Podcast 55: How Brian Dean Grew a Thriving Blog with Less Content and More Promotion
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A few weeks ago I had strep throat. Not fun at all.
However, I also had a podcast interview scheduled with Brian Dean from Backlinko.com at the same time I started feeling sick. I had scheduled the podcast over a month earlier (because Brian is so popular).
I considered cancelling the podcast interview, but I'm sure glad I went through with it! Brian provided a ton of very actionable tips for anyone starting a new blog or looking to attract more traffic and links to their existing sites.
Some of the most interesting takeaways that I had are related to how Brian was able to grow his blog so much in the past year. He did this by blogging LESS. By focusing more on quality posts rather than quantity, and then working actively to promote those posts, he's been able to become a widely recognized expert.
We discuss the exact tactics Brian has used to grow Backlinko.com and how you can do the same.
Brian Dean Podcast Notes
Please note that this is not a full transcript of the interview. Below is the shortened version of the questions and answers given. Please listen to the entire podcast to hear the full discussion.
What were you doing before you started Backlinko.com?
I was basically a struggling affiliate marketer. I was creating small 1 page niche websites with exact match domains. I created 175 of these 1 page websites while I was freelance writing on the side.
I spent alot of time on the Warrior Forum. At the time it was fairly easy to rank, and then Panda came out and wiped out my sites. Then I moved onto 5 page sites and Penguin came out and wiped out those sites.
After that, I could see the writing on the wall and decided to change my ways. I created a niche authority site that was valuable and promoted it using white hat strategies and it started to do very well.
After 3 months that more white hat site was doing $10,000 a month.
I then started to try and find blogs that were talking about these more quality link building strategies and I just wasn't finding any…so I created BackLinko.com.
Would you say that you are grateful that Google came out with all their updates?
Absolutely! I would still be struggling if the Penguin update didn't come out.
Why has the traffic to Backlinko.com grown so quickly?
There are 3 things that I followed and that others can follow to grow their traffic.
- I focused on publishing case studies. I realized there was an under-served community that wanted this type of content.
- I stopped publishing as often. The first year I focused on publishing lots of content; however, in my second year I've focused on less content but higher quality posts. This year I've only published 11 posts for example.
- I hustled really hard to promote everything that I published.
Are you still working on anything else other than Backlinko?
I'm focusing 100% of my effort now on Backlinko.com. I do have a few other sites out there, but I'm not putting effort into them.
Backlinko is a lot more fun and rewarding.
How are you actually bringing in money with Backlinko?
I sell a premium training course called, “SEO that Works“. That's how I bring in all the money with Backlinko.
The course is currently closed, How often do you plan on opening it up?
Next year I plan on opening it a total of 3 times.
Are you willing to share any type of revenue or other details?
I would rather not give specific numbers. However, I will say that each launch has brought in over six figures; and I've had a few launches this year.
The course is priced higher, and so I don't need a ton of customers to bring in a significant amount revenue.
Is the course a go at your own pace? Or webinars, etc?
A lot of the course is recorded and go at your own pace. In addition there are live webinars that are Q&A where people can clarify anything from the course.
Then I also have email support and a Facebook group where members can interact with me and other members.
Do you have a secret formula for creating a interesting blog post titles?
For every post I have a keyword that I like to target. I front load the keyword in the title, and then the rest I write about some specific value that can gain from the post.
For example, one of my blog post titles is: “Viral Marketing Case Study: How a Brand New Blog Generated 17,584 Visitors in One Day”
A couple of resources to look at interested data:
How can people “up their game” to create more in-depth content?
Many people only skim the surface of a topic. My rule is to think, “an inch wide and a mile deep”. Instead of just a post about “how to get more subscribers”, you could write about how to create the best form for collecting the most email subscribers possible, that could be much more in-depth.
How can you write content about a topic even if you are not an expert?
You definitely don't have to be an expert in everything that you write about. Whenever possible you should use personal experience. You don't have to be an expert but you can just document your journey.
If you use the inch wide and a mile deep mentality, then you should never run out of topics that you don't have some knowledge on.
How much time are you spending on your blog posts?
I would say that depending on the post, its usually about 20 hours that I put into each post.
Where are you coming up with blog post ideas?
I use a keyword approach. So, I still look at how many times a month people are searching for different terms. I look at keyword research first. If I have a great idea, but I don't see the keyword search volume around it, then I will pass on the idea.
I also look at the trends, if a keyword is new or trending up in search volume that could be a great target even if it currently doesn't get a ton of search volume.
Do you have a search volume that your are looking for?
For me, I'll go pretty low. It really depends on the trends and cost per click.
In older markets the keyword volume is pretty accurate. But for some keywords that are on the newer side, the search volume could be misleading. For example one keyword I'm targeting is “Increase conversions” this shows only about 200 search per month. But I suspect that's not 100% accurate because its newer search trending up.
For me, keyword research includes lots of different variables, and keyword volume is only one of those variables.
How much time do you spend promoting your content after it's published?
I spend another 10 hours.
What are your steps to promote that?
I'm a big email guy. This has given me the best ROI. I like to do a “content roadshow” for my content.
I usually just Google keywords related to my content and find other bloggers. Then I reach out to those people that come up in those results.
I will send an email and just ask if they want to check it out. If they are interested, I'll send the content and ask them what they think. It's very simple.
People will thank you and share it with their audience.
Do you ever specifically ask them to share it on Facebook, Twitter, or ask for Links?
No, never. I just don't think its good form and can backfire.
It may depend a little bit on the niche, but in the marketing niche, people know why you are sending the emails.
How many people do you usually contact for a content roadshow?
Usually about 100 to 120 emails go out. It's a lot of time and I have my assistant help me.
Do you use that strategy mostly for social shares or do you see residual links?
Sometimes you will get links straight up. So, you can get links from this strategy.
The other thing is you are creating mind share; you can be top of mind when other bloggers write their own content. I don't go in expecting links, but you can get some.
How do you generate links for each piece of content?
I have a method called the “moving man method”. It's a twist on broken link building.
Many times a page might be broken but is not returning a 404 response. This is different than broken link building. You can reach out to people linking to these broken pages and can leverage this strategy.
For this method, you can't use a tool specifically. It's more about keeping your ear to the ground that will help you see these ideas.
A lot of these opportunities will almost just be serendipitous. You just need to be paying attention and researching in your niche.
I'm also a huge fan of infographics, I've had huge success with these.
What additional marketing tactics do you recommend for someone without an audience?
Positioning is a big marketing strategy. You want to figure out how your site will fit into what is already out there.
For example, I used to read NichePursuits all the time. The positioning of Niche Pursuits is that its been very case study focused on very actionable content.
Another example is Steve Kamb of NerdFitness.com Instead of talking about more body builder type things, he takes an analytic approach to fitness.
Do you have any additional words of wisdom that you would like to share?
One thing I hear alot is that people are concerned with how frequently they update their blog. I would just advise that its not as important to publish as frequently as you might suspect.
If you are just publishing for the sake of publishing, you should perhaps think twice about that.
Where can people follow along with you?
Go to BackLinko.com and sign up for the newsletter. I share alot of great tips on that newsletter that is not on the blog.
If you enjoyed the podcast, please leave an honest rating and review on iTunes right here. As always, I would love to hear any thoughts or questions that you have in the comments below.
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My top recommendations
Amazing podcast. Thanks for stopping by, Brian.
What methods do you like best for link-building with infographics?
Thanks Perrin 🙂
I use a few, but Guestographics are one of my favorites. I outline how the process works here: http://backlinko.com/seo-strategy
Awesome! I’ll be trying this soon. 🙂
Brian is always an inspiration and motivator in SEO world. His all techniques are manual and based on real testing. His case studies are extremely useful.
Thanks Spencer for having Brain on your podcast.
Thanks, glad you enjoyed the podcast!
Great podcast! I’m following Brian for a while and I definitely don’t regret it! 🙂
Anyway – Merry Christmas, guys!
Thanks Jenda…have a great Christmas!
Just finished listening This guy knows what he is talking about. The moving man method sounds interested. Will give it a try.
As always, great content Spencer. I picked up some more golden nuggets today. 🙂
20 hours per post – wow! I thought I was the only one who put that kind of time into my posts. Now I just need to raise my rate to something approaching one per month, and I’ll be on track. 🙂 Thanks for this interview guys. I am especially curious about the “moving man” method. Going to have to see if there’s more on Backlinko about this!
Yep, that’s a lot of time per post! Thanks for listening!
something wrong with download mp3 file…it only plays for 7 secs?
Then entire mp3 download appears to be working on my end.
Awesome story ! I often visit you blog Brian. Your tips are great, it help me very much for building niche site.
Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas !
“I will say that each launch has brought in over six figures”
did brian misspeak here or does he actually mean 6 figures? i could see 5 figures per launch but 6???
I do not think he mis-spoke. A six figure launch is not that uncommon, especially with a list the size Brian probably has.
Wonderful postcad Brian, I’e download MP3 files to listen day by day (improve my english too :D). Thank you so much.
Brian’s work is great. I’ve been going full tilt with the skyscraper method on my main niche site. It works tremendously well.
For example, I published one post which now averages 1,300 to 1,400 organic search visits per month and I didn’t build a single backlink. I monetized the post with display ads and affiliate promotions… it earns $40 to $80 per month on autopilot.
That’s just one post. Due to the success of that first post, I’m publishing 3 per week and many are working their way to 1,000+ page views per month with no active link building.
Of course I go after longer tail keywords. My goal is to get 200 more skyscraper types of content published in 2015.
Thanks sounds great Jon!
I enjoyed this post alot! As always, thanks for the great info.
Its very nice to meet with you. I am a great fan of you, specially after following your niche pursuit blog. I always read your blog post and implement it for my own blog. That is really great!
Anyway my SEO GURU Spencer, recently i have purchased your wonderful invention “Long Tail Pro” and confirmed two more emails including this. Yet not i get my Licence Key that i can start my Keyword Research Immediately. Would you please tell me when i get my code to use LTP? I hope your kind response and further co operation dear.
Thanks with regards,
If you haven’t received your license key yet; please submit a ticket to longtailpro.com/support
Great podcast, thank you! I checked Brians blog and I am amazed. Good stuff!
It’s great to hear a success story and learn from someone that is so passionate about what they do. I’m still shocked at the amount of time and effort that goes into Brian’s posts. As a writer, it’s refreshing to see someone put so much detail and time into every post that they write.
After flushing out a yearly content strategy, Brian has me going back and reevaluating some of the posts I have planned.
Also, great tip on guestographics!
Glad you enjoyed the podcast Mike!
I first came across Brian Dean on quick sprout university where he delve deep into backlinking, keyword research, and other juicy topic for any mordern day marketer. Great idea in bringing him on board for an interview Spencer. I really enjoy the interview.
However, I think it is still possible to produce high quality and promote massively if you use the right king of leverage.
That’s really great
Thanks for writing!
Thanks Brian and Spencer with the super interesting podcast!
It seems that SEO is becoming more and more content marketing.
One question for Brian: what you think is your strongest skill?
I mean the skill that contributed the most to the success of Backlinko: writing, marketing, seo…
This is a great podcast, I am a fan of Brain Dean and get a lot of useful tips from his blog. I think with a combination of Dean and Haws there is a definite recipe for success. Thanks for continuing with the podcasts, how about you interview someone from the UK sometime soon for the UK audience you have?
Thanks Neil! I’ll be on the lookout for someone from the UK 🙂
I know this question may be random, but what social sharing plugin are you using? I really like it 🙂
It’s actually a custom feature of my new design. So, its not available anywhere else/not a plugin 🙁
I reckon you could develop it into a plugin. I for one would pay a few bucks for it.
Interesting take from Brian. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through the episode and it has me re-thinking my content strategy a bit for 2015. I like the idea of the deep dive. Lots to think about! Thanks!
I agree…Brian offers some interesting ideas!
i like it
for niche sites
thanks for shairng
Thanks Brian with the super interesting podcast! Keep sharing your interesting stories.