Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko)

Last updated: Jul 1, 2023

The video is an interview with Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, where he discusses his journey into the world of SEO and how he transitioned from creating niche websites to building a legitimate brand with quality content.

This video by Nathan Gotch was published on Nov 1, 2022.
Video length: 01:01:13.

The video is an interview with Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko, a popular SEO blog.

Dean discusses how he got into SEO by accident and his journey from creating niche sites to building a legitimate brand with a focus on creating high-quality content. He also talks about his process for writing and outsourcing content and the importance of building relationships within your niche.

Overall, the video provides insights into Dean's approach to SEO and how he has become a leading figure in the industry.

  • Brian Dean got into SEO by accident after launching his first website.
  • He created a lot of niche sites with exact match domains, but they all got wiped out with updates.
  • He transitioned to building a legitimate brand and created Backlinko.
  • He focused on creating work really helpful content and building relationships with others in his niche.
  • Having an editor-in-chief is valuable to ensure quality standards are met before publishing.
  • Brian has a unique blend of skills that is hard to replicate, including being a great SEO, copywriter, and YouTuber.
  • It's best to find people in the wild who are already writing about the topic you need content for.
  • Brian learned to write simply by doing so while creating niche websites and freelance writing.
  • Email launches are more effective and easier to plan and execute than video launches.

Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) - YouTube

Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 001

Brian's Journey into SEO

  • Brian got into SEO by accident after reading the Four Hour Work Week and launching his first website.
  • He realized it was hard to get traffic to the site and gravitated towards SEO out of necessity.
  • He got into the niche site world where he created one-page websites with exact match domains.
  • He created about 150 of those at one point, but they all got wiped out with a panda update.
  • He then created a different batch of niche websites that were a little bit better, but those got wiped out with penguin.
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Transitioning to Building a Legitimate Brand

  • After penguin, Brian wanted to create a legit site because he realized he needed to create a real brand that's what Google wants anyway.
  • He built a site in the personal finance space that really took off very quickly in 2012.
  • He realized that creating work really helpful content is cool and effective.
  • He searched for information on how to create great content, but it was a lot of fluff.
  • He created Backlinko as sort of the blog he wanted to read and the resource that he wanted to check out at the time but didn't exist.
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Brian's Niche Websites

  • Brian's original niche sites were complete garbage, like one page hired the cheapest person he could find on upwards to write them.
  • It was a complete game of exact match domains, find a keyword, get an exact match domain, hire someone to write.
  • He had a whole process that was like someone would actually find a keyword, register the domain, hire the writer, get them to write it, and publish it.
  • It wasn't until after penguin that he had a come to Jesus moment where he realized he needed to create something great to rank in Google for the long term.
  • He focused on one site, built it up, made it a brand, and built relationships with other people in his niche for guest posts and cross promotions.
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Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) - YouTube

Developing Current Strategies

  • With the finance site, Brian eventually outsourced the writing, but he wanted full control of the site at first.
  • He realized he was outsourcing too quickly and wanted to master things before outsourcing them.
  • He wrote most of the content himself and eventually found writers who were knowledgeable about the space.
  • He still edits the content and thinks there's a sort of magic in having someone who really cares about the content writing or editing it.
  • He doesn't write any of the content for his current project, but he still edits it.
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Quality Control and Content Creation

  • Having an editor-in-chief is valuable to ensure quality standards are met before publishing.
  • Many blogs experience a drop in quality when they let guest posts slip through or their editorial standards slip.
  • Exploring Topics was a project where Brian wrote all the content himself and was very involved in the process.
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Scaling Quality Content Creation

  • It's offensive if writing isn't your thing or you're not a domain expert, but you can find someone who is 150% better than you.
  • With Backlinko, Brian lived, breathed, and slept SEO, so finding someone who could do that was difficult.
  • The ability to translate SEO into easy-to-understand content and tips that people can implement is even harder.
  • The real secret sauce is having experience in the trenches and translating that into content.
  • There's no process or editorial guidelines that can cover that stuff, so it's all about finding the right person.
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Brian's Unique Skill Set

  • Brian has a unique blend of skills that is hard to replicate, including being a great SEO, copywriter, and YouTuber.
  • It's hard to create a blog like Backlinko unless you have the copywriting ability.
  • Brian didn't have a natural skill for copywriting, but he wrote a lot and learned to write simply.
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Finding Quality Writers

  • It's best to find people in the wild who are already writing about the topic you need content for.
  • Start a conversation with them and see if they'd be interested in starting with a small project for you.
  • There's no process to get someone to 100%, but finding the right person is key.
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Learning Copywriting

  • Brian learned to write simply by doing so while creating niche websites and freelance writing.
  • He started writing sales letters and realized how much more he could charge for them.
  • He researched how to write sales letters and read classic copywriting books and PDFs.
  • He learned that copywriting is about writing simply and from the perspective of the reader.
  • He realized that most business owners can already write copy, they just need to relax and have fun with it.
  • Copywriting is about being clear, engaging, and speaking directly to the reader's wants and needs.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 012

Writing Style for Sales Letters vs. Informational Content

  • The structure of sales letters and informational content is different, but the writing style is similar.
  • Sales letters are engaging and speak directly to the reader's wants and needs.
  • Informational content tends to be dry and general, but it can still be engaging with a little bit of fun and attention-grabbing language.
  • The structure of informational content is usually a list of tips or an ultimate guide.
  • The structure of sales letters includes feature lists, risk reversal, and getting the reader interested in the pain point.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 013

Product Launch Strategies

  • The video three-part series product launch strategy is overrated and outdated.
  • People are familiar with the format and tend to skip through the videos.
  • The level of effort required for video launches is much higher than email launches.
  • Email launches are more effective and easier to plan and execute.
  • Brian learned that it's important to adapt and change strategies over time based on what works best.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 015

Brian's Journey into SEO

  • Brian started with creating niche websites.
  • He transitioned to building a legitimate brand with quality content.
  • He focused on creating messaging that leads people from understanding the problem to finding a solution.
  • He refined his messaging over time and took out all the unnecessary bells and whistles.
  • He saw a 10x increase in sales by improving his messaging.
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Simplifying Launches

  • Brian used to make his launches as complicated as possible for no reason.
  • He realized that simplicity is the key to successful launches.
  • He simplified his launches to just four emails with no segmentation.
  • He believes that the launch is the most misunderstood thing in marketing.
  • He emphasizes the importance of the launch in getting two to three times the sales.
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Handling the Pressure of Launches

  • Brian acknowledges the pressure of launches, especially when it's a big part of your annual revenue.
  • He experienced a lot of stress during launches.
  • He got used to it towards the end and felt less pressure.
  • He believes that having a process down and testing everything a million times can help alleviate the pressure.
  • He emphasizes the importance of healthy paranoia in testing everything and checking if everything is working during the week.
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The Importance of Messaging

  • Brian believes that messaging is the lever that really makes a difference in SEO.
  • He focuses on creating messaging that leads people from understanding the problem to finding a solution.
  • He emphasizes the importance of relatability in messaging.
  • He simplifies his messaging by taking out all the unnecessary bells and whistles.
  • He saw a 10x increase in sales by improving his messaging.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 020

Launch Strategy

  • The last day of a launch is the most important day for sales.
  • Building up to the last day is crucial for success.
  • During the week leading up to the last day, messaging should not be too pushy.
  • Even if sales are lower during the week, they can be made up for on the last day.
  • Shutting down a product and doing a hybrid launch model can be effective.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 021

Transition to Evergreen Model

  • Switching to an Evergreen model can reduce stress levels.
  • Shutting down a product every six months and doing a hybrid launch model can still be effective.
  • Exploring Topics uses a launch model for product pricing increases and feature launches.
  • Feature launches involve building up to the release and offering bonuses or discounts.
  • Using scarcity and urgency can encourage people to buy before the price increases.
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Stress Points During Launches

  • The middle of the week leading up to the last day is the highest stress point.
  • Copywriting conventions and persuasion techniques may not result in sales during this time.
  • The last day of a launch is predictable and can make up for lower sales during the week.
  • Using the same launch model for different products can be effective.
  • Feature launches involve building up to the release and offering bonuses or discounts.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 024

Importance of Last Day

  • The last day of a launch is the most important day for sales.
  • 80% of sales can come in on the last day.
  • Using a last reminder email can result in 30% of sales.
  • Lower sales during the week can be made up for on the last day.
  • Shutting down a product and doing a hybrid launch model can be effective.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 025

Brian Dean's Launch Strategy

  • Friction is low for signing up for a trial before launch.
  • Last call on the last day doesn't do as well as pricing increase.
  • Launching grabs people's attention.
  • Course launches are powerful because it goes away after that day.
  • Long-term pricing is trickier, and they are discussing it with the team.
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Pricing Experimentation

  • It takes a long time to see how pricing experiments work.
  • Adding too many variables can be detrimental.
  • The next move for their pricing is to add a third tier.
  • Enterprise clients are leaving money on the table.
  • They need to justify the Enterprise plan and make it a no-brainer for customers.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 027

Customer Avatar Shift

  • The customer avatar has totally shifted over time.
  • Initially, they targeted content and SEO people.
  • They discovered that people in other industries also found their product useful.
  • They now target people who want to stay ahead of the curve in their industry.
  • They also target people who want to create content that will be popular in the future.
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Backlinko's Content Strategy

  • They focus on creating high-quality content that is useful to their audience.
  • They use data-driven research to create their content.
  • They use a lot of visuals in their content to make it more engaging.
  • They focus on creating evergreen content that will be relevant for years to come.
  • They also create content that is timely and relevant to current events.
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Discovering the Need for Broad Trends

  • Niche websites only cover a limited range of topics.
  • Exploring broad topics allows for more diverse trends.
  • Investors are interested in trends across different industries.
  • Environmental trends can impact food trends.
  • Investors want to know about emerging markets.
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Pivoting Towards Investors

  • Changing branding to be more serious and B2B focused.
  • Messaging changed to focus on investment opportunities.
  • Investors have more capital and are more likely to invest long-term.
  • Niche site users have high churn rates.
  • Aligning with users to encourage success and retention.
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Challenges with Retention

  • Users may find an idea and no longer need the service.
  • Targeting investors who are interested in long-term investments.
  • The bear market has affected the investing space.
  • VCs are frozen, making it difficult to find investors.
  • Macro factors affect the investing space more than other industries.
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Impact of Changes

  • Messaging changes had an immediate impact.
  • Investors are more interested in investment opportunities than blog post topics.
  • Investors with more capital are more likely to invest long-term.
  • Users of niche sites have high churn rates.
  • Aligning with users to encourage success and retention.
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Transition to Annual Pricing

  • Switched to annual pricing to reduce churn and increase MRR.
  • Targeting VC firms for funding as they have a war chest and are always looking for the next big thing.
  • Annual pricing is great because it locks in MRR for the whole year.
  • Annual pricing reduces delinquent churn as there is only one charge per year.
  • Annual pricing reduces the need for successful charges every month.
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Comparison of Annual vs Monthly Pricing

  • Annual pricing reduces churn and increases LTV.
  • Annual pricing reduces delinquent churn as there is only one charge per year.
  • Annual pricing is more expensive but cheaper to keep a customer than acquire one.
  • Annual pricing reduces the need for successful charges every month.
  • Annual pricing reduces the need for successful charges every month.
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Backlinko's Impact on Exploding Topics

  • Backlinko helped with early traction for Exploding Topics.
  • Exploding Topics had a successful launch due to Backlinko's existing audience.
  • Backlinko's impact was temporary and traffic eventually went back to normal.
  • Backlinko's impact helped on day one of Exploding Topics' launch.
  • Backlinko's impact reduced the effort and money needed to start Exploding Topics.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 039

Knowing Your Numbers in a SAS Business

  • Knowing your numbers is important in a SAS business.
  • Annual pricing reduces churn and increases LTV.
  • Annual pricing reduces delinquent churn as there is only one charge per year.
  • Annual pricing is more expensive but cheaper to keep a customer than acquire one.
  • Annual pricing reduces the need for successful charges every month.
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Launching Exploding Topics

  • Thought the free tool would be enough to promote the launch, but it wasn't
  • Launch was massive, with 30,000 visitors to the site and number one product of the month on Product Hunt
  • Realized that the tool didn't make a difference in the long term
  • Having an audience helped with the launch, but it wasn't a game changer
  • Skills and relationships were more valuable than having a big email list
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 041

Marketing Exploding Topics

  • SEO and email are the most effective marketing vehicles
  • Exploding Topics is linkable, but not many natural links are coming in
  • Outreach is necessary to get links
  • Creating original research and stats is effective for getting links
  • Reverse Outreach is a strategy for ranking for terms that journalists and bloggers are searching for
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 043

SEO for Exploding Topics

  • SEO is the most effective marketing vehicle for Exploding Topics
  • Getting 75-80% of traffic from SEO
  • Tool started at 0% and then grew to 10-20%
  • Creating linkable assets is important for SEO
  • Original research and stats are effective for getting links and improving SEO
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 044

Transitioning from Backlinko to Exploding Topics

  • Skills developed from building Backlinko apply to Exploding Topics
  • Relationships and team from Backlinko helped with the launch of Exploding Topics
  • Had to think of marketing Exploding Topics as if Backlinko never existed
  • SEO and email are the most effective marketing vehicles for both businesses
  • Creating linkable assets and doing Outreach are important for both businesses
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 045

Creating Content for SEO

  • Search intent is creating a good resource that people want to link to.
  • Find early topics that don't have a lot of competition.
  • Creating content for acquiring links that may not be for the ideal customer.
  • Targeting trends and topics that people are searching for.
  • Pairing informational content with content designed for acquiring links.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 047

Transitioning from How-To Content to Trend-Focused Content

  • Targeting trends and topics that people are searching for.
  • VCs are searching for lists of startups that are growing.
  • There isn't a lot of how-to content that directly relates to what they do.
  • Low hanging fruits are still to be covered before getting into how-to content.
  • Most people in SEO are searching for how-to content.
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Knowing When to Move On from a Project

  • Having another project made it easier to move on.
  • Feeling like everything that needed to be said was said.
  • Repeating a lot of the same stuff.
  • Not a lot new happening in the SEO space.
  • AI is the only thing that's really interesting and happening right now.
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Challenges of Explaining SEO Concepts to Clients

  • Explaining the concept of creating content for acquiring links.
  • Creating content that may not be for the ideal customer.
  • Using a ratio of 20% content for acquiring links and 80% content for the ideal customer.
  • Trying to explain to clients that some content is not for their ideal customer.
  • Using low hanging fruits to cover before getting into how-to content.
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Transitioning from Solo to Team

  • Brian didn't want to hire a team and become a full-time guru doing Instagram stories.
  • He felt like he finished what he needed to do with Backlinko and had another project.
  • He received a great offer from a great company that he had been a paying customer for 10 years.
  • All those factors together made it sort of a no-brainer to sell.
  • It was a tough decision, but he didn't rush with it too much.
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Challenges of Creating New Content

  • It's hard to come up with new concepts and ideas.
  • Real success is doubling down on what works and scaling a couple of things.
  • With Backlinko, Brian needed to publish more stuff, get more links, and launch more courses.
  • He didn't have as much to teach because he was just doing the same stuff and trying to scale what was there.
  • He tried to teach some things he learned about scaling content, but that was also a challenge.
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The Future of Brian's YouTube Channel

  • Brian wants to publish videos on his YouTube channel again, but he wants to make them very different than how they were.
  • He wants to make it less formal and more where he can just put on the camera and blab about something.
  • He hasn't figured out a format, a template, or topics to cover that really get him excited.
  • He doesn't feel any pressure because Backlinko has exploding topics.
  • He's trying to figure out the next point forward.
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Batch Recording Videos for Backlinko

  • Brian was batch recording videos for Backlinko.
  • He would record for like eight or nine hours because a huge part of the courses and YouTube videos combine a lot of video content.
  • There's prep work to go in like making sure the lights are set up properly.
  • It was tough because the studio days were really tiring and pressure-filled.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 055

Creating Video Content

  • Recorded two days in a row to maximize efficiency and keep the setup the same.
  • Standing up in front of a camera for 8 hours straight is tiring.
  • Repurposed blog posts into video scripts to save time.
  • Used to write video scripts from scratch, but realized it was unnecessary.
  • Scripts were copied and pasted with minor changes.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 057

Post-Production Process

  • It took years to get to the point where the post-production process was streamlined.
  • Eventually, it got to the point where the video was sent off and came back finished.
  • Two editors were used, one for cutting and stitching and the other for graphics and animations.
  • Used a tool to collaborate on the video.
  • Realized that 99% of the things he was worried about didn't matter in the final product.
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Letting Go of Perfectionism

  • Realized that people on YouTube are forgiving as long as the content is entertaining and good.
  • Stopped being picky and let go of the need for perfection.
  • Perfection is a horrible standard to have for everybody.
  • Letting go allowed for more creativity and better content.
  • Agencies that do video struggle with YouTube because they don't understand that it's different from conventional standards.
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) 059

Mr. Beast and YouTube Culture

  • YouTube culture is different from conventional standards.
  • Mr. Beast's videos are well-produced but also erratic.
  • People wanted to see a "hick in his backyard doing crazy stuff" before he became a cultural icon.
  • Marketing or filming commercials is different from creating content for YouTube.
  • Spending two days on a 30-second spot is not practical for YouTube content.
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Lesson Learned: Relax Your Standards on Production Value

  • Production value is not the only thing that separates you from others.
  • A production value of 9 out of 10 performs the same as 10 out of 10.
  • Spending hours on editing and extra work doesn't make a difference.
  • A 9 out of 10 production value can be more relatable.
  • Overly producing content can make it less relatable.

Watch the video on YouTube:
Meet the King of SEO | Brian Dean (Backlinko) - YouTube

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