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August 8, 2020

Winning with Help a Reporter Out | Craft The Perfect Reply

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a refreshing change of pace from other link-building techniques. With HARO, reporters from major media companies reach out to you for expert advice. No more unsolicited outreach to unsuspecting bloggers!

how help a reporter out works

But, how do you get your answer chosen on HARO? And how effective is HARO at building backlinks? Let’s find out!

How To Get Your Answer Chosen on Help a Reporter Out

OK, the basics. If you head on over to Help a Reporter Out and sign up as a source, they’ll start emailing you Monday through Friday 5:35am 12:35pm and 5:35pm. ET. Answer the queries in the email, and you start getting featured in major publications, right?

Eh, not so fast. There are a few vital components to having your answer selected as the winner.

1) These Queries Are Time Sensitive

You have to answer these queries fast to increase your odds of winning. This is for a couple reasons.

  • Reporters are on a deadline: Some of these articles will get written today. Picking the first decent answer helps writers publish faster.
  • Hundreds Reply: Even if the reporter isn’t on a tight deadline, after reading the first dozen replies, they may like one and move on.
time sensitive

Being first is better than being best. Because of this, I recommend sending replies as soon as the email comes out at 5:35am, 12:35pm, or 5:35pm. ET. Your success rates will decrease with every hour that passes.

The other option is to subscribe to HARO’s Advanced Plan for $50 per month. This gives you early access to the reporter’s queries. If you’re serious about winning, this isn’t a terrible way to cut to the front of the line.

2) Your Email Subject Line is Extremely Important

This is just like an email marketing campaign where you have to entice your reader to open your email to boost open rates.

Imagine you got 30 emails at once, and more are coming in fast. Will you read all of them to be nice? And be honest!

full inbox

If you just copy HARO’s subject line and send it back to the reporter, your email won’t stand out. Writing good copy is invaluable in this situation.

If a reporter is asking “how to create a good YouTube Channel.” Don’t reply with the question. Instead, try an email subject line like “This Simple Tip Got Me 100k Subscribers!

3) Assemble Your Author Signature Before Replying

Before you bother to reply to queries on HARO, I recommend you create an email signature. In the signature, you’re going to want to place the following items.

  • Name
  • Impressive credentials you want the reader to know about. What makes you an expert in this field.
  • Headshot with link to a 500px x 500px headshot.
  • Website URL.
  • Social handles that you want to share. Typically Twitter or LinkedIn
HARO Email Sig

Put all these items in your email signature before you start replying to queries. This way, you don’t have to waste time assembling them for each reply.

4) Use The Journalist’s First Name In Your Reply

If you study email conversion rates (I can’t be the only one?), you’ll know that using the recipients name in the message converts better than not using it. Be sure to include a “Hello [Insert Journalist Name Here]” in your reply.

5) Miscellaneous Tips

  • Comply with any special requests the journalist had.
  • Be concise.
  • Do not follow up with them unless they reach back out to you.

Pitfalls With HARO

1) An Individual Backlink Isn’t as Valuable as You Think.

I wrote an entire blog post about how valuable one backlink is.

Long story short, a single backlink won’t skyrocket your site up the Google rankings. Particularly if the site linking to you doesn’t have a ton of domain authority.

links vs content creation

To move the needle, you need a lot of backlinks. And manually generating links in this way will take you as much time as creating new content does.

2) Not All Queries Are From High Domain Authority Websites

HARO gets sold to us as our websites being featured in the New York Times and Washington Post. And it can be that. But, most of the time, it’s much smaller entities using the service.

domain authority of major sites represented by number of links

For example, HARO’s last email blast prior to me writing this article had 73 requests. HARO had queries from Bankrate, Forbes, NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post! Impressive right!?

That is impressive, but it doesn’t change the fact that 90% of requests are from organizations you’ve likely never heard of. How many of the following websites do you recognize?

haro example orgs

Do these organizations have the traffic or link juice needed to move your website up the SERP even if you win the query? Do you even want to be featured on the site you’re replying to?

3) Not All Sites Give a Do-Follow Backlink

It’s customary for an author that chooses your website to give a backlink back to your site in their article. However, I have had authors that either didn’t link back to my site or no-followed the link.

This is infuriating when it happens, but there’s not much you can do about it other than move on. Make a mental note to never work with that organization again.

4) There are a Limited Number of Organizations That Use This

This is maybe the biggest gripe with using it as a source for backlinks. Even if you were amazing at getting your answers accepted, there’s a hard cap on the maximum number of referring domains you can acquire links from. This makes it a short-term endeavor for me. Get the links I want and move on.

What’s the Success Rate on HARO?

This will vary dramatically based on your skill level, credentials, and the organizations that you’re pitching. In June 2020, I had a 30% success rate on 10 HARO pitches, which I consider pretty high.

haro success rate.

However, the domain authority of the sites that were accepting my pitches was low. I’d expect a significantly lower success rate when sending pitches to more prominent organizations.

Using HARO To Build Relationships With Journalists.

If you have a long-term view of HARO, one of the best things you can do is form relationships with individual offers. If you become their goto expert on a subject you have bypassed all future competition. You also have a monopoly on links from this person that could come in handy as their careers progress.

Alternatives To HARO

I’m actually surprised that HARO became the most well known link-building Q&A service when there are several other services just like it. I think there’d be less competition on these sites that aren’t well-known link-building opportunities.

If your end goal is to connect and maintain relationships with journalists, consider getting into Twitter. That’s where the ecosystem journalists hang out in all day long.


Help a Reporter Out is a legitimate way to manually build backlinks. These backlinks probably won’t move your site up the SERP as far as you’d like. But hey, at least you’re not out there spamming people.

There are cool benefits to doing HARO for a while. It allows you to put legitimate “as seen in” images on your blog with a link to where you were featured. This is very good for personal branding and authority building on your author pages.

as seen in example

Shaun works as a professional software developer while blogging about the creator economy (With a focus on Blogging, YouTube, and Virtual Reality).

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