Brian Dean is an internationally recognized SEO expert and the founder of Backlinko, a leading marketing blog and training site for SEO strategies. Recognized as an "SEO genius," Brian is one of the world’s most sought-after SEO experts who helps businesses optimize their sites for higher search engine rankings and traffic.
Did you know that Google’s algorithm relies on more than 200 factors to rank websites? Or that first page organic search results have an average of 1,447 words?
We learned this much and more from Brian Dean, renowned SEO expert and the brains behind Backlinko, the authoritative SEO blog that provides detailed tips, strategies and techniques to help businesses rank higher on search engines.
Now the co-founder of Exploding Topics, a tool that provides content marketers with rapidly growing topics before they take off, Brian spoke with DesignRush to talk about his career switch, the most important SEO lesson he’s learned and the SEO trends to expect in 2023.
Read on for all the details on how he got into the SEO world and what made him sell Backlinko and acquire Exploding Topics.
Spotlight: From wanting to become a registered dietitian and professor to being a globally renowned “SEO Genius,” what made you shift into digital marketing?
Brian Dean: It was out of necessity more than anything. I had left my Ph.D. program in nutrition and was living in my parent’s basement when I decided to start a business. When I researched “how to get traffic,” I realized that there was basically SEO and PPC (social media marketing was still pretty early). Being broke, I gravitated towards SEO because it was “free.”
Working on SEO for over a decade now, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far that people new to SEO should know?
It’s all about execution. SEO tricks and hacks are rarer than ever before. And even if you do find one, it will likely stop working soon after. Success with SEO really comes down to executing on the fundamentals: content, backlinks and UX.
As the founder of Backlinko, you have built the marketing blog and SEO training site to receive over 500,000 organic visitors monthly. What was your marketing strategy and what challenges did you face along the way?
My high-level marketing strategy was to focus on two things that most other marketing blogs didn't — comprehensive resources and strategies that personally worked for me.
Most marketing blogs at the time published short posts on a daily or weekly cadence. I published mega guides every month.
Most marketing blogs were written by freelance writers without any first-hand experience. My posts were all about strategies that I tested out and used.
Semrush acquired Backlinko in January 2022. Was selling it a part of your business plan? Why did you choose Semrush?
Selling definitely wasn’t part of my plan! But when Semrush reached out, it was a no-brainer to want to partner with them. They’re (by far) the market leader in the digital marketing tools space. And, as a customer for over 10 years, I knew they were the type of company that could take Backlinko to the next level.
What is your current involvement with Semrush and what can we expect from this partnership?
I currently do a bunch of different things for Semrush: editing blog posts, creating courses and recording video content.
Tell us about your new venture — Exploding Topics, an SEO trend detection platform. How does the tool work and how can it benefit businesses?
Exploding Topics works by scanning several million data points from search engines like Google, shopping sites like Amazon and more. Then, our technology spots potential trends. Finally, our analysts investigate trends to ensure they’re legit trends (and not simply fads). That way, businesses can find trends early to identify untapped markets, topics and product categories.
What made you partner with Josh Howarth, co-founder of Exploding Topics? What about forecasting interests you?
I’ve been meaning to get into the trend-spotting business for a while before meeting Josh. I felt that the current players in the space relied on qualitative analysis. So I wanted to build something that relied on objective data. Josh ultimately built something that was even better than I could have imagined which is why I partnered up with him.
Google is the platform businesses are optimizing for, but even they leverage Exploding Topics. Why do you think such is the case?
Platforms like Google Trends are helpful for researching trends you’re not already aware of. But enterprise users like Google, Shopify, etc. use us to discover trends that aren’t even on our radar screen yet.
Since we’re on the topic of forecasting, what are the biggest SEO trends we should watch out for in 2023?
I think Google is going to further emphasize what they call “helpful content.” Google has always wanted sites to publish helpful content. That’s nothing new. What is new is their attempt to identify helpful content algorithmically.
Thank you for your time, Brian Dean. Best of luck to you and Exploding Topics!
Keep up with Exploding Topics on Instagram @explodingtopics and read about other successful businesses here.