James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
How Often Do Pitches on HARO Get Accepted?
HARO is the abbreviation for a website called Help A Reporter Out. It’s an interesting take on link building and information gathering, and I’ve been using it for promotion recently to great effect.
The general concept is simple. On the one hand, you have reporters – or blog writers, or newscasters, or journalists, or any number of other people who are doing research on specific topics – who have questions. Those reporters submit their question to HARO. It’s generally in the form of a few sentences for context, and a question they want to be answered by people who have some level of authority on the subject.
On the other hand, you have people like me, other blog writers, company owners, and anyone who really wants some promotion. These people are authorities in their subject; they have the experience, they have the knowledge, and they can answer questions with first-hand anecdotes.
Reporters leave their pitches on the site, and bloggers and other authorities can pick them up and answer them. The reporters get their information, and really their pick of information from a range of possible authorities. Depending on the question, there may be a couple of responses or a flood of them from everyone who really wants to have themselves cited on the web.
That’s the payment for your detailed answers. When I respond to a HARO question, I give them my bio information. If they choose to accept my pitch, they can interview me in more detail about the subject and use the information I give them for their content. What I get in exchange is my name attached to the quote and a link to my website. It’s pretty typical as a bit of social proof, a sign of “this is who this person is so you can check on them to make sure they’re the authority they claim to be.”
In a way, HARO is pretty similar to something like Quora. They both involve someone asking a question, and an authority providing an answer. The difference is, Quora is an open platform. Anyone can ask a question and anyone can answer one, for free, with no limitations. Many people use it for marketing; even if the asker doesn’t like the answers they get, those answers are still there, in public, with links, visible for the internet to see. HARO is a closed system, which limits a lot of the formulaic and low-quality answers; people who aren’t any good at pitching their information aren’t going to get value out of the site at all.
So the question many people have when looking at a closed platform like this – since you can’t see the questions or the pitches without creating an account, and there’s a lot of value locked behind the pro version of the site – is “how often does it work?”
After all, if you’re joining the site so you can get interviews, and only one out of every 1,000 pitches are accepted, that’s not going to be worth your time. If there are way more people available to answer questions than there are people asking them, the flood of content means any individual is going to have a pretty tough time getting any attention.
I’ve been using HARO for a few months now, and I have to say, it’s working pretty well so far. Just a few good, relevant links have bene hugely beneficial to my site, and getting my name out there in more than the usual set of link building targets has been great for my backlink profile. Not to mention the possibility of following up on some of these relationships in the future.
In my experience, I’ve had a “low” but not terrible success rate. I’ve had roughly one in every fifteen pitches accepted. That might not seem like a lot, but there are enough questions available – at least in the marketing niche – that I have plenty to answer. I’m also new to the platform, so the longer I use it, the more I’ll establish recognition with repeat reporters, and get the hang of what people are looking for in general.
How To Get Better Results From HARO
Alright, yes, I know I just admitted that I haven’t been using HARO for very long. That’s true, but in that time, I’ve made a few changes that have had a pretty positive effect on my success rate, and I’m confident that I’ll continue to improve it. I suspect something like one in ten is possible, though I don’t know that I’d set my sights higher than that at the moment. Someone with way more industry recognition than I have would probably have a much higher success rate as well, but then, many of those people don’t actually need the help with link building, and thus don’t really participate on sites like these as answerers. They might be the ones asking questions, though!
Use HARO pro. HARO’s paid version of their platform has a lot of benefits for people like me. Their free version just gives you an email digest of questions, but you need to do all the legwork yourself.
The paid versions give you added benefits, such as:
- Setting up keyword alerts for relevant keywords being used in questions.
- Creating a profile that can automatically send some information to potentially interested parties.
- Text alerts for the keyword alerts you set up, so you can log in and respond anywhere.
- Searching and filtering for questions so you can find – and save – sets of questions that apply to you.
All of that is yours for a $20 per month subscription, which for a service like this, is practically nothing. Frankly, though, I would recommend the plan one tier higher than that. The $50 per month plan has one key benefit the lower plans don’t: a head start. You get alert when the HARO team approves a relevant question for you – they call them “media opportunities” – and get a head start on writing your pitches.
Frankly, I think one of the main reasons a lot of people don’t have initial success with HARO is because of this lead time. Many of the really invested marketers have this plan, and are submitting high quality pitches to these questions before you even know they exist. By paying a simple fee, you get access to this huge benefit, and it can make all the difference in the world.
Check and submit pitches as soon as possible. That lead time is a back-breaker if you’re slow with responding. If you respond with a pitch as soon as an opportunity is available to you, you have the best chance of being accepted. Even if you’re not paying for the $50 a month plan, you can still focus on getting your pitches up and submitted as quickly as possible.
Remember, though, that every media opportunity is unique, and they’re all highly valuable opportunities. As such, you really need to focus on the quality over the quantity of pitches you submit. Creating a template and shotgunning the same basic information to every single pitch on the site might get you a few hits, but it’ll have an extremely low success rate. It’s much, much better to focus on a smaller number of higher quality pitches.
Don’t submit answers to questions you’re not an authority on. This might seem like common sense, but a lot of marketers like to pretend they can be an expert on any subject if they just put their mind to it. If someone is asking a detailed medical question and your credentials are all about social media marketing, sure, you can Google up enough information to put together a reasonable-sounding answer, but it won’t be accepted because you’re not a medical authority.
At the end of the day, what you really need to do is be focused with the questions you submit your pitches to answer. Again, quality is more important than quantity here.
Following Up and Staying Organized
Keep records. One thing I noticed while pursuing this is that a lot of the people asking questions would take your pitch and use it, but they wouldn’t mark the media opportunity as closed or used. Your on-site metrics make this look like a failure, even though you’re still getting the link and citation you wanted.
Here’s what I do. First, create a spreadsheet. On this sheet, record the name, the website, and the media opportunity. You can also record the information that you submitted, though that’s not always useful. You can use it to verify that they aren’t mis-quoting you, but that’s pretty unlikely to begin with.
If the media opportunity is marked as accepted, great! You can rely on the user to give you information about it once it’s used. If it’s not marked, though, don’t get discouraged. Simply check the website after a week, after two weeks, and after a month. Check for recently published posts that were written covering the subject you were asked about, and see if your information was used after all. I’ve had several where they never marked my pitch as accepted, but they still used my information, still cited me properly, and still gave me the link. If I didn’t check, I never would have known!
Email the reporter. I had one case where I submitted a pitch that the asker liked, but it didn’t have enough information in it for them to want to use it. Fortunately, I was able to reach out to them via their personal channels – their email on their personal site, specifically – and ask them if they wanted any more information. Following up with them allowed me to give them more details and more adequately answer their question, and they accepted it after all. I nailed that citation, and I established a relationship I may be able to go back to later.
Another thing you can do is maintain a list of sites that you submitted pitches for, even though they weren’t accepted and weren’t used. You can email those people later with a simple message. Something like “hey, I’m James, I recently submitted a pitch about X topic to you on HARO. You didn’t use it, and that’s fine, but I’d just like to let you know that I’m available any time you have another question I can answer. I’m experienced with A, B, and C, so if any of those come up, feel free to drop me a line!”
Sure, that kind of message isn’t going to have immediate returns, but building long-term relationships is a good idea regardless.
Consider using both sides of HARO. As a blog owner, you can play a role on both sides of the coin. As a source, you’re able to perform link building via authority interviews and other experiences. As a journalist, you can reap the benefits of interviews.
One great kind of content you can produce for a blog is the industry interview round-up. Normally, you have to build a list of industry figures you want to interview, find the contact information for all of those people, build up spreadsheets with emails and responses, painstakingly assemble the whole project, and follow up with all of them when you’re done.
HARO allows you to streamline this process, at least somewhat. You can create a journalist media opportunity with the question you want answered. Depending on the question and the niche, you could get dozens or hundreds of responses. Sure, some of them will be from small blogs you’ve never heard of, but there are a surprising number of high quality participants on HARO.
By using the journalist side of HARO, you can also get to know what kind of pitches other people are submitting, and what a good pitch looks like. Getting that inside view is quite valuable!
One thing to note is that HARO has a few rules for journalists, including size of your site. Their threshold is “an Alexa ranking of one million or less”, which is very broad, though. You can read the full rules here.
Don’t give up. I know this is often repeated as one of the most common and most pithy pieces of information in all of marketing, but it’s really important. Tenacity is probably the number one quality that separates low-level marketers who fail to pay their bills from the people who truly hit the big time with their marketing efforts.
On HARO, that means setting up alerts and making sure you respond to them in a timely manner. Be focused, be courteous, be high quality. Spend a little time and effort on writing your pitches, and keep records of what you submit so you can analyze and improve them. Maybe you’ll notice some qualities that your accepted pitches have and your ignored pitches lack.
That’s another reason why I recommend paying for an account; when you have money on the line, you’re more likely to stick with it and you’re more likely to put the effort in to make it work.
Now it’s my turn with a question: have you ever used HARO? If so, I’d like to hear your story. Did you find success on the platform, or did it fail to live up to your expectations? Let us know below in the comments section!
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