Help a Reporter Out, or HARO, is a FABULOUS tool. But if you don’t know how to use HARO to grow your private practice website traffic, then it can wind up being an endless time-suck with zero results.
In this article, I explain the benefits of HARO for your practice, and I take you step-by-step through how to use HARO to boost traffic to your website.
It really works!
How does HARO work?
If you’re not familiar with HARO, it’s a networking tool that connects journalists and reporters with folks who can help inform pieces they’re working on.
Reporters come from a wide range of newspapers, publishers, and blogs. Some of the really big publishers out there use HARO – I’ve even been quoted in Huffington Post through HARO!
Here’s how HARO works:
After signing up as a source through the HARO website, you receive three emails every day from HARO. Here’s an example of what one of those emails looks like:
This isn’t the whole message, just a sample from the top of a HARO email. In one email, there are often 100 queries from journalists looking for expert input.
As you can see, there are no bells or whistles here. You get three of these emails sent to you every day, scroll through the list, and click on ones that might apply to you to learn more information. Here’s a sample query I clicked on from this email:
With three emails sent out every weekday, there are TONS of opportunities for you to respond and get quoted.
Of course, the majority of the queries won’t apply to you. But I’ve been surprised to find that most HARO emails have a handful of queries looking for advice from therapists.
That’s where you come in with your awesome input!
The SEO benefits of HARO
If you’re tracking so far, you might be thinking: why would I want to sift through three emails a day and hundreds of queries to offer free advice to journalists?
Three letters, my friend: S-E-O
Or really, three words: search engine optimization.
What is SEO?
If you’re not familiar with what SEO is, you can learn more about in my article: SEO for Therapists.
In summary, SEO refers to how you optimize your website so that it shows up in Google search results.
There’s a whole strategy of tricks to implement in order to make sure Google knows exactly what your page is about, so that you can ensure your website shows up in search results for particular search terms.
How SEO benefits your practice
SEO is a game-changer when it comes to helping your ideal clients find you.
SEO is the primary tool I use to build both of my businesses. With the right strategies, people find my stuff in Google search results.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for SEO, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article right now. You either found this article directly through a Google search, or you found my website through a Google search in the past and now you follow my stuff.
How HARO helps your SEO
Most of the time when a website is brand new, it takes a few months before it starts to show up on the first page of search results.
You can build up some awesome SEO juice over months and years through regular blogging using the right strategies.
You can fast track your website to the first page of Google search results using a special little secret sauce: backlinks.
A backlink is when another website links to your website. Every time another website links to your website, it sends your page a little more SEO juice (i.e., gives your website a boost in Google search results). The more reputable the source of the backlink, the greater the boost.
The power of backlinks
Why does Google love backlinks so much?
If you compare it to how we function in non-internet world, it makes sense. I’ll highlight this concept with an example:
If you’re looking for a place to get your hair cut and you see there’s a new salon open on the corner, you know it exists but you don’t know anything about it except that it’s a salon. Is it any good? You can’t know!
But, if your friend down the street says she got her haircut there and it was FAB, well, now you’re much more likely to check this place out and possibly give it a try yourself.
Now consider this: If Oprah went on live TV and said that she got a haircut at this very shop, imagine how powerful that would be! I mean, it’s Oprah. This salon would be hoppin’ in a heartbeat. Because Oprah said she went there once.
That’s essentially how backlinks work. If your therapist friend in town links to your private practice website for a guest blog post, sweet. Google knows someone else out there sees you and thinks you’re legit.
If The New York Times comes along and writes an article linking to your private practice website, then Google really thinks you must be hot stuff.
This is exactly how HARO can fast track your private practice website to the top of Google search results. Get quoted by a few larger websites who then link to your website and suddenly, Google thinks you must be pretty legit. And it reflects in your Google search rankings.
How to write the perfect HARO pitch (step-by-step)
All this said, I’ve heard from folks who’ve toiled away at writing HARO pitches day after day for weeks and even months and have never been quoted.
…not to mention they’re totally toast because they’ve been toiling away responding to queries every day.
Let me save you from making this mistake! Here is a step-by-step tutorial for how to use HARO so that you get quoted often and receive solid backlinks, all without burning out.
I used this strategy for my private practice website and I had about one in five pitches get quoted – which is a really sweet rate!
1. Reply quickly
This is pretty key. Reporters are usually working on a tight deadline. Even if the query says a deadline is for the next day, I try to reply within the hour, two hours tops.
Imagine if you’re working on a deadline and you need something by the next day. So you put a call out to your friends on Facebook to please help ASAP!
If someone gets back to you right away with exactly what you need, you’re probably just going to go with their advice or recommendation. Someone who replies the next day is far less likely to matter to you if your need has already been resolved.
My goal with HARO is to try to be one of the FIRST replies a reporter receives. And to make it so darn good there’s little chance they won’t want to use it.
In order to avoid scrambling to read every HARO email within the hour three times a day, once a week I would take a look at my schedule for the week ahead and mark on my calendar 3-5 time slots when I’d be available right when the email arrived.
By scheduling it out, there was no scrambling. And I’d have a manageable number of emails to peruse each week. All the other HARO emails I simply deleted without even opening them.
This really helps minimize burnout and overwhelm. And starts you on the right foot with your pitch since you will always be replying right away.
2. Reply only if you are a great fit
I’m telling you: don’t waste your time on queries that you think you *might* kind of be able to speak to. Skip them.
Not only will someone else likely have a better pitch than you in this case, but you will also spend much longer writing out your pitch to queries that are on the edge of your knowledge.
In the end, it’s a waste of time to do this. And I’m all about making this a sustainable, effective strategy for you.
So if the pitch lists required credentials, don’t try to make a pitch if you don’t have those credentials – even if you know you have something amazing to contribute. The reporter probably doesn’t have the time to truly read your pitch and realize that.
Or if the pitch asks for therapists to speak to depression in seniors, but you specialize in working with children on the autistic spectrum, skip it.
When a pitch is a good fit, you know it when you read it. Find those and go for it!
This means that sometimes, you’ll sift through the queries in a HARO email and not reply with any pitches for that email. That’s completely fine! Wouldn’t you rather spend that time watching your favorite show than replying to queries you’re likely not going to get quoted for anyway?
3. Copy and paste the query title in subject line
When you find that perfect query that’s right in your wheelhouse, it’s GO time!
Once you hit “reply” in the body of the query, copy and paste the query title into the subject line.
This just adds a little extra clarity. The reporter might have posted several queries that day and this makes it very clear which one your pitch is for.
4. Keep it short
I mean, as short as possible.
You may be tempted to write a small essay. Don’t do this! Answer each question clearly in just a couple of sentences.
5. Fully reply in your FIRST reply
On the flip side of the last tip, many folks will reply to HARO queries by naming their credentials and saying, “contact me for a quote.”
The reporter is not interested in a back-and-forth. Remember, they’re on a deadline. They want that perfect quote right now. So put that quotable material right in the body of your short reply.
In fact, most of the times I’ve been quoted from a HARO pitch, I didn’t even get a reply back from the reporter. I even had an entire article featuring a full “interview” with me, but no one ever responded to the initial pitch I submitted in reply to the query.
People be busy sometimes, folks.
But better believe I still got those backlinks. And that’s what we’re after here!
6. End with your credentials
No need to be verbose here. Clearly communicate why you’re qualified to provide input for this query. The end.
I use a canned credential statement that I copy and paste in every query.
7. Include your LINK
That’s why we’re here, right?
Do so clearly and quickly. It could be your main website, or it could be a blog post. As long as they link to a page within your domain, you will get that nice SEO juice.
It’s important to ask for the backlink within your pitch to their query because as we covered before, you’re unlikely to ever hear back from the reporter. And once a quote is published without a backlink, it’s nearly impossible to track down the editor to have them add a backlink back into the article.
Sample HARO pitch (that actually got quoted)
I’m always helped by examples, so I’ll walk you through a pitch I made that got quoted in Bustle with that oh-so-magical backlink sending all that wonderful SEO juice back to my website.
Actual HARO query
To fully paint the picture, here’s the exact HARO query I received:
I’m working on an article for Bustle called “11 Seemingly
Innocent Habits That Actually Make You A Toxic Person.”
While nobody wants to be toxic, we all have habits that can make
us come off that way, negatively affect others in our life, etc.
I’d like to make a list of seemingly innocent habits that can
actually make you a toxic person.
If you are a therapist, please see my questions below.
1. What are some innocent, everyday habits that are actually
toxic? Please briefly explain why, how they can affect you, etc.
2. Please explain why it’s a good idea to be aware of any toxic
habits you might have.
Actual HARO pitch that got quoted
Here’s how I replied to this query:
See my replies to your query below followed by my credentials:
1. What are some innocent, everyday habits that are actually toxic? Please briefly explain why, how they can affect you, etc.
Though the occasional sarcastic comment can have its place in offering a humorous anecdote, habitual sarcasm can be more problematic. For people prone to frequent sarcasm, you may be bullying others or yourself without realizing it. To make matters worse, the harsh statements are hidden within a humorous package, making it difficult to call out the potentially toxic nature of the comment.
2. Please explain why it’s a good idea to be aware of any toxic habits you might have.
Toxic habits not only have the potential to harm those around us, they reflect back on how we see ourselves within the world. Each toxic habit is a small cry for help – a part of us that’s not doing well finding a way to leak out. If you’re noticing that you’re caught in toxic habits, it’s important to take a look at how you see yourself and address any potential insecurities hiding within those behaviors.
Feel free to ask me to elaborate if need be.
Please backlink to www.lifechristiancounseling.net if quotes are used.
Dr. Marie Fang is a licensed Clinical Psychologist practicing at Life Christian Counseling in San Jose, California. She’s passionate about all facets of identity and fostering a sense of unity in her clients’ lives and the world around her.
That’s it! I sent my reply within the hour of the HARO email. I never heard back from the reporter, but I got quoted with that backlink included. You can find that quote here:
How to know if you get quoted from HARO
You might be wondering how I know when I’ve been quoted if reporters aren’t replying to my emails.
Let me introduce you to an amazing tool: Google Alerts.
You can ask Google to send you an email whenever there’s new content posted to the internet on any subject you want to follow.
But you can also plug in alerts for your own name and your practice name. That way, you get an email right away whenever someone else mentions your name on the internet. Which is kind of good to know anyway, right?
You can also check all your backlinks from time to time using Neil Patel’s backlink tool.
It’s helpful to check on this about once a quarter or so just to keep tabs on what pitch strategies are working for you and where you could modify.
Also, it’s helpful to make sure you diversify your backlink sources. It’s better to have three backlinks from three different sources than 10 backlinks from the same source. If you know who has quoted you already, you can move on to targeting other sources who haven’t quoted you yet.
You don’t need to use HARO forever
Yep. HARO can get tedious after awhile.
My suggestion is to hit HARO hard upfront by spending a few weeks or months building it into your schedule like I described in this article. Once you get quoted a few times, you can scale back a little and maybe only reply to queries on occasion.
For my private practice website growth, I built in a few weeks every year when I’d hit HARO hard and respond to a query or two every day. After a few weeks, I would unsubscribe from the HARO emails and wait another year.
Find a system that’s sustainable for you. But I’m telling you: trying to sift through every HARO email forever is simply not sustainable or healthy. Pace yourself, my friend!
I hope you found this helpful as you dive into how to use HARO to grow your private practice website. If you’re helped by learning through video, I cover these same tips in my video: How to use HARO for Backlinks.
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!