• shankman

    I obviously don’t work with HARO anymore since I sold it four years ago, but the premise doesn’t make sense – If I’m using HARO to respond to let’s say, the NY Times, Wall St. Journal, and NBC4, and two of those run my quotes, nothing I said in those articles traces back to HARO – It’s simply not possible – The reporter isn’t gonna say “This source, from HARO, at http://www.helpareporter.com...” It doesn’t work like that. So to “target HARO articles” simply isn’t possible. See what I mean? Weirdness.

  • Kristoff Rand

    I think the implication is that Google hates what HARO is and not HARO specifically. That these types of links will be targeted. I think in actuality they hate duplicate articles and especially a duplicate with a link added. That they think that link is highly suspicious and rightfully so.

  • http://www.bayareaseo.net Ross Taylor

    The key takeaway here is that anyone can ask for experts on HARO, and a link can look suspicious if it’s a low authority source or somehow the link looks suspect. As shankman says below, there’s no “footprint” here and you’re going to have to evaluate each link for what it is rather than how you got it. Also before all the blackhatters get excited, not every HARO interaction results in a link.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    I think the implication is that when they didn’t see the link in the original version they contacted the duplicate publishers and asked the to embed the links. I can see how that might strike a spam team as a little fishy.

  • bhartzer

    Michael, that’s absolutely what did NOT happen here. We responded to HARO requests for quotes.. and was quoted and linked. The media outlets decided to do all sorts of spammy interlinking and duplicate content without our knowledge. And the client site ended up getting the bad end of the deal so to speak. Google flagged those links as being inorganic.

    As far as we are concerned, we only responded to a few HARO requests for comments/quotes.

  • bhartzer

    Peter, thanks for commenting. Turns out that Google really does have the ability to recognize certain networks and sources of links, and that’s one way they’ve been able to take down such large networks such as My Blog Guest and PostJoint, they all had the same sort of business model, as sites are not connected. But Google was able to figure it out. So when you say that it isn’t possible, well, trust me, it’s possible.

    You’re right, though, the source isn’t going to say that it’s from HARO. And that’s a good thing, really. HARO is a good trusted source; there have been, unfortunately, a few media outlets that decided to do things against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, and the sites that they linked to are suffering because of it.

  • bhartzer

    Ross, there actually IS a footprint that Google can detect, you’d be surprised what they can see. That’s not implying that they’re doing anything about it, though. All I can say is that the links we obtained by responding to HARO requests ended up being flagged as inorganic links.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Bill, from what I saw, there was no “HARO footprint” at all involved here.

    There was a request responded to that came through HARO. Unless Google is scanning all the requests there and magically knowing that such a request will absolutely result in an article on a given site, there’s no connection between that request and any published article.

    Instead, what happened was a request did generate an article — again, one that can’t be linked to some type of HARO activity.

    So what flagged it as weird. Go back and run some searches to find the many variations of these articles that came up. Unless someone is writing for a wire service, you don’t tend to get multiple copies of an article. That happened with both your examples.

    Worse, several of those copies which did not have a link to your client did link back to one particular article that did have a link. Those copies also had some weird links to some unrelated company that made no sense at all.

    As best I can tell, some article was turned into a kind of link farm to flow credit back to it, from various copies of the article. Maybe someone did this using the original article and it was just somehow caught as a bystander. I can’t tell. It was really weird. I mean, one of the articles had duplicated copies involving at least three different authors.

    But that’s why these were nabbed — because they were articles that had a bunch of weird interlinking between them. The fact they originated from a HARO request has nothing to do with this. They could have been an article someone created without going to HARO at all — but if they had all that weird interlinking, they might have been hit as well.

  • You Mon Tsang

    Ross: One (important) point of clarification. It is NOT true that anyone can ask for experts on HARO. We are very strict with requests we publish for HARO and vet every
    single one. In fact, one of our biggest complaints is from publications
    that we do not allow to use HARO. We want to be sure that newsletter’s readers are seeing journalist requests from outlets
    of good quality and reputation.

    Chief Marketing and Product Officer of Vocus, which runs HARO.

  • You Mon Tsang

    Without seeing the links, I can only speculate, but Danny’s theory feels most plausible. As we all know, content and links can be taken quickly and through sketchy neighborhoods.

    Bill, if you think there is a bad source asking for experts that made it to HARO, we’d like to know and investigate.

  • http://www.bayareaseo.net Ross Taylor

    You’re absolutely right, I shouldn’t have been so general. It’s always respected and reputable sources I see when I browse through the daily lists. Still, plenty of respected companies do get in trouble with G, i.e. the BBC, Overstock, Interflora, etc.

  • You Mon Tsang

    Amen to that. Even the best of us can run into problems.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Ok. (For the record, this would not be the first time a bunch of media sites got nailed for link schemes.)

  • Jordan

    The fact HARO was a part of this is completely incidental.

    The same old rule of be vigilant with the sites and ways you’re obtaining links always applies, no matter what your source.

  • bhartzer

    Danny,
    I agree, there’s definitely some weird things going on. But my overall concern is not the fact that’s it’s just this one HARO request. It’s actually multiple HARO requests that we responded to that have ended up generating inorganic links where at least two of those requests ended up getting flagged by Google specifically.

    I could see if it was one HARO request that was involved, I probably would have overlooked it. But we’re not talking one request. It’s MULTIPLE requests from HARO that we’ve responded to that’s gotten this particular client into hot water.

  • bhartzer

    Hi You, I’ll be in touch with you offline, thanks. ;)

  • bhartzer

    Jordan, usually I would agree with you. But, keep in mind that in this particular case there were MULTIPLE requests that we responded to from HARO that ended up getting inorganic links, it’s not just one. I could see if it’s one or two HARO request, you could say it’s completely incidental. But there’s a pattern here, and that’s what I’ve been concerned about.

    I totally agree with you, though: no matter what the source, you have to be careful about how/who/when your site is linked and mentioned.

  • Jacob Maslow

    It doesn’t appear to be any sort of scheme. News sites get lots of traffic from google news and often do weird things without thinking of SEO. Natural is often spammy.

  • Jacob Maslow

    I’ve done interviews before google existed. You have no control. I once got a great feature in a major newspaper. It was from a freelance journalist that interviewed us. She could have published it anywhere and was not under any obligation to make us look good.

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    So Google is penalizing the site because other 3rd party websites picked up an already published article? Isn’t that a bit beyond your control? I know they specifically pointed to those links out in the response – but do you think it was other inorganic links that tripped the ‘filter’, and maybe actual review caught the ‘HARO’ type links? Even if, I just can’t see Google penalizing links garnered from using HARO service – that seems very overkill – and it’s not like they can tell it came from using HARO in the first place, right?

    I may not be understanding the situation correctly – in fact I’m probably not. Either way, this is just weird.

  • bhartzer

    Adam, when you respond to a HARO request, you don’t know where you will be mentioned/quoted and whether or not there is going to be a link there–unless you specifically ask the reporter or journalist you’re corresponding with.

    In this case, HARO apparently had vetted these publications and they are mainstream publications: but they’re doing all sorts of “fishy” or “spammy” things, against Google’s guidelines. As as a result of that, the client site ended up getting these links that were flagged by Google as being inorganic/unnatural. But they’re legitimate publications, media outlets, and we went through HARO.

    These links that were obtained are from multiple HARO requests, not just one. Separate publications/media outlets created the inorganic/unnatural links that Google flagged. I could see if it was just one or two links, fine, we can overlook that. But It’s multiple HARO requests that created all these inorganic/unnatural links.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    That is like saying that Google is penalizing links that were generated by people sending emails.

  • http://www.TheeDesign.com/ TheeDesign Studio

    HARO is a great way to connect writers with a reliable source and for that source to get some exposure. I would question this review and I wonder who the writer was, as in what company they are with and if most of their content is on the same subject matter as the source. i.e. If I’m an SEO and being quoted in an article about food from a resource that mainly writes about food, that might signal to Google that it is spammy, but if I am being quoted about SEO in a story about SEO on a resource about SEO, then I doubt they would have any issues with the link.