What is Help A Reporter OUT (HARO)? How to increase your reply and success rate for yourself and clients to gain high authority backlinks for free? Here is your ultimate guide to HARO.
Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, allows journalists and content creators to get in touch with experts in a field they are writing an article about.
Some massive brands and websites use HARO to find quotes and opinions and if you’re someone who can answer the question well, you’re in the running for some very powerful backlinks and mentions of your website and brand.
So what does it take to do well on HARO? A lot of the time it feels like luck and most of your pitches will likely never be heard from again.
It can be disheartening to send out 10+ pitches a day and get silence back. Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve even quit multiple times, but with the right approach and mindset, you can make HARO work well for you.
This is going to be a step-by-step guide to Help A Reporter Out – from how to get signed up, reply to queries and HARO best practices.
I’ll even share my tested pitch template so you can stand out from the other pitches.
Let’s get into the ultimate HARO guide!
How to sign up for HARO
After getting to HARO, you’ll want to sign up for an account as a source. First up, some tips on signing up. Give yourself the best chances before you even reply to a query!
I highly suggest signing up with a work related email address, such as *your name*@*your company*.com. It’s going to look a lot more professional that *email@example.com*, right?
Also, I used to use my Gmail account and I was approved for multiple articles that asked me for a work email to verify myself.
Now let’s take a look at the different HARO subscriptions you can go for.
How much does HARO cost?
There are different levels of subscriptions you can choose, both free and monthly subscriptions:
- Free – The free version allows you to get media opportunities delivered to your inbox.
- Standard $19 – Track one keyword, one profile allowed and online search
- Advanced $49 – Up to 3 keywords track and 3 profiles created, you also get a head start and get alerted before the lower tiers of subscriptions.
- Premium $149 – Unlimited profiles and keywords, comes with phone and email support.
There is a lot of value in the higher tiers of subscriptions, but you can trial the free version to see if it is something you want to invest your time in further.
The free version will still grant you access to all queries and give you unlimited responses. So it really is great value.
Once you have signed up you can view some details in your account, confirm your email address.
Make sure you fill out at least the basic information here, as journalists can view more information about who is giving them a source.
Important : Make sure you select what topics you’re interested in. You can opt-in for the master HARO email, but there will be 100’s of pitches and many of them irrelevant. I suggest picking 3-4 specific categories that are useful for the pitches you’re trying to answer.
Now all that is left to do is wait. HARO sends 3 emails per day for each category you choose. Except for public holidays, you’ll get a seperate email full of potential pitches at these times (EST – Eastern Standard Time):
Once you start getting these emails, it’s time to reply to your first HARO query!
How to reply to a HARO query?
Each query will be different, so your pitch should be too. Sending generic pitches to journalists is a great way to head straight to the trash folder.
Before we get into the tips for HARO sources, let’s take a look at a sample query.
Let’s break down the different components of this query.
- Summary – This is the basic overview of what the journalist is after. I would estimate that the summary line rules out around 95% of the queries for my business. If your expertise doesn’t fit, don’t try to force it, move on.
- Category – When you created your account and chose your interests, this define the category you’re sent. The email subject line will also reflect the category.
- Media Outlet – A journalist can choose to disclose the outlet (website) the article will be going live on. In my experience, the “anonymous” queries will be smaller websites, but HARO themselves say differently, due to larger sites getting spammed. While many say to forget these responses, I disagree. Relevance in backlinking is crucial and if your pitch suits this, go ahead!
- Deadline – Typically, you will want to reply as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the more likely the article spots will be decided on. Journalists are often under a time crunch, so get your completed pitch to them ASAP. However, you can reply to this query until the time listed under the deadline.
- Query – This is where the journalist will give more information on what they are after. Often you will find questions that you can answer directly, but each query is always slightly unique.
- Requirements – This is where most fail. To be considered for most pitches, you need to fulfill all requirements. Make sure these are ticked off before you send that reply, or you’ll be headed straight to that trash folder.
Since the requirements are vital to get right, there are a few thing I’ve found along the way to help your chances of success.
The first thing, some journalists are picky. They are under massive time pressures and need to get the article live. This means a few things.
They don’t have time to fix 20+ spelling or grammar errors and when they give a hard limit, such as “200 words max”, 201 words isn’t acceptable. Chances are they won’t specifically count each word, but get in the habit of taking these requirements as unbreakable. It’s the right mindset to be in.
When a journalist asks for a headshot, they want a link to a headshot. Attaching the image directly to the email doesn’t work, so upload the image to DropBox/Google Drive, make the link public and attach the URL in your pitch, if asked.
Sometimes, social media handles, such as Twitter and LinkedIn are required. If you’re active on these platforms, include them as well.
Right at the end of this screenshot, there are three points that should be self explanatory, but your aim here is to help the reporter out and in return you get a mention. Making sure your pitch is unique (original), helps their readers (actionable) and not entirely focused on selling your product or service (non-promotional) is key to getting your quote or opinion live – along with a juicy backlink/mention for your website.
Once again, each query will be slightly different and you’ll want to make sure your pitch answers everything as best as you can.
7 important best practices of HARO
Replying to a journalist from Time Magazine or a well known website in your niche can be daunting.
Chances are, you’ll never hear back from the majority of pitches you send. The fear of being rejected shouldn’t hold you back.
If you never put your hat in the ring, you’re passing up on some amazing potential for your website and business.
Here are 7 best practices of HARO
1. Relevancy is key
If your business is irrelevant to an article query, the value of that link is greatly reduced. It might even go as far as to be totally worthless. If your business sells cute little hats for cats, don’t submit a pitch about the best tires for winter time. Makes sense, right?
2. Answer the query completely
If you can’t answer every part of the query, it really hurts the strength of your pitch. Likely, it will get your pitch tossed out quickly.
3. Don’t spam journalists
Honestly, this speaks for itself. You don’t like emails of absolute garbage, neither do journalists. Keep your responses to the point.
4. Don’t waste your time on queries you aren’t right for
If you have to stretch the truth to fit yourself into the query parameters, it’s probably best to move on. Remember, you’re up against likely 100’s of other sources for a handful of spaces. If you have to lie, your pitch will likely be beaten by someone with legitimate experience.
5. Reply outside the box
Sending the best pitch isn’t easy. You know the ones that stand out are those that answer the question well but aren’t the same as 10 other pitches. Answer the query from a position no one else can answer from, you point of view.
6. Don’t send attachments in your pitches
HARO strips any attachments from replies. I can think of a few good reasons why this is a good thing. If the journalist asks for a headshot, send a link to the image in Dropbox or Google Drive – make sure the image isn’t private.
7. Be concise
Journalists don’t have time to read through a paperback novel before they get to your pitch. Introduce yourself in a sentence or two and get into your pitch, then finish off with any other requirements, thank them for the opportunity, sign off and send.
No linked mentions and NoFollow links from HARO
Anyone that knows anything about SEO understands the value of DoFollow links vs NoFollow links. Sometimes, there won’t even be a link from a website, rather just a plain text mention of your website.
If there is an issue with your mention or link, you can contact the journalist for amendments. Hopefully, you won’t have to do this too often, but a NoFollow link can sometimes be changed to give that sweet link juice.
Many larger websites explicitly say all external links are NoFollow, but these links aren’t useless. Sure they carry much less weight but they will still be valuable.
I’ve personally encountered this many times, Harvard gave my blog a mention but not a link, Yahoo! Finance never got back to me about changing from NoFollow to DoFollow, but a number of times, this has worked.
The point is to ask once, if they say no, move on. Always be respectful or you’ll burn future bridges.
Guide to HARO conclusion
That’s it. You’re ready to take on HARO for some amazing opportunities.
You won’t get all your pitches published. If you’re at a 50% success rate, you’re doing better than most (myself included). By sticking at it, you can get some massive backlinks and mentions to boost your credibility, authority and ultimately, traffic.
What is your best HARO tip? I’d love to hear it! If your tip makes it into my article, I’ll repay you with a backlink.
Happy backlink hunting!