Building links to a website isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days where a business could buy into a couple hundred directories that had a decent domain authority, point them at their website’s pages that featured keywords they wanted to rank for, and step back and proudly label it a “link building” strategy.
In order to build links the right way in the modern era of search engine optimization, a lot more is asked of SEO professionals. Not only is leveraging link directories, guest blog posts and footer links for quick wins now frowned upon when it was perfectly acceptable just a few years ago, creating visually or contextually compelling content is now required to build links the right way.
Guest posts, link directories and even footer links can still be used (in very specific, rare cases), but it’s a different world these days. For SEOs that decide to still do these dated strategies, it is very easy to run afoul of Google’s guidelines and end up picking up a Manual Penalty and sliding out of organic results. So how can a SEO who isn’t necessarily the best at outreach possibly hope to get their business links? A pretty simple solution to this problem is to use HARO (or help a reporter out).
Recent Issues with HARO
Before I go any further I’d like to address a concern that I’ve recently seen in a number of different forums and comments sections on SEO sites and communities about HARO. The complaint goes something like this: “I responded to a HARO, the website it was for wasn’t great and I got penalized by Google. Google has it out for links obtained by responding to a HARO and you shouldn’t use the service as a link building opportunity.”
First and foremost, HARO is not a link building service. It is meant as a way for journalists to get knowledgeable sources for their articles and for businesses to build brand recognition as thought leaders in their field. Furthermore, to be blunt in a response to this statement – this is not HARO’s fault, but individual laziness. Avoiding the issue of Google flagging a link to your website really is as simple as Googling the publication (which is listed right next to each HARO question a reporter needs help answering), finding the website, and then putting it into a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to see what kind of domain authority and backlink profile the domain has.
If it’s too low, or has a questionable backlink profile, avoid it. It takes all of two minutes and it’s really that simple. To say that you or a client got penalized because of HARO is really just a way of avoiding coming to terms with the fact that lazy SEO happened, you gave content to a poorly ranked website and it resulted in a hefty manual penalty from Google. The only real way this could potentially backfire is if the article gets duplicated by a number of other low quality domains that then link back to a site – but more often than not this alone won’t be the basis of a manual penalty.
The Benefits of Using HARO Correctly
So now that that’s out of the way, let’s explore why HARO should be used. HARO is a great tool because it can put the average digital marketer who isn’t a PR guru in touch with writers they would never have a chance of coming into contact with otherwise. Sure, HARO hides reporter emails behind a temporary email, so you can’t contact them at a whim with great content you might have available, but even so, if you have good content on hand, and the right resources and knowledge to address questions reporters need answers to, you can effectively get noticed by huge online websites like the New York Times, CNN and Yahoo, just to name a few. Furthermore, if a journalist does use the content you provide them you can use the opportunity to build a relationship so that you become a go-to for them whenever they need an expert in your field.
HARO isn’t necessarily a game-changer that will allow a business with no content resources to go from zero to page one hero in a matter of days, and it definitely takes some time out of what can be a busy day to thoughtfully answer a reporter’s questions. Moreover, links aren’t guaranteed – however, if you provide content that is high quality enough, it is pretty simple to get writers to give a branded mention so that people take you seriously as a source.
When used correctly, HARO can be a huge asset to any business that is trying to build a more robust backlink profile, or at the very least, trying to generate brand awareness and label employees as thought leaders in their space. To not use it at all is to pass up on a very valuable opportunity for any online business.
Read more: How to Use HARO for Digital Marketing