HARO Hurrah – A HARO Case Study, Guide & Tips

Reporter with "polar bear" image
A few months ago, I finally signed up to HARO (Help A Reporter Out), after hearing good things about it (e.g. it’s listed in Jon Cooper’s mighty Link Building Tactics post) and getting a glimpse into how it worked during my last agency role (the marketing manager was signed up to it and used to pass SEO-themed requests onto me).

HARO logoFor those of you who aren’t already aware of HARO, it works like this: basically reporters sign up to it and submit request for comments and opinions from experts (more info here). For example, someone from an employment blog may be writing an article on the most embarrassing faux pas recruiters have ever seen on a CV, and they’d like half a dozen recruiters to chip in with their comments. Those who are successful get their comment published in the article, getting a mention and (sometimes) a link, resulting in brand exposure, potential social media exposure (if it’s tweeted, etc.) and – of course – a boost in SEO. So if you’re a freelancer or an agency, you can administer the process between the reporters and your clients (a bit like guest blogging – just replace “guest bloggers” with “reporters”)!

HARO may have gotten a bit of bad press (oh the irony!) in the SEO industry a little while back (although it was pretty much dismissed immediately),* but just like with anything, if you abuse it, you may get in trouble with Google (akin to the whole guest blogging debacle), but if you do things properly and legitimately, you’ll be fine.

* EDIT: The author of the “bad press” link above – Bill Hartzer – has left a comment at the bottom of this post elaborating on what happened…

Oh and obvious disclaimer: I’m in no way affiliated with HARO. In fact, I nearly gave up on it (until I finally started to see results for clients). So there we go.

Don’t be put off by the emails…

When you first sign up to HARO, it can be a little overwhelming and even make you think that it’s a little… spammy (even though you yourself signed up to it). You get three emails a day (morning, afternoon and evening in US time) and sometimes they can be looong…

My advice is to login and change your preferences so that instead of being sent the ‘Master HARO’ list (i.e. everything), you tailor it to only receive the stuff that you’d like to receive.

HARO Preferences screenshot
I only get ‘Business & Finance,’ ‘General’, ‘High Tech’ and ‘UK’ – I currently don’t have any clients in the travel industry, so it doesn’t make sense to receive any ‘Travel’ requests. There tends to be overlap (i.e. a request appearing in two or more sections, e.g. if it’s general and also UK-specific), so don’t worry too much that you’re missing out if you restrict it (if in doubt, keep a few boxes ticked rather than just one or two).

Depending on your industry, it can be cracking…

One of my clients is a recruitment agency. The amount of job/recruitment-related requests that come through HARO is almost ridiculous. It. Is. Incredible. I end up sending them a few a week, and sometimes more than one a day.

Click to read more!

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SEOno News & GB Posts: Part 9

I’ve not blogged much in recent months, and there’s one main reason…

THIS GUY.

Rory's 1st Tenso GIF

(The baby – not the man (my dad) holding him, obvs.)

(Why yes, I have turned my newborn son into a Tenso GIF… What of it?)

I always try my best to do at least one post per month here on SEOno, so you’ll have to forgive me if this isn’t achievable in the coming months…

News

Other than the baby-shaped obvious…

Contributions on other sites

I’ve been interviewed! I talk about SEO, how I got my start in the industry and my approach to consulting.

I also contributed to this article back in April: 11 Productivity Hacks for Your Content Creation – Find My Way Blog

SEOno News

Choose Your Own Adventure – SEO For Web Developers: My unified.diff Talk

unified.diff 1st slide screenshot
Last week I spoke at unified.diff, a monthly software/web development meet-up that’s made its home at the wonderful FoundersHub. It was a good and busy crowd.

I was sandwiched between interesting and entertaining talks about the Robotic Operating System and JSON Schema. Additional photos can be found here.

And here are the slides…

For my talk, I decided to challenge myself. I took on the Choose Your Own Adventure format – they were a bunch of books where you decided the journey of the character. Do you climb the mountain (go to pg. 33) or dive into the cave (pg. 38)? You chose the cave? Oh no! You were eaten by a bear! Go back to before that happened (pg. 29), and so on. I remember having a Sonic The Hedgehog CYOA book (in fact, I think it was this one).

Click to read more!

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Why I Named My Freelance SEO Business “Morgan Online Marketing”

One year ago today, on Tuesday 7th May 2013, I took the plunge. I thought I’d mark the occasion of my freelance SEO & PPC business’ 1st birthday by answering a question I’ve been asked a few times by a fair few people: why “Morgan Online Marketing?”

Morgan Online Marketing logo
First things first though… One year. Wow. It’s flown by. I’d like to take this opportunity to say: to the person who told me that “[I] wouldn’t last a day in self-employment,” not only did I prove you wrong, but I’ve done so 365 times over. How do you like that? Thanks for driving and inspiring me.

Anyway, now that that’s off my chest… Back to the name. I’ve had a range of feedback, from people telling me it’s strong and respectable, to a local business advisor simply declaring “nah, not sexy enough…” when he first heard it (which pissed me off at the time, but now, looking back, I just find it really funny).

Now I ain’t no fancy branding expert, but I put a lot of thought into the name. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I came up with it, but when I did, I decided that it’d stick – that I wouldn’t be changing it. Here’s a few thoughts on why I went with it…

Why not SEOno?

The first thing someone said to me was: why didn’t I call my business “SEOno” after this very blog? After all, the blog had been around for years before and some people (him included) see SEOno as my ‘brand.’

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4 Examples Of Soft 404s On Big Websites

Embroidered 404 image

I’ve been working on an upcoming talk that I’m doing in June (it was originally supposed to be last week but it’s been postponed) and I needed an example of a soft 404 page. I ended up finding a few on some big-name, well-known websites – where you wouldn’t expect to see them – so I thought that I’d point them out.

First things first, though…

What is a soft 404?

When you access a page that doesn’t exist on a website, the server gives an error code (a 404 code, a.k.a. a “Page Not Found” code) saying that there’s nothing there – no file or webpage could be found. When a page does exist, it gives a 200 code (a.k.a. an OK code).

A soft 404 is when you access a page that doesn’t exist, however the server gives a 200 code, not a 404 code. In other words, the website might show a “Page Not Found”-style page, but search engines such as Google will see the page and think that it’s an actual live page…

For more info, Google do a good job explaining soft 404s on their Soft 404 Errors page.

The problem with soft 404s from an SEO POV

If Google sees the page and thinks it’s ok (a 200 code), it may index it. If accessing a non-existent URL redirects to a “Page Not Found” style page (e.g. domain.com/zxcvbnm takes the user to domain.com/404), then only one page could be indexed. But if it doesn’t redirect (e.g. domain.com/zxcvbnm shows a “Page Not Found” page but doesn’t redirect, meaning that domain.com/asdfghjkl and domain.com/qwertyuiop do the same) then there’s the risk that any and all error pages could be indexed.

Google hates duplicate content, so if it happens to index a few dozen or a few hundred soft 404s, it might think that you’re trying to game the system – even though it’s a genuine and innocent mistake – and your whole site could suffer as a result.

Finding examples of soft 404 pages

When I was researching the talk, I asked people on Twitter if they knew of any examples of soft 404 pages, but didn’t have much luck unfortunately (many people passed on examples of correctly-working 404 pages). Then it hit me: a Google search for “page not found” would do the trick – granted that you’d have to dig down a few pages in order to find some.

Checking your 404 page

Curious to know if your 404 page is actually showing a 404 code? Use SEOBook’s status code checker. There are plenty of other similar tools out there, but this one is my favourite. Below each example I will include a link to each example’s results in the tool, so that you can see for yourself. You can also use Google Webmaster Tools’ Fetch as Google, if you’d prefer to see what Google makes of the page themselves…

Speaking of which… onto the fun bit now. Here are 4 big websites that currently* have soft 404 pages.

* Note: obviously if you’re reading this post weeks, months or even years after its publication date, they might have been fixed by then, so please bear that in mind…

1) Mozilla

http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/404.html

Soft 404 example 1 - Mozilla

(Click to enlarge)

Mozilla’s soft 404 was the first one that I came across, which was the inspiration for this post and the example that I’ll be using for my talk in June. I like their 404 page (especially the fact that the purple guy’s eyes move and blink every so often), but I imagine the fact that it’s a soft 404 is simply an oversight or an accident.

Click to read more!

SEO