Blogging has been great for marketers of all sizes and types, especially those who are focused in online marketing and methods for improving site traffic and search rankings. For Brian Dean of Backlink.com, he’s been able to grow out his blog while also increasing his own branding for his SEO expertise. His blog is currently ranked in the top 15,000 sites in the world by Alexa and he also offers some great SEO advice and case studies through his site. In this interview we will take a deeper look into the practices Brian has used to create a well known and authoritative blog in the SEO space.
1.) Please tell us about yourself and how you got into blogging?
Hey, what’s up? I’m Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko.com.
I started my blog after becoming fed up with the mediocre SEO content that was out there.
Instead of practical strategies people could use to get more search engine traffic, most SEO blogs were banging out fluff pieces, like ” Should We Call SEO Content Marketing?” and “Here’s My Opinion On State of the SEO Industry”.
I knew that there were thousands of people like me that wanted a resource that would give them actionable SEO information. I decided to fill that void with my blog.
2.) What is the focus of your blog and why did you choose that niche?
Backlinko focuses on SEO with an emphasis on link building. I chose to focus on link building because that’s what most people struggled with after Google’s Penguin update.
The Penguin update turned link building upside down to the point where even SEO agencies struggled to get a footing. I realized that if I could help people build quality backlinks in today’s chaotic SEO world, I’d stand out.
I also decided to zero-in on link building because that’s the most important — and challenging — part of SEO. So even if Penguin never happened I’m pretty sure my blog would still focus on link building.
3.) How are you currently monetizing your blog traffic?
I sell a business training course called SEO That Works. I had my first launch of the product in October 2013 that went really well. I plan on having another launch in 2014.
I also get a few consulting inquiries every week from the blog, which is a nice source of side revenue.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started blogging?
There are actually so many things that I wish I knew on day 1 that would have saved me a ton of time and frustration.
Here are a few of the most important:
1. I wished that I knew that I needed to focus on my 1,000 true fans: I wasted A TON of time posting to social media profiles, tweaking my design and basically spinning my wheels with stuff that didn’t matter. Kevin Kelly was right on the money with his “1000 True Fans Theory“. Your goal from day 1 should be to get in front of your 1,000 true fans, which are people that will absolutely LOVE what you’re doing on your site. Once you have those 1,000 fans in place, you have a small army that will promote you to other people. But without those 1,000 true fans, it’s REALLY hard to get any momentum.
2. I wish I put more resources into building my email list: By the time I started Backlinko in December 2012 I’d been in the IM space for more than 4-years. So I “knew” how important building an email list was. That’s why my initial site design had several opt-in forms on every page. However, I didn’t test different forms, placements or copy. Once I started testing, I was able to significantly increase my conversion rate for what I now realize is the most important metric of all: email subscribers.
3. I wish that I knew that I should focus on epic content pieces: Everything I read online about growing a blog said: “You need to post once or twice per week. The key to growth is publishing consistently.” And that’s exactly what I did. And while the content I put out there was what I’d call “very good”, it wasn’t enough to stand out among the thousands of other articles published that day. I eventually realized that “very good” isn’t good enough. For something to grab eyeballs, social shares and links it has to be AMAZING. Lately I’ve focused on publishing only long, in-depth pieces. I’ve noticed much better results in terms of social shares, interaction and traffic.
5.) What are three blogs that you visit almost daily?
QuickSprout: Neil is a wealth of business knowledge. And he shares that knowledge generously at QuickSprout. What I really like about QuickSprout compared to most other internet marketing blogs is that he writes from real life experience.
Social Triggers: Derek is a brilliant marketer who brings psychological research to the masses to help them get more leads and customers.
Smart Passive Income: Like Neil, Pat shares everything he learns from running his business with his audience. He’s also someone I look at as a model of personal branding in the digital age.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools/services that you use with your blogging?
Mention.net: Google Alerts on steroids. Awesome for finding brand mentions, but also for finding conversations in your niche that you can participate in.
Aweber: If you run a blog you need to collect as many emails as you can. I’ve tried a few different email marketing tools and Aweber is by far the best.
Ahrefs: Not just for reverse engineering your competitor’s backlinks (although it’s great for that). You can use ahrefs to find mentions of other blogs in your niche. When you do, you can pitch your blog as another resource for that person to mention.
7.) What advice would you have for someone who is just starting with their first blog?
I have a few:
1. Focus on a clean, professional design for your blog: Yes, content is king. But unless you have an attractive design, no one is going to even read your stuff. Both ZacJohnson.com and BloggingTips.com have a really crisp design that make reading blogs posts a breeze. Other sites you may want to check out for inspiration are SocialTriggers.com and NerdFitness.com.
2. Ignore 90% of the advice out there from people that “blog about blogging”: Most people that write about blogging have NO idea what they’re talking about. That’s why they dish out horrible advice like: “You need to spend 2-hours every day on social media”, “make sure you tweet at least 5 times per day” and “publish a new post three times per week”. Because I was new to blogging, I assumed that these people knew what they were talking about. I was wrong. Lately I’ve been just observing what popular blogs do…and applying that to my blog. Modeling successful blogs has landed me much better results than blindly following the conventional wisdom.
3. Guest post like a madman when you’re first starting out: I get an email like this at least once per week: “Brian, I just started a blog but I’m not getting any traffic. What do I do?”. Once I’ve determined that they have a great site design and solid content, I usually answer: “Guest post!”. As Zac pointed out in his recent case study, guest posting is one of the best ways to traffic and exposure to a brand new site. It takes a ton of work (that’s why most people shy away from it), but the payoff is huge.
8.) What’s the best advice or tip you’ve discovered about blogging since getting started?
Branding my strategies and techniques. In the early days of my blog, I would simply show people how to execute a new link building strategy…and that was that.
I’ve found that my content is MUCH more sticky when I name and brand every single new insight that I bring to the table. Two of the most popular so far have been “The Skyscraper Technique” and “The Moving Man Method”. You’re probably wondering what they are from the names alone, right?
That’s another reason that branded solutions work so well: they open an information gap that incites curiosity and encourages people to read your content.
So the next time you publish a unique tip or strategy, give it a name that’s original and memorable.
9.) If you only had $100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
I’d put every penny of that $100 into a branded, clean site design. You’re obviously not going to get a world class design for a hundred bucks, but you can usually find someone on Elance or ODesk to customize a WordPress theme for you at that price.
10.) How can readers of the blog get in touch with you?
The best place to find me is at Backlinko.com. Head over there and hop on the Backlinko newsletter.
Thanks again Brian Dean for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you would like to learn about other bloggers and how they are finding success online, be sure to read through our blogger interview series.