A few months ago, I rolled out a HARO outreach system that’s been bringing in a steady amount of links. It was about 10 backlinks every single month from domain authority 40 or above. And over time, I’ve been successfully scaling the system. So I wanted to give you an update on the system, how I’ve scaled the team, as well as some of the results that I’ve been seeing in terms of output.
So by the end of this article, you’re gonna hopefully have a better understanding of how you can run a HARO outreach system yourself, whether it’s for your own site or for a client.
The HARO system
My HARO system is quite simple. I hire outreachers who essentially respond to queries for $5 per pitch, and then they get paid bonuses for placements of actual links or brand mentions.
The reason why this works is because it means that they actually get incentivized on performance as opposed to just randomly respond to queries. But the high-level process is simple. What happens is I set up a secondary email address for myself and a couple of other team members in our company, depending on the different roles.
So I’ll have somebody like the CEO have a secondary email, myself have a secondary email, as well as some other key stakeholders where having a different perspective might be valuable. The reason why that’s super helpful is because sometimes journalists are looking for a specific quote from a particular job title, so it’s really helpful to have these different secondary emails in place in order to have the right profile responding to the query.
But then what I do from there is I share those logging credentials, and then I set up a Slack channel where I have HARO outreachers, essentially draft up responses and then ping me or my digital marketer when they are ready for review.
From there, what happens is our team reviews the query, make sure there’s nothing controversial or anything crazy out there, and then what happens is we send that query out.
How we’re building a flywheel effect
Once that pitch is sent out, it typically takes a couple weeks or so, but what’s happening here is we’re building a flywheel in which if every single day we’re responding to anywhere from five to 10 relevant queries, it means that we have enough opportunities within a week in order to really start generating some meaningful backlinks.
So in my last article, what I shared was an early update in which at that point in time I was getting about maybe 10 or so backlinks on the good end, a little over 10 backlinks a month, and I was working primarily with a single backlink outreacher, and that was going really well. In fact, he was pretty busy and we were definitely getting queries out and seeing results.
However, we started reaching this capacity point in which he couldn’t really keep up with the flow of all the different queries that might be available out there. And so I wanted to bring on extra help in order to de-risk this particular strategic project.
The number of pitches we do each day
So what I did over about two to four weeks or so was I onboarded two other HARO outreachers to essentially begin training them to learn how to respond to these sorts of journalist pitches.
We took a lot of the best practices that we are seeing from the first outreacher and then applied them when we were teaching and onboarding these to other responders. So now we have a team of three HARO backlink outreachers, who are all trying to respond to anywhere from five to 10 pitches every day or every other day.
So if you just do the math backwards on that, if you’re doing about 10 to 15 pitches per day, it means that at the very minimum, you’re typically getting across three people, 75 to a hundred pitches every single week. And if that’s the case, then what’s going to happen is you’re typically going to be seeing anywhere from 300 to 400 responses on the low end in terms of pitches that you are sending outbound within a month.
And if you take that sort of assumption and you assume that you know there’s variances in terms of the performance of different HARO outreachers, you’ll typically see at least a seven and a half or higher conversion rate in terms of pitches that are accepted. Typically, for the top performers, I’ve seen anywhere from 10 to 15% of pitches being accepted. But what that means is that you now have a steady flow of links that are coming into your site every single month.
And that’s exactly what we’ve seen. Even though we have scaled out the number of pitches that we are sending and that there’s sometimes some variance between the quality of some of our outreaches versus others, because you know, one guy is really experienced with multiple years of working with multiple clients, whereas the other two are a little bit more beginners and they are learning and becoming better at the craft.
What we are consistently seeing is that within 30 to 45 days after the close of the prior month, we are consistently getting over 20 link placements. And this is really important for us because our domain authority is already in the high forties. But what we’re doing in our responses is we are specifically targeting folks that are equivalent or higher in terms of domain authority to our website.
In other words, we’re not just filling out any single pitch out there. We are getting targeted websites that we believe will meaningfully move our authority score even higher.
So let’s take a look at this tracker, take a look at what’s been going on and exactly the fundamentals of how this system is all setup. That way, you can also do this sort of similar approach when it comes to building a HARO outreach team.
How we keep track of things
At a high level, the way my system works is I’ve got an outreacher section where the person that is responding to that outreach is going to input their name there.
From there, they’re going to select which profile is being used. So like I mentioned earlier, I’ve got a couple colleagues and myself that have secondary email addresses that we’ve set up to have the pitches sent out from, and so that’s what they select there.
From there, there’s some sort of question or HARO pitch that they’re responding to. We also do source from a couple other sites, so you can definitely check out other sites like Help a B2B Writer, Reporter Out, or also things like SourceBottle and whatnot. But what’s happening here is they’re inputting what date they receive the pitch, as well as what date they sent the pitch.
So this is how we keep track of things so that across the three person team, there’s no confusion in terms of who exactly is doing what, and there’s no crossing of hairs in terms of the same pitch being responded to.
From there, when we are notified of acceptance, that is where we are going to update this column on yes, and then they will actually input in the link URL of the accepted post. So in this particular example, I’ve actually just exported all of the links that we’ve acquired in the time that we’ve been running this, instead of just showing all the other responses.
But what you can see here is that you know, we’ll have the HARO outreacher input in the URL as well as the domain relevance and whether or not it was a no-follow or do-follow link. I pay my HARO outreachers regardless of whether or not it’s a do-follow or no-follow link, mainly because they have no control over that.
But what we do is after we’ve done that payout, if we know that that particular domain does not give do-follow links, and we’ve already kindly asked the journalist if that’s possible to change it into a do-following we will add that domain to our blacklist and essentially not respond to that pitch in the future.
But from there, what we do is we essentially have the website domain as a whole, and then we have a note in terms of initial response and whatnot. So the link is live or brand mention and stuff like that.
How we pay and how do we pay
The next columns over on the right are literally just my tracker for whether or not I’ve paid my HARO outreacher. So usually, what I do is I set up milestones in anywhere from blocks of 25 to 50 pitches. And then what I do is I have them submit that block for the payment of the pitches as well as any bonus payments that I’m due for paying them on because you know there’s been an update from journalists and these links are live.
And so that’s typically my sort of system in which every single one, if you think about it, all right, if we have 50 pitches and you are paying $5 per pitch, it means that the base payment is $250. And then in the case where they get, for example, just one backlink, then that would be a $30 bonus.
In the case where the domain authority is 90 or above, which you can see we’ve gotten a couple placements of, we have this one where there was 94, another one that was 91, and so on, we will pay a three x payout for that just because those sites are so much harder to place on.
You’ll also notice, though that it is sometimes hard to get do-follow links with those high domain authority sites. We did happen to get one later on in here. But essentially, what you’ll see is that I’ve got done a quick calculation to kind of show you this in action.
How many links I got after implementing this system
So by month, essentially what we see here is you can see that I got 12 links the first month after that I had implemented this system, nine the following month, and then as we’ve started to really see the results in the longer term of these journalists getting back to us and things like that on pitches, we’re starting to see a ramp up, and this is around the time when we started to really hire more people on our team. So we’re seeing a direct function in which what’s happening is as we reply to more queries, we’re getting more backlinks as well.
If you want to go ahead and take a look at this in the form of a chart, I will go ahead and make a quick one here. And what you can see here is that with respect to the backlinks, we are essentially quickly growing to a steady flow of 20 or more backlinks from these particular high domain authority sites that are definitely gonna help our site as we start to work on our authority score.
We’ve already seen the impact of this. In fact, we’ve seen around a six to eight, depending on which tool you use, domain authority increase across our site because we’ve been targeting these domains that are comparable, if not higher authority, than our own core domain.
So this sort of system is really not that hard to implement. All you need to do is go on Upwork and hire an outreacher or check out sites like onlinejobs.ph to find great writers where there’s a huge market of Filipino freelancers that are ready to write for you.
But it can be a great way to create a sustainable sort of system that you know is going to work in the background of your business while you are working other SEO or content initiatives. This is something where it really hasn’t cost us all that much money. We spent a couple of grand all in, but the cost per link, as I calculated in my last article, has largely remained the same, if not gone down, in that we aren’t paying a ton of money for each of these links.
When you look at it from an all-in cost relative to the quality of the links we’re getting. And the nice thing about this is that we still maintain control over every single query that goes out. So that means that as opposed to hiring some sort of link building agency where you don’t really know exactly what they’re doing in order to acquire that link, we are in full control of our destinies when it comes to this sort of link building tactic.
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