How to Respond to a HARO Query (10 Useful Tips to Land Links)

  • Felix Rose-Collins
  • 8 min read
How to Respond to a HARO Query (10 Useful Tips to Land Links)


Is it possible to land quality backlinks from the likes of The New York Times, Mashable or Wall Street Journal without paying a dime? Yes, it is!

As you know, visibility is key to building trust and establishing your voice in the industry. Earning authority backlinks from big media publications helps you achieve exactly that.

Using a popular online service known as Help A Reporter Out (HARO,) you can build relationships with journalists in your industry and land backlinks from websites with high domain authority.

This is the kind of exposure that truly matters because quality backlinks help you rank better in SERPs, drive organic traffic to your website and provide you with credible brand mentions.

Cut back on the hit-or-miss cold pitches and channel your energy to a reliable platform that gets you results.

In this article, we’ll cover the essentials of getting started with HARO and tell you exactly how to respond to a HARO query if you want to win big on the platform.

What is HARO and who is it for?

Help A Reporter Out, or HARO, is an online freemium service for reporters and journalists who are hunting for quotes or contributions from subject matter experts.

HARO provides a robust database of queries for a wide range of industries which its network of industry experts can respond to based on their expertise.

This mutually beneficial relationship is what makes the platform stand out. Journalists can find credible sources to quote in upcoming news stories while brands and experts can land valuable media coverage free of charge.

What is HARO and who is it for?

Many career journalists, bloggers, and influential writers use it as a tool to get exclusive information by sending out detailed queries. Although, unfortunately, not every reporter has access to it. Only queries from the top one million websites on the internet (based on Alexa rankings) are accepted on HARO.

On the other hand, business owners, PR teams, link-building agencies, and content marketing professionals who want to ramp up their SEO efforts by landing quality backlinks or increasing brand authority through big-time press mentions use this platform to reach their desired goals.

If SEO is included in your marketing strategy, then you probably know that quality backlinks from high domain-authority publications will indicate to search engines that your content offers value and help you rank higher. Likewise, if you’re on the PR team for a company, then you know that this helps you improve omnichannel marketing, increase earned media, and further build trust and brand awareness.

Let’s show you how to make the most of HARO.

How to get started on HARO in 3 steps

Getting started on HARO is simple and you can be all set up in less than 30 minutes.

Step 1: Sign up

  • Go to the website and click “Sign Up”
  • Fill out the required form indicating your name, email, country ,and company.
  • Once you complete your sign-up, you’ll get a confirmation link in your registered email. Click the link to activate your account.

Pro tip: Register with the appropriate email, preferably your company or professional email.

Step 2: Set up your profile

  • Following the confirmation link, click on “Update and add to your Account Details”.
  • Choose your account type, e.g. “Source”
  • Add your “Title,” e.g. CMO at Google
  • Select your “HARO preferences.” This indicates your industry and area of expertise and will determine the type of queries you’ll receive.

HARO preferences

  • Click “Save & Update” to complete this step.

Pro tip: When selecting HARO preferences, only subscribe to relevant industry feeds so you get query alerts on topics that matter to you. Currently, Business and Finance, High Tech, and Biotech & Healthcare reportedly get the highest number of queries.

Step 3: Start responding to queries

  • After updating your profile, you’ll start receiving queries from HARO in your email.
  • These queries will be sent at 5:35 a.m., 12:35 p.m., and 5:35 p.m. (ET). They are respectively referred to as morning, afternoon, and evening editions.
  • Check daily emails and choose queries that match your industry and expertise. For SEO purposes, also ensure that your selected topics align with your audience’s search intent.

Pro tip: Focus on media outlets with a Domain Authority (DA) of 50+ which can significantly enhance your SEO efforts. Also, follow the best practices shared below to learn how to respond to a HARO query and win the attention of journalists with a persuasive pitch.

Optional: Upgrade your account to get extra perks

Most of the key benefits on HARO are free. However, if you work with a larger organization that requires extra customizations, you can explore the available Pro plans.

HARO pricing

Between the standard plan at $19/mo and the premium plan at $149/mo, you can get the following perks:

  • Set up keyword alerts to help you filter through HARO queries
  • Create different profiles to automatically insert into your pitches
  • Receive SMS alerts if you want access to new queries on the go
  • Get instant alerts when the HARO editorial team approves a media opportunity, which gives you extra lead time to craft the perfect pitch

What is a HARO query?

You can’t effectively learn how to respond to a HARO query if you don’t know what exactly a HARO query is. So, let’s break it down.

A HARO query is a request sent by a journalist or reporter detailing what they’re writing about and from whom they need a response.

Typically, journalists look for credible sources that fit specific requirements. This means that the pool of experts who have signed up to be a source on HARO will have to send a response (also known as a pitch) to the journalist’s email, then the journalist will review the responses and contact the sources which best fulfill their stated requirements.

This is a list of what a HARO query includes:

  • The main topic: Often tagged as “summary” and could be something like “Give one example of how Power BI and Tableau are different”.
  • A category (e.g., sports, travel, education, lifestyle and fitness, business and finance, energy and green tech, etc.)
  • The media outlet the journalist mainly writes for. (e.g., Business Insider, Bustle, Forbes)
  • The deadline for submitting responses
  • An email address to which you can send your pitch
  • The query: What the journalist needs from you
  • The requirements: detailing the kind of person they‘re looking for. Usually, it’s someone with expertise in the topic they’re writing about.

A HARO query will typically require responses urgently, considering that journalists have short turnaround times. As one journalist, Nicole Fallon-Peek stated, “we reporters use HARO when we need good quotes and answers to our questions, and many times, we need those quotes and answers now.”

So, the sooner you send your killer pitch, the more likely you are to be selected.

How to respond to a HARO query (10 useful tips)

There are thousands of sources signed up to HARO who are all eager to secure press mentions from major publications. In other words, HARO is highly competitive, and unless you prefer to explore other alternatives, you need to be at the top of your game.

Here are 10 useful tips to help you deliver an outstanding pitch.

1. Note the journalist’s requirements

You want the reporter to see your pitch and think, “this is exactly what I’m looking for!” Make sure you pay attention to what the reporter has listed as their ideal requirement and confirm that you fit the requirements to a T. This is one of the best practices you absolutely cannot ignore.

There’s no point responding if you don’t meet the requirements—the journalist will likely discard your pitch.

2. Identify the intended target audience

You want to be relatable and share relevant information that guarantees your response is extremely useful to the reporter, not a waste of their time. Focus on the details of the query and identify to whom the article is targeted.

Having an understanding of the target audience will no doubt improve the quality of your response. If you want to build hype around your business, getting published will serve as an added source of referral marketing.

3. Use a catchy subject line

Don’t stress over coming up with a clever or compelling copy. Simply stick to using words the journalist will search for in their inbox.

Write a subject line that references your expertise, the topic, and the media outlet.

4. Prove your credibility

Don’t make journalists do extra work just to find out if you’re a credible source. Include substantial background information like your job title, the company you work for, and a link you want to be referenced if you’re published.

Ideally, your bio should be less than 50 words. Try to find the right balance between adequate and concise. Feel free to name-drop commendable press features, awards, recognition, notable companies you’ve worked with, etc.

5. Answer the query with proof to support your statements

A reporter is likely to include interview questions that enable you to share responses that are print-ready.

Offer well-thought-out and intelligent answers. Get to the point, share a unique angle, and include data or proofs to support your statements. It’s bad press if a reporter publishes a quote from you that doesn’t pass a standard fact check. Where necessary, include citations to enable further research if the requester wishes to verify your info.

6. Address why the information you’re sharing is important

Steer clear of redundant answers. Address how your contribution can elevate their story based on the significance of your experience and expertise. Also, demonstrate that you understand what the writer needs. No clichés, please!

If using AI tools to write, pay attention to unnecessary repetition and overused phrases.

7. Add comments the journalist can quote directly

According to Nicole, the journalist we mentioned earlier, “The number one secret to getting press coverage through HARO is to make it as easy as possible for a journalist to use your quote”.

If they can cut and paste your commentary directly into their article, even better.

8. Keep your pitch concise

Aim for a 150-word pitch and no more than 300 words. Make sure your pitch is easy to read, skimmable, and utilizes bullet points.

9. Adhere to the platform rules

  • Don’t send attachments—they are deleted automatically.
  • Avoid sending a sales pitch. That’s the fastest way to get disqualified.
  • Going off-topic and sending unsolicited submissions can get you banned.
  • If you don't have the required expertise or appropriate background, move to the next query.
  • Meet the requirements and follow pitch instructions.
  • Address the journalist by name if indicated.
  • Review the rules before you start your pitching journey.

10. Submit your pitch quickly

Time is of the essence when it comes to responding to a HARO query.

  • Choose a time during the day to sort through the email queries you’ve received and select the most relevant ones to respond to.
  • Take note of the listing’s deadline and aim to pitch within the first five to ten hours. It can make a big difference if you’re one of the first to send in a response. If you’re an expert, your pitch should take roughly 30 minutes to write.
  • Run your pitch through Grammarly or Quillbot to quickly catch and correct easy-to-miss errors.
  • Send as a Google Doc or Dropbox link, because attachments are automatically rejected.
  • Include contact details as well as an active social media (Twitter preferably) handle the journalist can use to tag you when sharing the published article.
  • Add a subtle CTA, offer to provide more info, and ask them to get back to you.

Pro tip: A persuasive pitch is unique, credible, and useable. However, if you don’t want to give up all your valuable information upfront, consider requesting a formal interview. Know that your pitch must be compelling enough for the reporter to grant that request.

Also, don’t forget to send a short thank you note to the reporter when you get featured. It’s a small gesture that is likely to help nurture the relationship.

As you provide valuable expertise to journalists who need it, don’t forget to keep track of backlinks you land from those high domain-authority websites. If you don’t monitor them, you can’t prove how well your SEO strategy performs.

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