Interview with Brian Dean from Backlinko

By Ryan — Find me on Twitter and Google+ — Posted on Aug 17, 2013

brian deanSuper excited to bring this interview to you with Brian Dean from Backlinko. Brian is an authority in SEO and link building. The questions I asked him below are zero fluff and Brian’s answers are very insightful. Thank you Brian!


1. What are you good at and why?


I think I’m good at spotting opportunities. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. And I think a big part of that is seeing opportunities that others miss out on.

And in SEO that mentality gives you a huge jump on the competition.

For example, guest posting was originally done just to get brand awareness and referral traffic. But some savvy SEOs saw the SEO potential and crushed it way before that ever became a mainstream link building strategy.

And it’s the same for widgets, infographics etc. If you’re the first — or one of the first — to spot an opportunity, you can be years ahead of your competition.


2. Do you put any focus on on-page optimization?


I focus on it in the sense that I try to send Google the message via on-page that my content is a) relevant and b) quality.

Relevancy is pretty straightforward and more like hitting the points on a checklist: put the keyword in the title, first 100 words, in the h2 tag etc.

Quality is a bit more nuanced. You can show Google your content is a notch above by adding external links, writing long pieces of content and using LSI keywords.

But there’s much more to quality than that. Google is using user interaction signals more and more because — unlike links — it’s really hard to game. That’s where skills like web design, UX and copywriting come into play. Generally, the more you engage and satisfy the user, the better off your content will perform.


3. What do you consider to be perfect SEO?


Perfect SEO is hitting “publish” and getting high quality links automatically.

However, that’s a pipe dream for 99% of webmasters.

But that fantasy does teach an important lesson: the better your content is, the less work you have to do to get links.

I’ve found that with email outreach in particular, your content can increase conversions more than 10x.

So the closer you get to the perfect piece of content for your audience, the better results you’ll get.


4. What do you believe the future of SEO is?


Let’s look at the history of SEO for a second. You’ll notice that early on it was all about creating a great site with great content and then reaching out to people to get links to that content.

And for a very brief period — from about 2006-2012 — spammy black hat stuff did work better than that old-school method.

Now — in 2013 — it’s pretty much like it was in the early days of SEO: a focus on great content and outreach.

The only thing that’s really changed is that we now have tools to make the content creation and outreach process easier.

Other than that, I think that (obviously) social signals will play more of a role. And Google Authorship may also become a bigger part of the algorithm.

But I don’t see any major fundamental shifts in the way Google or SEOs do business.


5. Scenario – a website gets an unnatural link warning from Google. Do they focus 100% on building top quality links moving forward to dilute the bad links? Or do they try to clean up the bad links and file a reconsideration request with Google?


They definitely want to a) clean up as many bad links as they can and b) build good links to dilute them. If they can those two things at scale, they can wiggle their way out of the penalty without having to even file a reconsideration request.

And it that doesn’t work, they’ve already done exactly what Google wants to see with a reconsideration request: a serious link clean up effort.

So if rankings don’t come back within 8-12 weeks after cleaning up the bad links and building quality new ones, I’d go for a reconsideration request.


6. What’s your opinion on Google’s link disavow tool?


I originally thought it was a big conspiracy to get people to out link networks. But after doing a bunch of research for this article, I found that a lot of site owners have used it to lift a penalty.

And Matt Cutts recently said that you may want to proactively disavow any spammy links if you’re not able to get them removed.

So I’d say that the disavow tool might actually be really useful for sites that got hit with negative SEO or got burned from a shady SEO firm.


7. So much focus is put on Google. But how do you rank in Bing and Yahoo?


Considering their tiny market share, I honestly have no idea. I actually pretend they don’t exist. I’ll take traffic from Bing when it comes, but I don’t usually do anything special to optimize for them.

A good rule of thumb I heard is that Yahoo and Bing are 3-years behind Google: so if something worked 3-years ago in Google it works really well for them today.

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