Enter Eric Enge’s World: Stone Temple Consulting CEO Talks SEO #SMX Series
Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, has been an SEO force since 1997. He’s a co-author of “The Art of SEO,” has a popular YouTube channel, and has written digital marketing articles for major publications such as Forbes, Search Engine Land, and Search Engine Watch, among others. Next week, he’ll be speaking in two Search Marketing Expo (SMX) sessions: “The Growth of Direct Answers: How Should SEOs React?” and “How to Secure Your Site for Google’s HTTPS Algorithm.”
In a preview of the knowledge bombs he’ll drop in those sessions, he joins us on the blog today for the final segment in a series of interviews with select SMX speakers. All month long, we’ve featured interviews of SEO VIPs sharing amazing insights on every aspect of digital marketing.
Today, Enge will shed light on the current state of search and social, complete with insights from his recent four-million tweet case study. Without further adieu, let’s get to the interview!
Kristi Kellogg: What are your tips when it comes to technical SEO in 2015? What trends do you see for online marketers to be aware of this year?
Eric Enge: The big change during this coming year I see is the growing capability of Google to directly measure content quality. This began back in February 2011 with the release of their Panda algorithm, but Google’s capabilities have evolved significantly. I wrote about this last June, and again in November. Google is already doing things to measure how comprehensive and valuable your pages are.
This is an area that the industry still speaks little about, but I think it’s coming on like a freight train. The days of creating hundreds or thousands of pages to chase the long tail of search are fading, and it’s increasingly important to focus on building the very best pages.
And, to your next question, I think that direct answers in search (or rich answers as I now call them) is really going to continue.
KK: Direct answers (the answers that show up directly at the top of Google — no click-through necessary — with answers to common questions or information like movie times or sports scores) are a matter of hot debate among SEOs. What do you think? Are direct answers a threat to publishers … or an opportunity?
EE: It’s a good question, but I will answer it with an analogy. Many of your readers probably had the experience as a little kid. You built a sandcastle down by the ocean. You built it in the wet sand because that’s what worked the best. But, a few hours later the ocean came in and washed it away. Most little kids are really upset by the experience the first time it happens.
My point is that Google’s direct answers are like the ocean. They are coming whether we like them or not. So, the best thing for publishers to do is to prepare for the inevitable. (Tweet this!)
There are some key things that you can do to prepare:
- Don’t depend on publishing public domain data to get traffic to your website. If Google’s rich answers haven’t wiped that out for you already, it will.
- Don’t depend on publishing data that Google may cheaply obtain a license to for getting traffic to your websites. In some cases, Google may go get such a license, as they appear to have done for some songs (try a search on “jump lyrics” for an example of this).
- Focus on the core value of your business, and publishing rich, unique, and proprietary information that makes your site incredibly valuable to your potential customers and also to Google.
- This may not be a simple thing to do, but it’s what you need to do in this day and age.
KK: You recently published a massive a Twitter study, featuring data amassed from four million tweets. What prompted you to do this study and what were some of the most shocking findings?
EE: We have built an internal lab at Stone Temple Consulting that focuses on studying many aspects of the digital world and how it works. The four million-tweet Twitter study is just one of many that we have published, or are working on. We consider it our mission to demystify digital marketing (as much as we can!).
As for the findings, here are three of our most interesting conclusions:
- We all knew that including images was an important factor in growing engagement, but what we did not know is just how much of a factor they are. For people with a Followerwonk Social Authority of 60 or less, including images can increase the number of RTs you get by 5 to 9 times! Now that does not mean you should shove an image in every tweet you do, but for the ones that are most important to your business, it would be crazy not too.
- Other studies (using far fewer tweets as a sample) have suggested that Time of Day is a big factor in engagement on Twitter, but our study showed that this has no material influence at all.
- Including a mention in your tweets was found to be a negative to engagement (as measured by total RTs your tweet gets). My guess is that once it becomes a conversation that few people that are not in the conversation are inclined to retweet it.
KK: In a recent YouTube video, you and Mark Traphagen broke down “Why is SEO So Hard?” In 140 characters or less, can you tell us … why is SEO so hard?
- Indexing all the world’s info is amazingly complex.
- Search algos are kept secrets.
- We learn by experimentation and experience.
KK: How does your staff keep up with all the SEO and social media best practices?
EE: It’s a really tough challenge. You have to read the industry news, go to conferences, and keep experimenting and learning from your work on different sites. Then, even as you learn, things keep changing. There is only one really good solution to this problem, and that is to be passionate about learning. Of course, it’s helpful to have people who focus on different things so that other members of the team can learn from them.
KK: What is your response when you read or hear people saying “SEO is Dead?”
EE: They just don’t understand. Back to the my 140 character answer, there is so much complexity to what the search engines do, and so many different flavors of it. Local search is different than video search is different than shopping search is different than rich answers, and so forth. And, the desire for people to search for things will never go away. So, SEO is a long way from dead. As long as people need to search for things, and as long as the complexity of the search engine’s job is high, there will be a need for SEO.
You just have to think about it as consisting of these two things:
- Making it easier for search engines to understand what you have that there users are looking for.
- Doing marketing work so they understand why what you have is more important to those users than the other people that offer similar things.
These are just basic needs!
KK: What do you think SEO will look like in ten years?
EE: That’s a really tough question. I stand by my answer in the prior question, but there will be so much change in the next 10 years that it’s hard to say what it will look like.
The rate of change in technology that we have experienced in our lifetimes so far is accelerating. Even 5 years from now, the technology and web worlds will already be radically different!
KK: If you could give three SEO tips to a business startup with a very limited budget, what would they be?
EE: Here is my short formula!
- Get enough expert help to make sure your website is being fully crawled and indexed. You can’t get out of the starting gate with SEO unless you solve this one.
- Focus on publishing expert level, comprehensive content. This is the way that Google is going. If you don’t do this, then they will start to see your site as being very low in value.
- Promote your business in a way that causes people to recognize you as an/the expert in the topic matter of your business. This will get you links (yes, they still count) and other forms of social proof that could be influencing your SEO, too.
Note that items 2 and 3 are really about how you conduct the day-to-day operations of your business. Even if you can’t get help with them, you should try to do this with the time that you have available to do so.
KK: What are your three favorite accounts to follow on Twitter?
KK: Those are some of my favorites, too :) Besides SMX West, where can we find you speaking in 2015?
EE: So far, here is what I know:
- ClickZ Live NY
- Pubcon Austin
- SMX Advanced
- SMX East
- Pubcon Las Vegas
- (I am sure there will be others, but those are the ones I know about for now!)
Eric, we can’t wait for your sessions at SMX West 2015! Virginia Nussey and I will be on the scene, liveblogging key sessions, including both of yours. We’ll see you next week :)
Catch other interviews in our SMX West Speaker series here: Pushfire’s Rae Hoffman, Experian’s Bill Tancer, Bing’s Duane Forrester, Google’s Gary Illyes, SEO by the Sea’s Bill Slawski, Bruce Clay, Inc.’s Mindy Weinstein, HubSpot’s Luke Summerfield, aimClear’s Marty Weintraub, Alliance-Link’s Debra Mastaler and Moz’s Pete Meyers.