Marketers are constantly looking for new ways to improve their website profile organically through semantic keywords or some growth hacking tactics (look out for NLP!), which becomes more of a challenge every year as consumers become more savvy. In 2021, one of the effective SEO tools for marketers is HARO – Help A Reporter Out.
What the heck is HARO?
Help A Reporter Out is an innovative platform that allows reporters and journalists to seek out – and receive – input on articles and news pieces they may write. It’s especially useful for digital PR enthusiasts, as well as those keen on link building.
Rather than just laziness (who would accuse reporters of such a thing??), this allows the writer to gain a more rounded sense of the subject and, therefore, put together a more comprehensive and interesting article. HARO is divvied up into a number of different genres, which include:
- Biotech & Healthcare
- Business & Finance
Journalists post their query onto the platform under one of the above topics, and members are then able to respond.
What are the benefits of HARO for marketers?
Glad you asked. HARO is a great tool for marketers as should your response be accepted by the journalist, your name (or company name) will appear as a source in their article along with a link. This, of course, means that your business can potentially reach an entirely new audience and help drive traffic to your site and solidify your place as a thought leader in your industry.
From its humble beginnings on Facebook, HARO is now home to over 55,000 verified journalists and bloggers. That’s 55,000 good reasons for getting started with this helpful platform as soon as possible.
How do I hitch my wagon to HARO?
Signing up to HARO as a source is pretty straightforward and it goes something like this:
- Head on over to https://www.helpareporter.com/
- Get clickety clicking onto the blue ‘I’m A Source’ button
- You’ll then be directed to the “How It Works” page
- Click onto ‘Sign Up’
- Complete the form with the usual details
- Wait patiently for your verification email
- Once your account is verified, you can now log in
- Select your preferences (selecting Master will get you access to ALL queries, but this isn’t recommended)
Once you’re all set up, you’ll receive daily emails at the following times:
- 5.35am EST
- 12.35pm EST
- 5.35pm EST
These emails will contain all of the queries which are relevant to the preferences that you set up. A query will look something like this:
How does HARO work?
Once you’ve received your email, take your time to browse the queries. Finding those which you feel that you can answer takes a couple of minutes. Once you’ve selected the queries that you’re going to respond to, you can do so in two ways:
Online – Through the online form, which you can find under ‘My Pitches’ on your dashboard
Email – By sending an email to the address included in the query
If the reporter likes your response, he or she may contact you by email to ask further questions and inform you of when the article will be published.
How much does HARO cost?
HARO offers four different price plans and, these are as follows:
Free Plan – Guess how much this one costs? The free plan is pretty basic but fine for beginners, and it includes three daily emails and email support.
Standard Plan – $19 per month.
With the standard plan, you get a little more, including one keyword alert, one profile, text alerts and online search access.
Advanced Plan – $49 per month
The Advanced Plan gives you all the goodies from the Standard Plan, plus three keywords, three profiles, Head Start Alerts (these mean you receive the alerts as soon as the editorial team has approved them).
Premium Plan – $149 per month
The big honcho of HARO plans gives you unlimited keywords, unlimited profiles and phone and email support.
Things To Know About HARO
HARO can be a great SEO tool – as long as you follow a few rules and use the platform wisely. This said, the following are my golden rules for mastering HARO:
I mentioned earlier that I wouldn’t recommend selecting the ‘Master’ option when choosing your topics – and there’s a good reason for this. The reporters looking for help on HARO are looking for real, expert insights. Unless you happen to be some kind of Oracle with an encyclopedic knowledge of pretty much everything, this won’t work for you.
When busy reporters receive responses from people who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about, not only will they ignore your response but, they’re also likely to blacklist you while they’re at it.
Instead, only ever respond to queries that you have some knowledge of and feel that you are qualified to offer useful insights. I know you will probably be eager to get started, but it’s much better to hold out for the queries that are super relevant to you and your experience.
Be A Snob
You’ve identified a response that fits the bill, and you’re ready to go full steam ahead – before you do, cool your jets a little as you first want to make sure that it’s worth your while.
Look at who is posting the query and check out their website authority (SEMRush is a great tool for doing this). Why? You want to make sure that the website and the reporter have enough clout – and authority – to make it worth your while as a contact.
The Clock is Ticking
When considering a query, pay close attention to the deadline as some of these are pretty tight (and always keep in mind that the time is EST rather than your own particular time-zone). Reporters are often working against the clock, so these deadlines really matter (if you try to respond through your dashboard once the deadline has passed, your response won’t be sent).
If you do find that you’ve inadvertently missed the deadline, you can try sending your response by email as, on occasion, the deadline is just a guide but, as a rule of thumb, do try to stick to the time limits specified as this is just good manners.
Watch the Word Count
The reporter has asked for 150 words but, they’d much rather have a three-page essay from you, right? Wrong. Your reporter is unlikely to have the time (or the inclination) to wade through a lengthy response to find the key info and, so, all your hard work is likely to end up in the bin.
In the same vein, you’re not writing poetry so resist the urge to use long-winded sentences and flowery language – keep it short and simple for the best results.
When writing your pitch, don’t be afraid to insert some personality into your response. Remember, the reporter is likely to be wading through a fair number of responses. Anything that makes you stand out is a good thing.
Because of this, I find that I get the best results by making each response personal such as ‘I do this’ or ‘I have used this to great effect,’ rather than a more generic reply.
What’s in a Name?
When looking at a HARO query, you’ll notice that these will either include the name of the reporter and the name of the publication or, it will simply state “Anonymous.” This is a moment to tread carefully as the “Anonymous” author could be writing for a student rag of a local university or being a resident of one of the publishing big boys such as Forbes or Entrepreneur.
When responding to these queries, I tend to assume the latter. Therefore, I make my pitch as detailed and thought-led as possible.
Cracking the Contact
One of your main objectives with HARO is to gain a new contact who may be useful in the future. For this reason, it’s a good idea to include as much contact information as possible, including your name, email, website and LinkedIn. These sites give the reporter ample opportunity to check you out when considering your response. Again, you can go with the Premium Plan if you can afford to, as it allows you more options here.
Stop the Sell
Under no circumstances should you attempt to turn your pitch into an advertisement for yourself or your business. Reporters are not known for their patience, and this will absolutely not win you any friends (or indeed influence anybody).
To Link or Not to Link
Often, a HARO query will state that a link will not be offered to a source. While this may be disappointing, it’s still very much worth doing. Brand mentions are still valued by the Gods of Google, link or no link.
In most cases, reporters like to ‘see’ the person they’re speaking to. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to include a headshot with your pitch. This should be provided in your response as a link rather than a copied and pasted picture. If you’re replying through the HARO site, an attached photo won’t work. Since the reporters are getting hundreds of messages, this works as a protection for them.
Unless specified otherwise, pitches should be short, sweet and super-engaging.
The Follow Up
You’ve got your HARO mojo working, and you’re firing off those responses on a regular basis – how do you know if you’ve been successful?
In an ideal world, the reporter will get in touch with you to let you know that your response will be used. If they’re super nice, they’ll also tell you the publishing date of their article and ask you to promote the post once it goes live.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world and, so I highly recommend signing up for a tool like Brand24, which will alert you to mentions of your name (or your brand name) whenever they appear on the world wide web. This is an essential tool for marketers these days. It’s a great way of staying updated on your HARO alerts. Often, the publication will be several months from the date that you submitted your response.
Cutting a Dash
The ‘My Pitches’ section of your dashboard will also tell you if a response has been accepted. Scroll through your pitches here and lookout for a yellow thumbs-up symbol that denotes acceptance (similarly, thumbs own denotes the opposite). Unfortunately, reporters don’t always take the time to update this.
When using HARO, you don’t always have to stick to sending responses and hoping for the best. Sometimes, it can be just as effective to send the reporter an email to introduce yourself (briefly, of course) and to let him or her know that you are available to help out on future projects).
This is something I do as a matter of routine and it’s a great way of boosting your contacts.
I also make it my business to try to connect with the reporter on LinkedIn. This helps to keep me in their peripheral vision and gives them an easy way of contacting me.
HARO can be a fantastic way of upping your SEO game and gaining you lots of shiny new contacts.
Remember that HARO only works if you work it. In order to be successful with HARO, you need to make it an integral part of your strategy. Meaning, you must make time to research your responses and write really engaging pitches.
While the pitches may take a little getting used to in the beginning — I promise you it’ll be worth it if you use HARO. Make this your long-term strategy for your branding and SEO.
Top Image Credit: markus winkler; unsplash; thank you!