How to Earn Publicity & Backlinks With HARO? #ASKIrfan [S01E06]

NOTE: As mentioned before, in each #ASKIrfan episode, I answer various FAQs of my listeners.

In this #ASKIrfan episode, the question we have is:

How to Earn Publicity & Backlinks With HARO?

For those who don’t know, HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. Here is how it works


Check out the episode below to know how we went from a 0% success rate with HARO (as in 0 positive response and 0 backlinks/mentions in the first month) to 47.06% success rate.

We had sent 68 pitches, and we were able to get 22 links with another 10 where we had received a positive response but the links were not live yet.)





  • ​Detailed description of what HARO is
  • How we earned backlinks & mentions from the likes of Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Credit Donkey, FitSmallBusiness, DICE, Boston Commons, Furniture Today, Sarasota Herald Tribune, DAtabox, MyCorporation, CEO Blog Nation, and others.
  • The 5 Steps You Must Take to Ensure Success With HARO
  • Two Bonus Steps on how to leverage HARO even more
  • The one Chrome extenstion which boost our #HAROutreach massively
  • And much more! Yep.. this short & solo episode is FULL of VALUE!


INTRO: (00:05) Welcome to the Ask Irfan edition of the SIA Business Podcast. In each Ask Irfan episode, your host, Irfan, will be answering questions you asked and even questions you never asked.

Irfan: (00:21) Hi everyone. This is your host, Syed Irfan Ajmal. Today the question that we have is how to get publicity and backlinks with HARO. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. HARO is like a matchmaking service which connects journalists working on different stories with the right sources and the right experts.

(00:46) These sources can provide journalists with exclusive goals and relevant tips, tricks, and information. The journalist then writes and publishes their story and that is how the sources get publicity and SEO boost via HARO.

(01:03) This all starts with journalists submitting their queries on HARO. HARO then sends about 3 email digests or newsletters each day and each of these digests has several journalists queries in them. You can then act as a source or as an expert and help these journalists respond to the query that they are working on.

(01:28) To give you an example, we have used HARO to get mentions and backlinks for my own website and those of our clients, and we have been able to get mentions and backlinks from top publications such as Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Credit Donkey, Fit Small Business, DICE, Boston Commons, Furniture Today, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Databox, My Corporation, CEO Blog Nation, and many, many others.

(02:03) In one of the campaigns, our conversion rate in the very first month was actually 0%. This was probably the first campaign that we actually worked on. We had sent 40 pitches and received no links, no mentions, nothing at all.

(02:21) In the second month, what we did was that we did a review of what was wrong with our pitches. We studied reviewed the content available on the web produced by other people and other marketers and experts who have used HARO with success. And in the second month, our conversion rate actually went to 47.06%

(02:47) So, month 1, 0% conversion rate, month 2, 47.06% conversion rate. We had sent 68 pitches and we were able to get 22 backlinks with another 20 where we had received a positive response but the links were not live yet. That’s because in the case of a lot of the large publications, their editing cycle is pretty long and it can take as much as 2 or 3 months before the link is actually live.

(03:16) Now let me give you a step by step example so that you can learn how to use HARO in your own marketing and PR campaigns. Let’s say you run a fitness website and you want some publicity, exposure, and backlinks for your websites.​

(03:31) So your 5-step simple process to be able to leverage HARO in this regard would be, Step 1, sign up at, and while signing up at you should sign yourself up as a source rather than as a journalist, and you should choose some relevant categories.​

(03:52) For instance, the General category, the Health and Fitness category, or Business and Finance category, something like that. Now, what you will do is that you will be getting three emails every day, so you should wait for your email digests.​

(04:07) These are sent around morning, afternoon and evening time as per the EST time zone, I believe. Now, depending on how many categories you have signed up for, you may actually get more than one email on each of these three times.​

(04:23) So if you have signed up for just 1 category, you will get 3 emails per day. If you have signed up for 2 categories, you will get about 6 emails per day and so on. Step 3, now let’s say that you find a journalist’s query, who is writing an article for Forbes and who is asking whether detox juices can help with weight loss.

(04:45) Step 4, since you have a fitness website, you decide that you will be writing an answer for this query. Step 5, while writing your response, you have to keep in mind a few factors. First off, make sure that your answers are backed by research and data.

(05:04) I mean unless the journalist has specifically asked for an anecdote or your personal experience, you want to make sure, if the query is… whether there is evidence for a particular type of diet or a particular type of fitness program or something. You want to make sure that your answer is backed by research and credible data.​

(05:23) You also want to make sure that the responses that you write are short but concise responses. You don’t want to go on and on writing 500 word-stories or something like that because these journalists often are on very tough deadlines and they don’t have the time to go through a very long passage and then find a single response that they can use in their article.​

(05:47) You also want to make sure that your signature includes all your contact information. That would include your full name, your position at the company that you are working at, your company name, your company URL, which you want to be included in the article.

(06:04) And you also want to make sure that you are not attaching your picture because HARO doesn’t support any attachments. Instead, what you want to do is to upload your picture to a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Google Drive and then, in your signature, in the response that you are sending to the journalists, you will include a link to that photo.​

(06:28) While we are at it, you should also maybe use a URL shortening service to shorten the Google Drive URL of your photo or the Dropbox URL of your photo so that the URL doesn’t take a lot of space in your signature. In this regard, you can use a service like Bitly or the Google URL Shortening Service.

(06:49) Also, in most cases, unless stated otherwise, the size of the picture that you should link to in your signature should be 200 x 200. So, 200 pixels of length and 200 pixels of width.

(07:04) Two bonus tips for you if you want to go ahead with using HARO in your marketing and PR campaign. Bonus tip number 1, in case of queries where the journalist has mentioned his or her name, you may want to reach out to them via Twitter and LinkedIn as well. You can do that before sending the query or you can start doing that after sending the query.

(07:26) And this is not going to be about you reminding them about your HARO response. I mean, if you have used HARO and you have sent your response by the deadline, they will receive it. So, the reason you want to reach out via social media is to get on their radar and to interact with them in a manner where your profile and your personality and your experience gets their attention.

(07:55) So, you may interact with their posts, you may ask them a question where it is relevant or you might even come across an opportunity where they might be looking for some kind of information or they might even be looking for a source for a different story in a different niche or something.​

(08:16) And in that case, if you are able to connect them with someone, something that is a good deed anyway and obviously for both the journalists and that other source that you connected them to, they’ll be very grateful to you and that can help you in the near future.

(08:32) Also, speaking of HARO deadlines, one thing I forgot to mention was that you should keep in mind that in case of HARO queries, these queries… every query has pretty much a very strict deadline. So, 12 hours, 24 hours, something like that.​

(08:47) So you want to make sure that you respond before the deadline is over because if you try to respond to that query via HARO after the deadline has expired, your email will actually not reach the journalist. That’s because HARO creates these random automated email addresses.

(09:06) So, you don’t have… you don’t see the actual email address of the journalist. What you see is, maybe something like, I mean I’m just giving a lame example, but it would be something like, journalists0123abxyz, something like that, or, actually.

(09:25) So, Make sure that you respond before the deadline and you know what, even if a query has like, 3 days… even if the deadline is like, 3 days from now, what you want to do is that… in my opinion, you are better off responding right away because in some cases what happens is that I get a [negative] response even when I’m very quick to send my email.

(09:46) [For example] I recently got a response from actually a friend who was working on an article and she told me that, “Hey, sorry, your response was good. But I already got like tons of responses and I’ve already used them and I just don’t have the space to include your response.” So, you want to make sure to send your response as soon as possible.​

(10:08) Bonus tip number 2, if you want to really get better at writing great pitches, whether it’s HARO or whether you are sending a pitch directly to someone’s email address, an investor or whatever. What you want to do is to install the Boomerang App. It does work with Gmail. I think it probably works with Outlook as well.

(10:26) So, it has several free features. For instance, you will be able to see the read receipt. So, you can use that to figure out if your responses are ending in the inbox of the journalist and not getting flagged or something. And you can also set up reminders.​

(10:42) So for instance, if a journalist has come back to you and told you that, “Hey, we will be including your response and you can expect the article to get published by the end of this month. What you can do with the Boomerang App is that you can actually set up a reminder where that email will disappear from your inbox for now, but it will reappear on the day that you set up.

(11:03) So, that way you will be reminded that you have to follow up with this journalist to see if they have actually published that article and if your response is there, etc. etc.. But the best feature that I love about Boomerang is Respondable feature, which is actually a paid feature.​

(11:19) Now, because Boomerang App has been used to send trillions of emails. So what Boomerang has done is that it has reviewed those trillions of emails to figure out what’s the likelihood of you getting a response. And that has led Boomerang to create this Respondable feature where basically when you write up a response, you can click the Respondable button and can see what’s the likelihood of your response being replied to, right?

(11:48) So, it will basically tell you things like whether your subject line is too long or too short. It basically recommends you to include at least one question in your email. So, I think yesterday I was sending an email and I saw that unlike the other pitches that I send the score that I got was, the prediction was that I’m not very likely to get a response.​

(12:11) So, I was a bit surprised because normally Respondable predicts for my emails for the last several months, is a score of, “likely” or “very likely”. So then, when I read my pitch and I ran through the pitch, I realized that I have not included a question.

(12:25) So, once I included the question, the likelihood score or label, whatever it is, it went from “not very likely” to “likely”. So, these are a few factors that Respondable takes into account. Another factor that it takes into account is the length of your emails.​

(12:40) I am actually very notorious for sending very long emails, so using Respondable make sure that my responses are brief but concise because normally, and especially in case of sending emails to busy journalists, you want to make sure that your responses are not too long.

(12:57) So that’s it for today. We discussed what HARO is, how you can use it as a source to get publicity and get backlinks for your company or your brand. We also discussed the 5-step process that you can use to leverage HARO for publicity. And we also discussed that you don’t want to use any attachments.​

(13:19) We also discussed that you want to send the emails by the deadline or preferably as soon as you get the HARO newsletter digest. We also discussed 2 bonus tips. The first one was that you want to basically… try to build relations with these journalists.

(13:36) So if in case of queries, where the journalists have mentioned their name, you want to reach out to them via social media and try to interact with them and provide them value and help them out and all that. And the second tip was that you want to use the Boomerang App, [which] has several features. And like I said, the best feature that I like is the Respondable feature, which helps you to improve the quality of your pitch.​

(13:58) So, I hope this helped you today, and I would love to know if you start using HARO after listening to this podcast or if listening to this podcast improves your ability to send great pitches and get more positive responses for your pitches.

(14:14) And that’s it for today. If you have any further questions in this regard or any other relevant topic, do send them to me. Thank you so much. See you next time.

OUTRO: (14:25) Got any questions about content marketing, SEO, startups or something totally different, or weird, or fun? Share them with us and we will answer them in the next Ask Irfan episode.

If you have any questions or if you would like me to interview any entrepreneurs or digital marketers, please contact me here


Syed Irfan Ajmal is an award-winning serial entrepreneur and a seasoned digital marketer. He is an international speaker, and speaks and conducts trainings at various organizations and events of Pakistan and UAE. Moreover, he also writes about entrepreneurship and digital marketing for various large publications of the USA, UK, Canada, and Pakistan including Forbes ME, the World Bank, Huff Post,, Virgin, and others.

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