The Only World-Standard SEO Software

Download Now
SEO PowerSuite
SEO PowerSuite Hot-new version
Supported OS

I’m Brian Dean and SEO has changed my life: confessions of a popular IM consultant

| Posted in category Blogging Communities Experts Speak Internet Marketing Search Engine Optimization

Today Link-Assistant.Com is happy to interview Brian Dean, who many of you know as a popular online entrepreneur and a professional SEO.

In this article, you'll learn about:

- the most important thing for getting and retaining SEO clients,

- what a typical day of a make money online guy looks like,

- an affiliate marketing strategy works for Brian,

- a link building pattern can be almost universally applied to any niche,

- how to target your content when running an IM blog .


Brian's short profile

Expertise: SEO trainer,
SEO consultant,
Affiliate Marketer.

Website: Backlinko

Social: Twitter, Google+


Brian, how long have you been in internet marketing?

I got started in internet marketing in 2008. Although considering I had absolutely no clue what I was doing at the time, I'm not sure it qualifies as "marketing".

I got serious about internet marketing in 2011. I had been supporting myself as a freelance writer on Elance and contributing articles to (owned by Demand Media).

Over time, I ditched the client-based writing work and wrote almost exclusively for

Until one day Google rolled out their Panda update and almost put Demand Media out of business. A few months after that update, they fired all of their writers (including me).

It was a blessing in disguise. It got me to stop thinking about the next freelance writing gig payment and forced me to learn how to build a brand and a business online.

How do you split your efforts between managing SEO clients, running a community at Backlinko and being an affiliate?

I actually don't have too many SEO clients these days. I used to have quite a few, but over time I didn't find that the ROI was there for me. Most of my clients are hourly consulting clients now.

I spend most of my time on Backlinko and my other web properties (monetized with affiliate offers).

Earlier this year I'd say I spent around 30% of my time on Backlinko, 30% on my other sites and 40% on consulting. Now it's more like 65% on Backlinko, 20% on my other sites and 15% with client work.

Which area is most rewarding?

Backlinko is definitely the most rewarding. Even though my other sites add value to the web, they're not a community like at Backlinko.

I get emails from people on an almost-daily basis that tell me that I helped them grow their online business. It's hard to get more rewarding than that :-).

I know you also help SEO agencies a lot. In what way?

Obviously, agencies know all there is to know about SEO fundamentals, like title tags and PageRank.

But the most challenging part of SEO today isn't knowing what to do: it's knowing how to do it.

Everyone knows what a backlink from a site like or can do for their search engine traffic. But HOW can you get links from sites like that?

That's where I add value to their business. I show them how to create and promote content that appeals to other sites in their clients' niche, and how to approach those sites in a way that encourages them to link.

How do you get on the radar of SEO agencies as a consultant?

I get most of my digital marketing agency consulting projects these days from Backlinko.

Before then, it was pure word of mouth. I first connected with a web design company. That company referred me to an SEO agency, who referred me to another agency and so on.

Over time I started to get more and more random emails from people asking me to consult for their digital marketing agency.

What do you think is the best way to find consultancy job with an SEO agency?

The best (actually, the only) way to get a consulting job with an agency is to show them that you can get them results.

Agencies have been around the block and know that the SEO field is full of snake oil salesman and con artists (sad but true). So they tend to ignore anything but real world results.

So if you have a track record of getting search engine traffic and rankings in competitive industries – and can show that to agencies – you'll have no trouble getting work from digital marketing firms that want to make their clients happy.

What are your tips for getting SEO clients in general?

The most important tip is to tell them how they'll benefit from working with you in terms that they actually care about.

A mistake I made early on was talking to potential clients about things like "title tags", "PageRank" and "SERPs". Over time I learned that potential clients don't care about these things AT ALL.

They only care about critical business metrics, like traffic, leads and sales.

Once I started telling clients things like: "I can get you 45% more traffic in 3-months, which will translate to $80,000 of increased revenue," building a client list became a lot easier.

So if you can talk to them about how their investment in you can get them a positive ROI – and show them proof – you can close SEO clients with ease.

Tell us about Backlinko. How many people are there and are you a close-knit community? Could you describe your typical reader.

The Backlinko community is phenomenal. It's a group of people that work together to bring their online businesses to the next level.

The site currently gets nearly 25,000 visitors per month (and growing), with a few thousand subscribers on the Backlinko newsletter.

My typical reader is either a digital marketing agency owner, marketing executive or small business owner looking to get more search engine traffic.

Also, what is your content strategy at Backlinko? Where does your traffic comes from?

My content strategy is very simple.

First, I identify my target audience. That's the most important first step. Once you know who you're writing for it becomes A LOT easier to write content that appeals to them.

Then, I look at what problems that they're running into. I tend to look at sites like Quora and forums to see what (unanswered) questions tend to crop up again and again.

Next, I create content that solves their problems as an easy to follow, step-by-step solution. Here's an example of the type of solution-focused content I focus on.

Finally, I promote the content by getting it in front of people who are likely to share it.

Right now I get around 40% of my traffic from Google, 30% direct visitors and 30% is referral traffic (from blogs, forums and social media).

What is your affiliate niche? If you can expand on that, please name the products that work best for you. What tactics you find most effective?

I can't get into too much detail on the niches themselves (there's already enough competition!). But I can say that I have two sites that are monetized with affiliate offers. One is in a spin-off of the "make money online" niche and another is in the finance space.

Both are monetized with CPA (cost per action) offers. I like CPA because it's easy to integrate helpful offers into your site. Unlike banner ads or Adsense, you can actually integrate CPA offers into your site in a way that adds value to your readers.

For example, let's say you have a piece of content that teaches people how to find a low-APR credit card. Instead of an ugly block of Adsense ads, you can have a search field embedded on the page that allows your users to search for a credit card that fits their needs without having to leave your site. You get paid whenever someone performs and search and signs up for more information.

3 years ago (when you were just starting out online), what did your typical day look like? What does it look like now?

Well 3-years ago I was living in Cambodia. So needless to say my days here in Berlin, Germany are quite a bit different.

As I mentioned earlier in the interview, I was transitioning from a freelance writer that did SEO on the side to a full-time SEO back then.

Back then I spent a lot of time testing different things on test sites so that I wouldn't have to test anything on my clients' sites. The other chunk of time was spent applying the strategies that I knew were safe and worked on my clients' sites.

I also had a few of my own properties that I was working on. Between my money sites and my test sites, that's where I learned SEO.

Now I spend most of my time writing and producing content. I still test things, but I've pretty much figured out what works. It's just a matter of executing and scaling it.

In the bio on your site you say that SEO has changed your life. Could you explain that?


It changed my life in the sense that SEO is where I found something I enjoyed and had consistent success with.

Before then, my experience in IM was a mixed bag. I launched an ebook, which I enjoyed but wasn't really successful. I also did a lot of freelance writing, which earned me decent money but I hated it.

Once I got the hang of SEO, I had the best of both worlds: something I enjoyed and could build a profitable business around.

We've recently had a round-up on whether SEO is a good career choice. What's your opinion?

To answer your question very literally: yes, SEO experts are still in very high demand. Because SEO is now more complex - and part of a larger marketing strategy - there are fewer people on the planet who are true SEO experts. To be an SEO expert you need to know a little bit about a lot of things.

Finding someone that knows a lot about SEO - and a little about email marketing, content marketing, CRO, PPC and video marketing - isn't easy. That's why SEOs like this can charge $300+ per hour for their time.

The people that been hurt by the Google updates I've seen since entering the industry are those that can only perform one specific subset of SEO really well (for example, web directory submissions or article marketing). Once a technique gets devalued, they're essentially out of the job.

What I'd recommend to people that are considering entering the SEO industry would be to build their own site and promote the heck out of it. That's the best way to learn the little things that go into a successful site - like design, building an email list, and getting traffic - and will make you a well rounded marketer that companies desperately want to have on their team.

Your brand name (Backlinko) might be suggesting that you give more prominence to offsite SEO, i.e. link building? Is it true?

I definitely focus on off-site link building because that's the most important (and complex) part of SEO.

But the whole "off-site" vs. "on-site" thing is a false dichotomy.

What you have on your site determines what you're capable of accomplishing off-site. If you have a great site with great content, a lot of off-site opportunities open up for you.

If not, link building is going to be a struggle.

So I try to teach both sides of the story: how to create a great site and build links to it.

Is there any link building strategy that can be more or less universally be applied to any website?

Although each niche has its own unique link building opportunities, there are a few strategies can be more or less used for any website.

Guest blogging: Not the greatest link building strategy, but definitely has a place in an SEO’s arsenal. Because you’re providing so much value in the form of free content, you can usually links to just about any site in a PG-rated niche.

Resource page link building: Resource pages – pages that link out to great content – exist in just about any niche. So as long as you have a strong piece of content on your site, you can usually find resource pages that you can get a link on.

Infographics: If you can create an awesome that’s somewhat related to your niche, you can get links all day long if you know how to promote it.

Many people are looking to tap into make money online niche, and they use guys like you and Matthew Woodward as role models. What is the best advice you could give to those who look to fully rely on their online income?

Matthew Woodward is someone I follow as well. The guy knows his stuff.

The best advice I would give someone trying to make money online is to learn how to create and promote a great site.

Study sites that are doing well in different industries:

- How often are they publishing content?

- Who have they build relationships with others online?

- Are they super active on social media? If so, what networks? What do they tend to post?

- What about their site design? Simple? Complex?

- How do they monetize? Building an email list, affiliate offer or their own product?

Over time you'll put the pieces together and figure out how great sites become great.

If you can do that, you'll never have to worry about money again. Once you have traffic, followers, subscribers, and brand recognition the world is your oyster :-).

You follow Brian Dean on Twitter, Google+ and subscribe to his updates at Backlinko.

Any questions you wish we've asked Brian? Suggest them in the comments below!

back to SEO blog