Mastering Link Building for 2020 with Brian Dean
Hello marketers! Thanks for checking out the 15th episode of The Marketing Microscope podcast!
We’ve got a killer installment for you today! We’ve got Brian Dean on the line to talk about link building, SEO, and content.
As you probably know, Brian Dean is the founder of Backlinko, one of the most popular blogs in our industry! I’ve got Taral and Manish joining me again to talk shop with Brian and get into the nitty-gritty details of link building.
We start the show by getting Brian’s take on the toughest aspects of link building these days, some of the best tactics for conducting outreach, and the most ideal times to send your inquiries. Spoiler: it’s generally a smart move to send B2B link building emails after lunchtime.
We get Brian’s take on Google’s new approach to no-follow links, the role of domain authority in link building, and how to build high-quality links at scale. As always when we interview SEO experts, we ask Brian’s opinion on the mysterious concept of E-A-T and the most important things that funnel into it.
We discuss how people can get the biggest bang out of their backlinks – it’s all about context, choosing the right anchor text, and placement within the content.
As the first segment comes to a close, we get some amazing insight on how to build links as an e-commerce company – a task that is getting harder by the day.
After the intermission, we get right back into it by discussing the importance of links in author bios compared to within the actual content. Taral asks Brian for his take on nooperener and noreferrer links – then we shift gears back to e-commerce. Brian gives us a few good strategies for internal linking and how to make an online store more navigable.
We get a super interesting answer about linking out to high authority sites and how it impacts rankings. Brian sites a study that all but confirms it does indeed help with SEO – this is in contrast to John Mueller’s comments on the topic.
As we wrap up our link building questions, Brian gives us some techniques that many people might be overlooking – this includes reaching for the stars with PR to target SUPER high authority sites.
Now, to switch to the content side of things, I ask Brian about the biggest SEO + content takeaways from the 2010s, and how exactly he defines “great content”. I also ask how marketers can find a healthy balance between creativity and SEO in content creation.
We get some good insight on evergreen content versus timely – and what exactly this means for the content creation efforts of marketing agencies. Brian and I debunk some general statistics about the most ideal content length, voice search, and how ‘questions’ are influencing keyword research.
As the show winds down, I ask Brian about some of the big content formats for 2020 and beyond – as well as his favorite link building tools. To close out the show, we ask Brian to provide some words of wisdom to new link builders – “start experimenting!”
This was one of the most interesting episodes of The Marketing Microscope yet! If you want to learn more about link building and how to refine your SEO strategies in the next decade, definitely check this one out!
Kevin Svec: Good morning, marketers. Welcome to the 15th installment of The Marketing Microscope podcast, brought to you by E2M Solutions, a full service digital agency specializing in content marketing, web design, SEO and copywriting. This is your host, Kevin Svec, chief content strategist at E2M Solutions. Joining me from E2M, we’ve got Manish, founder of the company and Taral Patel, SEO specialist. On the show today our guest is Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko.
Kevin Svec: Now Brian, I’m sure most of our listeners know who you are, but if you wouldn’t mind telling us a little bit more about yourself and your background in the SEO industry.
Brian Dean: So I started Backlinko about seven years ago and the background is basically I was doing SEO myself, I ran a small agency, I had some of my own properties and I struggled with finding really good actionable content on how to do SEO, how to build links from authority sites, how to create content that people would link to and I kind of realized that was a gap in the market that I could fill. So I created Backlinko as the blog that I wanted to read and I thought that other people would want to read.
Kevin Svec: Yeah, we love the Backlinko blog at E2M. I know I’ve used it quite a bit in my own writing. I really have taken a lot of what I know about SEO from the Backlinko blog.
Brian Dean: Thanks man.
Kevin Svec: It was just a huge help over the years. So Manish, I know you had a couple of questions you wanted to dive into here. If you just want to take the ball and run here, go for it.
Manish: Yeah. Hey Brian. I really appreciate your time, taking this time this morning to be on our show. So I think the name itself says Backlinko, so definitely we will start questions around link building and back links and like that. So I mean, in your experience, specifically if you look at your role and experience, if you look at how link building is being done these days, what do you think, in terms of what is the most difficult part, I would say toughest part of link building these days?
Brian Dean: Well I think the toughest part now is using email outreach to build links, because it’s kind of been done. It used to be a little less of a strategy that people would use. Even if you have a great resource on your site that’s worth linking to, it’s hard to email people and ask them to add a link, because you used to be the only person in that week that was asking them to do so and now you’re number 1000 that week. Even if your outreach is really good, it just gets kind of lumped into the bad outreach. So that’s definitely more difficult.
Manish: So how would you overcome that challenge? Like you said, I have a great resource on my site and I know a lot of readers will get benefit out of that and if I have a perfect outreach email template, even though I’m not getting the desired results. So how can one overcome this challenge?
Brian Dean: So the one thing I would recommend that’s helped me and some other people that have struggled is to find a specific place on a specific page where your link makes that page better. This is kind of a different, this is a little bit different of an approach than most people take with link building, which is, I have this great resource and if I email it to 500 people, a couple of people will link to it. That used to be true, but now you can literally email thousands of people and they’re not get any links because it’s just getting caught in spam or people aren’t paying attention to them. So the important thing, the other step you have to do basically is, in addition to having the great content is you have to find a specific place on a specific page where your link makes that page better.
Brian Dean: And that’s a pretty high standard, if you think about it. It’s one thing to be like, “Oh, will you link to me in a blog post?” But your link has to make that page better than it was before, because that’s the only incentive that the person has for adding your link. So to give you an example, I’ve been doing a lot of resource page link building for a new tool that I just launched called exploiting topics, and one of the things that we did is we looked for pages that listed best marketing tools or content marketing tools or helpful marketing tools. We realized that a link to this tool would actually make that page better because it would include a tool that would hopefully help people out. And because we were so specific, we even told them what section it would make sense. We were like, not only this page, but there’s a section of keyboard resource tools that this would make sense to put under just to make it a little bit easier for them and make them more likely to actually add the link.
Manish: Yeah. Absolutely that makes sense, because then it becomes, for a webmaster, it’s so easy to know exactly where they need to place the link. So I think, yeah, it totally makes sense. And what would you recommend … I mean definitely email outreaching is still highly popular, would you recommend also reaching out to a webmaster through the social end as well? So Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook? And what do you see in the outreach through their social media presence? Would it be more effective than email outreach, or email outreaching is still kind of the highest popularity in terms of outreaching?
Brian Dean: Yeah, I think there’s definitely a merit in using social media for outreach. I personally like email because it’s a little bit easier to do and scale, but it depends on the platform too, because with social media like Twitter, unless they have their DMs open, it’s a little bit harder to get in touch with them. But LinkedIn, it’s wide open, right? And it’s a little bit more like people are used to pitches there, so it’s not so bad. The tricky part is that I’ve found with social media outreach is that everyone checks their email and LinkedIn, there’s a lot of people who just don’t even log in and they don’t look at their inbox. And then with Facebook it’s tricky because then they have filtered messages if you don’t know the person or are friends with them. So I think there’s merit to it if you know someone’s active on the platform. I personally had some success with it, especially on LinkedIn, but I usually do email first and then I’ll do maybe a followup on a different channel if they didn’t get back to my initial email.
Manish: That’s kind of the route we also follow when it comes to the outreaching efforts. And I think the one last question I have in terms of the outreaching is, according to you, what is the day in time which works really well for you to get the maximum responses?
Brian Dean: For me, I prefer the weekdays in the early afternoon when people come back from lunch during the day. Yeah, it depends on your niche a little bit. I’m in B2B, so if I was emailing you, Manish, I’d make sure that I didn’t email you at eight AM, nine AM when you get into the office and I’m an email in a group of 100. You probably get a lot of emails every day from your team and other places. But you usually finish your emails by the mid-morning, then you go to lunch and you come back and the whole email flow is a lot different in that time I find. People are more likely to at least see and open your email and then convert. Usually they come back from lunch, there’s not much going on, it’s a little slower, it’s a lot easier just to get someone to see your email and to take action on that email.
Brian Dean: I do try to time it for that person’s local time. If you’re doing really targeting outreach, you should know where they are. So if you’re in the States you know if they’re on the East Coast, if they’re in India, if they’re in Germany. Just know that and then I recommend scheduling it using a tool called Boomerang, or you can use an outreach software to schedule it to make sure that it gets in their inbox in the early afternoon during the week.
Brian Dean: Now other people have found that weekends are better. Sundays work well because of that concept of low competition. There’s much less email going on on Sunday, but the issue with me, because I’m in B2B, people aren’t usually in the office and when they see it, if you send it on Sunday, they see it on Monday when they get back and you’re even lower on this massive deluge of emails. So I think if you’re in B2C and you’re targeting mommy blogs or fitness blogs, I think a lot of people end up working on their blogs as a hobby or a side thing and on Sunday they work on it, so they’re more around.
Manish: No absolutely, that makes sense. And like you said, a lot of that depends on the niche as well, so I think that the mommy blog was the perfect example, that totally makes sense. Okay, moving onto the next question. So recently Google has introduced UGC tags, sponsored tags and no-follow links. The no-follow links tag has been there since long, but the UGC and sponsored tags, how do you think it has changed the way people do link building, after UGC and sponsored tags were introduced by Google?
Brian Dean: I don’t know if it’s changed people’s actions yet, but it says a lot, I think, that Google rolled these out. And I can predict what I think will happen, if you want. Why they did it is interesting, because this came out of nowhere. I don’t think anyone, maybe you can disagree with me, Manish, was expecting this or was even like no-follow links were a problem. They just seemed like a great solution for things like links in blog comments or sponsored or user generated content forums. It was a one size fits all tag, for lack of a better word, and it worked really well, so why did they want to parse it into different link types?
Brian Dean: My thinking is they probably want to kind of use people as a way to figure out the algorithm. That way they can algorithmically figure out, okay, this is what sponsor links look like, because they have … let’s say they went from zero links that they knew were sponsored, they just had a no-follow to, let’s say, a million all of a sudden have a sponsor link. Now they can say, oh, this is what a sponsor link looks like. So when they see one that’s a do-follow somewhere else, the algorithm can say, oh, that looks just like a sponsor link, because now we know what it looks like because all these people tagged them that way. That’s one theory. That’s a conspiracy theory that they would use that data.
Brian Dean: The other is that maybe they want to actually use some of these no-follow links in that algorithm, instead of ignoring them. So maybe user generated content is worth half a percent of a regular link, a sponsored link is worth zero and a different one, a regular no-follow link is worth a certain percentage. It just seems like they wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t a reason, let’s put it that way. I don’t think people have really taken action on it yet, but the one thing that I’m worried about is that maybe people will start to see no-follow links as somewhat valuable again and they’ll start to spam even more because there’s a chance that it could work. Now you kind of know it’s not going to help, but now you’re going to be like, well, I have nothing to lose by throwing it in there, it’s a user generated content link in a blog comment, maybe it’s worth spamming it, I have nothing to lose. That’s my concern.
Manish: No, absolutely. We had Rand Fishkin on our podcast earlier and I think we were talking the same way about it. It still looks like a conspiracy that Google was … we never know, Google might be considering earlier as well, where they did not announce it officially, that we will not consider no-follow links at all and now they are saying that, in some cases, we might consider. So yeah, I think we will, as we go we might be able to know how Google will be using this data.
Taral Patel: Also, one negative aspect of this is that we do receive emails from webmasters like, hey, if you pay this much of an amount then we want this response like that. So I think the bargaining part of webmasters has increased in this case.
Brian Dean: That’s really interesting. See, I think with any change like that there’s unforeseen consequences and that’s why Google, especially with Google’s change, they’re probably thinking, oh, this is for the best, but like you said, there’s tons of unforeseen consequences like that. We’ll use a sponsor tag for 50 and then 100 we’ll take it off. Stuff like that is just going to happen.
Manish: True, yeah. Cool. So I think moving onto the next question, and this is a really popular question in our industry, it’s domain authority. So it’s kind of a Moz factor, everyone knows and I have seen a huge debate on Twitter as well about the domain authority and everything like that. So there is a huge demand in the market among the clients, okay, we need tier one links, tier two links, 80 plus domain authority, 70 plus, 60 plus and there has become kind of a benchmark where, okay, if you guys can deliver 80 plus domain authority links, then we really want to work with you guys and we don’t want to work with you if you … I mean anything less than 80 is not acceptable, something like that. So can you share your thoughts and experiences on that? And then what do you think about the whole drama in the industry going around domain authority?
Brian Dean: Yeah, I’ve seen that debate as well and it’s even more muddy because Google has said they don’t use domain authority, so then it’s like, well what are we doing with this metric? Yeah, I think let’s just put it this way. In my opinion, there’s something to domain authority, but in Google’s advanced algorithm, it’s probably very different than how we view it. With Moz or Ahrefs or SEMrush or any of the tools that have their own domain scores, they’re not very sophisticated, right? They’re just like, how many links does this site have, basically. Google can combine that data, the link data, with brand signals that the other tools don’t have, like how many times people search for that brand in Google. Is that domain featured in other trusted sites that we have established as highly trusted, like Wikipedia? Is the rate of searches for that growing? What’s the satisfaction rate of people who land on that site from Google search, in terms of dwell time and bounce rate and pogo sticking in general?
Brian Dean: I think that they probably combine all that stuff into something like domain authority, but it includes a lot more data and it’s much more sophisticated. So the long story short, I do think there’s merit to getting links from a site with high domain authority versus low, obviously, but it’s not like if it has 80 Google sees it as 80. If it’s 80 Google could see it as 50 and another one that’s 50, Google could see that as 80. You see that all the time if you go to Ahrefs or whatever tool you use and you see a site ranking for a billion keywords but it’s domain rating is 30. How is that possible? Well it’s probably because Google, their domain authority sees it in a completely different light. So I do think you should aim for links from high domain authority sites, but I usually don’t even sweat that. If the site looks good to my eyes, I usually go with that over a domain authority number.
Manish: Absolutely. No, I agree. And we also use the Moz tool to check the spam score in order to make sure that the spam score is not a high attribute. So yeah, I think that brings up another question. We work with a lot of brands and I’m sure this question must be getting to all of the agencies, we will work with brands who have large budgets and they always want to get things done at scale. So what do you think, if one has, one wants to go aggressive and they want to do a quality link building effort at scale, then, how can it be done?
Brian Dean: This is something I’m trying to figure out myself, because in my position, we’re in the same sort of boat. Even though we have different businesses, we’re both in the same sort of market, the digital marketing SEO space. I’m looking at the other sites that I’m competing with like Moz, Ahrefs, HubSpot and I’m thinking, I look at their links, how many links they have. To give you perspective, Moz has about 100 thousand domains that are linking to them. Backlinko just hit 20 thousand and I’m thinking, how can I ever get to 100 thousand? No amount of email outreach can ever do that. If you do the math on it, if you have a 10% conversion rate on your emails you have to send literally, to get 80 thousand links you have to send 800 thousand emails. The math doesn’t play out with outreach. You’re like, okay, well if that doesn’t work, what can I do?
Brian Dean: I think if you’re just starting out it is important to do email outreach to promote your site and to get links, but as you’re trying to scale, like you’re saying, the scaling part totally changes everything. It’s kind of like an agency. Having one client, even though it’s the same business, it’s totally different when you have 50 or 100. You need processes and staff and an office and it’s the same thing with scaling. So what I’ve come up with so far is, at a high level, and I can give some more tactical examples too, is you need something on your site that people are going to find and link to automatically without you constantly promoting it. So to give you an example, Moz, they have MozCast which is their algorithm update checker tool and it gets, it has 10 thousand links to it. They did one promotion, one blog post about it and then, since then, people have found it and linked to it automatically. They just sit back and let the links roll in.
Brian Dean: So, you’ve got to kind of have something like that, that people can find and link to and you get into this flywheel. As the thing gets linked to, it ranks for more stuff and then more people find it and then share it and then more people link to it. This sort of virtuous cycle happens. That’s really the only way that you can scale and create multiple things like that. Because I’m talking about getting 10 thousand links a year, how do they do that? It has to be scaled up with these useful tools or content or data studies or things for PR that just kind of create links on their own.
Manish: Yeah. I really agree and I guess you also mentioned that … it was a good example. When you have one client and if you have 50 clients, obviously you need more people, you need more processes. So that just answers the question, you need definitely more resources in terms of when you’re wanting to get things done at scale. Great. So Moving on the next question, the keywords as anchor text, right? So we have already seen the era where people are using keywords as anchor text crazily and then Google announced, rolled out anchor text or optimized some penalties and that. How do you think, right now these days in 2020, anchor text, using keywords as an anchor text, is it still valuable? Or for example, let’s say we provide SEO services, we link to SEOs on something like E2M Solutions which is our brand name, so how would Google know that, okay, this page is all about SEO when the anchor text says E2M solutions? So what do you think about the use of keywords as an anchor text these days?
Brian Dean: I think it’s still super valuable because I think Google still uses it as a signal. I have a couple of reasons for that. One is that, if you just look at competitive keywords, you’ll see that those pages have a lot of exact match and partial match anchor text. And if you look at sort of those outliers, if you ever look at a top 10 result and it’s like authority site, authority site, authority site, random site, authority site, authority site. And then you look at the random site and you look at that page, nine times out of 10 that page has a lot of exact match and partial match anchor text. It may not have as many links as the other sites, but it has that anchor text.
Brian Dean: So I think it’s a dangerous game, but it works. And Google wouldn’t penalize it if it didn’t work. That’s my kind of go-to. The reason they penalize it is because it works really well and they want to use the signal because it’s a really good signal. So yeah, I think it’s still valuable. I wouldn’t necessarily do it on purpose, but if you can get an exact match anchor or partial match anchor text, that’s going to help you a lot more than E2M Solutions or Backlinko or a generic one like that.
Taral Patel: So, it’s best just to be on the safer side with them. If you are building 10 back links, let’s keep five on the exact keyword and the rest kind of matched with anchor text?
Brian Dean: I mean I’d do more like one out of ten, one exact. But yeah, I’m more conservative with that because, back in the old days, I got penalized a million times. So I am more conservative, but it depends on your risk tolerance. Having five exact match versus five regular might help your rankings, but it’s riskier, so it depends on your risk tolerance.
Manish: True, I agree. Absolutely. Cool. So I think we’ll move onto the next question. I wanted to talk about E-A-T, that’s kind of the trending topic these days in the industry, specifically in the health and fitness industry. One of the most what I have read so far, I have closely followed E-A-T since August 2018 when Google originally launched out on that, but what I have read so far, one of the most important things which I know, I might be wrong, you associate a persona with every content that goes out under your brand name, whether you’re putting content on your blog section or you’re doing a guest post, you make sure you associate the persona who is associated with the brand and then Google sees it like that. If you are writing on a keto guide if you are a dietician, Google will prefer to rank content which is written by a dietician, rather than the content which is written by, let’s say, Brian, who is in the SEO industry.
Manish: Then, there is another way around, sometimes you want to get a link from a really, really good blog which is high authority in your niche, but then they do not allow you to publish content on your name and they would rather publish content under the name of the editor of that blog. So in that case, that E-A-T concept completely goes away. And that’s true with the majority of high quality sites where the editors will prefer to publish content under their name. So what is the most important whether one should build links under a persona associated with the brand? Or is it also okay to publish content or get a link where the content is published by the blog or site editor?
Brian Dean: I think if you can, like you had said, it’s better to get you to publish there, but I think even without that, the link still has value. So if the only condition the publisher has, we have to publish it under our editor or use the generic guest posts as author, then I would still probably do it. But yeah, I think there’s probably something to the publishing off of your site thing, or getting … not necessarily publishing off of your site, but getting mentioned off of your site. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to publish stuff off of your sites. So to give an example, Roger Federer, he’s never published any guest post in his life, right? But Google sees him as an entity, so if he wrote something about tennis, it would get a little bit of a boost. So it’s not necessarily you have to write in other places, although that’s an accessible and easy way to do it.
Brian Dean: So yeah, I think if you can swing it, get both, but if not, if they’re like, “Look, this is the only way we can do it,” then … but also a site like that probably isn’t that great anyway. Most sites want to be transparent about who wrote the piece, so maybe that site is not that great of a fit, but that’s a different story.
Manish: No, absolutely. I have two follow-up questions on that. One is, let’s say if I’m a brand, and I think that the same question we had asked to Rand Fishkin as well, let’s say we are a brand, then the brand says, well, there is that concern that they don’t associated persons with their name, with their brand name because that person could not be with that organization in the near future. They would always like to not associate with the persona. Which side could rank better? Someone who is doing, associating the persona with their brand, versus someone who is not associating any persona at all?
Brian Dean: I think probably the person that has the association. But it’s probably pretty close, I don’t think it’s that big of a difference. If you see the Medic update that you had mentioned in August, or other E-A-T related updates, they targeted sites. It wasn’t like sites got hit but then 10% of their pages were fine because those 10% were written by experts. The entire site got hit, so I don’t think it’s like, oh, this person’s an expert and wrote this thing, it’s going to protect you. It’s not a portable page rank that you can bring with you everywhere, I don’t think. But at a high level, if your site is just published, random people are publishing stuff about medicine or finance or other important topics, yeah, I think that will hurt you on a site wide level, for sure.
Brian Dean: And I get the reluctance to be like, oh, Joe wrote this, because then, if Joe leaves, what do we do with this content? And I’ve even seen that in a couple of blog posts. You go to the author bio and it’s kind of weird. Joe used to be head of content at our company. Whoa, this is kind of weird that he’s gone. It is odd. I can understand where they’re coming from there. In that case, I would just have someone else re-write it and then give them credit as the author or something, rather than have that odd thing at the bottom about someone that’s not there anymore.
Manish: Yeah. And one last followup question on that, what is the most important E-A-T factor you see these days, which everyone should be knowing?
Brian Dean: I think the most important E-A-T factor is your own website and the authority of the links that you get. So what’s interesting is that, when E-A-T first started becoming big, there were a lot of interviews with John Mueller and other Googlers and one of the things they said is that links and unlinked mentions are part of E-A-T, are part of E-A-T. So what they’re saying is these links are part of the story and how many mentions you get and whether that’s positive or negative. It’s not just having experts, because if you look at some sites that got nailed in these updates like Dr. Axe, or Mercola, those guys are both medical doctors. They have credentials, they are practicing physicians. In theory they should have been protected because they were writing the content and they were doctors, but they weren’t. So what was the problem?
Brian Dean: I think part of it was their links might have a been a little bit phony, but it could also be that they didn’t follow the consensus that was just what Google wants. If they have an algorithm that can figure out that everyone says broccoli’s good for you and you’re the only guy writing broccoli’s bad for you, I think that’s a negative E-A-T. So I’d say those two things are important. The links and then if your content is so outside the norm that Google kind of considers you, puts you in a fake news category.
Manish: Okay. Sounds good, yeah. Makes sense, totally. I’ll let Taral ask, he has some questions as well, so yeah, Taral, go ahead.
Taral Patel: So yeah, based on some of the previous questions that we’ve covered, lately I’ve been trying out a few things in the link building. So let’s say taking the link a certain way and seeing how it impacts the results. So my question is, how do you get the maximum value out of the link? Is it like building the right context around it? Or choosing the right anchor text? Or just placing it at the top of content? Can you share your knowledge on this?
Brian Dean: Yeah, I think all those things that you mentioned are a part of it and the more you can do the better. Obviously you don’t always have control of all those things, you can’t be like, okay, I want it on the page right here, I want the anchor text to be this and I want the content around it to be this. Of course you don’t always have those options. So I’d say the most important thing is the anchor text, but it’s kind of, like we said, a double-edged sword. It can be helpful because it will help you rank, but if you’re manipulating it, it can get you penalized. So it’s a double-edged sword. So I would prefer to use it like a partial match anchor text and just make sure the content around it was highly related, because I think they use that a lot too. If you’re talking about broccoli and a lot of the terms around that link talk also about broccoli, even if the anchor text is Backlinko or E2M, it’s still going to kind of associate it with broccoli. Not as good as anchor text, but kind of like a second best.
Taral Patel: So it’s like, suppose you are trying to make links for your link building guide. You’re writing two guest posts, one is related to link building and the other is related to keyword research. So the link which is there in the link building guest post will get more value out of it compared to the one which is there in the keyword research, right?
Brian Dean: Yes. If all other things are the same, definitely.
Taral Patel: So I think, even the title that you write for the guest post can impact how a link, how much value a link will get, if I’m not wrong?
Brian Dean: Of course. Yeah. I mean look at it from Google’s point of view. If the link is to a page about guest posting, but the content is about jogging and the title of the post is jogging tips, it’s going to seem kind of fishy to Google, right? Because the whole page is about this other topic and then, all of a sudden, randomly they’re talking about an unrelated topic and linking to an unrelated page. Yeah, that definitely will raise some red flags.
Taral Patel: Okay. So moving onto the e-commerce side, it’s always been challenging to make back links for e-commerce sites, it’s getting more challenging nowadays, especially … we get requested that, yeah, we want to do link building for the product and category pages. So what are some ofthe best link building strategies you’ve found for e-commerce websites?
Brian Dean: So one of the best link building strategies is to not try necessarily to always get links to your product and category pages, because if you take a step back, you’ve got to ask yourself, why would someone link to a product or category page? What is so special about this product and category page that someone’s going to be like, wow, I need to link to this from a blog post or a research page or a guest … whatever. There’s usually no reason for someone to link, unless the product is amazing or the category is amazing, or if it’s a big brand. Those are kind of the only reasons.
Brian Dean: So one of the things that I’ve seen that e-commerce sites do really well is they build something on their site that’s sort of related to their products, but they’re not. It’s a piece of content or an industry study and then they get links to that and then they use internal links with exact match anchor text and link to their product and category pages. It’s not as good, obviously, but it’s way more, it’s way easier than trying to convince someone to link to some category page about pillowcases.
Brian Dean: Another way is if you can offer discounts to people or something that is worth linking to that’s related to your products or services, like if you have discounts for students you can reach out to universities and be like, “Oh, we offer 15% off to people from the University of Arkansas.” And a lot of times they’ll add your link there. And if you say it’s for a specific product, “Oh, we want to help people, students get bookcases, book covers and we’re giving them 50% off any book cover.” There’s always little things you can do. And in some cases e-commerce sites have a unique opportunity to build links. It’s easy to look at it and be like, oh, it’s harder than a blog, which it is, on the surface, but they also have some unique opportunities that blogs don’t that you can take advantage of. But they are few and far between, which is why I recommend most e-commerce sites focus more on improving their domain authority and then funneling those links from those pages to their product and category pages using exact match anchor text.
Kevin Svec: Perfect. All right, guys, so this is actually going to do for segment one of the show. We will be back in about a minute to pick up with part two. We’re going to dive more into SEO and content. Stay tuned.
Kevin Svec: Thanks for listening to the 15th installment of The Marketing Microscope podcast, brought to you by E2M Solutions. We all know link building is tough and hopefully Brian’s bringing some of these big concepts more into focus. The Adobe BC end of life is coming up fast. We don’t want to be scrambling as March 26th approaches. If you’re still unsure about your next move after Adobe BC is gone, Hiren Modi, leader of E2M’s web division has outlined many different alternatives for Adobe BC migration, including Duda, Webflow, Treepl CMS and many more. If you haven’t already, take some time to educate yourself on taking the next step. If you have any questions related to the migration, the team at E2M is always happy to assist. For more information, visit our website at E2MSolutions.com. Again, that’s E2MSolutions.com.
Kevin Svec: Hello everyone, welcome back to the 15th installment of The Marketing Microscope podcast, brought to you by E2M Solutions, a full service digital agency specializing in content marketing, web design, SEO and copywriting. This is your host, Kevin Svec, chief content strategist at E2M Solutions. Joining me again we’ve got Manish, founder of the company and Taral Patel, SEO specialist. On the show today our guest is Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko and we left off our last segment talking about link building. Taral, I know you were about in the middle of your questions. If you want to just continue on?
Taral Patel: Yeah. So that was a super session and some of the most informative answers on link building.
Brian Dean: Oh, thank you.
Taral Patel: Continuing further with link building, I think this is more of a common question. Which link is more valuable? The one within the content or the one within the author bio?
Brian Dean: Definitely the one in the content, because Google can easily see an author bio link. They have sort of a signature of a pattern, they’re in a box, they’re at the bottom of the post. A lot of times it just says author bio. There’s the headshot and a lot of people use the same description in their author bio, which I don’t recommend. When I write guest posts I usually try to write a different description for every author bio, just to make it a little more unique. So instead of the same thing, Brian Dean from Backlinko, I’ll just be like, Backlinko was founded by Brian Dean, just a little bit different to make it so it’s not such an obvious pattern.
Taral Patel: Okay. So how does it help as far as getting value out of the link is concerned?
Brian Dean: So the idea is that, let’s say you write 100 guest posts and every single author bio uses the same headshot of the person and has the same description with the same link to the same places. If you, it’s easier for Google to look at those and be like, oh, that’s 100 author bio links from a guest post, we don’t really think guest post links are super valuable so we’re going to devalue those. Versus use a different headshot in some of them, which I’ve done before, you write a unique description for different ones, you link to different pages on your site. Google is smart, they can probably still see it’s an author bio box, but it’s not as obvious, so it makes the link look more like a contextual link than your traditional guest post link.
Taral Patel: So is it a good idea to link out different pages with the author bio? Let’s say, if we do multiple services. So on one platform we have shared that we are in these services, like link building, on another platform we have mentioned that we are content marketing. Is it a good idea?
Brian Dean: I do, yeah, I think that’s a great idea because, again, it’s another thing that makes the author bio not look like an author bio. Or the same author bio across 100 different websites. So if one of them you’re linking to your homepage, another you’re linking to your services page, another one is linked to your SEO services page, then I think it helps a little bit. I don’t think this is a huge deal because I think Google can kind of figure out if it’s a guest post link. The best link in a guest post is going to be in the content, but it doesn’t hurt, so I always think it doesn’t hurt to mix it up. So I try to mix that up as much as I can between different guest posts that I publish.
Taral Patel: And I also feel that author bios are the best, one of the best opportunities to link out service pages, because I think otherwise it becomes extremely difficult to put back links on the services pages, right?
Brian Dean: Oh, for sure. It’s just like an e-commerce product and category page. Why would someone ever link to that? Unless your service is … even if your services are amazing, it just doesn’t even make logical sense. So that is a good place to do it and if you don’t use exact match anchor text, you don’t have to worry that much about it being spammy or anything like that. So yeah, that is one of the best opportunities to link to services pages, for sure.
Taral Patel: Okay. So a lot of platforms when we put back links on them, we check out the source code, they have these things like noopener and noreferrer associated with the links. So can you explain in layman terms what exactly is noopener and noreferrer?
Brian Dean: So I’m definitely not a coder, so I should put this in perspective right now, my knowledge of HTML is pretty limited, but it doesn’t really affect SEO because it’s just a no tracking tag that you add to a link. It doesn’t really affect the value of the link because it’s not, it’s still a followed link. And the crawler will still follow it like a normal link, it’s just really for tracking purposes. So they can add those things either or, or both and it doesn’t affect the SEO value of that link.
Taral Patel: Yeah.
Brian Dean: Other than that, the intricacies of how it actually works, I don’t know, but in terms of SEO it doesn’t make any difference.
Taral Patel: Yeah, that will be really helpful to our audience because they get such questions from the client, like why this link is having so-and-so text associated and you won’t consider these things as a bad link.
Brian Dean: Oh yeah, no, no. I just feel like don’t worry about it. It doesn’t affect the value of that link in any way. Some sites just use that site-wide, right? Every external link has that on it and it doesn’t mean that Google is going to treat that link in any sort of different way. As long as it’s a followed link, they’re going to, the crawler will treat it like a normal link that page rank goes through and all of that stuff.
Taral Patel: Okay. Moving onto the next question, it’s somewhere related to the e-commerce question which we already discussed. So what are some of the best internal linking practices to keep in mind for the year 2020 and beyond?
Brian Dean: Yeah, so that’s a good question, the way you’ve phrased it, because it depends on the type of site that you have. An e-commerce site, which we alluded to, the internal linking in that is mostly done through the site structure itself. It’s how you plan out the whole site from your homepage to your category pages to your product pages to your support and how that all looks.
Brian Dean: In general you want to have what’s called a flat site architecture. It’s very difficult to explain on a podcast. There’s plenty of visuals out there you can Google, like site architecture, but the gist is that, if your site structure looks like an org chart, we’ve all seen an org chart with the CEO at the top and the other people underneath, it looks very similar to that. The CEO is your homepage and all of the executives are your category pages and all the rank and file employees are the product pages. So you want that to be very flat. You want to have a lot of executives in this case, so the opposite of an actual company. You want to have one CEO, a lot of executives and not that many employees, because that will help your page rank and your link authority get spread around your site.
Brian Dean: If you have it really deep where it takes people 10 clicks to get to a product, that page rank that goes to your homepage and other pages aren’t going to necessarily flow there. So for an e-commerce site, this site structure is super important to map out as you create the site and then make sure it’s being, it’s still good as you build it, or else you can get into, your site structure can look like a bunch of cords in the drawer all tangled up and that’s not good.
Brian Dean: But for something like a content site, a services site like yours, or a blog like mine, it’s a lot more straightforward and it’s more about those internal links that you’re strategically placing from high authority pages to pages that need the rankings and sending link authority that way. That’s more important because the structure is a lot more straightforward. There usually aren’t that many pages to even worry about. So it does depend on the site, but the gist is you want a flat site architecture and you want to make sure you’re sending authority from site pages that have it to sites that need it that you want to rank higher.
Taral Patel: So let’s say, in terms of service pages, if we are selling a certain service, let’s say we have created around five to six highly informative sources around that service. If you link them on that service page, can it improve the chances of ranking that service page higher in the search engines?
Brian Dean: A little bit. I think it would on a very algorithm level, if you could put a thermometer in it and measure it, but I think in practical terms I don’t know how much that would help. Because I don’t even do services, but I’m trying to rank for a bunch of services keywords because a lot of people search for them, as you know and the cost per clicks are really high. And I want to get in front of those people because I find that a lot of people that want services will ultimately buy a course and decide to do it themselves down the road. They’re kind of shopping around. So even though it’s not my exact business, I’m trying to rank for services pages myself and I’m sort of figuring out what works. What I’m finding is that it’s really easy to beat actual service pages with content.
Brian Dean: So to give an example, I rank number one for link building services in Google, even though I don’t offer it. And it’s because I created a blog post about the various link building services that I’ve used over the years and I kind of rated them and evaluated them. Not specific ones, but just the types, like a press release or an infographic or a guest posting services or whatever. It ranks really well and I have a couple of others that are ranking for services too. So I think if you want to rank for services you should definitely try to rank your actual services page, no doubt, but to hedge your bets a little bit I would also consider creating a piece of content optimized around that same services keyword. And you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to rank for it and you’re getting in front of the same people.
Brian Dean: The page won’t covert as well as your actual services page, but you’re still getting in front of the same person. And if they like your content, they’re going to seek you out. I even get tons of inquiries from that pages even though I don’t offer link building services or have that anywhere on my site. So that’s another way to try to rank for services keywords that I don’t see a lot of people doing.
Taral Patel: Okay. So a bit of a related question to all that we have discussed just now. Does having the links from high authority sites in any way help ranking of content that’s your own blog post?
Brian Dean: Do you mean links out to other authority sites?
Taral Patel: I mean if you include links from high authority sites within content, within a blog post.
Brian Dean: Oh, I see.
Taral Patel: Yes.
Brian Dean: Oh yes, I think that’ll help for sure. If you want a good study on this, if you Google reboot online outbound link study, they did an SEO experiment where they registered 10 brand new domains and they just put content on the homepage. Five of them had no external links to other sites and five had external links to authority sites. Literally the five that had external links ranked above the ones that didn’t. So that, along with my own experience, shows me that is definitely helpful to do.
Taral Patel: Yeah. Even in my own experiences, but one of the reasons for asking this question was that John recently said, “No, that doesn’t help in any way,” but I differ with that.
Brian Dean: Yeah. And it’s one of those things that, yeah, I always go with my experience as well. And I bet John, I bet according to the algorithm it may not really make a big difference, but it’s one of those things, so I think he’s right in that way. But it’s one of those things that can’t hurt and it might help, so you might as well do it.
Taral Patel: Also he said, “Why would Google simply put it out on a platter what are the ranking factors?”
Brian Dean: Yeah, that’s true too. Yeah, because then everyone would be going crazy adding external links. But it’s one thing to be like, well, it’s another thing to just be totally misleading on it, which I don’t think they’re doing. I think he’s probably saying it’s technically the right thing, but in reality and practice, how it plays out in the algorithm, it probably does help a little bit.
Taral Patel: Okay. So to conclude the link building questions, can you briefly name and explain a few advanced link building strategies which a lot of SEOs might be unaware of?
Brian Dean: Yeah. I’d say the one that not a lot of people are doing that’s working well is PR. And doing things that will get you links from the really big authority sites, like the New York Times, Guardian, those level of sites. This is something that I’m just sort of dipping my toes into and learning about, because if we do think that domain authority helps, those links from high domain authority sites, which I do, then getting links from these mega sites should be even more powerful, but they’re really hard to get links from. So how do you do it? Well, that’s where digital PR comes into play.
Brian Dean: One thing I’m experimenting with now is doing a lot of industry studies to try to create something that they would want to cover and want to write about. And I’ve got some coverage in these big sites and I’m trying to figure that out, but it is super advanced because you can’t just send an outreach email to a journalist, they’re not going to link to you. It’s got to be something they really want to cover or are already covering and you sort of get in the, ride the wave of the stuff they’re already covering. So it’s super advanced, there’s timing, there’s relationships. This is something I had some success with last year in 2019 and in 2020 I’m really going to double down on it.
Manish: Sure, yeah. Totally, agree. Yeah, Kevin, do you want to do your thing on content questions?
Kevin Svec: Yeah, yeah. Brian, just to switch gears for a little bit here, so as 2020 started we’re seeing all sorts of articles, podcasts, videos on some of the biggest takeaways from SEO and content marketing from the last decade. I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What were some of the biggest SEO and content takeaways that you noticed from the 2010s?
Brian Dean: Well my biggest takeaway, now that you mention is, is I feel old. I’ve been around, I’ve been doing this for that long. Because I was about to say I haven’t been doing this for the 10 years, but then I just realized I have.
Kevin Svec: I’m right there with you.
Brian Dean: Yeah, that’s my main takeaway. My other one that’s interesting is how, from an SEO point of view, how things have changed yet they’ve stayed the same. If we went back 10 years and we asked someone who was an SEO expert how to rank in Google, they would probably say something like, “Well, what you need to do is create a great site that produces content that gives Google searches what they want, then you need to promote that site and get people to link to your site and link to those pages that you want to rank.” That’s not that different than what you’d recommend to someone now. In fact the advice is almost exactly the same, they only difference is, back then, you’d also be like, “Okay, you need to write 50 ezine articles, you need to do link pyramids” and crap like that. That’s the only-
Kevin Svec: Cram as many keywords in there as you possibly can.
Brian Dean: Yeah, exactly. Keyword stuff your pages, use exact match anchor text. Some of the details have definitely changed and the whole idea of creating content that Google searches want is so much more advanced now because Google’s more advanced with it. Your page really has to check all the boxes for that person to rank now, because of RankBrain and other things that it didn’t before. If it was a pretty good match that was good enough, as long as it had the links. But at a high level it’s kind of surprising how little things have changed in terms of what you actually do to rank.
Kevin Svec: Right, it’s just the little details. So yeah, to segue off that a little bit, I loved the intro to your case study on Backlinko about the brutal truth of SEO. More particularly, I liked your comment about great content. So it seems like every time there is a Google algorithm update or any big shift in SEO, we always hear the experts give kind of a blanket response, “Oh, just create good content, great content and Google’s going to rank you for it.” And I feel like no-one really has an exact answer for what great content is and how you create it. I’m curious to get your thoughts. How do you define great content?
Brian Dean: I mean I don’t like, I actually don’t like to define it that much because it depends so much on the use case. And I guess that could be the definition, but I haven’t put that much thought into it. It’s one of those things that it’s almost like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Great content to me might be crappy to you and vice versa, so it’s hard to say great content is X, Y and Z. But in terms of rankings, great content is content that people want to link to and that also satisfies search intent for that keyword. If you can get a page that does both of those, you’re really good.
Brian Dean: Because right now, what I’m trying to do with some Backlinko stuff is create content that is designed to rank and then have other content that’s designed to get links, because I’ve found that it’s tricky to do both with the same piece of content. So when I say great, it kind of depends on the goal. If I want to rank it’s going to be super optimized for searchers and then if it’s designed to get links it’s super optimized for other people like Manish and other people that are in the space to want to link to it and share it.
Kevin Svec: Interesting. Yeah, I really like that definition. It really depends on the goals of it and I actually never thought about creating separate content for link building and then for keyword ranking. That’s a really good tidbit right there. So I’m interested to get your take here from a content creation perspective, what are some of the most important elements to making sure the creative content and SEO elements stay in sync?
Brian Dean: Well one thing I’ve been doing lately is, it’s kind of like the link building content versus ranking content thing, if you try to mix them neither of them come out that well, you know what I mean? So what I’ve been doing is creating content that’s initially really optimized for users and for my audience and for people that will see it and hopefully share a link to it and then, once the dust has sort of settled, I go back and I optimize it more around specific keywords and things like that. And this just helps the writing process because you can just write without worrying about SEO that much. Of course I know my target keyword and I include it a couple of times, but I’m not going crazy with making sure it’s in a H2 and making sure it’s in the first 100 words. Those things, I’m not worrying about that yet. Because what I’ve found is you can put it out there in it’s creative form, let it get those signals that Google wants and then you can go and really optimize it later on and it tends to do well that way.
Kevin Svec: Awesome, yeah. I think that goes kind of in line with a lot of what Google says. Just create content for the user, don’t focus on trying to tweak it and adjust it purely to rank on Google. It goes back to that thing, create content for users not for search engines.
Brian Dean: Yeah, yeah. For sure. I mean if you create it for search engines, usually the problems is that it doesn’t come out that great for users. It reads kind of robotic and stuff, so yeah.
Kevin Svec: Exactly. Yeah, I mean you’re creating it for bots and crawlers, not for the human eye. Yeah, so I read an interesting one of your pieces a couple of weeks ago and you talk about the importance of evergreen content. Now I want to put an example, say we’re running a marketing blog, how would you create a mixture of both evergreen content and timely content?
Brian Dean: I prefer to only create evergreen content, so I’m not the best person to ask. I don’t like to write … I mean it depends what you consider with timely, but if Google rolls out an algorithm update, I’m not about to write a blog post about it because it’s going to be outdated in a week.
Kevin Svec: Right.
Brian Dean: Two weeks. Or people are going to stop caring. So I think if you run a marketing blog, you want to create evergreen content that is as evergreen as it can get and know that you’ll have to update it eventually. Because we go back and we update every single post every year, at least once a year, which is a massive project with screenshots. I’d say this year we probably already, since December when we started updating, replaced 500 screenshots with new ones and changed links and words that don’t make sense or things.
Kevin Svec: Just adding new stats.
Brian Dean: So I think I like to-
Kevin Svec: Stuff like that?
Brian Dean: Yeah, new stats or old stats that don’t make sense anymore, new strategies. Things can only be so evergreen. If you want it to be super evergreen, then you can just write high level fluff. Oh, create great content and rank and create … that kind of stuff will be evergreen, but it’s not going to ever be that useful. To be useful, you need to be tactical and tactics come and go. So I like to write stuff that’s as evergreen as it can get, has an evergreen foundation, but it still will probably need to be updated at least once a year.
Kevin Svec: Right. So in the marketing niche there really isn’t such a thing as pure 100% evergreen content?
Brian Dean: Yeah, that’s right. Unless you’re writing an essay about here’s my thoughts about marketing, or here’s my thoughts about e-mail marketing or something. Then that can be pretty evergreen actually, because those things probably won’t change. Like what we were talking about with SEO over the last 10 years. At a high level the same advice hasn’t changed, so if you just write that, but the problem is it’s not super useful to most people.
Kevin Svec: Right. So do you think it’s worth writing timely content just for the sake of getting quick traffic? For example, if there was a Google algorithm update, you find the keywords on it and then write about it, you might get traffic for a month or so and then it’ll drop off, would you say that’s worth the effort?
Brian Dean: I mean I would. I don’t do that because I have a rule that when I write something I want it to be valuable for years, or at least I can tweak it so it’s valuable for years. But it’s a great way to get quick traffic, like you said, and if you don’t have an audience yet or you’re just like, okay, I’m new, I want to get … I see this opportunity, this algorithm update just happened and I know something, I figured out something and I can write about it and get a bunch of people sharing it and linking, definitely do that, that makes total sense. Or if you’re one of those people by nature who loves being on Twitter and following the news and being on top of stuff and you love covering the hottest new thing, then you should do it because that’s going to come out in your work and people are going to see it. I’m not really like that by nature, so I don’t tend to do that, but I think there’s value in it.
Brian Dean: I even consider that there’s so much value in it when a lot of these updates happen. I’m like, maybe I should just write about it because everyone in SEO is talking about these updates. But at the same time, I know that in a week or two weeks it’s just going to start collecting dust. In that time you got a lot of traffic, which is good, but then what? So I prefer to spend that time writing something a little bit more evergreen, but it’s not a right or wrong answer, I think there’s value in doing both different approaches.
Kevin Svec: Okay. So I want to switch a little bit into content length, whether you’re writing evergreen content or timely content. So I think as marketers we tend to get caught up in general stats. I’m sure you’ve seen stats on content length saying, okay, the best results in the Google results are 1900 words. And I think a lot of people get confused thinking, okay, I need to make my content at least 1900 words, 2500 words, stuff like that. And obviously this isn’t, there’s no black and white answer to this. Depending on the question, you can write an amazing piece of content that gets the answer across in 400 words, whereas if you try to do a 2500 word answer to that question, it’ll end up just being a lot of fluff. So I’m curious to get your take, for a given topic, how do you usually go about planning out the length of that piece?
Brian Dean: So like you said, I don’t fixate on a particular number. I mean that 1900 word thing is actually from one of our studies and I got a little … that was just more of an anecdote. Oh look, that’s longer than you probably think is ranking on the first page. It wasn’t to say that this is a number that you have to hit. Because sometimes you actually want to do way longer and sometimes you want to do way shorter. Like you said, it depends a lot on what you’re writing about.
Brian Dean: So I usually, what I do is I think search intent is really important and what Google searches want, so usually I look at the first page and I kind of size up what the length is. Okay, does someone searching this keyword want everything there is to know about it? Or do they just want a quick answer? And I will write the piece accordingly. So if I notice the average word count, and I put special focus on the top three results, are, let’s say, 5000 words, I’m like, there’s something to that, that’s kind of what people want so maybe I’ll probably write something on the longer side. But if it’s 500 words, I’ll be like, if I write 5000 words that’s not probably going to be a match because the search is also telling me that people want something a little bit shorter.
Kevin Svec: Right. Yeah, so to kind of backtrack a little bit, something that we’ve noticed, especially when it comes to ranking, is that Google wants to see that you are an expert on the topic through and through. So going back to what you said, if you write a 5000 word article on answering the questions, we think maybe Google likes to see this. Okay, you can answer the questions, but you also know everything there is to know on this particular topic and therefore it might be helping your ranking. Do you think that plays a factor? That kind of goes back to writing for search engines versus users.
Brian Dean: Yeah. There might be something to that. I mean it’s hard to pass out why these things happen. I think your theory is sound, it has merit. Another could be that in order to understand the topic of the page they don’t just look at how many times that particular word was mentioned, they look at related words. So when you write something long, you’re going to have more, hit more of those related words and Google’s going to better understand the topic of the page. So that’s another theory, but who knows why. All we know is that, from a good chunk of keywords, longer content does tend to rank better. So it’s not to say you should write longer stuff, but it’s more, I wouldn’t be afraid to write longer stuff because a lot of people are like, “Oh, we need to keep it at 500 words.” Which is true sometimes, but it’s not necessarily the right thing to do every single time.
Kevin Svec: Right. So that kind of segues into my question about voice search. Now I know every marketer has seen the stat, I think it was Comscore that published it? Half of Google searches are going to be voice in 2020. Voice is all about getting that quick answer. Voice just serves basically what’s in the Google snippet most of the time. So I’m curious to get your take. Do you think this trend is impacting content creation processes across the marketing world?
Brian Dean: I think it is. I don’t think it should be that much. I think voice search is a legit thing. Those numbers, that Comscore thing, who knows, that was a prediction, it’s not 2020 and no-one has ever checked if it ended up being right.
Kevin Svec: I think that prediction was maybe in 2017, 2016 maybe.
Brian Dean: Yeah, it was probably … and you just notice the whole device thing is not as big as it was even two years ago. I think they probably went with some rate of growth that may not have actually sustained.
Kevin Svec: Maybe people are getting freaked out by it.
Brian Dean: Yeah, I think people confuse voice search with voice answers and they’re actually two different things. So I think more people will search with their voice as time goes on because it’s faster and easier. And actually Google’s own data, which is not a prediction, says that 25% of all their local searches on phones are voice. So that’s pretty legit if you think about it. 25% of everyone searching for barber shops or restaurants are using their voice on the Google app, that’s pretty, that’s a massive number. But the difference is, they’re not using it to get a voice answer, they’re using it to get the traditional results and look through the different restaurants and barber shops and pick the one for them.
Brian Dean: So I think the distinction is, for me, between voice search and voice answers. I think that voice answers aren’t that useful because, like you said, it’s that quick answer that comes from the featured snippet and, as a marketer, that’s not really going to help you. But luckily that’s only a small percentage of voice results, voice answers. Those are weather, sports scores, traffic, stuff like that. Most people that use voice search are using it for the same stuff they already search for, it’s just faster and easier.
Kevin Svec: Right, they’re looking for the quicker answers. I feel like not many people are searching voice to learn about creating a content marketing strategy or building an SEO plan.
Brian Dean: Exactly. And even if they search with their voice, they want traditional results, so it doesn’t really change that much. Even if they search into their laptop, which is becoming a thing, with their voice, they still will get the same results. So from our point of view as content creators, it’s not this massive … it’s a change, but it’s not this fundamental change in marketing our content or anything like that.
Kevin Svec: Something we’ve noticed in the SEO content world is there’s been a larger focus on answering questions over the past couple of years, rather than just trying to put in keywords. So I want to get your take, do you think the future of SEO content is going to be more on answers to questions as opposed to just relevant keywords?
Brian Dean: Yeah. I think that’ll be … the trend is definitely going that way and part of that is because of voice search and how people search with their voice versus a keyboard. Even if the results are the same, the search is different. So say with a content strategy, what we do is … say you want to figure out how to do a content strategy, a thought pops into your head and you’re like, I want to know how to do a content strategy and then you turn it into computer language to type it into a search engine. So you’re like, content strategy template, but you’d never say that in a conversation. But as voice search gets really good and becomes more commonplace, people are going to ask a question. How do you come up with a content strategy plan? Or, show me a content strategy template. It’s going to be more of this conversational search and that’s the difference.
Brian Dean: But like I said before, I think the same rules apply. It’s not really going to change how we do things that much, because by providing a content strategy template, you’re already answering a question. They haven’t asked it in that way, but it’s still answering someone’s question. They just translated it into the computer language for the search engine. So I don’t think it’s that big of a difference either. There are some keywords that are just questions, like, what is X and how do you do blah? Those are becoming more frequent as people search and I think that might change, that more people start actually looking for how-tos and things that they wouldn’t have looked for. But again, Google’s just going to look at the best results for how to do whatever which has the steps. And you probably already have the steps, so there’s not much as a content creator you need to start to do to optimize for the question, if that makes sense?
Kevin Svec: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. So Brian, I know we’re starting to run a little low on time, but I just have a few more questions for you. So in 2020 and beyond, do you see any certain content types that are going to take on a bigger role in SEO? Like maybe videos, podcasts, infographics, anything like that?
Brian Dean: Yeah. I think video is definitely going to be bigger. That’s a trend that was maybe a little bit understated by all the Comscores of the world, because it’s becoming the new normal way to consume content. Not every type of content, but just if you look at the stats, they’re undeniable. People watch more video online than ever before, whether it’s Netflix TV shows, scripted, or YouTube, unscripted, there’s just more and more people wanting to consume video, so it’s a good place to at least have a presence or have a knowledge of.
Brian Dean: You don’t need to be a video expert by any means to deal with video, but it’s one of those skills that you definitely want to have. It’s like if you’re a marketer, you don’t need to be a copywriter but you should know some stuff about copywriting. Video will become that. It’s becoming such an integral part of marketing that you’ve got to at least know a little bit about video production and scripting and editing and color correction and some of these basic concepts in order to do well. So if I had to put my money on one big one for the future, I’d definitely say video.
Kevin Svec: Yeah, I would 100% agree. I mean if you look through any social media feed these days it’s 90% video. I think another big thing is the AI bots, whether Google, YouTube or whatever big platform, they’re getting really good at fishing out keywords, verbalized keywords to rank content for any sort of query.
Kevin Svec: So yeah, moving on, I’ve got two more questions for you to wrap up the show. I want to come full circle here back to link building. What are some of your favorite link building tools out there?
Brian Dean: Link building tools. There aren’t that many good link building tools that are just for link building. The best link building tool is a reverse engineering tool, like Ahrefs or Moz Pro or one of those, because those are going to show you why people link this stuff in your niche and who is linking to the stuff in your niche. And where, what pages they’re linking from. That’s the most valuable link building tool, because then you can be like, okay, I put in this site, I know everyone’s linking to this post about whatever, I need to create something similar and here are the people, the exact people that are linking to it and where they’re linking to it.
Brian Dean: Plus they get a lot of other bells and whistles in these tools. You can see, you can put in multiple competitors and see who’s linking to three of them. That shows you, wow, this person really loves linking out to stuff, so I should create something that will appeal to them or guest post on that site or whatever. So that’s my favorite link building tool, because the only other really straight-up link building tools are e-mail outreach softwares like Pitchbox, which are good, but they’re only really helpful if you’re doing outreach at scale. If you’re just kind of a small business that’s doing outreach, those things aren’t as useful. If you’re doing, if you’re an agency, those things are important and you definitely need one, but as a small business, you don’t really need one. And then after those, there aren’t really that many link building tools like there were in the old days of SEnuke and stuff like that or Pitchbox or Scrapebox or stuff like that. So yeah, I would say your best outreach, your best link building tool is a back link analysis tool of some kind.
Kevin Svec: Yeah. And just to add a little bit, in my free time I run a travel blog, just kind of as a hobby and I found as a way to network with other people in the niche, Facebook groups has just been huge. You can just get in a group of other travel bloggers and post, “Hey, does anyone need a guest post? I’m looking for a link. Here’s my DA.” That’s just been huge for me. I know there’s groups for all sorts of niches across the industry.
Kevin Svec: Cool, cool. So yeah, Brian, I want to wrap up the show. We always like to end our podcasts from the experts, just getting some words of wisdom. So Brian, I’m interested to get your take. What words of wisdom would you give to new SEO experts looking to get started in link building?
Brian Dean: I would say the number one thing you can do is start experimenting. Reading blog posts and watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts, they all have their place, but at the end of the day, the only way you’re really going to learn what works and what doesn’t is from experimenting with different stuff.
Kevin Svec: Very cool. All right. Perfect. Well Brian, that should do it. That’s about all the time we have today. I really appreciate you chatting with us. I think we’ve got a really good episode here and, yeah, we really appreciate you taking the time out of your day.
Brian Dean: That’s good, thanks for having me.
Kevin Svec: Awesome, thank you.
Kevin Svec: Thanks again for tuning into the 15th episode of The Marketing Microscope podcast, brought to you by E2M Solutions. I hope you enjoyed the show as much as we did. We got some good information about link building from one of the industry’s finest. For more episodes of The Marketing Microscope, visit our website at E2MSolutions.com/podcast. Again, that’s E2MSolutions.com/podcast. You can also catch episodes of The Marketing Microscope on iTunes and Stitcher. We’ll see you next time.