How Brian Dean of Backlinko Grew His Traffic in the Ultra Competitive World of SEO Blogs


Brian Dean is founder of Backlinko, a website that offers next-level SEO training and link building strategies, sharing free tips through a website, YouTube channel, and email marketing that are designed to make a market for online courses he sells. 

He started his company in 2013, but it took three before his traffic started to pick up. Now he does roughly half a million unique visitors per month. Here’s what changed.

“When I started, I was really focused in quantity over quality,” Brian says, “because I was in a super-competitive space”. Back then, there were already a lot of SEO and marketing blogs, so he had to compete against giants like Hubspot and Neil Patel

When he realized just putting out content wasn’t working, he decided to start producing massive guides that were well designed to help him to stand out from the crowd. They were expensive to make. But he looked at it as an investment. When he found it hard to scale, he started hiring more people, mostly gig workers, to get the job done. He still writes all the text himself, but now he’s built a team around his content production. 

How to Hire Gig Workers

Brian’s advice is to not make your instructions that detailed. It’s better to just give people the end result, and let them figure out how to produce it. So rather than spell out detailed instructions on Fiverr and Upwork for his gigs, he just post links to the finished product and lets candidates use those as the guide for what they are trying to produce. At the end of the day, he’d rather have someone who can deliver the result than someone who needs a lot of instruction. He recommends hiring a lot of people for the same job and seeing who performs best.

Rank for Passages

Soon Google will introduce passage indexing, which Brian describes as the search engine making long pages on a website discoverable as segments or “passages”, which can rank individually. This will make it easier to find sections inside long form content without having to scroll and scan for what you’re looking for in a long form post. Brian invented the skyscraper technique so optimizing long form content it particularly important to him. “It’s really important now to divide up long form posts into clear sections, which was always a best practice, because it’s good for readability.”

That being the case, is it a good idea to have a table of contents index at the beginning of your page with links to each passage or section? Brian hesitates to call it a must-have, but he believes it’s helpful for users nonetheless. Unfortunately, there is no WordPress plugin for that. You have to code those links by hand.

One of the areas I always struggle with is measuring traffic from my email marketing to my site. I do my UTM links manually with Google Campaign Builder. Is there a better way to go? Brian says that your email service provider will tell you how many people clicked on your link, but other than that, if you want accurate email metrics to show up in Google Analytics, you have to manually set up your UTM parameters for all your links.

In terms Brian’s favorite Digital Marketing stack, his frontend is still WordPress, but he  recoded his backend with next.js, which is a JavaScript framework much faster than PHP. But he warns that it takes quite good technical skills to implement this type of solutions.

For more information about his favorite tools and how to create great online courses and newsletters, be sure to check the full conversation, which was loaded with interesting tips. And check out this SEO for news websites.

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