Podcast

Brian Dean on creating SEO-friendly content, building links, and managing your business stress-free

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Introduction

Brian Dean is the founder of Exploding Topics and Backlinko, which was recently acquired by Semrush. 

He’s no stranger to disappointment in business, having failed at 5 businesses before striking gold with a financial website in 2012. From there, Backlinko emerged as a teaching platform to help others avoid the same pitfalls! 

It’s become one of the most respected marketing blogs online, thanks to Brian’s willingness to share practical, worthwhile strategies with readers looking to grow their own online businesses. 

What You’ll Hear

  • [1:29] About Brian and his background
  • [2:36] How Semrush Acquired Backlinko 
  • [6:44] The thing that makes Backlino so successful 
  • [7:59] SEO vs Ads 
  • [9:45] Brian’s recommendation for getting traffic 
  • [11:29] Brain’s tips for creating content 
  • [16:32] Getting links in today’s market 
  • [20:52] Getting links for solo entrepreneurs 
  • [23:47] Choosing someone to outsource to 
  • [28:52] Growing a YouTube channel 
  • [34:19] Final comments

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About Brian Dean and His Background 

Surprisingly, Brian began his career as a dietician! In between giving nutrition advice and frequenting ESPN.com, he just happened to find Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Work Week book, which opened his eyes to the possibility of starting his own business. 

And so he did… Five times over, with businesses that started and ended. In 2012, he struck gold with a finance site and Backlinko was an offshoot of that. When Backlinko became hugely popular, Brian ended up putting all his effort into that instead of other businesses. 

Currently, Brian spends some of his time working on Backlinko (which was acquired by Semrush) and working on a new project, Exploding Topics. 

How Semrush Acquired Backlinko 

When Brian received an email from the Senior VP of Semrush about a possible acquisition, he wasn’t really interested in selling off his baby! However, running 2 businesses was beginning to take its toll and stress him out. 

So he figured a simple chat would do no harm. When Brian realised that Semrush intended to double down on what Backlinko was all about and improve upon what was already there instead of changing it, he was much more open to the idea. 

It took just a few months of legal matters before the acquisition was official. Brian still works with them, so he still gets to do what he loves with the business he loves! 

The Thing That Makes Backlinko So Successful 

Brian says SEO is the one thing that really got Backlinko their ton of monthly visitors. While he does get some traffic from social media, 350k to 400k of Backlinko’s 500,000+ visitors come through good ol’ organic SEO. 

SEO vs Ads 

Brian believes that Facebook ads (and others) are targeted differently to SEO. Ads aim to convert visitors to customers right away, while SEO is more about getting on people’s radar, building brand awareness, and providing value to the reader before they’re ready to buy, so that by the time they’re ready, you’re the first one they come to. 

SEO is also easier to scale and monitor your stats, although Brian is sure to mention that he doesn’t think using Facebook ads is necessarily a bad thing. 

Brian Dean’s Recommendation for Getting Traffic 

Brian recommends focusing on SEO, particularly trending keywords that don’t have a lot of competition yet. SEO can take time to be effective, so don’t expect to see overnight results. 

If you want to try something to get quick results while you’re waiting for your SEO to kick in, he suggests newsletter sponsorships, which he’s tried with his new business and seen success with. 

However, he cautions that it’s a bit of a hit-and-miss thing, as it’s not targeted at all. But it’s less saturated than Facebook Ads, and if you pick the right newsletters, you could see quick success while you wait for the seeds of your SEO to grow. Keep in mind that building a proper SEO strategy takes work and effort, so if you want to scale quicker, consider hiring a specialized agency to improve this strategy on your behalf. For example, if you have a construction company, you might want to look for specialized contractor SEO companies to work with you 

Brian Dean’s Tips for Creating Content 

According to Brian, putting excellent content out is one of the best ways to establish yourself as an authority in your niche. 

He also splits his content into different categories so he can use it to better target people. One, his “wow” content is designed to establish you as an expert, get eyeballs on your work, and make people go “This person knows what they’re talking about.” 

Two, targeted, keyword-rich content that won’t get a ton of shares and might be a little dry, but it does a good job of explaining the topic. 

Three, content designed to get links. It’s created specifically for others to link to from their own websites, which helps get referred traffic. 

What most people get wrong is that they expect one piece of content to do all three of those things. Rather, focus on one goal for each specific piece of content. 

Getting Links in Today’s Market 

Pitching for links is hard, because you automatically get lumped in together with spammers. For Brian, there are two strategies that worked well. 

One, broken link building. They searched for online tools that weren’t working anymore and offered theirs as a replacement. This made it easy to reach out to site owners who had included the tool on their blog posts and offer a quick and easy link replacement. 

Two, they created content specifically designed to get links. This requires a bit of research and creativity, but it’s worth doing. 

Ultimately, Brian suggests creating interesting stuff that’s actually worth linking to. 

Getting Links for Solo Entrepreneurs 

Solo entrepreneurs don’t always have the time or budget to do a lot of researching or outreach. Brian outsources a lot of his research and outreach to VAs, which he finds to be more cost-effective. 

He also suggests going on other people’s podcasts. Most podcasts include a link back to your site, which gives you some traffic back to your site. 

Choosing Someone to Outsource To 

Brian’s best advice: hire a person, not an agency. Many agencies (not all… but many) re-outsource your work to the cheapest person they can find in order to make their own profit on your work. 

He also recommends only hiring them to do one or two specific things, rather than a full-house of SEO service, so they can focus down. 

Growing a YouTube Channel 

Quality over quantity! Make sure the production value is good and invest in a good mic and lighting. Put effort into pushing traffic to new vids on your social media and email list. 

Final Comments

Brian’s final advice is to put effort into finding those trending keywords to write from, which you can do on Exploding Topics

Connect with Brian on Twitter.

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