Doug Cunnington isn't new to Niche Pursuits, having been a guest on the podcast multiple times before. However, we're glad to have him back again to tell us all more about his background and what he's been working on recently.
One thing in particular that Doug has been working on lately is Haro. He's developed a system and course that teaches his latest strategies.
For those who aren't familiar with HARO, it's a service that is used by reporters and other online publishers when they need a source. HARO stands for ‘Help A Reporter Out,' and it's free for anyone to sign up.
You will receive 3 emails per day with a list of questions that anyone can respond to. More often than not, those whose responses are used will get a link back to their site, making it a popular and powerful link-building strategy.
Doug's new course teaches how to get the most out of HARO. If you like the sound of it after reading the interview, you canfind out more and sign up here.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND?
I’m Doug Cunnington and I run Niche Site Project.
This includes a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, where I write and talk about affiliate marketing, SEO, niche sites, and entrepreneurship. I have a few niche authority-type sites, and I’ve been involved with niche sites since 2013.
My main course is Multi Profit Site. It teaches how to build a site from start to finish that’s monetized with multiple streams of income, including:
- Display ads
- Affiliate revenue from Amazon
- Digital products
- and other affiliate programs
I also have a few other courses that help niche authority site owners get more traffic and earn more money.
My old corporate gig as a software project manager in management consulting was okay, but I got laid off in 2015. I’ve been working full-time online since then earning much more than I could in the corporate world.
Roughly half my income is from affiliate revenue and the other half is from selling courses.
People are always looking for ways to build backlinks to promote their sites — usually preferring true, white-hat links that Google will like and have a low risk of negatively impacting rankings.
HARO helps you connect with reporters from big websites, sometimes very big news outlets, that need sources for their news articles. These reporters are asking for your input as opposed to shotgunning emails out to site owners that don’t want to hear from you.
I never thought HARO was a good source for backlinks and even slammed the idea in a podcast episode. I mentioned that I was featured in CNBC in April 2020 and stated that I wouldn’t have been able to get on a big site like that by using HARO.
I received several emails from people citing that HARO was great for getting backlinks with details and examples. So I dug in, researched, tested, and asked for tips from my audience.
For the course, I wanted to:
- Outline the process so a beginner could get started.
- Provide effective, concise templates.
- Detail the common mistakes and pitfalls.
- Provide job listings and instructions to outsource the whole process.
Podcast listener, Kyle, has been able to get a 20% success rate including a Domain Rating 92 link from How Stuff Works.
He responded to over 40 HARO queries over a four-month period and was able to build nine high-authority backlinks for free. The Domain Rating range was from 30-92 for the links. That helped him build his own Domain Rating to about 36.
Kyle doesn’t have any credentials in his niche and spends under 30 minutes writing a response. With the right processes, anyone can do this — even if you not an expert in the niche.
Anthony is another example of using HARO on a new starter site. He told me this:
“The first time I tried using HARO, I was terrible. Then, each time, I would work on my processes and improve my responses each and every time. Eventually, I developed checklists, processes, and templates that I could use for any site in my portfolio.
I was able to grow my site from under $5 a month (if I was lucky) to having multiple $700 months within the first eight months – even with Amazon commission cuts!”
What are some best practices for HARO?
First, HARO is great for any site owner or agency that wants to get backlinks and potentially get referral traffic from a news source.
HARO can be tricky and a bit overwhelming at first since you will receive many emails per day. The main things to remember are:
- Follow instructions in the request from the reporter. If they ask for 3 sentences, don’t write 4 sentences. If they want bullet points, you should send back bullet points. It seems obvious, but I used HARO as a reporter and was shocked by how many people don’t follow clear instructions.
- Don’t try to link anything but your homepage. Reporters aren’t dumb and they are hesitant to link to the inner pages of your website.
- Reply fast! Reporters will use an answer that’s good enough as soon as they have it. They won’t keep looking for the best answer.
- Monitor your site’s new links and set up a Google Alert for your brand name and your name. Sometimes the reporters forget to let you know they used the quote and linked to your site.
- Consider paying for a HARO membership to get the approved requests as soon as possible. That means you might be able to get answers back to a reporter hours before the people that get the free emails from HARO.
- Keep a database (a simple spreadsheet works) of your replies and what works and doesn’t work. You can reuse the same effective replies in the future, including outsourcing the process.
- Get to the point and make your reply concise. Your biography and other details should be after the answer. So don’t lead with two paragraphs of your biography.
When does HARO not work?
If you’re trying to link to internal pages of your site, HARO probably won’t work well. News outlets are much more likely to link to your homepage since they are citing you as a source.
Since reporters are normally on a deadline, they won’t read long replies. Reporters are in a hurry so brief replies typically work better so you can note that you can provide more details if needed. If they want more information or details, they’ll ask.
If your homepage is overly sales-oriented or filled with ads, it might be harder to get links to that page.
Any advice for those just starting HARO?
Like many things, you learn the most once you get started and get real feedback. So if you’re nervous to actually send replies, don’t worry. The best way to get over it is to actually send the replies.
Reply quickly — if you wait more than a few hours, your answer will be buried deep in the reporter’s inbox.
Keep track of all your replies so you can tweak and improve. Note if the pitches were successful or not. Once you have a set of successful pitches, then you’re in a position to outsource to a virtual assistant (VA).
If you want to outsource HARO link building, you can hire anyone that can send emails and communicate effectively. Don’t worry about having a VA reply on your behalf — marketing agencies have been doing this for years and it’s well accepted by reporters using HARO. Your VA will be able to use your successful answers as a starting point.
So start replying and keep replying while continually trying to improve.
Previous Podcast Appearances
Thanks to Doug for sharing those HARO tips.
If you want to learn more about his HARO course, please visit his page here.
You can also learn more about Doug and his other projects in his previous Niche Pursuits podcast appearances: