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If you are a blogger focussing on SEO, chances are you know just how important getting backlinks is to help you rank on Google. HARO link building offers a way to earn backlinks without having to feel like you are begging for links!
HARO helps connect journalists looking for quotes with experts looking for backlinks.
Instead of cold outreach (where you contact a blogger asking if they will link back to you), you are responding to direct requests for quotes. It’s a win-win for everyone.
But many bloggers and online business owners have a love-hate relationship with HARO.
It can be time-consuming responding thoughtfully to queries only to never hear back from the journalist to know if your submission was accepted or not.
So I decided to go all-in for 6 weeks, responding to as many queries as possible to see whether HARO is worth it!
What is HARO?
HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out.
It is a website which connects journalists with sources.
You can register as a source and select what topics interest you. Then 3 times a day, you will get an email with all the journalist requests with an outline of what they are looking for. You can then respond to the request directly.
How to get the most backlinks from HARO
Journalists may get hundreds of responses and are often working to a deadline. Therefore, the easier you make it for them, the more likely your submission will get accepted.
Therefore I recommend responding in full and not just sending an email expressing your interest in contributing.
I personally use a template to make sure I keep my responses consistent and useful.
- Start by referring to the journalist by name if possible to make it more personal.
- Then introduce yourself and your credentials and state why you want to respond. Also, make it very clear which request you are responding to as some journalists will be working on multiple articles at once.
- Then include a full response aiming for between 100-300 words.
- Try to include comments which would be easy to use as quotes. If you have case studies or facts and figures to use, then do so.
- Try to come up with something unique and fresh which will stand out from all the other generic suggestions they will receive.
- After the submission, include how you want to be cited, your website URL and social channels. Make a point of mentioning you will be happy to share. If you have a large audience, feel free to mention numbers that can swing in your favour.
- Sometimes journalists will want a headshot of you but images are stripped from HARO emails so I suggest creating a Google drive folder with professional headshots and then use a link to the folder in your email.
What is the HARO response rate like?
During the 6 weeks, I submitted 36 responses. At least 6 were published. At least 3 more are confirmed and scheduled for publish.
That’s a 26% success rate – at least!
I say ‘at least’ because there is the possibility that articles have been published that I do not know about. There is also the possibility that some articles will get published over the coming weeks/months.
I set up Google alerts for my business name and personal name and I keep an eye on backlinks in Keysearch. However, Keysearch can take a while to show up new links and Google alerts are far from infallible.
I know many articles which did get published didn’t trigger a Google alert and I found out because they emailed me with the finished article or tagged me on linked In.
** The day after I published this, one of my first HARO pitches during this case study just got published bringing the total to 10/36 confirmed which equates to 28% This also shows that it can take some time between pitching and getting published!
How often will you get a reply to a HARO email?
I very rarely received a reply unless the article got published – unless they were requesting more information.
Occasionally they confirm the submission and you can see which have been confirmed by logging into your HARO account and looking under previous submissions.
But if you don’t hear back, do not presume they won’t use your content! Chances are you may hear from them a month later with a link to the published content!
HARO does require some patience.
What sorts of backlinks can you get with HARO link building?
The best thing about HARO is that a lot of the journalists are reporting for websites and publications with a lot of authority such as Forbes. A backlink from a very high authority website in your niche could be worth 10-20 links from low authority sites.
Of the HARO back links I have acquired so far, 100% have been do-follow. 50% have been linking to a specific article, and 50% to my homepage.
The domain authority of my backlinks from HARO range between 37 and 81. The average domain authority was 53.
I got backlinks from the likes of ThriveGlobal, Databox and Upcity – all well respected sites in the digital marketing space.
Most of the links were from quotes and the article linked out to several contributors. However, I also landed an interview style guest post about being a woman starting a new business.
That article was hosted on Thriveglobal with a DA of 81 and they linked to my site twice. Once to my homepage and once to an important blog post. So much lovely link juice there!
How much impact do HARO backlinks have?
So far, my own website domain authority has stayed static. My articles with articles are climbing the SERPs at a rate I would normally expect for most of my articles. So I haven’t seen any massive increase in blog traffic or authority yet.
However, according to MOZ, it takes 10 weeks for backlinks to have any impact. So chances are, it’s just too early to see the benefits. I will report back in time to let you know what happens over the next few months.
** Just after publishing this article, I noticed my domain authority had climbed slightly so watch this space…
Tips for HARO success
- Make sure you keep an eye on emails and respond in a timely manner. I tried to respond within 1 hour of the email being sent. If you are one of the first to reply, your answer will be more likely to be accepted.
- Offer to share the article and make sure you follow through with this. One of the journalists came back to me for a 2nd article and so it’s important to nurture these relationships.
- Where possible, follow and engage with the journalists on social media so they start to recognise your name.
- Make things as easy as possible for the journalist. So include all the information they could possibly need upfront.
- Always check the backlink is do-follow. I use the Chrome extension Automatic Backlink Checker for this. So far I haven’t had any issues but if I had an article with a no-follow email, I would send an email politely asking if it could be changed. There’s no harm in asking!
- Create and use an email template. This will speed up the process of responding to queries as it will already include information like the way you like to be cited, your social channels and a link to your professional headshots.
- Set up Google alerts for anyone using your personal or business name. This can help you find articles when the journalist forgets to email you!
- Make sure you have a linked in profile as often articles are shared there and you can re-share them. It also makes you seem more professional and therefore a more reliable source. They can see you credentials at a glance there.
- Keep a record of any authority links you gain from HARO as you may want to mention them at some point for example in future pitches ‘as mentioned in…’ or on your ‘About page.’
Conclusion: Does HARO link building work?
Yes, it does! I have received some brilliant backlinks which I’m sure will have a positive impact on my website given enough time.
But you do need to go into it with realistic expectations. The journalists may be receiving hundreds of responses so you won’t get a 100% success rate.
For me, 26% was acceptable and I plan to continue using HARO as part of my SEO backlinking strategy!
What about you? Have you tried HARO for backlinks before? How did you get on? Will you be giving it a go now?!
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