Brian Dean - Backlinko

Tell us a little about yourself


I’m a former dietitian that got into SEO about 4 years ago after reading Tim Ferris’s Four Hour Workweek.

Since then I’ve built my own web properties and consulted for clients in almost every industry under the sun. I currently live with my girlfriend in Berlin, Germany.

What is your favorite industry to conduct link building in?


My favorite industry to link build in is one where there’s a large content gap.

A content gap refers to content that’s lacking in some way, such as:

  • Design
  • Thoroughness
  • Freshness
  • Comprehensiveness

Certain industries — like diet and nutrition — have a small content gap. There’s already reams of incredible content out there about organic vegetables, interval training, and The The Paleo diet.

Of course there’s always room for improvement. But it’s going to take a lot more work to beat the content that’s out there in that space.
On the other hand, an industry like social media has a massive content gap because there’s still so much out there that hasn’t been covered yet. Same with digital marketing, green energy, and most new and evolving industries industries in general.

Where do you see link building in the next 2-3 years?


I actually see link building going back to the future in the next 2-3 years.

Back in the early days of SEO it was all about creating a great site, building relationships with other site owners, and promoting your content as best you could.

Those three things are still the basic tenets of a successful link building campaign in 2013…and will remain so in the near future.

Sites that produce outstanding content — and know how to get the word out — will be head and shoulders above the competition in 2013 and beyond.

What is your favorite link building component currently?


My favorite strategy at the moment is definitely broken link building.

Broken link building is where you find broken links on another site — point them out to the site owner — and then ask them to use your link as a replacement.

Although the conversion rate isn’t spectacular, it’s much higher than randomly emailing people and begging for a link. And unlike most link building techniques, this is actually scalable.

Here are some fantastic resources for people interested in using this technique:

What is your best piece of advice regarding building links for someone trying to do it themselves?
Great question.

I’d recommend that they get really, REALLY good at email outreach. No matter how great your content is, email outreach is the make or break factor for a successful link building campaign.

In addition to learning how to publish great content, they also need to learn how to promote it for maximum SEO value. And there’s no better way to do that than to get that content directly in front of people that are likely to link to it.

And the best way to do that is to simply email other webmasters and give them a heads up about your content. And you can use techniques like broken link building to contribute value first and increase your conversion rate.

With the internet being so vast and wide how do you encourage people to organize their link building campaign?
That’s a common problem link builders face: it’s not easy to keep prospects organized or even to know who to contact in the first place!

Something that helps me is to look at each SEO campaign as a bunch of smaller campaigns put together. For example, when I email 60 sites that came up when I searched for “SEO” + inurl:resources (a search string to find resource pages), that’s a mini-campaign. That helps me stay organized and focused.

I also use two tools to make the process more organized and efficient:

ScrapeBox: This tool is amazing when you’re looking for a large batch of potential linking opportunities. For example, let’s say you wanted to guest post on a bunch of DIY blogs. You can use Scrapebox to use multiple search strings at once (for example, “DIY” + “write for us” and “home repair” + “write for us”). Once it’s done, you can also delete duplicate results and check PageRank. This is head and shoulders above manually scouring Google for link prospects.

BuzzStream: This tool is great for organizing and tracking relationships you’ve built with other site owners.

Why do you think the link building industry is strange? (meaning so many companies, so many different approaches)


I think it’s because there’s so little objective information out there for people to go by.

There’s no place to check to see what’s working, what’s not working, and what can get you into trouble. Sure, there are some resources like Moz that do their best to provide real data to the table, but it’s not like physics where there are controlled experiments.

That means that just about anyone can start their own link building or SEO agency based on what they think will work.

How can someone protect themselves from being scammed?


I’m usually the 2nd or 3rd agency my client has worked with. Unfortunately, I’d say that more than half of all SEO agencies do shoddy work.

With that said, it’s actually somewhat easy to stay out of trouble: learn a little bit about SEO and link building.

I understand that most business owners are busy running their business, but it’s one of the most important knowledge bases a business owner can have. And you don’t need to be an SEO ninja either. Even a basic understanding of SEO can help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

Once you know the fundamentals, ask a potential provider what links they’ll build. Ask for link reports from other clients if possible.

Then give them a trial month. Ask for a full link report so you can see what was done. If the links look good, keep them on board. If they’re different than what was promised (for example, if they promised email outreach links and you got article directory links), try another provider.

Which software programs do you use? (if none, why?)


Those are the only software programs that I use to directly build links. I do a bit of competitive analysis using services like Open Site Explorer, but that’s about it.

The reason I don’t use much software is because they generally don’t build the types of backlinks that work now (and will always work). The only reason I use software is to streamline getting contextual links from authority sites in my niche. No software can do that 🙂