Time Saving Workflow to Find Relevant HARO Requests

So here we are, my first little ‘Digital Asset Builders’ blog post!

Nothing ground-breaking here, I’ll admit that before we start.

But it’s a useful little tip for some of you, and is the first in a long series I have planned that will add up to something…at least passably good.

So, take me easy, huh? 😉

For many of us – and certainly me – time is our scarcest resource. So I always look for little hacks and automations that make processes more time-efficient.

I have a ton of them.

Each individual hack may only save me 10 minutes here, 3 minutes there, but I have so many that when added up, they save me many hours over the course of a week…a month…a year.

Beauty in simplicity, you might say.

In a series of posts over the coming months, I intend to share with you many of the time-saving hacks that I use on a day to day basis in my SEO and website building workflows.

What You Will Learn Today

I think we all know of and use HARO for link building purposes these days? So I won’t go into what it is and why you should probably be using it.

What I will do is show you today a small time-saving hack that will help you to dial in and find relevant HARO requests to reply to without having to read HARO e-mails in their entirety every day.

Sure, this will only save you 4 or 5 minutes over having to read the list of prospects in every HARO e-mail hitting your inbox, so it may not seem worth much.

But with these e-mails coming twice per day, 5 days a week, this can save you 4 or 5 minutes, twice per day, 5 days a week, which adds up to over 2.5 hours a month.

Combined with many of my other time-saving hacks and automations that I will give out over the coming weeks and months, it can make a big difference to productivity!

So yes, this individual tip may not be a big time-saver on its own, but stick with me until you have a collection of the tips I provide before writing things off as ‘why bother.’

It’s when you have and use many that you will start to see and feel the benefits.

Credit Where it’s Due

My process for this used to be forwarding relevant emails to Outlook, then using a macro to import these into excel, highlighting relevant keywords, and scanning the document to find opportunities.

I showed this to Brian Connelly, who took the idea and found the Regex+ plugin, so it could be done in your browser without using Excel.

It’s nearly as fast, but is a damn sight easier, so I sacked off my macro and now follow the process you will see below.

So, a hat tip to Brian Connelly who helped with this idea.

The Basic Process and End Result

A hand drawing a flow chart onto a screen in blue ink

The basic process we’re going to follow is:

Step 1: Set up a throwaway Gmail account – For the sole task of receiving HARO e-mails, to keep them from clogging up our primary inbox.

Step 2: Set up a Gmail forwarding filter based on niche specific keywords – We set up a filter so that Gmail forwards only the HARO e-mails that contain relevant, niche-specific keywords that identify an interesting opportunity.

This reduces the number of irrelevant e-mails we have to read, that contain no requests we can reply to.

Step 3: Use a Chrome browser extension to find relevant opportunities – After opening HARO e-mails, we use a chrome extension to find niche-specific keywords in the text.

This allows us to instantly see only relevant HARO requests we can reply to without having to read the whole e-mail.

The end result?

Instead of receiving every HARO e-mail twice per day, reading them in their entirety and hoping to find relevant requests:

  • We only receive e-mails with an extremely high probability of containing something relevant. So the actual number of e-mails in our main inbox is massively reduced.
  • We instantly see where in the e-mail the relevant opportunity is, without having to read the whole e-mail.
  • We save a few minutes every day.

Interesting? Well, I hope it is for some of you!

OK, let’s crack on…

Set up Gmail, HARO and an ‘E-mail Forwarding Filter’

Vector image of an orange mouse on a paper envelope

The first thing we have to do is to set up a brand new Gmail account solely to receive HARO e-mails, so we can pre-filter and forward only the interesting ones.

Setting up a Gmail Account

I’m sure there’s no need for me to hand-hold you through the process of creating a new Gmail account, and that anybody reading this has done it umpteen times before?

Good, as I can’t be arsed to write about that ?

Off you go. Get it done, then return here.

Enter it into HARO

When you have your Gmail address set up, go into your HARO account, and set it up so that HARO e-mails are sent to this new Gmail address.

Again, I’m not going to cover that here, you’re on your own. But I believe in you! 😉

Set Up a Gmail Forwarding Filter

This is the first time-saving hack.

We’re going to set up a filter in our new Gmail account, that forwards to our primary e-mail address, only the e-mails from HARO that contain any of a list of niche-specific keywords identifying that the e-mail includes something of interest.

For example.

If we are in the ‘dog niche,’ we don’t want to waste time reading through HARO requests for finance, food, DIY, the keto diet, and a journalist fishing for quotes to pad out a tale on the life and times of a traveling shoe salesman.

So we come up with a list of keywords that are specific to our niche and our audience’s interests, a list of words that we can be sure will be in ANY request that we’d be interested in:

Dog, dogs, canine, canines, puppy, puppies.

If an e-mail contains any of these words, we can be pretty sure a journalist is requesting help with a topic in the dog niche.

Conversely, if the e-mail doesn’t contain ANY of these words, it’s incredibly unlikely that there’s going to be a request on the topic of ‘dogs’ – so why waste time reading that e-mail?

So, we set up a forwarding filter in Gmail to send to our main e-mail account ONLY e-mails from HARO that contain one or more of those niche-specific keywords.

Already, this is a good little time saver.

As you can see in the following screenshot, I received 23 e-mails from HARO in 2.5 days.

Screenshot of gmail inbox showing how many HARO emails came in 2.5 days

Only 2 of those 23 HARO e-mails had requests that I could reply to for my main niche.

My Gmail filter forwarded those 2 e-mails, and only those 2 e-mails, to my primary e-mail address.

This means in 2.5 days, there have been 21 HARO e-mails I didn’t have to waste a single second reading through, only to find nothing applied to me.

Creating Your Keyword List

To make sure you get forwarded all relevant e-mails, you must think about your keyword list that identifies your niche carefully.

It would be a sin not to see relevant opportunities and let them go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, Gmail filters do not support wildcards, partial words, or regular expressions.

This means you have to include plurals – dog and dogs – as well as, if applicable, words to cover the past, present, and future tenses – cook, cooking, cooked – and so on.

You also want to include any slang, substitute words, or abbreviations that people may use. For example, doggies, doggys, pups, etc.

So for the dog niche, it could become:

dog, dogs, puppy, puppies, puppys, canine, canines, doggies, doggys, pup, pups, dogging (OK, maybe not that last one!)

I would spend a good two weeks manually reading all HARO e-mails, spotting words journalists use that identify your niche, and slowly building out your KW list.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and may not be able to think of them all right away. This will help you tremendously.

Setting Up the Gmail Filter

To set up your Gmail filter to forward only e-mails containing relevant requests, first decide upon the exhaustive list of keywords specific to your niche.

For my example – and to keep things simple – I’m going to use the ‘nowhere near good enough’ list of:

dog, dogs, canine, canines, puppy, puppies.

Go to Gmail settings:

Screenshot showing where Gmail settings are located

Then to ‘Filters and Blocked Addresses

Click: ‘Create a new filter.

Screenshot of Gmails filter menu item

Enter ‘From – [email protected]

And then fill in your chosen keywords in the ‘Has the words’ field, EXACTLY as seen in the following format, with two opening and closing brackets, and the word ‘OR’ in capitals between each keyword:

((dog OR dogs OR canine OR canines OR puppy OR puppies))

screenshot of gmail filter settings

Next, click ‘Create Filter,’ and you are presented with a further options screen.

In it, tick ‘Forward it to‘ and enter your primary e-mail address.

Then tick ‘mark it as important‘ so it’s labeled as such in your primary inbox.

Screenshot of the second step in setting up a Gmail filter

You will now only receive in your primary inbox, HARO e-mails that contain your list of specific keywords, and can forget about having to read through the rest.

Finding The Relevant HARO Requests in Each E-mail Using a Chrome Plugin

The second time saver is in finding only the request(s) from each HARO e-mail that are relevant to you, without having to read the whole e-mail.

From here, we are using only the e-mail inbox that has received the forwarded, pre-filtered HARO e-mails.

The basic idea is to install a chrome plugin to highlight a list of keywords in e-mails.

When we receive the pre-filtered e-mails, we highlight multiple relevant words on a page that we can ‘jump to,’ so we can instantly see only relevant requests at the click of a couple of buttons.

Install Chrome Extension Regex+

Regex+ chrome extension store header image

Install the chrome extension called ‘Regex+’

This is available here from the chrome store, and for those of you who wish to see the source code and make sure it’s not malware, you can view and inspect it here on Github.

(Note: I make no assurances on the safety of using this plugin, do so at your own risk! But yes, it’s fine at the time of writing.)

Set up the Regex+ Extension

With this extension, you can search and highlight multiple words on a page at once, enabling you to see in your inbox quickly any requests that are relevant to you.

You want to use the same keyword list that you used in Gmail, separating each word with a ‘pipe’ character as follows:


To do so, click the Regex+ icon in your Chrome extension toolbar.

Add your keyword list with pipe separators, and then click the ‘Show Saved Expressions‘ menu item, (the ribbon icon.)

Finally, click ‘Save Expression.

Screenshot showing the Regex+ chrome extension saved expressions setting

Searching Your E-mail for Relevant Opportunities

Now to find relevant opportunities, go to your e-mail client with the forwarded, pre-filtered HARO e-mails.

Click on ‘Regex+,’ then ‘Show Saved Expressions,’ and then click your saved keyword list.

What then happens is, Regex+ highlights every occurrence of the keywords in your list on the page, and tells you how many there are:

Screenshot showing Regex+ highlighting keywords in the browser

You can see in the screenshot above, that there are 4 instances of keywords from my list in the e-mail.

You can now hit ‘enter‘ on your keyboard, and Chrome will jump from one highlighted keyword to the next.

Doing so will show you where the keywords appear, and you can then quickly see any requests that are potentially relevant, but without having had to read the entire e-mail.

Multiple Saved Keyword Lists – And the Power of Regex

You can set up multiple saved expressions in Regex+, perhaps for different sites, or different clients, etc. I’m sure you can see the benefit of this.

Also, it supports the full range of Regex syntax, so the more knowledgeable among you might want to play with regex codes to really dial into your keyword list.

Being regex, it will highlight partial matches, which could be an annoyance for some of you. So you will want to come up with better entries than merely inputting your keyword list separated by a pipe.

For example, put in ‘cat|cats|feline| felines’ – and it gets messy very fast!

This will ‘partial match’ CATegory, CAThy, sCATtered, and more. A bit of a CATastrophe.

So you will want to use things like negative lookaheads and lookbehinds for alphanumeric characters, and also start of line, end of line, and punctuation.

That is way beyond what I want to get into in this article though I’m afraid! I may circle back around at some point and update. But for now, here is the regex generator and testing tool that I use: Online Regex Tester.

Best of luck…you will need it! It’s a fecking ballache! (Can anyone say: Upwork?)

That’s all, Folks!

That’s about it!

Not the most impressive thing you’ve seen in your life, but this saves a fair bit of time each day, week, and month if you are using HARO for link building purposes.

Until next time, it’s been a pleasure!

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