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How to Respond to a HARO Query Like a Professional

How to Respond to a HARO Query Like a Professional

HARO (Help A Reporter Out) queries are a gold mine of media exposure and backlinking opportunities but digging through them in search of a golden nugget can be a huge time sink.

HARO queries come in multiples every day, burying the recipient in emails, and also typically have a tight deadline attached to them. That means you need a strong response strategy that lets you write consistent replies that exactly match the query without too much time invested. 

To make the matter trickier, some HARO queries only appear to be an exact match with the source’s area of expertise, wasting yours and the reporter’s time on a fool’s gold connection. 

In this article, you will get a thorough explanation of how you can provide the most value to the reporter who’s sending the HARO query and earn a backlink. 

You will also get the outlines of a HARO query reply strategy that you can use to define the source’s expertise, sift through HARO queries to find an exact match with the source’s expertise, and reply in a meaningful way that has a high chance of resulting in valuable content for the reporter without breaking HARO rules. 

The HARO editorial team has a lot of discretion in enforcing those rules and deciding whether to block a source from receiving more queries, necessitating some strategic thinking prior to replying to a single query.

Here’s the summary of this article’s key points:

  1. Define the source’s HARO expertise profile with a set of keywords
  2. Search through or filter HARO queries to find matching keywords
  3. Formulate a response strategy in line with HARO rules
  4. Use social media to cut the fluff out of your writing style
  5. Write your pitch with scannability in mind

Define the source’s HARO expertise profile with a set of keywords

Being an expert is one thing but being able to explain that expertise to someone else in a few (key)words is another. 

That’s why you should spend some time creating the source’s expertise profile that you will only use to reply to HARO queries. That means creating a set of keywords that precisely define the areas of the source’s expertise and refining them until they’re succinct and meaningful. 

The more precise you are, the more relevant and valuable the source’s expertise is when a HARO query with matching keywords comes to your inbox.


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For example, if the source’s area of expertise is freelance blog writing, the most obvious keywords for the profile would be “blog writer” and “blog writing”. However, those keywords are too broad and do not define the source well enough to be of much use to the reporter. 

Now let’s say the source has a certification of some kind, has received an award for writing, or has a book published. Now the keywords can become “certified, award-winning blog writer and published author”, which sounds much better and is all but guaranteed to result in a backlink. A small degree of braggadocio is acceptable when defining the HARO expertise profile.

The secret to defining the HARO expertise profile is to think a couple of steps in advance and imagine the kind of expertise that a high-level reporter would insert into an article on the topic mentioned in the query and that intelligent, observant readers of that article would appreciate. 

You effectively want to, literally, help a reporter out by writing a piece of the article, even if that’s only those few words that define the source’s expertise. 

No matter what you go with, make sure that the keywords defining the expertise can withstand scrutiny and fact-checking or they might gloriously backfire (think Stephen Glass).

Search through or filter HARO queries to find matching keywords

HARO Query keyword filter

Reporters are under constant pressure to deliver not just great but extraordinary news with authoritative sources and punchy quotes. Consistently writing such news is a team effort and your best bet when replying to a HARO query is to adopt the mindset of wanting to be a part of the team and contribute to the article in accordance with the needs and the desires of the reporter. 

Therefore, the best approach to identifying HARO queries that match the source’s expertise profile is to search through the emails or filter them to find matching keywords.

That sounds counterintuitive but is the only logical approach — reading HARO queries will put you in desperation mode and make you waste too much time finding a possible match but searching through them or filtering them will provide you with an exact match. 

That is the kind of connection and opportunity you’re looking for, a chance to meaningfully contribute to a piece of writing with the source’s proven, indisputable expertise delivered as a punchy quote. That is how you will save yours, the source’s, and the reporter’s time and not just get a backlink but genuinely earn it.

Email inboxes let you create filters that scan incoming emails for keywords and automatically send them to an appropriate folder. If you go one step further, you can automate the filtering by using Zapier or a similar tool to send yourself an alert or do another action when an exact match lands in your inbox. 

Even if you don’t get exact matches for the source’s expertise profile, you can create a set of filters that forward queries with interesting, relevant keywords to others who might want to use them.

Formulate a response strategy in line with HARO rules

HARO Rules

It’s understandable that you’d feel a rush of excitement when you finally get a query that exactly matches the source’s expertise. That excitement might cloud your judgment and make you immediately respond to the query by gushing about how the source has always enjoyed the topic and is at the media outlet’s disposal. 

That’s the wrong approach that is unlikely to result in further engagement from the reporter and might even get the source banned from HARO.

HARO rules for sources are very strict regarding how they and their agents must behave when replying to a HARO query. 

In short, they mandate that the HARO query reply be relevant and informative above all else. The source’s expertise must be immediately apparent from the source’s title or business name/reputation. 

If not, the source or the source’s agent must “clearly explain” the expertise before beginning the HARO pitch that must be relevant to the query.

Fulfilling the query requirements

Each HARO query will come with a “Requirements” section that specifies what the reporter is looking for. That section is not a suggestion but an essential part of the query. If your reply does not fully satisfy the requirements, do not send your pitch. You are not supposed to reply with ideas, suggestions, or anything of the sort.

Routinely pitching irrelevant or unrelated topics or products will result in immediate removal from the mailing list, as will soliciting the reporter for backlink farming or website traffic schemes. 

Keep in mind that Google also forbids link spam and will severely penalize the backlink destination if it detects backlink abuse.

Replying with plagiarized content (which presumably includes content written by ChatGPT as well as content copied from elsewhere) or with irrelevant or incomplete answers such as “Let’s talk about it” are against HARO response rules. 

Scraping emails for reporter contact information, sending the reporter attachments with the pitch, or linking to information using non-mainstream platforms are other examples of violating HARO reply rules. Reporters can and will report abuse to HARO.

However, sharing your contact information is encouraged, making social media handles a must-include when replying to a relevant HARO query. If the reporter decides to engage the source through social media to learn more about the source’s expertise, that is a natural interaction that shows the source has passed the sniff test and there is a high chance of a valuable backlink. 

Spruce up the source’s social media profiles and remember to be friendly and professional and it will all turn out just fine.

Use social media to cut the fluff out of your writing style

Social media profile for HARO

Speaking of social media platforms, they are a great way to cut the fluff out of your writing style and find an authentic voice that results in genuine connections with people. That will come in handy because reporters scrutinize the pitches they get by using their journalistic intuition to determine if the source sounds and feels genuine. 

The most natural course of action for them is to visit the provided social media handles and see if the content there matches what was sent in the HARO reply. So, in essence, you will also be helping reporters scrutinize the source.

To become an engaging social media poster, check out the most viewed, liked, or shared social media posts on the platform of your choosing and follow the accounts that consistently make them in order to learn how they do it. Analyze their posting style to see if they refer to stats, data, anecdotes, insights, or something else to create a connection with their audience.

Keep in mind that social media posts work best when they are delivered with a consistent, authentic voice that matches the audience’s expectations. You must find your own way of posting that suits the source’s personality, background, and expertise to minimize incongruity and the kind of awkwardness that repulses a social media user with typical sensibilities.

Write your pitch with scannability in mind

HARO Response

Learning how to write a HARO pitch takes some time and patience but the gist of it is to write a punchy text with an authentic voice that aligns with the source’s brand, which is what you have hopefully tested using your social media accounts. 

Aim for 150 words or less for each question (sometimes they ask multiple questions) and make your pitch scannable; fewer words is better as long as the pitch addresses the query in full. Presume that a reporter has only a few seconds to dedicate to each pitch and write accordingly, such as by placing key sections of your pitch on top of your reply so that the reporter immediately notices them.

Remember that people scan online content left-to-right, top-to-bottom in an F-shaped pattern starting from the top left corner. The first 5–10 words of each sentence/paragraph of your reply will be scanned first and thus they need to convey substantial, relevant information. Spend some time thinking about how to cut the fluff out from everything you write in response to a HARO query.

Stay focused, drop the pleasantries, and use the source’s HARO profile keywords in your pitch to address all the relevant keywords in the query. Emphasize the source’s real-life expertise and refer to it with confidence. 

If it makes sense, you should also refer to authoritative sources of information, such as academic journals or mainstream media coverage, to add another layer of trustworthiness to your pitch.


Responding to a HARO query requires improving your writing skills so that your replies are at least close to journalistic standards because they are now a part of the article writing process. If your reply is poorly written but the reporter accepts it, the resulting article will be of poorer quality and your backlink will give less traffic than it would if your reply and the article were written in line with journalistic standards.

HARO link building is a delicate process where you’re essentially not allowed any mistakes. The rules for sources are strict, the reply deadlines are tight, and the competition from sources is high. HARO as a platform overwhelmingly favors reporters but sources can still get valuable networking, exposure, and backlinks from the interaction, provided they create a strong HARO response strategy that results in:

  • punchy, relevant, valuable replies and pitches
  • authoritative content that withstands scrutiny
  • authentic connections with reporters and the audience

If that much effort is not to your liking, you can explore alternatives to HARO or use CupidPR’s services. 

Cupid PR provides a HARO link building service for your convenience. Please make use of our strategy call offer to ensure the source’s expertise and authentic voice are captured in high resolution in order that we can consistently find gold nuggets.

Mark McShane
Mark McShane is the founder of Cupid PR as well as owning multiple affilliate and serviced based websites. He has over 10 years experience in SEO and link building. He is published in some of the worlds most renowned media publications.

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