How To Get Quality HARO Backlinks

Adam Steele
Jun 9
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They say that HARO backlinks offer a passive way of gaining high quality links. While many of the backlink types today require extensive outreach campaigns, HARO is praised as one of the few that find you while you wait.

Fair enough.

But then again, they also claim that it’s not an entirely passive SEO strategy. The argument is that, whereas passive link building entails gaining backlinks naturally from external websites without seeking out the opportunities, HARO backlinks tend to operate differently.

These links don’t just come to bloggers who cross their fingers and passively wait for them. Try that and you might be left holding your breath forever.

Using HARO, according to this school of thought, requires some degree of active soliciting from your side. They allege that HARO backlinks exclusively go to the few who make the effort to calculatedly engage the prospective referral domains.

Now, if you asked us, we’d tell you that none of the two opposing arguments is wrong. HARO backlinks can indeed be said to be passive while, at the same time, it just so happens that you’ll also need some form of aggressive engagement to win over the publishers.

Sounds confusing?

Well, that ends today, as we’ll be exploring the curious case of HARO backlinks in detail. This post explains what this link building method is all about, what it seeks to achieve, and what you stand to gain from the HARO backlinks. Most importantly, though, we’ll go into the finer technical details to reveal how you can strategically leverage the HARO technique for SEO.

What Are HARO Backlinks?

HARO backlinks, for starters, refer to the inbound links that websites gain courtesy of linkups that have been facilitated by the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) program.

You see, the program itself comes in the form of a networking platform, through which professional journalists get to connect with a wide range of relevant expert sources. These sources are meant to provide expert commentary on developing stories, which are then processed and published in context by media outlets.

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The Help A Reporter Out (Haro) web platform by Cision.

In summary, therefore, you can think of HARO as the place where journalists come when they need social proof or a case study for their articles.

All that is part of their job, as spelled out by the standard Ethical Principles of Journalism. Journalists are bound by their professional standards to always ensure accuracy in their reporting through adequate verification and fact-checking.

This is where expert sources fit in. They are said to be one of the most reliable providers of verifiable facts across various technical fields.

Journalists, in fact, admit to relying heavily on renowned authoritative experts for information. So common is the practice that, even with Google dominating as the leading source for story ideas, journalists still overwhelmingly turn to the experts for story insights.

A whopping 77% of them now count on the experts as the primary source of information, 49.4% tend to seek original research they can share, while 34.5% insist on referring to in-depth media materials like digital press kits.

It’s this continued obsession with expert input that gave rise to HARO. The platform has now made it particularly easy for journalists to reach out to a vast array of potential sources in different industries.

How HARO backlinks work

The whole system rides on a basic four-step process:

  • Journalists send out queries to HARO, in the hope of reaching potential sources.
  • The queries are then relayed to sources who’ve registered with the program. HARO typically drafts the queries as emails, which are then sent out about three times a day.
  • Sources are supposed to identify the queries that they can relate to, and then respond accordingly with expert opinions, feedback, or research.
  • When the responses are sent back to the journalists, they review them and then settle on the most relevant ones. Those select few are ultimately published in their media publications, complete with backlink placements that point to the websites of the expert sources.

A journalist could, for instance, reach out with a message like;

Hey, I’m looking for expert opinions on the cost of building mobile gaming apps.”

A mobile app developer, or maybe a business owner in the mobile gaming space, would then respond to that with a breakdown of the amounts they’ve spent on different projects.

In return, the expert sources are rewarded with dofollow or nofollow HARO backlinks on, say, high authority media publications that enjoy a wide readership. We’re talking about the likes of CNN.com, Forbes.com, WashingtonPost.com, NYtimes.com, you name it.

And while the platform has been in operation since 2008, HARO link building is now more impactful than ever to SEO – thanks to Google’s growing obsession with quality over quality, plus the fact that the backlinks and content are now the two most important ranking factors.

Why Is The HARO Technique Important?

#1. Link building opportunities come to you

The HARO technique, to begin with, happens to be a passive method of building backlinks.

We’re describing it as “passive” because, unlike guest posting, you don’t have to run any form of an outreach program. That means you won’t be sending out hundreds of cold emailing messages, or maybe hiring a marketing agency to seek out link building opportunities from potential exchange partners.

Instead, the opportunities will come to you in the form of queries from journalists. You just need to find relevant queries in your area of focus, and then respond to them with brief but high value pitches.

Every single time journalists find your responses to be helpful, they’ll proceed to feature your contribution in their publications – complete with inbound links to your site.

That’s all it takes to build backlinks with HARO.

The platform itself never runs out of link building opportunities. Even after you’ve managed to secure a couple of SEO inbound links, HARO will still keep sending you additional opportunities from other reporters.

You can expect to receive about three emails per day, each overflowing with opportunities for building HARO backlinks. These, in total, add up to about 50,000 journalist queries per year.

#2. Builds high-quality backlinks

HARO isn’t a small-time platform. In its decade-and-a-half-long history, it has managed to establish itself as the ultimate go-to database for all types of journalists across different industries and fields. So wide has its influence spread, in fact, that it currently attracts even the biggest media outlets on the globe.

At the moment, HARO is only accepting journalists and bloggers from sites with a Similarweb Ranking of 1 million or less. 75,000  are already onboard, and among them are reporters serving some of the most renowned publications – including New York Times, Reuters, Mashable, Wall Street Journal, Times, Fox News, Chicago Tribune, etc.

With all these high authority sites under its wing, HARO is a perfectly ideal link building strategy for high-quality backlinks.

Take Reuters, for example. This is a publisher that enjoys a rock-solid Domain Authority score of 94 on the Moz DA Checker, while Alexa ranks it at position 279 globally.

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Reuters Domain Authority score on Moz.

As such, you can bet that each of their dofollow HARO backlinks influences SEO way more than thousands of links from average websites.

Google itself reports that this is now the standard contrast between high authority sites and the regular ones. John Muller, a search advocate at the search engine, even went on record that one high quality link could be more valuable than thousands of links because Google tends to prioritize quality over quantity.

#3. Builds your reputation

Building HARO backlinks is not all about SEO. As you continue using HARO, you also get to build your reputation in the industry.

Think about it. Every single media feature ought to raise your credibility not only as a brand, but also as an individual.

The mentions don’t even have to be accompanied by dofollow backlinks. Having just a plain name on a New York Times article would be enough for publicity and social proof.

What’s more, you get to generate referral traffic from popular media outlets. New York Times alone receives more than half a billion hits per month, which means that a single feature could potentially expose your brand to millions of readers and link clicks.

You never know – such referrals could even surpass your organic traffic numbers.

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Monthly traffic numbers on New York Times. Source: SimilarWeb

It’s also worth noting that while the resultant buzz might be temporary, the reputation boost that comes will the article tends to remain forever.

You could even try to showcase the mentions through one of those “featured by” website badges, which could also be handy on professional social media sites such as LinkedIn.

#4. Open to all industries

HARO is also an all-inclusive platform for all types of businesses and brands.

It’s open to sole proprietors, small businesses, medium-sized businesses, as well as large enterprises. All these entities can register as sources and then use the opportunities to build quality HARO backlinks.

And it’s not about size alone. You’ll also notice that HARO features queries in all the major industries. You’ll find questions for business, personal finance, construction, SaaS, health, food and nutrition, entertainment, tech, you name it.

So, whichever field you specialize in, you’re bound to find relevant opportunities for building collaborations with journalists.

It’s because of this inclusivity that HARO has, so far, managed to attract more than 1 million sources – who happen to be spread out across a wide range of industries.

How To Use HARO Backlinks (for SEO)

#1. Sign up as a source on HARO

As we’ve explained, HARO link building opportunities don’t go out to just anyone. Only registered sources get to access the exclusive HARO emails from journalists and media outlets.

Hence, the first rule to building HARO backlinks is, you have to sign up as a source on the main website.

This should be quick and easy, as HARO is open to working with everyone. There are no special qualification conditions here. You can register as a source even with basic expertise in your business field.

Then get this. You don’t have to pay a dime to get accepted. HARO allows you to register and use the platform indefinitely for free.

The process itself is as simple as:

  • Go straight to Cision’s HARO website through https://www.helpareporter.com/ .
  • When you land on the homepage, click on the “Sign Up” menu option at the top right corner of the screen. This will direct you to the registration form for HARO sources.
  • You’ll be required to fill in the fields with your personal information, as well as your company’s details. This should take you about a minute or so, after which you can hit the “Sign Up” button.
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HARO signup page.

  • The next step is activating your HARO account, which ought to be done through an email link sent to your mailbox. Just click on it and the system will direct you to the HARO dashboard, from where you can proceed to edit your account details.

That’s all it takes to get started on HARO.

It’s worth noting, however, that while it’s possible to use the platform for free, the best experiences are reserved for the users who upgrade to any of its premium subscription packages.

You see, with HARO’s “Basic Free” account, you only get the basics. And by that, we mean that you’ll be receiving the journalists’ queries via three email messages per day.

The paid subscription packages, on the other hand, give you more control over the query selection criteria and the process of pitching. You get to sort out the available media opportunities, after which the system helps you respond competitively to the most relevant ones.

These extras are available in three packages, each of which is priced differently:

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  • Standard – at $19 per month, Standard is the cheapest subscription package on HARO. It offers query filters, an additional alert channel, plus the ability to attach a bio to your pitches. You could, for example, set the system to include your social media accounts and web properties in all the pitches that you send out to journalists.
  • Advanced – this is the intermediate option, with a pricing of $49 per month. It increases the criteria for filtering and the number of profiles that you can attach to the pitches. What’s more, you’ll be receiving the query alerts ahead of everyone else.
  • Premium – Premium is for those who want to get their HARO backlinks to the next level. For $149 a month, you get to use an unlimited number of filters and bio attachments. HARO even tops it all off with additional support privileges, just in case you’ll need specialized guidance along the way.

So, the choice is all yours.

But, don’t feel compelled to make a rush decision. You might want to hold it off until you get a hang of the whole HARO system. In the meantime, feel free to learn the ropes by taking advantage of the free privileges.

#2. Find the most relevant queries

Another good thing about the HARO platform is, it doesn’t dillydally around. It starts you off on the journey as soon as the registration process is done. That means you’ll be hitting the ground running, and it shouldn’t be long before you start gaining HARO backlinks.

The link building opportunities here principally come in the form of three daily emails, which are typically sent out at the same time from Monday to Friday. You can expect to receive the first set of notifications at 5.35 AM Eastern Time, followed by another at 12.35 PM, and then the final email of the day should come in at 5.35 PM.

That’s not the only alert channel, though. While users on the free package are limited to email notifications, their premium counterparts can supplement that with text alerts  – which, admittedly, tend to be more convenient for people who want to stay on top of their business.

Now, whichever alert channel you end up choosing, you’ll notice that the notifications always come packed with a host of queries from different journalists and media outlets.

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How journalists structure their HARO queries.

Your job is to sift through all of them and separate the potential link building opportunities from all the fluff. Only then will you be able to find the most relevant queries for building high quality backlinks.

But, you won’t be the only one trying to do that. Always keep in mind that they are thousands of other equally desperate website owners that are trying to discover and leverage those same opportunities.

As such, you cannot afford to waste time here. If you want to outdo the rest, then you ought to stay ahead of them right from the moment the queries start streaming in.

Well, at least HARO tries to make your selection much easier by organizing the email queries into their respective industry categories – education, technology, healthcare, business, etc.

Quite helpful, we must admit. But, for increased precision in identifying the most relevant opportunities, you might want to use the following strategies:

  • Once your HARO account has been activated, go to the Account Details section and edit your preferences. This is where you define the industries that you’d like the system to prioritize when sending out the queries.

You could, for instance, set the system to focus on travel, sports, entertainment and media, lifestyle and fitness, biotech and healthcare, business and finance, etc.

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The industry preferences on HARO.

The trick is to pick them out based on your field of expertise and the type of subjects that you cover on your website. You’ll be seeking to build quality HARO backlinks on media publications that are closely related to your linkable site assets.

  • If, at some point, you manage to upgrade to a paid subscription package, you could dive deeper into the selected industry categories and then use keywords to narrow down the filters to your specific target topics/subjects.

Imagine, for example, that you’re offering credit card refinancing solutions. Instead of leaving the preferences at “Business and Finance”, you could refine them further by throwing in keywords like “credit card”, “debt consolidation”, “personal finance”, or “personal loans”.

And, while you’re at it, keep in mind that the Standard package offers the opportunity to utilize one keyword, Advanced provides up to three keywords, while Premium stretches to accommodate an unlimited number of keywords.

  • In the event you find yourself overwhelmed by a huge stream of queries, you could turn to your mailbox search bar as the last resort. Gmail, for instance, has a pretty advanced search tool that could help you quickly identify the most relevant opportunities from the HARO emails.

#3. Confirm the source rules and query requirements

The selection process isn’t all about narrowing down to your specialties. Even when you happen to pinpoint queries in your area of expertise, there are still pre-qualification steps that you need to take before settling on the best possible opportunities.

Well, you could argue that you might as well respond to all the available queries in your industry, and then hope for the best. But, the truth is, much of that effort would only be wasted in flogging a dead horse.

Based on our extensive experience in building HARO backlinks, we’d advise you to, instead, pool all your resources and then use them to chase the few most promising link building opportunities.

And by that, we mean that you ought to invest your time and efforts into responding to just a handful of queries that are not only perfectly aligned with your qualifications, but also happen to offer the opportunity for establishing high authority HARO backlinks.

Now, to accurately identify them from the list of industry-relevant prospects, you ought to proceed as follows:

  • Start by reviewing HARO’s rules for sources. The editorial team at HARO has set up a series of rules to act as guidelines for sources.

The better you understand them, the more you’ll be able to figure out the types of queries that you’re qualified for, how you should respond to the queries, how you ought to structure your HARO pitches, plus how you’ll interact with the journalists.

Rule number 2, for instance, insists that if your expertise in the selected topic is not obvious from your title or business brand, then you must explain why you consider yourself an authority. Otherwise, violating this directive repeatedly could get you permanently blacklisted on HARO.

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Rule number 2 for HARO sources.

  • Other than that, it turns out that journalists attach additional requirements to their queries. These are meant to clarify the main factors that they’ll be reviewing to determine the credibility of their sources.

So, after confirming HARO’s rules, remember to evaluate yourself based on the requirements attached to each query of interest. Do you meet all the criteria?

If not, then you have no choice but to drop the query. Because, otherwise, it would be a waste of time and effort to respond to a matter in which you’re not exactly the perfect fit. Professional journalists wouldn’t risk publishing what they consider to be a quasi-credible source.

#4. Perform domain analysis on the media websites

For those queries whose requirements you’ve managed to adequately satisfy, you can proceed to the final analysis.

This is the point where you turn the spotlight on the journalists by reviewing the type of media outlets that they work for. You’re supposed to confirm their web reputation by checking the Domain Authority (DA), Domain Rating (DR), or Alexa Ranking (AR) of the publishing websites.

Here’s the procedure to follow:

  • For starters, you ought to establish the media platform behind each query. You’ll notice that while some journalists prefer to remain anonymous, many of them are happy to declare their media outlets and URLs alongside the query details and requirements. This is the information that you should focus on.
  • You’ll then need a specialized Authority checker to confirm the web reputation of every single domain on your interest radar.
  • One of the best free tools when it comes to such types of checks is Moz – the highly advanced SEO analysis suite that’s acclaimed for developing the Domain Authority scoring system.

On a logarithmic scale of 0-100, the scores represent the relative search engine ranking performance of a website based on its aggregate link equity and backlink profile.

Therefore, you could say that the  DA scores on Moz are a comparative measure of a domain’s level of influence. The ones with the highest scores are the best candidates for high quality backlinks, as they pack just enough web credibility to sufficiently influence search engine ranking algorithms.

  • To identify these high authority media outlets, go to Moz’s Domain Analysis Tool, enter any of the focus URLs, and then hit “Analyze Domain”.
  • Moz will dig deep into its database – which is made up of over 8.01 trillion web pages, 743 million keywords, and 43.8 trillion links – to generate the following details on each of the sites:
    • The overall Domain Authority score.
    • The number of linking root domains.
    • The volume of ranking keywords.
    • A breakdown of the top referral domains.
    • A list of the top pages by links.
    • The number of backlinks gained and lost over the past 60 days.
    • A list of the top ranking keywords.
    • The top search competitors.
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Domain Authority analysis on Moz.

Moz, however, is not the only platform that’s capable of such deep analysis. You could alternatively use the following to establish and compare the authorities of the media outlets:

  • The SEMrush Authority Score system.
  • The Ahrefs Domain Rating scoring system.
  • Trust Flow and Citation Flow scores on Majestic.

Otherwise, you could try out this one tool that collates all those metrics into one comprehensive report:

  • Loganix Domain Authority Checker is the name, and unlike Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, and other premium DA checkers, it provides all the relevant insights for free.
  • This is a web-based system that’ll save you quite a lot of time, as it’s capable of analyzing up to 10 URLs at once. You just need to type in the domains, specify your email address, and then hit “Lookup Domain Authority”.
  • The Loganix DA Checker will draw all the relevant insights from Moz, Ahrefs, Majestic, and Google Analytics, combine them accordingly, and then collectively relay the findings on a simple all-inclusive report.
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Performing domain analysis with Loganix’s Free Domain Authority Checker.

Take the time to review, digest, and compare the metrics across all the media domains that you’re interested in. You’ll then have a good idea of the opportunities that you should pursue to gain quality HARO backlinks.

#5. Respond calculatedly with thought-provoking HARO pitches

By the time you’re done methodically sorting out the queries, you’ll probably have a handful of the most promising link building candidates. These are the best high authority leads for establishing natural HARO backlinks that are contextually related to your web assets.

There’s just one problem. To convert the link building opportunities into actual HARO backlinks, you’ll have to connect with the journalists at a much deeper level than other applicants.

This is easier said than done, especially when you consider the caliber of journalists and media platforms that you’ll be targeting. If you’re purposely chasing high authority placements, there’s only one class of journalists that you’ll have on your final list of queries.

Call them the crème de la crème, Hall of Famers, or any other best-in-class title – the fact of the matter is, these are not your regular everyday journalists. They boast a huge web following, a lot of industry influence, and an extensive reach across multiple digital channels – essentially the stuff of legends that every marketer would want a piece of.

Now, combine that with the fact that HARO distributes only 50,000 opportunities per year, and you’ll have yourself the perfect recipe for stiff competition. You’ll be going against more than a million other sources, all desperate for attention from the big media outlets.

So, you have no choice but to bring your A-game to the pitching process.

That means a one or two-line response is not going to cut it. You should, instead, compose the type of answers that you’d expect from a highly knowledgeable field expert – but in a manner that is uniquely engaging and captivating.

In particular, you might want to:

  • Respond as fast as you can. Expect the journalists not to hold off their decisions until the deadline date. They, instead, prefer to close their projects as soon as they find solid leads. This could take half an hour, a day, or maybe a week – the earliest sources with the most relevant answers are the ones who always end up at the top.

Now, with that in mind, we’d recommend submitting your pitch within the first 12-hours of receiving a relevant query. The pitch itself shouldn’t take you more than 15 minutes to compose – and, if you happen to be a beginner, give it about half an hour or so.

  • You might want to get your pitches out to publishers from early morning to noon. And, in terms of the days of the week, it’s always advisable to reach out between Monday and Wednesday. These times have been shown to generate the highest positive response rates from publishing editors.
  • Keep your pitches concise but adequately informative. The sweet spot, according to more than half of editors and writers, is about 100 to 200 words.
  • Pay special attention to the email subject line. It’s the one thing that forms the first impression. So much so, in fact, that 66% of publishers consider it to be the most important bit of the email pitch.

Consider, for example, headlining your email with an attention-grabbing subject title. At least that’ll compel the journalists to open the message.

  • As for the content, remember not to restrict yourself to text. The most published content formats at the moment are videos, multimedia, and images.

Most notably, publishers tend to exceptionally favor infographics and data visualization. They say that they’d like to see more of these from the pitches.

Now, in case you’re wondering, the answer is no – there’s no standard template for HARO pitches. How you choose to structure the response depends on the type of query that you received in the first place, your content formats, plus the type of HARO backlinks embedded.

Nonetheless, however, you should always ensure that you’ve included these four sections:

  • Author bio – the part is meant to introduce the audience to the author. It should state your full name, plus brief details about your areas of specialization and industry expertise. Remember to format the whole section exactly how you’d prefer it to appear on the media platforms.
  • Pitch body – this is where you lay down the main pitch. The journalists will be checking to see that you’ve comprehensively addressed every point in their queries without straying off-topic. You could supplement the text with relevant media, but try to keep it all in a quotable format to make publishing easy.
  • Call to action (CTA) – As you wind down the pitch, you ought to charmingly call out to the publisher to get in touch with you for more details on the topic. This should then be accompanied by your contact information.
  • Links to your assets – with email attachments now exceedingly being used to spread malware, journalists are not too keen about opening file attachments from strangers. So, to avoid any red flags, you could simply paste links to the downloadable versions of all your assets – including the images and infographics that form part of the content, plus maybe your company logo, author headshot, and any other relevant illustrations. You could even throw in the HARO backlinks that you seek to get published.

Also, while you’re at it, don’t be shy about beating your own drum. But then again, try not to get too carried away.

Whereas a humble brag would be a thoughtful way of highlighting your industry achievements and repertoire, publishers loathe overly self-promotional content. 56% of them, in fact, point this out as the primary reason for turning down pitches. So, don’t go overboard with the self-praise.

Over To You – How To Manage Your HARO Link Building Campaigns

There goes the truth and nothing but the truth about HARO backlinks and their accompanying link building benefits.

Unlike what we’ve seen with other types of backlinks, you won’t actively search for publishers. HARO, instead, brings the opportunities to you.

Plus, it’s surprisingly cost-effective. So cheap, in fact, that beginners don’t have to pay even a dime to partner with some of the most extensive media publishing platforms.

All it takes to land the high authority features and backlinks are a couple of lines capped with a compelling subject line. Experts just need 15 minutes to compose 100-200 word long HARO pitches and voila! That’s enough to land them quality inbound links on authoritative media outlets – some with as many as hundreds of millions of visitors per month.

Now, that makes HARO sounds like just the perfect link building alternative to guest blogging and other equally strenuous SEO techniques.

There’s just one huge caveat, though. Even as journalists admit to relying more on experts as the primary source of information, it turns out that HARO backlinks are hard to come by.

You can blame it on the huge gap between supply and demand. The HARO platform sees over a million sources fiercely battling each other for just 50,000 link building opportunities per year. And it gets worse if you specifically zero in on the queries from proven high authority publications.

Ask any PR professional and they’ll tell you how frustrating it can get. With so much content and little demand for it, publishers are the ones running the show – while marketers and website owners are left to scavenge for what’s available.

Where does that leave you?

Well, the best strategic move you could take right now is to partner with the “vultures”. And by that, we mean the special breed of specialists who’ve mastered this whole scavenging game.

You’ll notice, for instance, that while others fight to get noticed by journalists, the “vultures” have already built strong networks with established media outlets.

If you’d like to see it all in action, we invite you to climb aboard Loganix’s digital marketing warship. The close connections that we’ve formed with high authority publishers allow us to stay ahead of the game, even as the competition for HARO backlinks increases on the main platform.

Then to cap it all off, our link building campaigns combine HARO backlinks with guest posts, brand links, press releases, content marketing, link audit, backlink gap analysis, you name it. We’ve got the full package of specialized link building and search engine optimization services.

Go ahead and contact us today and you’ll see the results for yourself.

Written by Adam Steele on June 9, 2022

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.