Easy Backlink Building With HARO—17 Can’t-Miss Steps

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Building backlinks to your website can be a time-consuming process. But it’s a necessary part of running an online business. 

But Help A Reporter Out (HARO) is a way to generate backlinks to your website with minimal effort.

If you’re unfamiliar with HARO, it’s a resource for journalists and other writers who need expert quotes for articles they are writing. HARO is how many people get mentioned in publications like Forbes, Business Insider, USA Today, etc.

The journalist will submit a request via HARO, hoping to get a response they can use in their story. Professionals answer these requests, called queries, with a quote for the journalist. These quotes add context, flavor, and authority to the reporter’s story. 

As a professional in what you do, you can use HARO to get quoted in publications. And often, reporters will backlink to your website when they credit you for your contribution. As a bonus, getting featured in online publications builds your reputation.

Keep reading to learn how to make the most of this handy resource.

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. 

The more high-quality backlinks you have pointing to your website, the more respectable you appear to be. Google tends to reward websites that have high-quality backlinks with higher search engine rankings. The higher you rank in search results, the more organic traffic that visits your website. So backlinks should be a part of your marketing strategy.

Screenshot of the HARO website

One of the “easiest” ways to build backlinks is through Help A Reporter Out (HARO). 

I put easiest in quotes because while it’s a method that anyone can use and is not difficult, it can be time-consuming with no guaranteed results. But the payoff can be significant.

Sign up for a free HARO account

To start with HARO, you must sign up for a free HARO account..

HARO email example

Once you sign up, you’ll get an email three times a day from HARO with a list of journalist queries. The emails are sent at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m., and 5:35 p.m. EST, Monday-Friday. You can scroll through them and reply to those that apply to your experience and your business.

Here are some tips to help you format your pitch for the best chance of success.

Tips for Pitching HARO

1. Read the query carefully.

Be respectful of the journalist’s qualifiers. 

Sometimes the reporter will have specific criteria the responder should meet. Like they only want to hear from business owners in New York City with e-commerce stores. Or they’ll want to conduct a video or phone interview. If you can’t meet the qualifications/stipulations the reporter requests, don’t reply.

2. Be personable in your pitch.

Keep in mind that you’re one person helping another. So, be friendly. 

If the journalist leaves their name in the query, use it in your response. Hi Sally!

At the end of your pitch, offer to answer questions. If you need clarification or have further questions, please feel free to reach out.

Close by telling them to have a great week, day, evening, etc.

3. Formatting Your Subject Line.

The headline is the first thing a reporter sees, so make it count. Tell them why they should read your pitch.

If they ask for the year’s best home design tips, show your expertise in the subject line.

HARO Query: Award-Winning Designer on 202X Home Design Trends

HARO Query: Flooring Company CEO With Design Tips

These headlines tell the reporter you have some authority to speak on the topic before they even begin reading your advice.

4. Lead with your authority.

After you open with a Hello Sally, in the following line, tell them who you are and why you’re the person to answer their questions.

I’m Jane Smith, Owner of XYZ Designs. I’ve been designing websites for 7 years, and here’s what I tell my clients about web design.


Hi Jane, I’m Belinda Smith. I’m an award-winning photographer and have worked with Fortune 500 companies like Amazon and Walmart.

This is the time to flaunt your stuff. Don’t go into specifics, like the name of the award and which organization certified you. But adding these details to your introduction gives you some credibility and authority.

5. Keep it tight. 

Reporters are busy people and often work on tight deadlines. 

The idea is to make their job easier by giving them a quality soundbite they can copy and paste. Don’t fill your pitch with fluff. Keep it short, and edit out unnecessary words.

6. But don’t overthink it.

While you want to keep your pitch short and sweet, don’t obsess over making it perfect. And don’t spend too much time on it because there’s no guarantee the reporter will use your pitch. 

There are two exceptions to this rule.

Suppose you’re pursuing a quote from a high-authority site like The New York Times or Business Insider. In that case, those quotes are worth the extra effort. Because of their reputation, there will be a lot of competition for this query, so you want to give it your best shot.

The second exception is if the query is for a publication with whom you want to build a long-term relationship. Once reporters get to know you (which will take some time), you could become their go-to person whenever they write on your topic. It’s worth cultivating those business friendships. 

7. To improve your shot at being quoted, offer a couple of different points.

If the reporter is looking for ways to save money, give them 2-3 options. Not only does it offer more material for the reporter, but it increases your odds of including something unique.

But again, keep it short. Don’t send the journalist a 12-page report. They don’t have time to read it, and your pitch will get tossed.

8. Speaking of unique, try to avoid the standard responses.

Journalists are always on the lookout for new and exciting ideas. Everybody and their brother pitch the same tired responses to journalist questions.

For example, if the reporter asks for money-saving tips, think of something beyond the standard advice of cutting the cable bill or buying things on sale.

Get creative, especially if they ask for out-of-the-box ideas. Those are the ideas most likely to be featured.

9. Format your pitch so it’s easy to read.

As mentioned before, reporters are on tight deadlines, and they get a lot of responses to their requests. Make your pitch easy to read.

​​If they get a long block of text that’s difficult to skim, the journalist will pass over it and move on to a more reader-friendly pitch.

Format your pitch as follows:

Main point. Followed by 1-3 supporting sentences if needed.

Main point. Followed by 1-3 supporting sentences if needed.

Main point. Followed by 1-3 supporting sentences if needed.

Bold your main idea so the reporter can see it right away. If relevant, add a couple of sentences that support the main idea. But remember to respect their time.

10. Be an authority on the topic.

If the reporter asks for a quote from an astrophysicist and the only physics you know is what you learned in high school 15 years ago, don’t respond. 

It’s a waste of their time, and journalists can report you to HARO for spammy answers. If it happens often enough, you’ll develop a poor reputation with the reporters, and HARO can ban you from responding.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. If they ask for a quote from a veterinarian, but you’re a vet tech, and you can honestly answer the question, ‌do so. Just know your limits.

11. Have a couple of ready stories.

I always see two queries: requests for business success stories and business failure stories. 

Pick stories you can have as a go-to. Something about the roadblocks you overcame, obstacles you faced, and the lessons you learned. 

But don’t cut and paste these pitches after you decide on your stories. You need to rewrite them each time, so they’re always original wording. Sending the exact pitch to multiple reporters is a big no-no.

12. Pitch ASAP.

Reporters are often on a deadline, sometimes a very tight one, so the sooner you respond, the sooner they can write their story. And the more likely it is that they’ll use your pitch.

I understand that it’s not always possible to monitor HARO and respond immediately, especially if you’re not in the Eastern time zone. Don’t let that deter you from replying. Just understand the earlier you can pitch, the better your chances for success.

13. Watch for follow-up questions.

Sometimes reporters will email you with follow-up or clarification questions. Reply as soon as you’re able. A timely response makes it more likely they’ll use your quote. If you don’t get back to them quickly, they’ll move on to someone else’s pitch.

14. If your pitch is used, offer to share it.

Some reporters will send you a link when the article is live to let you know they used your quote. Thank them and if you’re active on social media, offer to share the piece. This small gesture means a lot because it gets more eyes on their work.

15. You don’t have to pitch Monday-Friday.

While you increase your chances of success if you respond to HARO queries daily, you have to do a cost-benefit analysis.

If your time is tight, your best opportunities are Mon-Wed. As the week goes on, there are usually fewer requests. So, plan to pitch Mondays and Tuesdays if you need a limit.

16. What to do with a nofollow link?

If you get a nofollow link (or they don’t link to you at all in their story), it’s okay to reach out to the reporter and ask if they can change or add a link. Often, they’re willing to do so.

But understand they may not have the authority to make any changes. Be gracious if they decline.

17. Don’t limit yourself to categories.

HARO divides the queries into categories. Medical, business, etc. While looking at the questions in the category most related to your business makes sense, it’s worth your time to sift through all the queries, no matter the type.

Sometimes, the journalist puts their request in the wrong category. Sometimes a request could fit into multiple categories. 

And sometimes, you’ll come across a query you can answer in a category unrelated to your business. 

For example, there’s a parenting question you can answer as a mom, even though it’s not directly related to your business. If you have an answer that fits their query, by all means, reply to them. If they use your quote, they may still link to your business website.

Final Thoughts on Using HARO to Build Backlinks

HARO is a relatively easy way to build backlinks to your website while also generating publicity for your business. It’s free, easy, and effective. 

If you’ve never tried using HARO to build backlinks, it’s worth spending a little time to do so. With these tips for using HARO successfully, you’re ready to take advantage of this link-building strategy.

Dive Deeper:

Jennifer Ayling

Jennifer Ayling is a certified content marketer and SEO content writer at The Mulberry Pen. She’s been creating digital content since 2008 and is a regular writer for authority sites like Smart Blogger and Xperiencify. 

An avid bookworm, Jennifer reads 100+ books every year. She lives outside St. Louis, MO, with her husband and their two children. The family’s two dogs rule the household.

It’s my mission to show you how to build and market your business without depending on the whims of social media. There are many other marketing assets you can create. I can help.