Link building without great content is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. You will earn links based on the merit of your content, how it’s presented to the user, and your ability to get it in front of the right people. Today’s entrepreneurs must master the art of persuasion, user experience and content promotion to get more traffic, leads and customers. Says Brian Dean (@Backlino), the founder of Backlinko.


Brian Dean, an internationally-recognized entrepreneur and SEO expert, specializes in providing marketing professionals and entrepreneurs practical strategies they can use to get more search engine traffic. Since February of 2010 Brian has built a growing internet marketing company,, while leaving a happy Internet lifestyle, traveling in countries like Thailand, Japan, Spain, and Turkey. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

I have met Brian at two SEO conferences over the span of the last couple months, and I was blown away by his innovative and creative ideas, especially in the area of link building, content promotion and SEO. His recent post – Blogger Outreach: How to Get Influencers to Promote Your Content for Free – on Jon Morrow’s blog, Boost Blog Traffic, was recognized by the editors of Moz and widely praised in SEO circles. One of my personal favorites.


What skills are involved in effective link building?

Empathy: When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes you’re forced to answer the question:

Why should someone link to me?

Do they like sharing controversial content? Or do they prefer how-to guides? Are they generous linkers or do they need some warming up before your pitch?

Empathy also helps you send killer outreach emails. When you understand the other person, you write in a voice that resonates with them.

Better outreach emails=more links.

Sales: Empathy is great, but the best link builders are closers. Like any good salesperson, you need push buttons that get people to ACT. Otherwise, youíre not going to convince them to take time out of their busy schedule to log into WordPress and add your link.

Content Marketing and Writing: Link building without great content is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. The person you’re reaching out to will ultimately link to you based on the merit of the content on your site (also, outstanding content has a better chance of generating natural links).

Web Design and UX: Like anything in business, your content’s presentation is massively important. Amazing copy and value hidden behind an ugly, Geocities-style site design can put a roadblock between you and some quality links.

Imagine how differently you would react to these two pages about SEO:

Link building and SEO optimization



advanced guide to seo


You probably didnít need to read a single word to prefer the QuickSprout page, right?

Well it’s the same story with the people you ask to link to you. A really, really nicely designed page can double or triple the links that you build to that piece of content.

How has the link building game evolved?

It’s funny: I’d say link building is back to where it was 10-years ago before we had industrial level link spam.

Back then, the best link building advice at the time was:

Build an awesome site and tell other site owners about it with email outreach.

From 2015-2012 or so, that advice didn’t ring true because spam worked better. So link building devolved for a while.

Google’s Penguin algorithm update changed all that. Today, link building is back to where it all started: creating great resources and promoting them with email outreach.


What link building strategies would you recommend to bootstrap entrepreneurs?

1. Creating and promoting amazing resources on their site: There’s no shortcut here: this takes a ton of work. But the ROI on an amazing piece that solves your target audience’s problems is insane…especially compared to paid traffic.

2. Guest posting: No, it’s not dead. As long as you don’t go overboard and build links from irrelevant sites, you’ll be fine. And if guest post links do stop passing SEO value, they’ll still send you traffic. In fact, Buffer built their entire business on a great product + guest posting=$$$ model.

3. Business listing pages: You’d be surprised how many authoritative pages online simply list (and link to) businesses. For example, let’s say that you have a startup in New York. You can easily get a link from this PageRank 7 page :

How do you get that link? Fill out a simple form. Done.

 — Thanks for tip Brian. I am on it! (SearchDecoder) 🙂

Also try searching for things like list of travel apps or fitness startups to find pages that cater to your startup’s industry. Reach out to them.

4. Create, speak and sponsor events: One of the best things about the startup community is how they love to meet in real life. When you become involved in events, you’ll generate links. And if you want a guaranteed link, just speak or sponsor an event – organizers always link to speakers and sponsors!

5. Partnerships: Bootstrap entrepreneurs do business formally or informally with other businesses. But they usually don’t ask them to get a link from the people they work with. Huge opportunity for easy (and white hat) links.

chain link

Credit: Laurie Williams (

What are the tools and resources for beginner link builders?

The only tool you need when starting out is a really good link analysis tool. These tools show you the links pointing to a site or page.

Pop a competitor’s URL into a link analysis tool and boom! you’ve just reverse engineered their links (and a good chunk of their marketing).

The big 3 link analysis tools are:


Majestic SEO

Open Site Explorer

(I personally use Ahrefs, but all 3 of them work well)

For more SEO and link analysis tools, check out our SEO Toolbox (SearchDecoder)

Once you’ve seen your competitor’s links, you need to figure out how they built them (and how you can build the same links).

This guide is a curated list of the best resources on link building ever published:

guide to link building

When you go through that (tip: grab a coffee!) you’ll know how to build your competitor’s links and grab a few of your own.

Is guest blog posting still a viable link building tactic?

I think Brian Honigman put it best: “Basically, Google is cracking down on spammy practices.”

As long as you post on quality, relevant sites, you can still use guest posting for link building. Like any link building strategy, you want it to be a small piece of a big puzzle. If you rely on guest posting — even legit guest posting — you could get the rug swept out from under you without warning. Unlikely, but possible.

So I’d say use it. Just focus on guest posting on quality, super-relevant sites.

Link building can be grueling, how can you make it fun?

Ain’t that the truth. Link building can be a GRIND.

Something that’s helped me enjoy the process is to test different things and think about WHY they worked. The reason why one thing worked better than another almost always boils down to psychology, which is universally fascinating.

For example, instead of slogging away with 100 identical emails, mix things up. Try a new subject line and see which one works better. But then ask yourself, “WHY did that subject line work better. Was it more direct? Was it funny? Was it weird?”.

Link building also gives you the opportunity to be creative. The best link builders are pioneers. When you’re the first to find a strategy that works, you can leverage it for months before anyone else figures it out.

5 replies
  1. Arun Kallarackal
    Arun Kallarackal says:

    That was an interesting chat. Nice to see the tips right from the mind of Brian Dean himself! Going through it sure benefited me! Learnt some new facts, which I think will be useful for my endeavors.

    Nice to hear his views regarding guest blogging. Sure, if quality is there, then one shouldn’t fear about a possible penalization from Google. It is calming to hear it from Brian.

    The tools he recommended are also handy. I’ve been using them and they’ve been amazing! His view regarding the ‘look’ and design of the site and its chances of getting backlinks is also interesting. Will have to devote some time towards making my blog look more appealing and professional, in that case! 🙂

    Good read! Loads of information to grab! 🙂

    I found the link to this article on Kingged.


  2. Lopeholt
    Lopeholt says:

    Hi to all! It seems some really famous people are gathered here. I have quit guest posting as it involves great risk. When Matt Cutts told its spamming, I couldn’t bear it as they’ve banned another great link building strategy. I use majestic seo but it requires site’s owner validation. So I’ve switched to opensiteexplorer.
    Thanks for sharing some great tips.


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