Is it me, or has link building gone out of fashion?

Why? I don’t really know.

I still build links to websites. Those websites still get higher positions in Google, so I don’t know what’s going on?

Maybe it’s talk of Google’s Rankbrain becoming ever more dominant – manipulating rankings according to user engagement metrics. Or, maybe Google’s insistence that social signals are carrying more algorithm weight these days makes link building unfashionable.

Whatever it is, let’s not forget that Google’s number one factor for ranking web pages on the internet is still… links.

It’s in the RAP



Relevance, Authority and Placement. RAP. Is that acronym taken? Because if it’s not, I’m havin’ it.

The ‘perfect’ link is found in its RAP:

R for RelevantIs the link coming from a site or content that’s relevant to the topic of your target keywords?
A for AuthoritativeIs the link coming from a site that’s trusted by Google, and is powerful in its own right (it has lots of good links going to it)?
P for PlacementIs the actual link placed well contextually, within the body of the relevant content?

Sure, we can try to find link opportunities ourselves and do the standard outreach emails.

However, HARO and other journalist-to-expert matchmaker websites allow these opportunities to come to you. It’s inbound link building baby!

Before you accuse me of being behind the times, I know that using HARO to build good-quality links to our site is not ‘cutting-edge’ SEO. That said, I still feel people are not leveraging the platform enough.

If you’re using HARO (or sites like it) to build links already, then this post could offer you a few tips that will help you systemise it a bit more to get more success from the platform.

If you’re not using HARO at all, then hopefully this post will persuade you to start doing so.


What is HARO and How Does It Work?

header haro logo block

HARO is a platform that brings together journalists/writers looking for content from credible experts on a certain topic, and the experts within their fields that can offer that content.

Let’s say a content writer for the Huffington Post has been tasked with creating an article on ‘The Predictions for the US Real Estate Market’. They think of an angle and structure for their article, but deep down they know they can’t inject any real insight into their work because they don’t operate in the field.

So they logon to HARO and create a pitch like this…


Summary: Estate Agents! What are your predictions for the housing market this year?

Name: Bill Jones from The Huffington Post

Category: Real Estate


Media Outlet:

Deadline: 5:00 PM PST – 27 April

Query: Estate agents, mortgage brokers or financial advisors – what are your predictions for the housing market for the rest of the year? Are we in a bubble? Will the governments lack of supply of affordable homes support the ever-growing rise of national house prices?


An answer to the above questions in 100 words or less, a 1 or 2 sentence bio. Bonus points for Los Angeles or San Francisco/Bay Area residents.


This pitch is then sent to everyone on HARO who has signed up to receive ‘Business and Finance’ query emails.

Systemising HARO

The key to systemising HARO for link building (which incidentally is the same for successful email outreach in general) is to strike the perfect balance between automation and personalisation.

Follow these 5 steps to SEO HARO success:

Number 1 – Cut Out the Noise  icon-bullhorn

When I first started using HARO to build links to my agency, I diligently signed up for an account, subscribing to the ‘Business and Finance’ and ‘High tech’ query emails. The first evening, just as the HARO website promised, I received my first couple of emails summarising that day’s topic-relevant queries.

I trawled the inbound emails. There were no listings related to my area of expertise.

The next morning, another couple of emails, and still nothing to sink my teeth into. That evening, two more emails and still nothing. Even when the first legitimate opportunity did appear, the constant barrage of HARO emails flooding my inbox at this point had resulted in a negative association with the whole process,  reducing my enthusiasm to respond.

ACTION POINT – Filters in Your Inbox

I use Google Suite (Gmail) for my email so it was super easy for me to filter HARO emails without certain keywords in the content out of my inbox and into my trash. This meant that, unless the HARO email included ‘SEO’ or ‘search engine optimization’, I would never see (and be annoyed) by it.

On the rare occasion I now receive a HARO pitch roundup email, I know it’s likely there is a query in there which I can engage in.

Number 2 – Be Selective  icon-hand-o-up

If I’m going to invest my precious time into generating a response to a HARO query, it better be worth it. Remember the ‘RAP’ rule when it comes to links? Course you do, it’s my copyrighted acronym, remember J

Well it’s time to judge the RAP of the prospective HARO link to determine whether the link will be worth getting.

The placement of the link is sewn up as it should always be within the body of content, but is it relevant and authoritative? This is where I will head over to to judge the link opportunity.

ACTION POINT – Qualify the Link

1.      Visit the website where the article will be housed

2.      Choose an existing page on the site within the same directory that the prospective article will be housed, and copy the URL. For example, if it’s on the blog, we can select a recent blog post

3.      Put that URL into the explorer

4.      Look at the first couple of topical trust flow categories. Are they in similar niches to the keywords we’re targeting?

5.      Look at the Trust Flow. Is it higher than 10?

If the answer is no to either (4) or (5), I’ll take a pass. The link quality is just not good enough to warrant my time creating the content to secure the link. Disclaimer: if the trust flow is massive then I’d consider the link even if it the topical trust flow wasn’t relevant.

Number 3 – Template as Much as You Can  icon-indent

The first two steps in my HARO for SEO systemisation process should disqualify a huge percentage of queries, leaving the cream of the crop for our attention and time investment. Even though, at this stage we’re committing to a response, we still want to reduce as much of the work as possible to make this way of building links scalable.

Any content that is will likely be repeated on numerous HARO submissions needs to be templated.


ACTION POINT – Template Your Response

All reporters and article writers will usually want to prequalify you as an industry source. This means they want to do their due diligence to make sure you’re not just a 15-year old in your bedroom (if you are a 15-year old in your bedroom, fake it my friend). Many will ask for links to your social media profiles and request a short bio of yourself. This means we can usually prepopulate a template, ‘bookended’ response email for every submission.

For example, I have a template email that I copy and paste for every HARO submission:

Hi {NAME},

By way of introduction, my name is Will Coombe, and I am one of the co-founders of Sharpe Digital; a successful search engine optimisation agency based in Central London, UK. Our company has been operating in the SEO space over the past 5 years, consistently appearing high in the search results for many premium SEO keywords, and achieving our clients (mostly SMEs) exceptional 1st page results in Google and offering them a superb service.

Anyway, I saw your question about {ENTER INFLUENCER’S QUERY} on HARO and thought I could definitely add some value to your readership by sharing my thoughts and experience.


Hopefully, the above has provided some useful insight surrounding {TOPIC/QUESTION}, and if you’d like some clarification on any of the points above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards,


P.S Please feel free to check out our website: or my blog: for more content.

Number 4 – Re-appropriate Existing Content  icon-refresh

Notice all these steps are trying to make sure we commit to as little work as possible? This is because, if we’re going to scale anything well, we need to take the ‘grind’ work out of the equation. Anything worth doing (especially in SEO) requires a certain amount of effort, but minimising the pain of bespoke work is essential.

As a business, if you’re not creating good content on a regular basis, then you should be. Doing so, coupled with effective outreach, is one of the best ways to build links to your site. When you start to accumulate a healthy number of content assets, you find that you can repurpose a hell of a lot of that content for other activities.

For instance, I regularly receive HARO queries regarding SEO Tools. It’s weird, it seems when people run out of ideas about what to write about, they’re compelled to write about SEO tools. Ironically, I already have a great little post on my favourite SEO tools, so whenever I see a HARO query on the topic, I head straight for that. I’ll copy and paste the relevant bits into the template email discussed above, throw in a few extra bits bespoke to the specific question, and I’m done.

ACTION POINT – Re-use Content Assets

If appropriate, take existing content you’ve created elsewhere and use it as the bulk of the HARO response. There’s no point duplicating your work.

Number 5 – Create Bespoke Content  icon-star

If you haven’t got any existing content you can use, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and put in a bit of effort.

ACTION POINT – Write Bespoke Content and Save It

Be Unique

Take a few minutes to consider what the influencer is asking within their query and see if you can think of unique angle to take. Remember, if it’s a desirable link to acquire, there will likely hundreds of people putting in submissions. If you can be unique and offer true value, then this is the way to go.

Be Considerate

The influencer is going to have to sift through submissions and formulate an article based on them. Any response that doesn’t get to the point quickly and specifically answer the question posed will be discarded. Make sure you read the question and answer it as concisely as possible.

Be Quotable

Anything we can do to make their life easier will increase the chances of our submission being featured. In most cases reporters want authoritative soundbites to sprinkle around their article to give off the impression that it’s a ‘well-researched’ article.

Once you’ve written out your response to their query, look over the content and make sure there are a few sentences that are ‘quotable’. You know, the kind of sentence you’d see super imposed over a flowery background on someone’s Facebook wall – that kind of thing!

Save It

Once you’ve put all that effort into writing a response, save it in a word document where you can reference it later. If you’re proud of the content, you should have it on hand in the future to use it again when yet another person asks you for insight on SEO tools!