How SEO Expert, Brian Dean, Does Link Building [Interview]

Brian-Dean-Interview-BacklinkoThis week, our guest contributor, Brian Dean from Backlinko, was kind to answer a few questions for us and let us have a sneak peak into his work routine. If you can’t go to Berlin to meet Brian, this is your chance to gain some knowledge from him.

For those of you who don’t already know Brian Dean, although I doubt there is anyone who doesn’t, you can find all about him and what he does at Backlinko, here.

Read carefully and if you have questions that you’d like to ask Brian, just write them down below.

Enjoy! 🙂

Q: What’s your workflow on a regular, link building workday?

A: I usually start off gathering a list targets.

Depending on the campaign I might be looking at: resource pages, broken links, or guest posting opportunities.

Then I spend some time cleaning up the list by filtering out irrelevant and low quality sites.

Then the real work starts: email outreach.

That’s where I look at each individual site on the list, see where link opportunities exist, and reach out to them.

Then I usually check back to see who replied and respond to them with my link request (I usually only ask for a link in the 2nd or 3rd email).

Q: What would be your advice for setting up a link building campaign from scratch for a new website? Where it should all start from?

A: Good question.

It all starts with finding the content gap in your niche and filling it with outstanding stuff. Without that incredible value-packed content, it’s really hard to get momentum for a new campaign.

But when you have a linkable asset that you can leverage for links, you can hit the ground running.

For example, let’s say you had a site about scrapbooking.

You’d want to look at the content that’s already out there by searching for your target keywords in Google or by looking up scrapbooking blogs in AllTop.

Then you’d find one or more ways of beating that content. You can beat what’s out there by making it more up-to-date, more thorough, better designed etc.

Once that’s live, it’s time to pound the pavement and start doing outreach.

Q: What is your strategy for finding new link prospects?

A: It depends on the strategy.

That’s because I usually find new link prospects using very specific search strings. And that inherently limits me to certain link opportunities.

For example, if I’m looking for places to publish a guest post, I’d use search strings like:

“link building” + “write for us”

“SEO” + “guest post by”

“marketing” + “guest post guidelines”

And those will bring up a completely different set of results than if I’m doing broken link building or looking for places to publish an infographic.

To answer the question: it depends on the type of links that I’m looking to build…but it all starts with search strings.

Q: I know you have been asked before about your favorite link building technique. What’s your least preferred technique and why?

A: I’d say my least favorite tactic is link bait or ego bait. I haven’t found either of them to have a predictable ROI. Both are a total crapshoot.

Sometimes you get lucky and the link bait works. But more times than not the content is a total dud.

And unlike a value-packed linkable asset, link bait has a VERY short shelf life. If it doesn’t generate links in the first week, it’s probably never going to.

I generally prefer to create an awesome linkable asset vs. rolling the dice with linkbait.

Q: What’s your strategy if you get rejected or ignored by a link prospect you have had high hopes from?

A: It depends on the industry, but I usually just move on.

For example, take the internet marketing space. There are thousands of link opportunities. I don’t need to lie, beg, cheat and steal for every link. If someone doesn’t link to me, there are dozens of others that will. No biggie.

But if I’m working in a space like insurance or have a client with an obscure service, I need to be a bit more aggressive. Usually if the person ignores me or says “no”, I just ask them why.

That way I get some feedback I can apply to that campaign. Sometimes I even get a link just for not being pushy 🙂

Q: What would you say it would be a satisfying conversion rate for an email outreach campaign?

A: That’s tough to answer because it depends on the industry, the content that you’re using as leverage, and your email scripts.

But I’d say that anything below 2% is pretty poor. If you’re getting 1% or less, it’s probably a good idea to look at ways you can improve your outreach.

But the fact is, the conversion rates in an industry hover somewhere in the 2%-5% range. It’s just the nature of the beast. But it is possible to bump those up considerably.

Here are two great resources that can help you get better conversions from email outreach:

The Link Builder’s Guide to Email Outreach

6 Ways to Make Link Building Outreach More Effective

Q: What do you think about internal links? Do they matter? How?

A: I think they definitely matter in the sense that you can send PageRank to important pages that you want to rank. That’s one of the great things about building a linkable asset: even if that page doesn’t rank for anything you can still use it to send authority to the pages you’re targeting.

But for internal linking to work you need to have authority on your site to begin with. Linking from a PR n/a page on your site to another page isn’t going to do much for you.

Honestly, I don’t go nuts with internal linking. I just identify the top pages I want to rank and point links to them every time I publish something new. That tends to work 🙂

Q: What about outbound links?

A: Outbound links are really important from an on-page SEO and user experience perspective.

Google wants to send people to hubs on the web that answer their query and make them satisfied with the Google search results. And its VERY rare that a single page can do that. That’s where outbound links come into play: they add depth to content.

Also, in my experience, a page with zero outbound links usually isn’t very well done.

But it’s also important for user experience. Yes, people may leave your website through an outbound link and never come back. That’s an inherent risk with putting an outbound link on a page.

But there’s something about seeing a page with a ton of outbound links that makes you think: “a lot of work went into this”. I generally link out at least 3-4 times per article.

Q: When you come up with a new link building technique, do you perform any tests on it before applying it on your website? If so, how?

A: Actually, I usually come up with them by accident. So the test is built in 🙂

For example, when I first discovered guestographics (a strategy where you offer a bit of free content to encourage people to share your infographic), I was doing an infographic outreach campaign for a new client. I really, REALLY wanted people to share it to impress this client, so I started dropping this line in my email pitches:

“And if you’re interested in sharing it, my client would be happy to write a unique introduction just for your site”.

Once I did that I noticed a massive increase in conversions. Then I realized I was onto something. At that point I already knew that it worked. So it was just a matter of testing it in a different vertical to see if it would work in that one too.

Q: What are your thoughts on the future of guest posting?

A: I think that guest posting still has a place in SEO and link building. But like anything, it’s about how you do it.

Mass guest posting on hundreds of sites with the same author bio and the same anchor text isn’t smart. In fact, I’ve done some testing and found that backlinks in clearly-marked author bio areas don’t provide as much SEO value as a true contextual link.

That being said, they still provide some value. So that doesn’t mean you should abandon the strategy altogether. But I see Google working hard to devalue guest post links in the future. So the more you can make guest post links look natural (getting contextual links, posting on related sites, and mixing up your author bio and anchor text), the better off you’ll be in the long and short term.

Q: Do you have any predictions for 2014 as it relates to link building and SEO?

A: I actually think it will be a relatively quiet year. I expect more Penguin refreshes and for Google to refine Penguin so that it gets better at separating the wheat from the chaff. But I don’t expect any major update. That being said, you never know in this industry!

The only thing that I see continuing as a current trend is more volatility in the Google results. There’s been a lot of turbulence in the SERPs this year. The results usually end up somewhat back to normal in the end, but not always.

So the days of saying “I’m ranking #4 for this keyword”, might be coming to a close.

Q: To end on a fun note, what is your favorite way to procrastinate? 🙂

A: I usually go on Inbound.org. Actually, that’s not really procrastinating because it’s about marketing. I guess I’m a nerd like that 🙂

Q: Please tell people where can they learn more about you and what you do.

A: I share the best SEO content on the web via Twitter. You can also find me on Google+.

Thanks, Brian for sharing all this with us!

Hope @everybody enjoyed this Q&A session as much as I did. Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and your questions for Brian in the comment section below 😉

Author: Dana Loiz

Dana Loiz is an Online Marketing Strategist at Caphyon. She is passionate about her job and always in a mood to chat about SEO, Internet Marketing and Social Media. She tweets the news at @awebranking and you can also find her on Google+.

3 thoughts on “How SEO Expert, Brian Dean, Does Link Building [Interview]”

  1. I truly agree to what Brian has stated about outbound links. Outbound links are equally important from users & search engines point of view, but is it ideal to keep the outbound links as Do-follow links, or is it good to have the outbound links as No-follow links?

    1. If the link is worth it (and it should be, otherwise why have it there?) then I would always suggest leaving it as do-follow. People will see that you link to them and they always appreciate it, so you might make a new friend that will link to you later on.

    2. Good question, Rahul. I always make my outbound links dofollow. That way I don’t look like I’m trying to hoard PageRank on my site.

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