What’s The Future Of SEO? We Talked To Brian Dean About It

by Jeff Trumble on

What’s The Future Of SEO? We Talked To Brian Dean About It

If you’ve ever had any interest about SEO, then the name Brian Dean should immediately ring a bell.

Widely recognized as an absolute authority in the SEO industry, I can’t tell you how many of his posts and videos I looked at over the years.

I reached out to Brian to get his feedback and was delighted that he agreed to share his thoughts about the future of SEO.

There is plenty of intrigue and concern in the SEO community with multiple Google algorithm updates over the last few months, including the recent Helpful Content Update that has many people wondering what’s coming next..

I see that you started as a SEO consultant all the back in 2010 according to your Linkedin page, what was the original reason that you decided along this career path and explore SEO?

I never planned to get into marketing or SEO. In fact, I was a dietitian originally. Fortunately, I read The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. Which opened my eyes to becoming an entrepreneur (something I never considered before then). From there, I realized that I needed traffic for an online business to succeed. Which quickly led me to SEO.

The first time I heard of you was when I stumbled over Backlinko, how did that all get started?

Before I started Backlinko I was running an SEO agency and building affiliate sites on the side. That’s when I really got into white hat SEO for the first time (before 2012, I was mostly doing black hat stuff.)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any actionable tips, strategies, or courses on white hat SEO. It was mostly fluff like “publish great content.”

That’s when I realized that there was likely a market of people like me: professional marketers that wanted actionable strategies they could use that were still within Google’s guidelines.

Early SEO best practices were pretty primitive back in the day, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen from then to now? What principles have stayed the same?

The biggest change is Google’s ability to evaluate search intent. Back in the day, Google would rank sites based almost 100% on links and on-page SEO. Since then, they’ve developed sophisticated tools that can identify if people are generally happy with the search results. And shuffle things around until they find a combination of results and SERP features (like Featured Snippets and maps) that make searchers happy.

That said, the principles of SEO remain the same: content, links, and on-page SEO.

Are backlinks still important? I think I know the answer to this but to what degree has the relevance of backlinks evolved?

Absolutely. Backlinks will likely always be a key part of Google’s algorithm. Despite issues like spam and paid links, they remain a great signal! 

That said, links are now one of many, many signals that Google uses. So they’re likely a little less important than they were a few years ago. But still crucial for ranking. If you’re serious about SEO, ignore backlinks at your peril!

What are your thoughts on AI-generated content that looks to be under attack from the latest Google updates? Are these content tools still useful? Any tips?

In my opinion, AI-generated content was the main target of Google’s Helpful Content Update. Although the update was sort of a dud in terms of overall impact, it does show me that AI content is sort of “under attack” from Google.

I do think AI content tools are helpful for generating content briefs. And even identifying subtopics to cover that you may not have thought of. But they’re far from clicking a button and getting anything close to a usable article.

You sold Backlinko to Semrush early in 2022 which was a huge announcement in the SEO community. How did that conversation start and what did you learn from selling it?

It started with a cold email from someone at Semrush. I really wasn’t super interested in selling at the time. But you don’t ignore an email from the industry leader!

After getting to know the Semrush team a little more, I realized that Backlinko would be a great fit for them. Which is ultimately what made me decide to sell. 

The #1 lesson I learned is: get your stuff organized. My records and books were pretty disorganized. So it took me many late nights to prepare the documents needed to complete the sale.

I noticed that your YouTube channel now has grown to over 500k subscribers! Tell me more about how YT has helped generate awareness to your overall marketing and efforts over the years.

The thing about YouTube is that it’s hard to directly measure its impact. But I’ve definitely noticed a direct correlation between YouTube views, traffic, brand searches… even sales. There’s just something about the video format that has a huge impact on people.

You are now the CEO and Co-Founder of Exploding Topics, could you explain a little more about what that is and what problem you are solving for people?

Exploding Topics is a platform for finding trends early on. Most trend tools (like Google Trends) are designed to help you find more data about trends that you’re already aware of.

The problem Exploding Topics is solving is helping you find the “unknown unknowns”. In other words, the trends that you had no idea existed. But once you’re made aware of them, you can take action on them in some way. For example, our customers use Exploding Topics to identify underground markets, trending products and consumer behavior trends.

Google has potentially tipped their hand to some degree on the future of SEO, what are your thoughts on what’s coming next based on recent algorithm updates?

That’s true. Google’s recent Helpful Content Update shows that they’re serious about user experience. And that the bar for quality is only going to go up. That just means that people that produce the best stuff will eventually win out.

For anyone out there that’s looking to improve their SEO right now, what key strategies would you concentrate on most right now?

The #1 thing I’d focus on is updating your older content. That’s usually the biggest quick win you can get. Yes, publishing new content and targeting new keywords is important. But most people let their content sort of rot and decay over time. A solid update and improvement can often increase organic traffic to an older post by 2-3x.

Thanks Brian for talking with me, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us!

My pleasure Jeff.

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