Brian Dean, a digital nomad, started Backlinko in February 2010 after reading Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek. He specializes in SEO, digital marketing, and monetization. Despite initially studying nutrition, he felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. After a year of gritting his teeth, he decided to create a platform that would answer questions instantly, unlike Google’s search engine. Backlinko has since grown to include a Hummingbird upgrade, allowing users to access information on various topics.
SEO is Brian Dean’s area of expertise. His business, Backlinko, provides SEO instruction and strategies. On link building, SEO, content marketing, and monetization, he offers excellent advice. After reading Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek, Brian was motivated to start an internet business. He finally built a number of websites and learned from his triumphs and mistakes. He has been living the digital nomad dream since February 2010, working from places including Thailand, Japan, Spain, and Turkey. He currently makes his home in Berlin, Germany.
Brian, tell us about yourself and how you got into digital marketing.
I had no desire to work in marketing. I studied nutrition as my major in college and passed the exams to become a registered dietitian.
Despite my interest in nutrition, I always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole while I was a student. The culture was resistant to change. It drove me insane.
I had had enough of gritting my teeth as a PhD candidate after one year. I left school early, piled my possessions into my car, and headed back to Rhode Island, where I was born.
Sadly, the promised deluge of employment opportunities never happened. I had no prospects and was residing in my parents’ basement.
Then, one day, I had a thought:
What if you could input a question and instantly get an answer, as opposed to looking for information on Google and obtaining 10 blue links to pick from?
For example, what would happen if you entered, “How many calories are in an apple?” My search engine would reply, “An apple contains 150 calories.”
In retrospect, Google is using this technique more frequently. Their most recent Hummingbird upgrade sought to develop on this idea.)
I didn’t know anything about building a search engine or a business, so I went to my neighborhood Barnes & Noble to browse their small business section. I also came upon The Four Hour Workweek, a book with an infomercial-style title.
That book taught me that anyone could start a successful business, even a loser like me who lived in his parents’ basement.
That’s when I made the decision to put my job hunt on hold and start an internet business.
The bulk of the websites and online businesses you launched initially failed. How did you manage to avoid giving up and taking a 9-to-5 job?
True, I tried several times before I put the pieces in place and built a successful business.
My first “business” was an instructional product that assisted individuals in getting over chronic back pain, but I hate to call it a business because it was such a disaster. Given that I had no idea what I was doing, it worked rather well. However, it wasn’t enough to cover the costs.
During the first year or two of creating that information product firm, I did work as a dietician in New York City. But after failing for over a year, I made the decision to start a freelance writing career. Not The Four Hour Workweek, for example. On the other hand, I reasoned, “At least I wouldn’t have to work a job anymore.”
Writing for clients on a freelance basis helped me develop my ability to be self-motivated, operate independently, and successfully manage my time.
And it gave me the financial stability (and confidence) I needed to quit my career. And I’ve never looked back on that choice.
Since then, I’ve experienced a number of ups and downs (as any business owner would), but I haven’t thought about looking for a new job. I knew I would make anything work even though I only had $20 in my bank account when I first landed in Hong Kong. I also did.
Since then, I’ve discovered that people would do anything to survive if they are in a desperate situation.
Tell us about Backlinko, your present employer
An SEO training firm called Backlinko offers marketers practical methods to boost search engine traffic.
One-way connections from other websites pointing to your website are known as backlinks. The article’s main goal is to give users practical advice on how to build more backlinks.
The quantity and caliber of links going to a website are the most important factors in determining its rating, despite the fact that Google uses more than 200 ranking signals. You will rank higher the more links you obtain from reputable websites in your field (this is sometimes referred to as “Link Popularity”).
Determining how to obtain these links accounts about 80% of SEO. Throughout history, people have created literally hundreds of different techniques.
However, the subsequent methods are reliable and efficient:
• Guest posting: You may create high-quality links using this tactic as long as you publish guest posts on reputable websites that are pertinent to your own.
• Infographics: Infographics are a technique with a high return on investment for building connections and visitors, while being rather expensive for certain small firms.
• A blog: A blog that regularly provides top-notch material (like this one) is a tried-and-true SEO and link-building strategy.
Where can you learn about SEO and other topics?
It must be challenging to stay on top of the most efficient SEO techniques given that Google often changes the algorithm that affects page rankings.
That is relevant.
The nuances of SEO are always changing as a result of Google’s ongoing algorithm adjustments.
The principles of effective SEO, on the other hand, haven’t changed much over the past 15 years. These include creating a fantastic website with fantastic content, finding keywords that prospective customers use, marketing your content, and building links through email outreach.
It has been helpful to me to implement what I know to be very productive rather than reading about every new change to the Google algorithm.
I just studied a few reputable sites about internet marketing, including QuickSprout and Social Triggers, and put their SEO strategy advice into practice.
How challenging was it to start your business, grow it, bring in clients, advertise it, etc.?
It was really difficult.
A lot of “butt in seat time” was also present.
As you mentioned, there are a lot of insignificant elements that go into starting a business. I delegate work to experts and hire them when I can, but I’m still in charge of a lot of duties.
Since there are many fantastic free guides and paid courses that can teach you how to execute almost every area of your business, I would say that the most challenging part was investing the time to finish it rather than learning how to do it.
How do you promote your business?
For promotion, I mostly rely on content, both on my blog and on other websites (like this interview). I may use this content to sell through extra channels, such social media and email.
My top traffic source is by far Google organic search. Since Google traffic tends to convert significantly better than traffic from other sources (like social media), it is (obviously) something I pay particular attention to when promoting any website online.
Do you promote your website on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and other social media platforms? How well has it worked out for you? Any advice on how businesses may use social media to advertise themselves?
I do, but not a lot.
I have clients in almost every area, and I have never seen social media traffic convert as well as search or referral traffic.
I don’t devote a lot of time and money to social media, which is why Backlinko hasn’t had much success with it. But I do advise creating a “outpost” for your company on each of the most well-liked social media platforms online. Even if you aren’t very active, create a lovely, detailed profile and share it with others.
You will gradually gather a small number of followers that you may use if you decide to devote a lot of time and energy to that network in the future.
What mistakes have you made in business and what would you do differently now?
It is challenging to keep track of them all because there are so many.
But these are two of the biggest errors I’ve committed (and regularly see other people commit):
Not focusing on ONE thing at a time: When I launched my information product, I had NO strategy and was completely haphazard. I spent a week on Twitter since I had read that it was a significant source of traffic. I would then stop using Twitter and concentrate on Facebook after learning that I needed to use Facebook advertisements. I was never able to advance. I started to notice results only after concentrating all of my time and energy on ONE strategy.
I made the early mistake of depending solely on blog postings and $69 ebooks for my knowledge. You get what you pay for when it comes to education, just like everything else in life. I’ve invested a lot of money in training programs and classes to help me learn how to create a blog, polish my writing, and hire a virtual assistant. And I’ve gotten a lot out of it since I now have a step-by-step strategy rather than 100 blog articles with a list of suggestions.
I think you’ll be ahead of most other novices if you can avoid these two mistakes.
You are from the United States, currently reside in Berlin, Germany, and have traveled to and lived in more than 25 different countries. What made you decide to live and work abroad?
I didn’t do a lot of traveling when I was a kid. I spent most of my holidays in different parts of New England.
That was beautiful, but I’ve always wanted to see the world. I had always assumed that only people with extreme wealth could afford to traverse the globe.
After reading The Four Hour Workweek and Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, I understood that I could travel on almost any budget.
I haven’t gone back since setting off for my first destination, Thailand, in the beginning of 2010. I like the United States and hope to go back someday, but I like the flavor that living abroad gives my daily life.
What business/IT procedures did you put in place after you made the decision to travel in order to make working while traveling easier?
In fact, when I initially started, I had no protocols in place. The fact that I was not prompted to check my email while relaxing on a Malaysian beach was a good thing.
But as my business took on more importance in my life, I was forced to go my operations on the road.
The statement made by Chris Guillebeau that “you can manage a new project from the road, but you can’t start one” was quite insightful.
That is so true to life it hurts.
Since reading it, I’ve focused solely on managing projects while I’m on the road and starting new ones when I’m dwelling somewhere.
This alone has made sure that I don’t try to start anything fresh when I travel, which never works, but instead keep continuity.
What tools, resources, and equipment do you use as a “Digital Nomad” to run your “mobile office” and work when you’re traveling or residing abroad?
Actually, I don’t use a lot of equipment when I travel for work.
All that is necessary to conduct business overseas is that the bulk of workplaces are now mobile and digital.
Most standard technologies, like Gmail, Elance, and Skype, perform just as well while abroad. Simply said, I use them more often when I’m traveling than I do at home.
What’s it like to run your own company? What is your everyday schedule?
Because so much varies on the day, it is difficult to provide a response to this issue.
Most of the time, running my own business is fantastic, thrilling, and tremendously satisfying.
On occasion, though, I wish I didn’t have control because of a botched job or a freelancer who left me.
Creating material for my website or to promote Backlinko on other websites takes up the majority of my working hours.
Where does the urge to work for yourself come from? Why did you come to the conclusion that a 9-to-5 job was not for you?
Once you’ve experienced working for yourself or running a business, you won’t need much encouragement to keep going.
As I’ve said, most of my workdays are enjoyable and fulfilling. I’m not alone; many people with 9-to-5 jobs feel the same way. Therefore, continuing their present course of action may make more sense for them.
I didn’t think I was acting in the way I wanted to before I quit my typical job.
Which businessperson or person has most influenced you, and why?
As I’ve said before, Timothy Ferris is a huge influence to me.
I thought that starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur were only possible for people who were born with a unique ability or an original concept before I read his book.
Tim helped me see that everyone can succeed.
What suggestions would you provide to someone thinking about starting their own business?
I advise them to simply go ahead and do it.
You no longer need to quit your work and spend all of your savings in order to start a business. To proceed, you simply need to confirm your notion.
The training program for App Sumo Wannepreneurs is AMAZING. It teaches you how to consider your ideas carefully before settling on one so that you can start.
What plans do you have for the future?
I’ll carry on doing what I’m doing:
Developing the Backlinko brand and providing my SEO training program SEO That Works students with support.
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