂

    • Thanks CHRISTOPHER for such a great and informative article.
      I will defiantly try HARO for link building as it seems a very promising source of good back links.

    • James Cohen

      Unlike other people here, I am not too happy with HARO. Yes, there are some authority websites there and that’s great IF they link to you. but the problem is, they won’t. In the past few months I have sent close to 1000 pitches and have gotten less than 20 backlinks. No real authority sites, the best one I got has a DA of 62. Most of the time even if I feel like I have expertise in the area and I am THE perfect source, the reporters don’t even bother sending a thank you note, nothing, I never hear back. And there is another problem. Even if they do include you in their article, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will link to you. A lot of the reporters just mention your name and maybe your company name with no link. Higher authority sites are very cheap when it comes to linking and they won’t link. Even if you get lucky and they do link, the link will most likely be nofollow. I feel so ripped off when I spend my time writing a perfect pitch and see that they didn’t link. I have tried asking why and they said their “editor” didn’t want to include the link. Whatever. And I disagree that it takes just a few minutes to reply. HARO is a full time job. It takes the whole day, from selecting all the requests you’re interested in, to writing a perfect pitch, to proofreading, to sending, to answering 100 follow-up questions. My verdict: not worth it. You could spend your time doing something more productive. If anyone knows a service similar to HARO (but better) please let us know.

      • Việt Hùng Ase

        Do you ask for link to your site?

    • great man !!! good info

    • Great technique, thanks for sharing about HARO. Great way to create backlinks.

    • how HARO will helpful for SEO?

    • hi neil patel,
      my site is about health nich what i do you are writing here bio for your name then what i type if i need backlink for my inner post ?
      what i give info if site is heath blog any one give me suggestion

    • I have learned about this technique just last Saturday in a SEO meetup. I didn’t knew that this opportunity is available 🙂 Can anyone share with me other techniques of Link Acquisitions?

    • I have used it. Honestly, very difficult but really worth it.

      It’s definitely a passive link building technique.