96. Brian Dean, Backlinko Becoming a Linkable Source

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When Brian Dean was searching for SEO advice back in 2012, he found a lot of generic to-do lists, with no real direction about how to execute. Deciding that a change was needed, he created a platform to provide others with the information he wished had been available to him. Nine years later, Backlinko is providing next level SEO training and link building strategies to some of the biggest companies in the world.On top of that, Brians latest venture, Exploding Topics, allows marketers to add yet another string to their bow by providing insights into upcoming trending topics.

In this episode, Brian and I cover a ton of ground, discussing everything from the role of SEO in an ever changing digital market, down to the minutiae of keeping your articles updated.

Whats In This Episode?

  • Who is Brian Dean?
  • Is the importance of long form content changing?
  • To what extent can podcast show notes and transcripts improve your blog ranking?
  • Why is data particularly effective for generating links?
  • How important is SEO compared to other digital marketing channels?
  • Why should attorneys incorporate trending topics into their legal blogs?

Transcript

Brian Dean

What I’ve seen a lot of people have success with, is creating data around these topics and having that be the link magnet. And from there you boost your domain authority and your service pages will rank

Chris Dreyer

Increasing your backlinks in the legal sphere is no mean feat, but by providing data, you make yourself a valuable source for other content creators.

Brian Dean

I think in the case of the attorneys, it’s in that whole space, I don’t see it as being done. And it’s a huge untapped opportunity in this space because this data sitting out there already, it just a matter of collecting it and organizing it in an attractive way.

Chris Dreyer

If you ask any SEO expert who the goat of SEO is, most of them, including myself, would say Mr. Brian Dean.

His SEO training company Backlinko is home to one of the most popular marketing blogs in existence, boasting millions of readers and trusted by companies such as Disney, Amazon, and Forbes.

And as if that wasn’t enough, a few years ago, Brian also founded Exploding Topics, which helps companies strategize about their marketing, products and investments by predicting upcoming trends.

Brian dropped by to share his expertise on a wide range of SEO strategies, from building your backlinks to incorporating trending topics, as well as how these tactics can be best employed by the legal industry.

An important first step for any lawyer is to really understand the people around them. So let’s get to know our guest.

Here’s Brian Dean, founder of Backlinko (and Exploding Topics).

Brian Dean

I started it really to scratch my own itch because I had, at that point, been creating my own sites for years. Had ups had downs really focused on SEO with every site that I launched and I was learning what I was doing solely, but learning through a lot of mistakes, a lot of sites got penalized.

A lot of sites got wiped out. And then around 2012, I put the pieces together and I built a site that went from zero to 10 camp. In 90 days and I was using what has steel for the first time. I was like, whoa, this is what has SEO. Maybe that was something to this whole thing. I should try it and really double down on it.

So I start researching for the first time. What has you? I get away from all the spammy stuff. And I’m like, there’s nothing here. There’s a whole wilderness of what has CEO information that’s just missing. I couldn’t find anything. So I realized there were probably other people like me who wanted to transition to this more legitimate way of doing SEO and we’re coming up empty and we’re finding.

Nothing helpful, just vague information, like create great content and build relationships with other people. And I want to know how to do that stuff. And I was actually doing that stuff a little bit. So I created Backlinko as the blog that I wanted to read and that I wanted to learn from

Chris Dreyer

That’s fantastic.

And looking back at myself, because I started around 2006, I think around 2011, 2012, that first penguin algorithm hit. Right. Really nuked everyone for. Oblivion doing the build, my rank links and the e-zine articles and all that stuff. So your blog was like the shining light in that space.

Brian Dean

Yeah, it was timing was really well.

I was lucky that I just happened to launch right after, soon after that, the update and it was April, 2012. And that’s when, after that was what got me into what has seal actually that penguin update happened. And I was like, I need to just press reset. Like I’m sick of logging into Google analytics and seeing this, and then I could go all the way up and then crash like a rollercoaster.

I want to see consistent growth and. Penguin was meant, I think to send a message like that, and it works for me. So I transitioned away. I still had that success with my own site and then built Backlinko all within six months. And I, as soon as I started posting stuff at Backlinko, it resonated with people like you’re saying, because there was this, okay, this bill mark doesn’t work anymore.

What’s next? And I was trying to figure that out myself and I sorta documented that journey along.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And I remember in my research that you had some experiences, you tried initially to do the outsource, have someone else try to do it, you know, what were some of the things that you saw them doing incorrectly, you know, maybe taking shortcuts and things that, that you learned like, Hey, you know, I need to go basically experiment through this myself because these SEO agencies aren’t doing it.

Brian Dean

Yeah, it was exactly that it was that I didn’t know what they were doing. And I think I was at a point where I could finally understand whether they’re doing a good job or not. I, And I recommend that to anyone who hires an agency, educate yourself just a little bit. So then when they send you that report, you can say, this is bad.

This is good. Otherwise you’re just at someone else’s mercy and with something that’s so important, like SEO, you don’t want to be. Position. And it’s the same with me with, I’ve been in a position recently with Facebook ads. I was hiring Facebook at agencies. There were delivering stuff. I have no idea if they’re doing a good job or not.

Cause I was like, I can’t, I’m too busy to learn this. And when I finally learned it myself, I realized this isn’t really rocket science. It’s a lot of hard work. That’s why people hire agencies, they have expertise, but they can also execute on the work. And it’s probably something you don’t want to do, but at least you can evaluate it.

So for me, it was shortcuts. It was a lot of things, but at the end of the day, the buck stops with me. It was my business. I was hiring people that were either not delivering or they weren’t delivering enough, or if they were, I wouldn’t even know, make heads or tails of it. So I put the onus on me because I didn’t get educated about SEO.

And then once I did, I could evaluate whether someone’s helping so easily, even if I wasn’t doing the work.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. That’s a great piece of advice. I think for a lot of the law firm owners listening, you know, they may have that marketing manager, you know, they need someone to hold the agencies and individuals, they work with accountable so that they can really deliver the results they’re looking for.

And Brian let’s jump into some more tactical type SEO and just get right into it. And we’ll start with kind of content. Yeah, that you’ve had some studies about long form content about how they perform better. I know you, you have a lot of the ultimate guide is just really ranked exceptionally well in the search results.

You know, do you still feel that this is the best form of content to rank in the search engines or is Google passage rankings, another nod to long form? What’s your thoughts on this type of content?

Brian Dean

Now Google is more into search intent. I think passage ranking, that’s a different animal, but you’re right.

That is a, not to long form content kind of St. Google for those of you that don’t know, passage ranking is basically a Google taking one page and it’s splitting it up into several different sections and indexing them, like they’re their own pages. So if you have a really long form piece of content, it might say, okay, this is really five sections that cover different things.

We’re going to index them like they were their own pages. And that is a nod to long form content. It’s basically saying, look, sometimes long form content is just too much. We want to really zero user zero into that section that they need. So, yeah, I think there’s a place for it. I think it generally ranks better, but it’s not like you have to create some word limit and hit that word count, especially when it comes to the specific keyword.

Now I hate saying it depends because that’s just like a cop out that every SEO person says and phone ask them the question. But in this case, I think it really does depend on. Whether or not that person that long from content is what a searcher wants. If it’s what a search is looking for, go crazy four thousand five thousand six thousand words go nuts.

But if they just want to know what is X, then give it to them with 400 words, 300 words. It doesn’t matter. You see that stuff all the time for these shorter keywords, but then you see the longer stuff. So what I, instead of thinking, I just look at what’s already ranking and say, Google has basically figured this out, Google and users over the years, I figured that.

They have determined that a result should be around this many words, this is what they want. So I just go with the flow as opposed to just saying, oh, I need to create this super long for a piece of content, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

Chris Dreyer

I completely agree. And for the Brian, so many of the audiences lawyers, so they’re very familiar with it depends.

You know, one of the things I saw too is in your long form content, A lot of individuals are creating these table of contents with the jump navigation and exactly what we’re, what you’re saying. Those upended jump navs we’ll have like additional keywords in them to build relevancy. And, you know, back in the day, Google would just take it to the top of the page.

They didn’t have the algorithm dialed in to jump to a specific section on the page. And I think it’s a. It’s interesting how they’re trying to adapt and shift to the consumer behavior and their intent.

Brian Dean

Yeah, for sure. There are, I think are also adapting to devices. Like it’s just when you’re on mobile.

Of course, some people just will do, you know, read a long form piece of content on mobile. It’s actually somewhat comfortable to read on, but a lot of times you’re on the go, you’re looking for something quickly, you just need to get right to it. And they showed that with the featured snippet feature, where if you click on the link and the peaches snippet, it takes you to that section of the page, knowing that people want to skip to that specific section.

So, yeah, I think in general, I still lean towards long form because like you’re saying, Chris. With passage ranking with these other features, Google will just get better at taking you to that section. So you don’t have to worry that much about it in terms of being like, I need to be short and sweet. Yes.

It should be short and sweet, but Google is getting better at saying this section is for this user. Let’s just put it in front of that. And I think they’re going to get much better at that in the next couple of years.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. And you know, it wouldn’t make sense for someone to write a 4,000 word article on a definition. Right, exactly what you’re saying. Right, right.

The other thing is, you know, a lot of there’s been this boom particularly around COVID podcasts. There’s so many more podcasts on individuals like myself. We’re doing podcasts, we’re creating content and we will do a transcription and put it on the blog and part of the reason, and I don’t want to get your opinion on some of this is the reason why I do it.

It’s because it gives the guest somewhere to link back to their their in. And for example, like we had Seth Godin on and then Seth from his blog, which is which as, you know, just tremendously powerful link back to our site. But, you know, at what point does the content start to hurt you? Because after you did an article that I thought was very interesting about evergreen content.

And after that first, you know, week or two, it’s just not going to generate links or shares these podcasts interviews, you know, To these pages end up being dead. Should we 3 0 1, these pages, should we, what do we even make transcriptions for podcasts? What’s your just general thought about this thinner transcription type content?

Brian Dean

I’m not a fan. From my, for this interview should definitely have a really nice page or the link back to my site, but for every other guest I think you should keep into mind, but for me, it’s that the pages, like you said, they don’t know on LinkedIn. No one shares them and they don’t rank. So they don’t really do a lot for you.

But that said, if it’s getting links and stuff go to, and in that case, it is getting them like, so it’s definitely. So it depends if you’re going to do a thousand episodes. Yeah. I think that does become a problem at some point, because the issue with the transcriptions is that they don’t rank because they’re just not really user-friendly, you know, they’re good to listen to you, but what’s to read, it’s just a, it’s like reading a play it’s like Chris said, that’s Brian says it’s really hard to keep track and I’ve seen.

You know, try to transform the interview into an article. And I think that can work to a certain extent, but at some point you just better off writing the article from scratch, making an article, just optimizing on that. Also the title, a lot of times isn’t really SEO, optimized. Cause it’s you know, such and such w whatever, you’re gonna name this, like SEO tips for attorneys with Brian Dean.

Not really SEO optimized. No, one’s searching for that. So yeah, I would say overall, not a fan. I think it’s good to have. Page, like you said, with site links and resources and whatnot, but I don’t know if the transcription really does anything.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. You know, what I found too is I tried to optimize around a keyword around the overall theme of the conversation, but I found that was very difficult because of the nature of the content itself from those transcriptions.

So we started optimizing around the guests name and could typically rank, but. Even the intent there for individual wanting to search for someone like yourself, they want like a more history about you versus maybe just one single interview.

Brian Dean

Yeah. Yeah. But if you could write for the name, then it could be worth it.

But like you said, it’s search intent. It’s just search intent for podcasts in search. It just there’s. No, it’s just a mismatch overall people don’t search for podcasts on Google. They index them, but no one listens to. On browsers for the most part, people download them. The transcriptions, it’s just not, I’m not like saying don’t do a podcast.

I think they’re a great format, but they’re just, there’s just it hasn’t really worked for search. You know what I mean? It just, like you said, and this, the intent, it doesn’t make sense. Like I want, if I’m on search, I just want answer. If I’m on my podcast, I want a long form interview. I want to listen to someone have a conversation.

So it’s just a different format. So I would say, yeah, maybe do the show notes and. Throw it out there. And, but the transcription, I don’t, I haven’t seen that really work. I have a whole, I have an article on my site about how to get the most out of your podcast, show notes and transcriptions, and it goes into some detail, but it’s, I even in that article, I’m pretty honest, like this is going to help a little bit, but these things probably don’t right.

Chris Dreyer

Usually fair enough. Fair enough. And kind kinda on, on there’s kind of like a similar parallel here on this next question, but. Yeah, I’m kinda kind of shift over to like on-site SEO and UX a little bit. And your blog, you know, in some ways is anti to what SEO experts would recommend. And let me kinda jump in here.

It’s you know, you don’t have breadcrumbs, you don’t have these Bruce Clay type sidebars that were just all themed around this, you know, a certain location or category, you know, most of the navigation is internal links. You know, why do you take this approach to internal linking and navigation?

Is it more about controlling Google’s narrative or is it, you know, because SEO is search more like a library where you accessing a phrase versus a show. You know, I just kind of wanted to hear some thoughts on, in general about why you take the approach of more, just contextual versus the traditional menu or sidebars or categories, things like.

Brian Dean

There’s two reasons. The first is just conversions. You know, the more links you have on your site, the more stuff you have going on your conversions go down. Like the best landing pages are just a page. So if you’re an attorney and you want to get more leads, the first thing you should do is look at your landing pages.

Just strip out a bunch of crap and have a button that says contact us or contact us form, and you’ll see your conversions double that’s doing anything else. So. That’s number that’s the main reason actually is that I’ve done plenty of tests and the more widgets and sidebars and stuff. We add the fewer conversions.

There are people don’t spend any longer on the site either because they don’t click on that stuff. And I think that, yeah, there’s a place for the sort of like categorizing your content and. But I think it just, Google is getting smarter and they need their hand held a little bit less. Like not to say there’s no, this isn’t a place for that.

Now. Like I have hubs on my. On my side that are exactly what we’re describing here, but those are independent because that’s really just for rankings. But I think in general, I don’t think you need that to rank, although if you can swing it great, but it’s mostly for conversions, but also just before I even created the hubs, I’ll add tons of competitive keywords pages ranking for competitive keywords without any of this stuff.

And it kind of, I think, yeah, it probably helps a little bit, but you can do fine without it. So that’s why I never really went into it. But now that I have. They ranked super well. And I think part of it is they have this interlinking thing. I just haven’t figured out a way to get marry the two to have that working and also have the site convert really well, which is my number one priority.

Chris Dreyer

It makes a ton of sense. And absolutely. And that’s why in many individuals will recommend that sub domain landing page for a paid ad Lander. Right? Cause you could have shorter copy. Maybe not have the ability to rank in the search engines, but would be more conversion friendly.

Link building is one of the most influential factors in getting a website to rank well, but it’s also notoriously tricky in the legal space. I asked Brian what tactics he would recommend to an attorney looking for ways to encourage others to link back to legal blogs and websites.

Brian Dean

Yeah. I mean, I have I’ve experienced ice or an agency myself and I had tons of attorney clients and you’re right. It’s tough because no one wants to link to a DUI lawyer website. The content that is usually around those topics are usually pretty uninteresting. What to do. If you get pulled over drunk, drinking and driving, like they’re just not content that people generally link to.

So what I’ve seen a lot of people have success with. Is creating data around these topics and having that be the link magnet. And from there you boost your domain authority and your service pages will rank because like you said, Chris, those service pages, you, it would be amazing if you could get people to link to them, but they’re not the same way with an e-commerce site.

If you have a product page, it’s those toaster. No, one’s going to link to that page ever. So just forget it. Build your domain authority create pages that people will happily link to the Watson link to, and that’ll boost all the pages on your site. So I think in the case of the attorneys, it’s in that whole space, I don’t see it as being done.

And it’s a huge untapped opportunity in this space because you got, they have tons of data. They have tons of smart people working in all these firms. And they just, what they usually do is just hire some random freelance writer to write 10 things to know about hiring it yet, DUI, Laura, it’s not going to do anything.

You got to create something that people link to. And there’s tons of interesting data around your actual niche, but also just in general. So if you’re a patent attorney, how about writing? I would love to. How many patents are getting filed now versus 10 years ago and tracking over time, that’s the type of thing that people will link to happily.

So, yeah, I’d focus really on data. So instead of being a resource, be a source for other blogs journalists. So they linked to you when they referenced, you know, the number of patents have increased by such and such, or the number of DUIs has decreased by, you know, 83% since the pandemics or whatever.

These, this data sitting out there already, it just a matter of collecting it and organizing it in an attractive way

Chris Dreyer

I couldn’t agree more. And I got a couple of follow-up questions to that. And one of the things that we did, one of our clients which I won’t name, but we created these statistics pages, you know, motor motorcycle accident statistics.

And we pulled data from the department of transportation. And then what we did was before it started ranking, as we did paid traffic to these keywords, because they didn’t have the high intent for hiring. So they were very cheap and we found that they were attracting links and it became a really good.

Link acquisition technique tactic for us, obviously not scalable because these are nationwide types of phrases, but you know, on a follow-up to this, here’s the pushback we get as an agency owner, I’m sure you were on the same page is you’ll have a client that is as somewhat educated about SEO knows the importance of links and things like that.

And they’ll say, Hey, how come my car accident page doesn’t have any backlinks, you know, I want more backlinks there. We have to make sure. Explain that, you know, we’re building the overall sites authority. So, so basically I just kind of wanted to reiterate, do you think that, you know, ranking a very good resource page that maybe doesn’t have intent, maybe it’s top of the funnel, middle of the funnel article can then pass authority to your sales pages.

You think that is a really effective tactic? Or do you think that they really need just those direct links right. To the sales?

Brian Dean

Oh, no, that’s a super effective tech. You definitely don’t need links to the sales pages. Like I’d say in a perfect world, the links to the sales pages are better to be clear if you can get those, get them all day long, but the problem is practically no one will link to them.

So you just have to do something else. That’s where I’m coming from. Like I think, and the good news is Google is focusing more on the trust and authority of the site than a page. So. You’re trending in the right direction. If you’re focused on getting a domain authority, plus whenever you say you just, you launch a new department, you’re gonna, we’re going to start doing M and A’s.

For example, whatever. You’re you have this domain authority and that page already has a good chance to rank on day one versus, oh, we only have a bunch of spammy links toward individual sales pages and we don’t have anything to the site. So yeah I’m a big fan of seeing it happen in the, in, in the legal niche, in all their niches.

E-commerce also building a domain authority. That right. You know, the rising tide lifts all boats. It works really well. And that’s actually my focus for even Backlinko like most of the pages that have the most links at Backlinko aren’t guides on how to do something. People do link to those.

Occasionally it’s mostly. It’s industry studies. We’ve done it’s that page is like you had mentioned when we pulled data from different places. That’s where we get our links from. And that’s where I’m even tripling down on. Now I’m getting more links using that strategy just because it’s working so well.

And people happily linked to that versus creating a guide or a blog post it’s like pulling teeth to get someone to link to that now. So the stat pages and data, it just works so well that, yeah, I would make that the focus, if I was in that position.

Chris Dreyer

And I completely agree with what you’re saying. In fact, in many of our articles about legal SEO, we source back to your data pages, right?

We’re looking for a source to validate what we’re saying and not an opinion. So for audience, meaning the individual’s listing, you’ll see. Oh here’s this giant survey, right? A survey. If they survey SEO specialists, that’s typically an opinion. Versa. It’s just one SEO’s opinion of what works versus what that, what Brian’s creating.

He’s deconstructing the data with data scientists and reviewing the data. And it’s kind of more logical versus a subjective opinion of what someone thinks.

Brian Dean

Yeah, exactly. And if you can create something that proves someone. They’re going to happily link to it. That’s one of the secrets, like you said, Chris, when you’re writing this post, you’re like, I want to mention that, you know, people should try long form content.

And you could just say it, but it’s so much more impactful to be able to point to data. I do it all the time too, when I’m writing, because I don’t have a study on everything. I remember there’s one, there was a couple of studies that have referenced like 40 times because no one I haven’t, I’m too lazy to do it myself.

Someone else did it years ago and it just a good study. So I just linked to it over and over again. And guest posts and my own stuff. I mentioned on podcast. Sometimes like this guy must love me. I’m mentioning this study all the time, but that’s the kind of thing that anyone can create it doesn’t yeah.

You can do your own study and make it complicated. But like you said, it can be as simple as just pulling data from government agencies, which they publish tons of this stuff, but it’s usually very dry in a PDF and all you need to do is collect it and put it up and you’re good.

Chris Dreyer

It’s one of the first things that I recommend for the mass torts attorney.

So they’re all competing nationwide for these phrases. And it’s this new drug that comes up where it’s a Roundup lawsuit or Zantac, or what have you. I’m like what unique insights do you have about this? How can you be the source? Is there an individual you can talk to so that everyone else, when they create content there, they’re referencing you, they’re referencing your article and that’s the way to do it.

Yep.

Brian Dean

And that’s the way Google would recommend you do it? If you had asked them how, you know, I have the site it’s in the legal niche, how would you rank? They would tell you to do exactly that. Be a source that other people want a site because they know that’s the sustainable way to get around.

Chris Dreyer

Absolutely. So, so shifting over to a couple of broad questions, and I want to ask a couple follow-up questions on exploding topics. I’m really excited to get your opinion on some of my ideas on how to use the youth exploding topics. But first it’s just a couple of broad, you know, SEO, there’s less real estate now than there was in the.

Right. There’s more Google ads at the top. Now there’s local service ads. You know, how does today SEO, in your opinion, match up to other digital marketing channels.

Brian Dean

I’d say it’s still incredibly strong. It destroyed any other channel by a thousand. It’s not even close despite the shortcomings that you brought up, which are completely legitimate.

So. As these, you know, search the changes to the services, more ads, like you said, this featured snippets there’s people also ask there’s all sorts of stuff. They’re probably going to come out with more stuff between now and when we publish this podcast, but in the big picture, It’s SEO still brings in way more traffic than any other source by a mile because those other sources also aren’t necessarily getting more organic reach either.

If you look at YouTube, there’s more ads, it’s more competitive. It’s harder to get your video seen on Twitter, organic reaches. It’s more busy. It’s more loud. It’s hard to get your message seen. If you just kind of check off every other possible channel, it comes back to SEO and email, and those are the two channels that just work really well.

And on the bright side of this whole, like Google adding more stuff, I don’t know if you noticed this, Chris, but I’m just seeing that two years ago they rolled out a bunch of stuff like two or three years ago since then it’s been kind of. Like in terms of rolling out these features that reduce clicks in the search results.

I feel like the last two years they’ve been kind of quiet. I think maybe they found an equilibrium there where it’s like, all right. You know, we definitely want people to stay in Google and not leave Google, which is understandable, but we also want to give people what they want in general. I think people do want a quick answer sometimes the feature snippet, but sometimes they want to go to a site.

So I feel like the trend isn’t really. Clicks are dropping. I feel like they’re pretty consistent over the last, maybe two years, two and a half years. So for me, I’m not that worried about it. I’ll try it. Every marketing channel under the sun and SEO and email are by far number one in numbers.

Chris Dreyer

I a thousand percent agree.

And I’m so happy that we had that whole segment of marketing expert SEO guru, like yourself state kind of reinforcing that, a couple other things that I noticed just in agreeing with you, Brian is yeah. The, what I’m starting to see is actually some indented listings where they’re doing multiple search results for one domain where they kind of got away from that.

And now they’re introducing that again because. When an individual types in a query, they may need options. Maybe they’re typing in a quick query and they’re not sure what they actually need is an answer. And that’s more virtual real estate. And the other thing I like is it’s particularly in the legal vertical.

If you’re bidding on car accident, lawyer, it’s going to be two or $300 a click, and that’s one click versus you could have a car accident. Rank for hundreds of keywords, hundreds, right. Even though you ranked number one for car X, they’re still auto and motor vehicle and all the synonyms. And I just, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity compounding effects, you know, the, that you can get with improving your content over time.

And I couldn’t agree more. And then a second, just general broad question. I just wanted to ask this. You know, what’s the biggest surprise you’ve had in the last few months as it relates to SEO and why

Brian Dean

I actually have one ready that for my exploring topics, I’ve noticed that updating content and changing, like giving it a legitimate update and changing the updated.

On the page has made a huge difference for rankings. And in fact, I recently hired an update czar whose job it is to go through and just keep the content on the blog. Up-to-date unexplored talks about Glen goes a different story, but that’s his only job. He doesn’t write content, doesn’t edit content.

He just goes in and makes sure every, make sure everything up to date. And there’s a lot to do because of a lot of data related content. There’s a lot of stats. There’s a lot of sources, things change. So there’s a lot of. And in some spaces you won’t need to necessarily do this, but I’m surprised that I know it made a difference cause I’ve done it a lot, but I was surprised at how much of a difference than I made.

Chris Dreyer

I can tell you from my own experience, Brian, if I’m like sick and something’s wrong and I’d type it in the symptoms, think everybody’s done this at some point in their life. And I see an article that was updated 2016 and one that’s, you know, 20, 21 I’m clicking on the 20, 21 all time. And of course, I think in the legal vertical, that’s highly relevant as well.

They want the, because the laws change. And so one of my biggest recommendations is, Hey, when did shit, when it clicks over to 2022, all your top blogs need to be updated to 2022. And that’s just a no brainer. But I think because people want that relevant new information.

Brian Dean

Yeah. I think it’s a combination of the user and Google, like Google probably gives you a temporary bump and then when you’re there.

Like you said, then people are going to kind of scan and be like, oh, there’s article one from three years ago. And there’s article two from last month. It’s a no brainer, which one you’re going to click on. Right. You’re always going to almost always going to click on the more recent one, even if you’ve never heard of the site, especially in the legal space, like you said, where laws change, things change.

So yeah it’s something that I’m making it instead of a year end thing, which I usually do a regular ongoing.

Chris Dreyer

At the end of 2019, Brian also created Exploding Topics, a site identifying the next trending topics, from air fryers to van life, before they go mainstream. I asked Brian for his thoughts on attorneys boosting their backlink opportunities by creating content that provides the legal facts around trending topics. For example, ‘How much hard kombucha classifies as driving under the influence’.

Brian Dean

Yeah, that’s a great idea. That is a perfect example of tying a piece. You know, lake bait, if you want to call it that content that does relate to what the attorney does because it’s, it can be challenging. And a lot of times people can be rigid about I, my site is about this and everything has to be about this, but like you said, if there’s a way you can draw a line, even if it’s a little bit of a stretch, that’s more than good enough.

Like you said, if you have a DUI attorney and you’re writing about harken boots, That’s totally related. So it may be in your own eyes. You’re like, ah, I don’t know, from a search engine point of view, and even from people like users and journalists who might link to it. Yeah, because the thing is that when I get pitched all the time to link to stuff and what really peaks my interest is something that is on a trending topic and journalists are even more like that.

So if you know, let’s say you’re going to do this data approach that we discussed earlier, the first topics about something. Evergreen, you know, like motorcycle accidents. The second one is about e-bike accidents and scooter accidents. This tutor accidents, that page, you’re going to do 10 times better, partially because it’s less competitive, but partially because when you email it to someone, they’re going to be like, oh, I, this is on her.

I’ve seen it everywhere. They’re on the sidewalks all over the place. I want to, you know, I want to cover this as opposed to an evergreen thing. So there’s a place for everything. But I always try to focus on shiny topics. The tricky part is finding these trending topics. That’s why I created exploring topics because there’s Google trends, which is a great tool for confirming trends that you know about.

So I feel like, oh, I wonder like how, you know, people are really into e-school with how popular is that you type into Google trends and you get all the data you could ever find. It’s super accurate. Up-to-date it’s perfect. The problem is if you don’t know what. It can be hard to find out until you go to Thanksgiving and your 12 year olds on his phone and he shows you an app and you’re like, oh my God, you know?

Oh, wow. That’s, I’ve never seen that before. And that’s how most people discover trends from younger people. But there has to, I was kind of like one of those that had to be a better way more. Yeah. It’s one of the reasons we create exploring topics to surface these unknown unknowns, these topics you didn’t know existed and specifically those that are trending.

So, yeah, that’s a perfect example of one and I’m sure there are plenty of others.

Chris Dreyer

And so know. And trying to acquire links in the legal vertical is very challenging. We talked about data and I know some people are on the fence on calling it, you know, guest blogging or blogger outreach. Right. A lot of individuals have dressed up the name of it right there, that’s blogging, but then now they’re calling it blogger outreach or digital PR.

And they’re all kind of using different phrases. But the interesting thing is if you go to a, let’s say a travel site, And you’re trying to pitch the travel site to right on their site. Maybe they have good authority and you don’t have an article on your legal blog.

You just have all these how to write. You’re never going to have this opportunity to really acquire that link, but let’s say you’ve picked up an exploding topic and you wrote an article on van life safety, right? Cause you’re a PI attorney and the opposite of. Right. You might have the opportunity to acquire that link.

So I think that creating these top of funnel, these broader category types of categories can be as smart opportunity for even your pitches as well.

Brian Dean

Oh, absolutely. I mean more so, especially if you can bring some combine that with data. Oh man. Anyone would take it because mostly sites are getting the same lame desktop.

That are just, I’ll write an article. I wrote nine tips for traveling in Thailand. You’re going to say, okay, here we go. This thing called van life it’s shortage right now, like searches for van life for up a thousand percent in the last two years. And I have an article about how to do, how to. Do van life safely, and I’m an attorney or a firm.

You don’t have to be the attorney of self, but like our firm really specializes in this sort of thing. So we can bring expertise that you wouldn’t have. That’s a no brainer for them to accept. So, yeah, absolutely. If you can combine that trending topic it’s really can help you stand out from those multitude of guest post pitches that these blogs or.

Chris Dreyer

Fantastic. Fantastic. And Brian what’s on the cusp, on the future, what’s some of the things you’re working on an exploding topics. What’s some things that you’re dialing in and trying over there.

Brian Dean

Yeah. So our big thing, our sourcing. So we’re looking, always looking for different sources because basically it’s a, we have an algorithm that scrapes multiple and scans multiple different sources, millions of data points to try to find these trends.

And we’re always tweaking. And we’re adding sources, we’re moving sources because there’s a lot of signal. There’s a kind of inbound signal to noise ratio, like of you know, 99 trends. Our algorithm identifies maybe two are good. The rest is just, you know, not really valuable. So we’re always on the hunt for new sources that will have a better signal to noise ratio.

And we’re also focused on SEO. You know, we started the blog. I mean, we had a blog post. A year and a half ago, maybe two blog posts, but we really only started about eight months ago. And traffic’s going up a lot because we’re just focusing on what we talked about here, creating data, worthy content, getting people to link to it, not worrying about links to specific pages and just putting out really good stuff that satisfies your search intent.

And our traffic has increased by 10 X over the last six months. So. Yeah it’s basically the playbook that I outlined in this podcast is what we’re just trying to double down on.

Chris Dreyer

Yeah. And I can definitely agree. I went to the blog. I was looking at some of the topics and those top X and many of those list type posts, which are really good at attracting links and the super smart to, to focus around data.

And, you know, Brian, this has been fantastic. It’s been so, so helpful. So tactical, you know, just final question, you know, where can our listeners go to connect with you on.

Brian Dean

Yeah, the best place to go is my newsletter. So if you go to backlinko.com and sign up for the newsletter, you can get updates that have all the stuff on publishing and some exclusive insights that I only share there.

Chris Dreyer

Right. Thanks so much for coming on the show.

Brian Dean

Thanks for having me.

Chris Dreyer

I lost count of how many amazing suggestions Brian gave there, but it certainly got my mind racing, and I hope it did the same for you too. I especially like Brian’s tactic of using data to make yourself more linkable, and don’t forget you can always check out Exploding Topics for some fresh content ideas.

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