Lee Odden

The Copyblogger Files – Interview with Brian Clark

brian clark
 After being a fan of Copyblogger and other projects, Brian Clark was kind enough to do a panel on SEO I was moderating at BlogWorld. Then I ran into him again recently at Affiliate Summit thinking each time what a great thing it would be for our readers to do an interview with him for Online Marketing Blog

Brian is a fantastic writer and marketer, recovering attorney and someone that over 50,000 people have decided to subscribe to at copyblogger.com – one of the most popular blogs on the internet.  Brian has a lot of what people want: knowledge, talent and success.  Read on to tap into some of that Copyblogger goodness.

How did you go from being a lawyer to an internet entrepreneur?

Easy… I hated practicing law and I was fascinated by the Internet. The transition was extreme I suppose, but I always had a thing for writing, so I started creating online content over a decade ago. Now it’s just part of me.  

How much does SEO play into your blog marketing efforts with copyblogger.com and the other sites you work with?

Well, it’s absolutely vital and yet absolute optimization never happens too soon for us. I’m a firm believer in building trusted authority sites, and sometimes that means foregoing the best keyword optimization in order to attract more links and subscribers. Once you have that trust (with people and Google) it’s easy to dive in and optimize certain pages or sections of a site.

What are the most common mistakes you see people make that get in the way of blogs or web sites from having better search visibility?

I think it goes back to my last answer… Obsessing over the perfect keywords in your title before you have any readers or any links is backwards these days. Google wants to rank trusted brands highly, and creating a brand goes way beyond keyword research and placement. 

How important is genuinely good writing to having a successful blog?

It depends both on the audience and the author. In some areas being a great writer will put you ahead of the pack. In others, people are more interested in what you have to share with them, warts and all. But how you say things will always matter, whether you’re considered a “great writer” or not. That’s where copywriting skills come in.

Do you see links and buzz worthy content as a cart before the horse situation? ie, in order to get those links, you need to have something worth linking to.

The content and the value has to be there first. People think this is about “gaming” or whatever. Some people think having any strategy at all is “gaming,” and that’s fine for them. To me, it’s about solid value and solid strategy… both are necessary to achieve online marketing goals. 

If you were limited to 2 or 3 things blog owners should always do to optimize and promote their blogs, what would they be? ie, what are 2 or 3 of your best blog optimization/marketing tips?

Well, it’s been said over and over, but I can’t say anything new. It’s about a unique voice, unique value, and working to make a connection with the audience. It’s not easy, but those who truly work at it will succeed.

What are some of your most effective tactics for writing blog post headlines?

It boils down to making a relevant and compelling promise… one that your target reader can’t refuse–and then fulfilling that promise with your content. If you’ll forgive a link, I’ve written a ton about headlines

What do you think are the most important success measurements for a corporate blog, a content blog, a personal blog? (RSS Subscribers, web traffic, repeat web traffic, advertising rev, consulting)

It really depends on your revenue model, but frankly, my answer remains the same regardless–subscribers. It can be email (and in most niches, it still should be) or RSS, but getting people to “raise their hand” and pay attention to you on a regular basis is golden.

What resources can you recommend for keeping current with blogging, monetization and internet marketing?

Well, for starters, you. Also, a lot of really great stuff is being shared on Twitter these days if you follow relevant folks. And I suppose we manage a decent tip or two over at Copyblogger. 🙂

Here’s the best advice I can give on this… learn from everyone. Study marketers you hate as well as marketers you agree with. Don’t close your mind to anything and you’ll come out with a more well-rounded toolbox of tactics and strategies for online marketing. 

 Thanks Brian!

Check out Brian on the web at: Copyblogger, Teaching Sells, DIY Themes and on Twitter

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. I especially appreciate the insight about not obsessing over keywords and building a brand.

    If Brian’s knack for writing represents his courtroom days, I imagine the opposing attorneys are happy he left the profession!

    “Thank you” to Brian and to Lee for creating unique voices as best practice examples for us to study!

  2. Thanks for reading Dana and of course to Brian for making pigs fly. 🙂

  3. Nice interview, thanks!

    I definitely agree about the part with all the tricks people try do get search engines to rank them. It is not the way to go.

    Focus on building great content. Focus on making it unique in your own way. Focus on building readership.

    By doing this, links from different sites and social media will come and Google will notice you. Google will start ranking you but you will not be dependent on them as you still will have your readership.

  4. Nice Interview. Thanks for the insight and tips.

    I really like that Brian emphasized the need for great content and building a brand before optimization. Too many time we have clients that come in with a brand new company and want to rank first in Google. We have to explain that many more steps need to happen before they hit the first page of the search results.

  5. Lee, another great interview. I love the description of the headline as being a “relevant and compelling promise”. That is both powerful and simple to understand. I will share that gem. Thanks Brian

  6. People are overly obsessed with putting keywords into their blog posts, trying to rank well for search engines in order to gain more search engine traffic.

    What they do not realize is that if their post is dull due to the “optimization” done, visitors will not stay around for long even though they might have came from Google.

  7. Avatar Bill Tamminga says

    Great interview, Lee. Build value and implement effective strategy. Thank you!

  8. Avatar Flosslounge says

    Its become so competitive when it comes to search engine ranking such that i have lost hope. There is always something new coming up to make it even harder. It seems spending lots of money on advertising is the key although not small business friendly.
    Kind regards

  9. Some great insights in that interview Lee and Brian, thanks!

  10. Avatar J. Michael Warner says

    Great interview1 I think one of the most important things some people miss, is the idea that you have to find your voice. To much worrying about SEO and the technical aspects of blogging and building websites. Not enough time spent on who you really are and what you have to offer.

  11. Avatar Ed Richardson says

    Good advice,

    Effectively stick to the basics and focus on quality and your individual nature.

    Liked the simple nature of this interview.

  12. I really like the section on compelling blog headlines. As any copy there should always be a compelling headline to capture the readers attention no matter if it is a blog, some type of ad, etc.

    You have to capture the readers attention first and then back it up by following up on your content.

    Very good interview, thumbs up!