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SEO for beginners with Backlinko’s Brian Dean – Part One

By Will Stevens - December 9, 2013

Brian Dean may not be a household name, but he’s certainly a success – an expert in search engine optimization, Brian has used his skills to escape the rat race and travel the world. Now he’s sharing what he has learned. In this interview Brian will take you through some of the SEO secrets that can help fire your website to the top of Google.

So let’s start at the very beginning. (If you’re looking for more advanced link building tips, you can find them in part two of the interview.)

Completely new to SEO? Brian says…

The first thing to do is to create an awesome site that people will naturally share and come back to. It’s obviously a lot of work to create a great site — but without that as your foundation — you’re not going to get results from SEO.

Once you have a great site with amazing content, however, SEO becomes a lot easier.

Still confused? 99 Designs asked the experts to tell them what makes a good website.

Looking to bring in an SEO agency and worried about scams? Brian says…

Unfortunately, scams and snake oil are very common in the SEO space.

On the bright side, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way. The best way to avoid SEO scams is to brush up on the basics of SEO.

Once you have a basic understanding of SEO, you’ll be able to spot a scam from a mile away.

Still worried? SEO community stalwart Moz has created a list of recommended SEO consultants and link builders.

Keen to get learning about the basics of SEO? Brian says…

If you’re a total beginner, Moz’s Beginners Guide to SEO is a must-read. It touches on all of the important elements that make up SEO (content, on-page SEO, keyword research etc.).

Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz.

Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz.

Once you’ve got to grips with the fundamentals, I’ve created a guide that looks at how to get your content in front of the people that matter, called Link Building: The Definitive Guide. It’s a curated list of the best link building and content marketing resources online. (Remember, we’ll be looking at link building in depth in part two of our interview).

Lastly, I’d check out Inbound.org. It’s the Reddit of digital marketing. and a great place to get a feel for what’s happening in the industry.

Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of SEO articles around? Brian says…

There’s so much SEO information out there that it can seem impossible to keep up with it all.

Fortunately, you don’t have to.

As long as you focus on these SEO fundamentals, you’ll get results:

• Publish mind-blowing content on your site: There’s no better way to dramatically increase your search engine rankings (and traffic) than to publish something amazing on your site. To maximize the links and exposure you get from your content marketing, I recommend publishing less often and pooling those “extra” resources into epic content pieces.

You need epic content (thought maybe not as epic of Beowulf)

You need epic content (though maybe not as epic as Beowulf)

• Promote your content with email outreach. Finding people that are likely to link to you and getting your content in front of them is a can’t-miss link building strategy. Email outreach isn’t exciting or cutting edge, but it gets results.

• Optimizing your content: On-page SEO is super-important. I’d spend some time optimizing (but not over-optimizing) older content on your site that may have been neglected when it was first published. Use the Google Keyword Planner to see what potential customers search for and optimize your pages around those keywords.

• Promoting your site with guest posting: Guest posting is a one-two marketing punch. First, you’re building high quality backlinks from related sites, which increases your search engine traffic. And unlike most other link building strategies, guest posting gives you the added benefit of brand exposure and referral traffic.

What about other ways you can attract visitors to your site? Brian says…

• Forum marketing is an untapped traffic and brand exposure goldmine. And it doesn’t require a huge budget or technical know-how to get started. Just find forums in your niche (there are active forums in almost any niche under the sun), participate on the forum by adding value, and bring them back to your site via your signature link (Nb You’ll want to make sure the forum links are no followed, or Google could consider the links unnatural). Simple yet effective.

You also want to get traffic from guest posts and blog mentions. Most people think that the only traffic sources online are SEO and social media. While they have huge traffic potential, a lot of the web’s traffic flows through links on other sites. If you can get your site mentioned on a high-traffic site, you’ll get hundreds of targeted visitors. For example, this guide I put together with Neil Patel of QuickSprout, landed me thousands of visitors and hundreds of new email subscribers. And it continues to bring in a trickle of traffic every day.

• Email newsletters are also massive traffic opportunities. I recently got over 3,000 unique visitors from a mention on a single newsletter! Sign up to as many newsletters in your industry as you can. See what type of content that they tend to feature (if they feature content from other sites). Then tell whoever runs the newsletter that you’re fan of their work and suggest your content for the next issue.

Ready to start building links and getting traffic? You need the right tools. Brian says…

The first must-have tool is Google Webmaster Tools. It’s an incredible free tool by Google that helps you create a more search engine-friendly site.

The next tool I’d recommend for people new to SEO is Moz Analytics. They have a very user-friendly tool called Open Site Explorer that allows you to look at other sites’ backlinks. It’s a great way to see what types of links really work (and to find link opportunities that you can tap into).

Roger the Robot, the Moz mascot.

Roger the Robot, the Moz mascot.


Once you feel that you’ve gotten the hang of SEO, you may want to “graduate” to a link analysis tool like Ahrefs, which has significantly more backlinks in its database than Open Site Explorer.

Join us next week when Brian will be guiding us through the process of building the links that help sites rank well in search engines in part two of this interview. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the issues we’ve covered here, let us know in the comments.