Journalists often write about topics outside their expertise. But even so, they’re expected to publish articles that are data-rich and impactful every single time, adding value to their readers.
And so they say: Help a Reporter Out! Enter HARO.
In this blog, we cover the following topics:
• What Is HARO?
• What Is HARO Link-Building?
• The Perfect Pitch: Is There a HARO Pitch Template To Follow?
• HARO Pitches 101: How To Write a HARO Pitch To Score High-Quality Backlinks
• More HARO Tips: Best Practices for HARO Outreach
• Common Link Building Mistakes To Avoid
• Let’s Help You Help a Reporter Out
A quick look at the tips on how to write a HARO pitch:
What Is HARO?
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is an online public relations (PR) platform designed to connect journalists and content creators with sources or subject matter experts (SMEs).
HARO is used by:
1. Journalists: Professional writers or media representatives of small or large outlets who seek reliable sources for their articles, hoping to furnish their stories with expert insights. They do this through requests known as queries.
2. Sources: Industry experts who provide answers in response to journalists’ requests. Sources are usually digital marketers or link building consultants representing businesses, organizations or individuals.
A HARO pitch is what a source sends in reply to a journalist’s HARO query.
But why do many professionals, especially link building consultants, concern themselves with HARO? The rationale behind this is simple: HARO link-building. Now, what is HARO link building, exactly?
What Is HARO Link-Building?
HARO link-building is the method of obtaining backlinks or linked mentions from other websites to your own through HARO press inquiries. Backlinks can either be dofollow or nofollow.
In search engine optimization (SEO), dofollow backlinks pass along authority or “link juice“ from the source page to your website, positively influencing your website’s performance on search engines like Google. A nofollow backlink does not directly influence your SEO but can still help drive new visitors to your website.
Search engines interpret dofollow links as an endorsement from the linking site.
So, the more high quality backlinks pointing to your website, the higher its authority and rankings in search engine results, ultimately propping up brand awareness and driving relevant web traffic.
Through HARO link building service, you can expect high quality backlinks from major websites like Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, Forbes, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Thus, the dream of getting a super link from the likes of such websites pushes many professionals all over the map to look for a golden HARO pitch template they can follow – but is there such a thing?
The Perfect Pitch: Is There a Haro Pitch Template To Follow?
Not necessarily. On its website, HARO states 75,000 journalists and bloggers and 1 million sources are using its HARO link building service. You can imagine these thousands of content producers have different preferences, so it’s impossible to please them all at once with a single act.
As such, if you religiously follow a standard HARO pitch template, your HARO pitches will fail to stand out and get lost in a sea of answers.
But as a starting point, here are HARO pitch templates to inspire your own responses:
HARO Pitch Template #1
HARO Pitch Template #2
HARO Pitch Template #3
The last template can be edited to craft a HARO pitch on behalf of your client. Here are a few things you should consider when writing a HARO pitch as a representative:
• Hyperlink either your client’s name, position, or company.
• The main answer must be non-narrative, in the first-person singular perspective.
• Only provide your client’s headshot when solicited.
Again, these templates are only baselines for writing a HARO pitch. HARO does not have an authorized pitch format.
HARO Pitches 101: How To Write a HARO Pitch To Score High-Quality Backlinks
Although there isn’t an official HARO pitch template, there are proven HARO outreach tips you can apply that many link building consultants swear by. In this section, you’ll discover practical tips along with actual HARO pitch examples we wrote and submitted, leading to valuable backlinks.
Here’s a better look at the tips on how to write a HARO pitch that worked wonders for our link-building experts:
1. Keep an Eye Out for Highly Relevant Queries
Above all else, ensure you satisfy the journalist’s criteria before answering. Perhaps one of the top HARO link building mistakes is responding to every query without considering relevance.
“Pitching to relevant queries gives your brand the most ‘contextual value,’” said Ron Evan Del Rosario, Thrive’s link-building manager and resident HARO expert.
It can be tempting to answer requests outside of your expertise when you have an idea of them and with Google by your side. But you can’t google your way in; writers and editors of reputable websites are adamant about plagiarism.
Del Rosario noted that you receive at least a hundred queries at a time, and not all of them will be relevant to you. But it’s conveniently categorized, so you can easily jump to your industry or niche. You can also turn to your email platform’s trusty search feature to filter key terms.
Business and Finance is only one of the categories defined by HARO.
2. Find the Right Timing
HARO opportunities are extremely time-sensitive. If you’re subscribed as a source, you will receive HARO queries three times a day, Monday to Friday at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m. and 5:35 p.m. EST.
“I can’t emphasize enough the fact that timing is everything when responding to HARO queries,“ Del Rosario pointed out.
Journalists receive tons of HARO pitches and won’t go through every single one of them.
The pitch above, which won a backlink from a LinkedIn blog, was for a HARO query we received on June 6 at 5 a.m. The query’s set deadline was on June 8 at 5 a.m. CST. Thrive’s expert strategically sent the pitch on its due date.
“The best time to answer a query is within the first hour of receiving the query or right up against the deadline,“ Del Rosario revealed.
“Avoid getting stuck in the middle.“
3. Keep Your Answers to the Point but With Context
While it’s crucial to get your pitches in early, you must do so with an answer that satisfies the very question of the journalist. If the HARO query has multiple questions, ensure you answer each.
To provide value, explain the reasoning behind your answers. The reasoning often sets you apart, especially when you draw from your experiences. Still, refrain from crossing the line that overwhelms the reporter with too many details.
When you pitch, Del Rosario said being concise while maintaining clarity is how you present real value.
The HARO pitch example above gained a backlink from a website with a 72 domain rating (DR). Del Rosario delivered a succinct response along with a sample application.
For another example, let’s say a query is asking for top ways to organize books. You can either respond flatly, “By genre,“ or you could go with something like this:
“I’d suggest organizing your books by genre and arranging them spine-out on the shelves. This way, you’ll have a much easier time finding what you want. Ever since I switched to this method, I’ve been rediscovering books I hadn’t picked up in ages!“
While both answered the question, the latter went on to explain the why and tap into personal experience without much fluff.
4. Craft a Compelling Subject Line
Think of the subject line as the door to your pitch; you wouldn’t want to lose journalists here, not before they even got the chance to see your pitch.
“You must establish your authority in the subject line by adding your role or the best line from your pitch, or do both altogether,” Del Rosario advised.
The HARO pitch above scored a backlink from Forbes with a 92 (DR). Del Rosario took the most impactful phrase from his pitch and used it as his subject line.
Keep in mind that journalists are busy professionals skimming through hundreds of unopened pitches. They are also likely to tackle multiple articles at a time.
So, your subject line should intrigue them to open it. And try to mention the main keywords of the query you are responding to. For example: “RE: Data Security for Startups – Information Security Analyst at Cisco.“
5. Highlight Your Credentials
But what if you’re not working at companies such as Cisco? In that case, you can replace the subject line with “RE: Data Security for Startups – Data Security Manager at a Tech Company for 15 years.“
Every time you’re writing a HARO pitch, provide crucial credentials, including your or your client’s job title, company name, website link or LinkedIn page. Reporters would use such data to cite you or your client.
The above pitch snippet – which won a backlink from a website with an 88 DR – was sent by our team on behalf of a client. Thrive’s link-building expert highlighted our client’s pertinent qualifications right in the subject line and the introduction.
Journalists may also look into the given credentials for verification. That’s why we hyperlinked the client’s name.
If you have been featured in other media outlets, you can briefly mention the publications, provided they’re relevant to the query at hand.
6. Zero In on the Story, Not Your Brand
It’s essential to make plain your credentials, but avoid being salesy. Remember, you’re first there to help a reporter out. Reporters are interested in delivering unbiased, insightful stories to their readership, Del Rosario mentioned. Hence, promoting your products or services to a journalist with other priorities than selling your brand would be inappropriate.
“Nothing turns off a journalist more than a pitch unsolicitedly promoting a brand, product or service,” Del Rosario noted.
What’s more, HARO doesn’t allow you to pitch products in your response unless the source request explicitly seeks product recommendations.
While the query above asks about the “best supplements,” the journalist did not explicitly ask for a brand recommendation. So, you should assume the reporter is asking for types in cases like this.
And even if you provide a substantial answer but slyly promote your offerings at the end, the reporter would likely be displeased and dismiss your pitch. So, to avoid this, focus on what’s asked of you.
7. Stick to the Pitch Instructions
Though only sometimes, reporters include HARO pitch instructions in their queries, which can be very specific. So, before you waste your and the reporter’s time, see to it that you can fulfill each item listed in the instructions. Otherwise, that’s a lost pitch for you.
For instance, a reporter might require a headshot of the expert source. If you’re representing a client, make sure you have their headshots at your disposal.
Or, if the instruction calls for a 100-word answer, that’s exactly what you should provide and nothing more.
Del Rosario’s pitch above won a backlink from a website with a 72 DR. One of the instructions in the HARO query was to “provide a reference for reputability.” So, we made sure to do that by providing reference links.
8. Add Links Sparingly
But remember to be conservative with links and save them for your signature or credentials, except if the HARO query asks for more. When you unwantedly bombard the reporter with links upon links, your approach gives off an impression of being overly sales-driven.
It’s worth noting that not every pitch necessitates a link to your professional profile or your client’s company website. But if we’re going to put a number to how many links are acceptable, one to three would do.
The pitch above won a backlink from a website with an 82 DR. Thrive’s link-building expert only provided two links in the pitch.
The key is where you place your links. Positioning multiple links at the end helps to avoid inundating the reporter or overshadowing the main message of your pitch.
9. Have “Quotable“ Lines in Your Answer
Journalists often only take excerpts from answers, so you want several lines to pack a punch in your piece. Succinct, memorable statements that lend depth and credibility require less editing. These statements make it easier for journalists to fuse them into their stories, increasing your chances of being featured.
“Place your quotable lines at the beginning of your answer or in your subject line if it’s not too long,” Del Rosario said.
In some HARO pitch examples, text formatting (bold, italic and underline) is particularly effective in highlighting direct answers, as shown in the above pitch — which won a backlink from a website with a 79 DR.
Remember you are the subject matter expert, so speak with intellectual confidence and include personal analogies or viewpoints for distinction. With this, make sure your statements are without jargon.
10. Break Up the Text for Readability
No one wants to read walls of text, especially when they’re only looking for specifics. If you present your message in a monolithic block of text, reporters will quickly lose interest and move on to another pitch that is easier to follow.
To save yourself from such a disaster and keep reporters intrigued by what you have to say, break up your text into shorter sections that are easy to digest.
If you think bullet points would help the journalist skim through your key answers, then by all means, go for it.
The pitch above scored a backlink from a story on Medium.
Del Rosario pointed out that some journalists don’t have any experience in the field or niche they are writing about. So, seeing a wall of text on a topic they’re unfamiliar with is far from ideal.
11. Don’t Demand for a Backlink
You can’t ask for backlinks and use HARO explicitly for link-building, even if you believe your contribution adds significant value. The same is true for reporters; they can’t bargain for backlinks in exchange for using your pitch. Reporters also can’t play favorites based on unwarranted backlink agreements.
Otherwise, you risk being completely removed from HARO per its rules.
And remember that a backlink is not always guaranteed in HARO. Sometimes, a mention is all you get. But even so, a mere mention still amplifies your brand’s visibility and recognition.
12. Proofread and Check Your Writing Style and Tone
In most cases, you’re likely interacting with the reporter for the first time, and first impressions matter in a fast, competitive space like HARO. So, you want your pitch to be as grammatically sound as they can be.
Even so, if you find a typo or two in your pitch after sending it, Del Rosario said not to obsess over it, as mistakes happen from time to time.
For writing styles and tone, look up the reporter’s name and previous contributions on the platform they’re associated with and get a feel of their writing preferences.
Then, try subtly mirroring their style so the reporter would get a sense of familiarity when they encounter your pitch.
And while you keep your jargon in check as you proofread your HARO pitch, there are situations where using industry-specific terms or acronyms can be appropriate. In such cases, Del Rosario advised providing brief explanations for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the terminology.
13. Double Check Your Business or Contact Information
Errors in business details can be less forgiving than those in answers. Reporters can effortlessly correct typos in your answer, but that’s not the case when it comes to names and contact numbers.
Having accurate information is not only crucial for citing you but also for seamless communication in case a journalist needs to follow up.
You want your name or business name consistent in case they google you. For business owners, reporters may confirm the relevance of your business to their story. Or, they may want to look further into your client’s expertise to see if they’re a fitting source or verify if the credentials provided are real, Del Rosario added.
More HARO Tips: Best Practices for HARO Outreach
Here are more tips to better help you approach your HARO outreach strategy:
14. Be Reachable
For some, it’s habitual to end pitches with “I’d be happy to answer any follow-up questions,” “I’m open to addressing further questions,” or anything along those lines. But these statements shouldn’t be mere pleasantries but a genuine offer of assistance.
So keep your communications lines open, all the more if you responded to a HARO query that calls for an interview.
15. Set Up a Google Alert
You’re not always going to receive a response in HARO, and the same goes even if a reporter decides to go with your pitch. So, you should be on the ball when it comes to future brand mentions in articles. The best way to receive timely notifications is through Google Alerts. When setting up your Google Alert, be sure to input the precise names you provided in your HARO submission.
Prompt notifications also allow you to share the story in your own channels right when it’s fresh. You can learn more about how you can create Google Alerts here.
16. Watch Out for Anonymous Queries
Per HARO, anonymous queries typically come from larger media outlets. These media outlets do this to hopefully avoid spam or competitors stealing their stories. But that doesn’t mean you should go after anonymous queries. Sometimes, they’re from less reputable sites hoping to snag your input without revealing their low authority status.
So, proceed with caution when it comes to anonymous HARO queries. Our take is that there should be clarity on which media outlets your brands might be mentioned and associated with.
17. Send Supplemental Materials via Google Drive or Dropbox
Any attachment is automatically removed by HARO for security purposes. In case a HARO query is asking for an image, like a professional headshot, you should use Google Drive, Dropbox or any trusted file hosting service. Then, paste the link to the file on your pitch.
Plus, articles are enriched by visuals. So, if you have any, be it a photo or video, that would add value to the reporter’s story, it’s best to offer them.
18. Don’t Submit AI-Generated Content
AI falls short in expressing emotions and original ideas, elements that would make for a standout pitch. While AI shines in addressing clear-cut aspects of a topic, it tends to struggle with the more nuanced, subjective areas. Likewise, leaning solely on AI limits your ability to draw from personal experiences, even more robbing your pitch of authenticity.
Without the proper tools, plagiarism is also another pitfall you might encounter when working with AI.
19. Keep a Record of Your HARO Wins
You can use a Google spreadsheet or any alternative of such. Besides the domain and its rating, list down the URLs of the content piece where you were featured, the name of reporters and your pitch, plus a note on whether you got a backlink or just a mention. Over time, you’ll likely find familiar journalists and repeat features on the same outlets.
You can use your record as a reference for what works best and how you can approach a certain reporter.
20. Experiment With Your HARO Pitch Templates
The goal is not to reinvent the wheel whenever you write a HARO pitch but to embrace what’s tried and true and explore what could be improved. As mentioned in the prior tip, taking note of details gives you a baseline from which you can build and refine your pitch and approach.
Now, when dealing with repeat reporters, you don’t want your pitch to become formulaic or predictable. So, by tinkering with your pitch, you inject a sense of newness.
21. Build Rapport With Journalists
It’s common practice to promote an article once you’ve been featured. So, tagging them directly instead of just the media outlet can make a real impression on the author. This small but meaningful gesture can potentially lead to future collaborations or interactions.
It’s all about acknowledging and respecting the individual behind the byline.
22. Play the Part of a Reporter on HARO
As a website owner, be it yours or your clients, you can benefit from the journalistic side of HARO. You can try to seek expert opinions, conduct surveys or feature notable individuals in your blog content. Such efforts can enrich your content and draw interest to your website.
But no matter if you’re wearing the hat of a source or reporter, relevance remains essential for collaborations to be fruitful.
23. Hire a Haro Link Building Agency
Just as reporters turn to HARO to tap subject matter experts, you can take a parallel approach by enlisting the services of a link building agency. There, you can benefit from the expertise of link building consultants.
Such experts can not only assist you with HARO link-building but also optimize your entire content marketing strategy, including competitor analysis, keyword research and technical SEO.
24. Don’t Use the Same Pitch Twice
Journalists are all for original HARO pitches because that uniqueness would be reflected in their stories. Part of your due diligence is not mass-sending the same pitch, no matter how good you think they are, to different HARO queries or publications. If your pitch gets picked up by multiple reporters and they use it for their stories, it could lead to the issue of duplicate content.
You’ll end up giving your company or your client a bad name. And you’re likely never going to get featured on those specific media outlets again.
25. Stay Current With HARO’s Rules
In any dynamic community, rules are subject to revisions. This holds true for HARO. So, you want to revisit the platform’s guidelines every now and then. Keeping abreast of any changes allows you to align your pitches and responses with the platform’s latest expectations.
HARO Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In this section, Thrive’s resident HARO expert, Ron Evan Del Rosario, further shares his experience by answering HARO FAQs.
|Is a Paid HARO Subscription Worth It?
|A paid subscription is worth giving a shot, especially since HARO has become saturated, and for these reasons:
• HARO source profile lets journalists be aware of your credentials without having to mention them in your pitch.
|Can I Follow Up on My Pitch, or Should I Just Wait?
|It’s okay to follow up, provided that you’ve been made aware your pitch was chosen.
Recently, a journalist informed me that my pitch was selected, saying their story would be published in ten days. If it comes past the schedule and my pitch hasn’t been published, that’s when I’ll follow up.
|To Respond to a Query, Should I Use HARO’s In-System Messaging, or Pitch Directly to a Journalist’s Email?
|You can respond either way since each has its own advantages.
Pitches sent in-system are more straightforward and have a lower chance of error or bouncing. Meanwhile, sending via email is slightly more convenient since you won’t have to open HARO’s platform.
|Will My Pitch Be Noticed Even When I’m Only on a Free HARO Account?
I’ve earned a fair amount of backlinks using a free HARO account. Link-building is a long game, but if you want quick results, a paid subscription may help.
|What Are the Best HARO Alternatives?
|Qwoted, SourceBottle, Pressplugs and Profnet.
While I’d like to keep these platforms from becoming overly crowded like HARO, it’s easily searchable online. So, there you have it.
If you have other questions about HARO, you can ask our HARO experts.
Common Link Building Mistakes To Avoid
Apart from HARO, you likely have other link building initiatives going on. So, to further guide you, below are link building mistakes you should be aware of.
• Using paid links. Buying links can be tempting, but it’s important to remember that Google penalizes sites that engage in paid link schemes.
• Ignoring relevance. When you aim for websites irrelevant to your brand and its offerings, it’s unlikely you’ll be discovered by potential customers.
• Spamming comment sections. Leaving spam comments with links back to your site can not only damage your reputation but also result in penalties.
• Excessive guest posting. While guest posting can be a great way to earn links, overdoing it can come across as spammy and hurt your credibility.
• Duplicate content. Duplicate content for the sole purpose of building links is discouraged as Google is firmly against it and, therefore, leads to sanctions.
• Ignoring local SEO. Not building local links and citations (mentions of your business name, address and phone number) can limit your visibility in search.
• Low-quality link sources. Earning links from low-quality sources harms your ranking, so you want your website only associated with reputable ones.
• Neglecting anchor text diversity. Overusing exact match anchor text can come across as manipulative and likewise prompt penalization.
• Not monitoring your backlink profile. Failing to regularly monitor your backlink profile opens the door to negative or spammy links going unmanaged.
Let’s Help You Help a Reporter Out
If you’re ready to acquire high quality backlinks for your website through HARO, we’re here to help. Thrive is a digital marketing and link building agency that specializes in HARO link building service.
“Through our HARO experts’ precision and in-depth knowledge, we leverage pitching strategies that can’t be found anywhere else,“ Del Rosario said.
“Our team understands how to approach different types of websites – from small B2B blogs to major publications like Entrepreneur, Bustle and Architectural Digest, to name a few.“
If you want to see more of our winning HARO pitch examples that got us backlinks from reputable websites — talk to our team!