Founder Interviews: Brian Dean of Backlinko by@Davis
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Founder Interviews: Brian Dean of Backlinko

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Davis Baer

Host of Hacker Noon Founder Interviews

About @Davis
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Learn how Brian Dean took his SEO training company from $0 to a growing 7-figure business.

Davis Baer: What’s your background, and what are you working on?

Brian Dean: I’m Brian Dean, founder and CEO of Backinko, an online training company I started in 2013.

(It’s also the home of a popular blog that gets over 200k unique visitors per month)

We create online courses that help people get higher rankings and more traffic.

We’ve since grown the blog into a growing, 7-figure business.

What motivated you to get started with Backlinko?

I started the business to scratch my own itch.

In 2012 I launched my first successful website. For the first time, I used white hat SEO to get my site to rank. And it was flooded with targeted traffic.

It was so successful in fact, that I was able to stop doing SEO consulting and wind down my marketing agency (that I hated running).

Anyway… I was excited to learn more.

But when I went to read SEO blogs to help me take my knowledge to the next level, I was disappointed.

So I decided to create the blog that I wanted to read. And Backlinko was born.

I launched my first post in early 2013. And after promoting it on some popular marketing forums, I knew I was onto something. People really enjoyed the post (and shared it).

Once I built an audience, I got the same question from readers again and again:

“Brian, do you have a course on SEO?”

As it turns out, people are overwhelmed with SEO content. There’s A LOT of it out there. And it’s hard to sift through. Enter: a step-by-step course.

So I created our first flagship course, SEO That Works, in late 2013. It’s been almost 5 years (we’re up to SEO That Works 3.0), but that’s still our bread and butter.

What went into building the initial product?

When I created our first course, I had zero team. It was 100% me.

So I used free resources like Google Docs to write the outline and the course material itself.

And I asked my friend to shoot videos in my apartment with a DSLR camera.

It took about 4 months from start to finish to create the first version of my course.

How have you attracted users and grown Backlinko?

We focused 100% on SEO and content marketing.

I knew early on that I wasn’t going to get any press from our product. So we tripled down on content.

One thing we did different than most is focus on publishing ONE epic resource per month.

(Most blogs publish 1–2x per week).

And it was (and still is) a massive competitive advantage.

While most people in our space were publishing “5 tips for higher rankings” post, we were publishing stuff like this:


It didn’t happen overnight (SEO takes time), but we eventually secured top 3 Google rankings for tons of important keywords (like “link building”, “on page SEO” and more).

What’s your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?

100% of our revenue comes from online course sales.

From growing our audience and creating better products, our launches have grown quite a bit. Our first launch did around $80k. We’ve since had multiple that’s done 10x that.

A few tips that helped us grow our sales:

  • We focused on growing our email list. That’s the key for ANY business.
  • We did customer interviews to learn their pain points (takes time but is worth it 100x over)
  • We charged 3–4x more than our competitors (and made our courses much better and more thorough than others out there)
  • We spent a lot of time gathering customer stories and testimonials. Again, this takes time to coordinate. But it’s well worth it.

What are your goals for the future?

Right now our main focus is growing the blog. The blog remains are biggest growth channel by a mile. So we’re putting more effort into publishing awesome resources that help our core audience.

The biggest roadblock is time. Backlinko is a small team (3 people). So it’s hard for us to do everything that we want to do. That’s why we focus on one thing at a time.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles you’ve overcome? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

The biggest obstacle was standing out in a crowded niche. The SEO space is (obviously) hard to rank in.

One thing that really helped me was focusing on a single niche in the early days (link building).

My first few posts were ONLY about link building. Which helped me stand out from the 1001 other “SEO” or “Digital Marketing” blogs.

Then, when I established myself in that space, I branched out.

Today, I cover topics like YouTube growth, list building and more.

But if I started out talking about every topic under the sun, I would have blended in.

What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Just start.

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is spending too much time:

  • Studying
  • Preparing
  • Analyzing
  • Tweaking

(I was guilty of it too)

So my advice is:

Just. Start.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about me and Backlinko on the blog and on YouTube.

This interview is brought to you by OneUp, a tool to schedule and automatically repeat your posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google My Business



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