Blogging was ideal for marketers of all sizes and types, especially those who focus on online marketing and methods of improving website traffic and search rankings.
Backlink.com’s Brian Dean allowed him to expand his blog while improving his own branding for his SEO expertise.
His blog is currently ranked among the 15,000 best websites in the world by Alexa. He also offers some great SEO advice and case studies through his website.
In this interview (part of our blogger introductory series) we’re going to dig deeper into the practices Brian used to create a well-known and authoritative blog in the SEO field.
1.) Please tell us something about yourself and how you got into blogging.
Hey whats up? I’m Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko.com.
I started my blog after getting tired of the mediocre SEO content that was out there.
Instead of practical strategies people could use to get more search engine traffic, most SEO blogs hit fluff pieces like “Should We Call SEO Content Marketing?” and “Here is my opinion on the state of the SEO industry”.
I knew there were thousands of people like me who wanted a resource that would give them actionable SEO information. I decided to fill this gap with my blog.
2.) What is the main focus of your blog and why did you choose this niche?
Backlinko focuses on SEO with an emphasis on link building. I focused on link building because most people struggled with it after Google’s Penguin update.
The penguin update turned link building on its head until even SEO agencies struggled to gain a foothold. I realized that if I could help people build quality backlinks in today’s chaotic SEO world, I would get noticed.
I also decided to focus on link building as this is the most important and challenging part of SEO. 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’m selling a business training course called SEO That Works. I had my first product launch in October 2013 and it went really well. I am planning another launch in 2014.
I also get a few advice requests from the blog every week which is a good source of extra income.
4.) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started blogging?
There are actually so many things that I wish I had known on the first day that would have saved me a lot of time and frustration.
Here are some of the most important:
1. I wish I knew I had to focus on my 1,000 true fans
I wasted a TON of time posting on social media profiles, tweaking my design, and spinning my wheels on things that didn’t matter.
Kevin Kelly was exactly right with his “1000 True Fans Theory”. Your goal from day one should be to face your 1,000 real fans who absolutely LOVE what you do on your website.
Once you have those 1,000 fans, you have a small army to promote to other people. But without those 1,000 real fans, it’s REALLY hard to get going.
2. I wish I could put more resources into creating my email list
When I started Backlinko in December 2012, I was in the IM field for more than 4 years. So I “knew” the importance of building an email list. Because of this, my original site design had multiple registration forms on each page.
However, I have not tested different forms, placements, or copies. When I started testing, I was able to significantly increase my conversion rate for what I now recognize to be the most important metric of all: email subscribers.
3. I wish I knew I should focus on epic content
All I read online about growing a blog was, “You have to post once or twice a week. The key to growth is consistent publication. “And that’s exactly what I did.
While the content I posted there was what I would call “very good,” it was not enough to stand out from the thousands of other articles published that day. Eventually I realized that “very good” is not good enough.
For something to grab eyeballs, social shares and links, it has to be AMAZING. Lately I’ve been focusing on only releasing long, lengthy pieces. I’ve seen much better results in terms of social proportions, interaction, and traffic.
5.) Which three blogs do you visit almost every day?
- QuickSprout: Neil is a wealth of business knowledge. And he generously shares this knowledge at QuickSprout. What I really like about QuickSprout compared to most other internet marketing blogs is that it writes from the field.
- 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 see as a model for personal branding in the digital age.
6.) Can you give us three recommended tools / services that you use for your blogging?
- Mention.net Google Alerts About Steroids. Great for finding brand names, but also for finding conversations in your niche to participate in.
- Awe: When you run a blog, you need to collect as much email as possible. 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 use your blog as just another resource for that person.
7.) What advice would you have for someone just starting their first blog?
I have a few:
1. Focus on a clean, professional design for your blog
Yes, content is king. But if you don’t have an attractive design, nobody will read your stuff. Both ZacJohnson.com and BloggingTips.com have a really clean design that makes reading blog posts a breeze.
Other websites that you might want to check out for inspiration are SocialTriggers.com and NerdFitness.com.
2. Ignore 90% of the advice given by people who “blog about blogging”.
Most of the people who write about blogging have NO idea what they are talking about. Because of this, they give terrible advice like: “You have to spend 2 hours every day on social media,” “Make sure you tweet at least 5 times a day,” and “Post a new post 3 times a week”.
Since I was new to blogging, I assumed these people knew what they were talking about. I was wrong.
Lately I’ve just been watching what popular blogs are doing … and applying that to my blog. Modeling successful blogs has brought me much better results than blindly following conventional wisdom.
3. Guest posting like a madman when you first start
I get an email like this at least once a week: “Brian, I just started a blog, but I’m not getting any traffic. What am I doing?”.
Once I see that they have great website design and solid content, I usually reply, “Guest Post!”.
As Zac pointed out in his recent case study, guest posting is one of the best ways to access and take advantage of a brand new website. It takes a lot of work (that’s why most people shy away from it), but the benefits are enormous.
8.) What is the best advice or tip you have come across since starting blogging?
Branding my strategies and techniques. In the early days of my blog, I was just showing people how to implement a new link building strategy … and that was it.
I’ve found that my content is a lot stickier when I Name and brand any new knowledge 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 the names alone are, aren’t you?
This is another reason branded solutions work so well: They open an information gap that arouses curiosity and encourages people to read your content.
The next time you post a unique tip or strategy, give it a name that is original and memorable.
9.) If you only had $ 100 to start a new blog, how would you use it?
I’d pour every penny of that $ 100 into a trademarked, clean site design. You obviously won’t get a world class design for a hundred dollars, but you can usually find someone on Elance or ODesk who will 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 Backlinko.com. Go there and read the Backlinko newsletter.
Thank you again Brian Dean for taking the time to share your advice and story with the Blogging Tips community. If you are interested in learning more about other bloggers and how they succeed online, be sure to check out our blogger interview series.