SEO Expert Brian Dean on Google in 2014


Brian Dean


Link building expert and founder of Backlinko.

In our first Q&A, we spoke to Neil Patel and our conclusion was that content is king. However, with any solid SEO strategy you always have some extra secrets hidden up your sleeve. Our next expert Brian Dean is that hidden secret, founder of Backlinko, Brian is a well known backlink expert with one of the most popular blogs and newsletters in the industry. His insights are invaluable when it comes to those backlink strategies. If you didn’t know about Brian until know, it’s my pleasure to have introduced you to him.

In your opinion, is Google headed in the right direction with Panda and all its algorithm updates, or do you think Google can and should be doing more to ensure integrity of their search results?

I think they’ve played it perfectly. In retrospect they were brilliant to suddenly roll out their huge algorithm updates in a single day. And naming them, that was even smarter. Why? Because if they gradually tweaked the algorithm and left the updates nameless, it wouldn’t have had the same psychological impact on the SEO community as the sudden, branded updates had.

And let’s face it: SEO has changed A LOT since Panda and (especially) Penguin. And that’s exactly what Google wanted. I can’t speak for all searchers but I’ve noticed that the overall quality of the search results are a bit better since they started making these major algorithm updates.

Content marketing plays a big role in most SEO companies. What are your thoughts on this SEO strategy, and how do you go about it?

To me, content marketing and SEO are two different things. SEO is the process of maximising your site’s searchengine traffic. Content marketing is getting traffic, exposure and brand awareness with content. Not the same. There’s a lot of overlap (especially when it comes to link building), but they’re not interchangeable terms. That being said, content marketing IS one of the best ways to get more search engine traffic. I’ve seen from experience that outstanding content – when properly promoted – gives you exactly what Google wants: high-quality links, social signals and user experience signals.

What do you think about Google’s decision on missing keyword data? Is it a good or bad change from an SEO point of view?

brian-dean-quoteDefinitely bad. We took it for granted, but that keyword data was incredibly valuable for seeing which keywords converted best. My approach to SEO is to identify those high-converting keywords and then put my resources behind ranking for those terms. (Not provided) makes that more difficult (although there are some tricks you can use to get similar information).

How much of your time do you spend on social media marketing in general?

As little as possible! But seriously, I haven’t seen social media traffic convert very well in any vertical. So I put my time and energy behind getting traffic from channels that convert really well (namely SEO and referral traffic from blogs). That being said, social media should be part of your digital marketing mix. But I think most people spent way too much time tweeting instead of building links.

What is the most valuable SEO software in your tool set?

Probably One of the best ways to find low hanging fruit link opportunities by reverse engineering your competition. I’ve tried almost every tool out there and I’ve found that ahrefs has the largest and more up-to-date index on the market.

We know that Google has the biggest market share in Europe. Do you specifically optimise your websites to other search engines or focusing solely on Google?

I’ll take traffic from Yahoo! and Bing when I can get it – but because they make up such a tiny sliver of search engine traffic – I don’t do anything special to court them.

What’s most important piece of advice on how a start-up should market their company to place themselves on the industry’s map?

To create an awesome product. If you’re a start-up all the marketing and PR in the world isn’t going to get you sustained results without an awesome product to back it up. That’s the foundation. Other than that, I’d follow the Buffer model of a) pinpointing where there customers hang out and then b) putting awesome content in front of them.

What’s your top tip on conducting SEO for future proof websites?

Be very careful about anchor text. Despite the fact that it’s well know that Google’s Penguin update targeted sites with over-optimised anchor text, most people still don’t pay close enough attention to their anchor text distribution. Instead of mixing in generic anchor text like “this site” and “here” with exact-match anchors, look at the anchor text that the top 10 in your industry tend to have. It’s likely that they have a huge mix of anchor text, which is natural. If you do the same thing, you’ll be well on your way to future proof SEO.

As always, we praise Google’s genius but envy their control over the search market. The odd bit of traffic from Yahoo! and Bing will also do nicely. I liked the point Brian made about content marketing and SEO being two completely different things. This also correlates into the point he made about social media why social media shouldn’t be thought of as part of an SEO strategy. Yes it can generate traffic and promote brand awareness, but it isn’t a sustainable avenue. You have some control over what Google is up to, but companies like Facebook can completely change overnight and destroy anything you had been working on and if you think spamming some links to Twitter 5 times a day is a good strategy then wake up and smell the coffee, because it’s not. I’m not the only one who completely avoids Twitter accounts that clearly just spam links day in day out. Treat Twitter followers the same way you would treat Facebook page likes, there are real people on the other end who would no doubt like to read some rich and insightful content, not all of them are spam accounts.

I also think Brian touched on a really good point about new startup products, you can plough thousands into a SEO/Marketing strategy but if your products isn’t up to scratch it’s all wasted time and money. You also want to sit down with your SEO team or person and sell them your vision, show them how passionate you are about a new product. Prove to them that their time won’t be wasted. It could very well save you one day.

Do you agree with what I or Brain has said? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts.

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