The SEO Scoop with Enge & Traphagen: New Stats on Direct Answers, Google+ Changes & ‘The Art of SEO’
Do you want the latest research on Direct Answers from Eric Enge? Want to hear early-adoption evangelist Mark Traphagen‘s thoughts on the newest video chat technologies like Blab.im? Then you’ve come to the right place. The impressive Stone Temple Consulting duo took a break from their busy schedules to join me for a live Hangout on Air. (It was the latest in a series of interviews with key speakers as we gear up for SMX East and Pubcon; we’ve been joined by Google’s Gary Illyes, Moz’s Rand Fishkin, and Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan and Ginny Marvin.
What hot topics did we talk about? In addition to Direct Answers and Blab.im, Enge and Traphagen shared their insights on:
- Personal brand building and how to use individual trust to boost brand trust
- The future of Google+ now that hangouts and photos stand on their own
- What’s different about the latest edition of “The Art of SEO”
- What content should do, and why marketers can’t afford to be afraid
Watch the entire interview and/or read along below!
Kristi Kellogg: Can you give us a glimpse into Stone Temple’s latest research on Direct Answers?
Eric Enge: Back in February, we published a study of 850,000 search queries that we looked at to see how many of them would generate rich answers in search. These queries were designed to be things that might trigger a rich answer or some kind of knowledge box. A simple example would be “How many quarts are in a gallon,” and Google will come back and tell you four (I hope).
We did that back in February and at the time 19% of the queries casted responded with a rich answer, but we’ve since done a second study in which we’ve looked at 1.4 million questions. So we’ve expanded it, and we’ve compared the data from the original 850,000 queries to see how it changed. So I have a tidbit for you that has not yet been publicly revealed before this moment. Of the 850,000 queries we studied, it went from 19% to 27% showing a rich answers.
The other thing I’m going to talk about at SMX East is basically how you can go about getting rich answer boxes for yourself, and show some data of a bit of work we did where we were able to generate some rich answer boxes.
KK: Mark, you’re speaking on personal branding and social strategy at Pubcon. What advice do you have for a digital marketer looking to build their personal brand?
Mark Traphagen: Personal branding (matters) for all kinds of companies who are willing and able to take this step. Personal brands power business brands. Bruce Clay has proven the power of that — his name is on the business, but you see Bruce out there. He’s speaking, he’s online, he’s doing seminars, he’s writing content. That’s true for Eric and I, as well, at Stone Temple …
People come to trust our organizations and believe we’re worth doing business with because they’ve gotten to know us and come to trust us. That personal connection can lead to business. At Pubcon I’ll be giving examples and case studies of brands from all types of verticals who do this.
As for individual digital marketers, here at the Inbound conference I’ve been talking about that and encouraging some of the young people I’ve met who are just getting started in the business to be out there creating content and being active on social media and finding forums where they can get engaged. Get to conferences and meet people face to face. Not only does that have obvious ramifications for helping you build your own career, but you can be part of an international mastermind group online. You get to learn and engage with incredible people who can really help you and then you, in turn, pass on that knowledge and expertise from your own experience.
If you happen to be working for a particular brand and that brand is relevant to what you talk about and are trusted for, that trust gets transferred to the brand.
KK: You’re both long-time active Google+ users. With Hangouts and photos splitting out of Google+, Mark, you said that Google+ isn’t dead but it will change. What do you see for the future of Google+?
MT: Eric and I have been on Google+ for a long time, since the second or third day of the platform. We find a lot of value there in the community, despite people saying it’s dead and no one’s there, millions of people use it every day. They tend to be in niche communities. It’s no secret to say marketers are one of those communities, and we’ve found a lot of people there who are mentors and who we’ve become mentors to.
It looks like what Google has decided to do is tighten it up and give Google+ a more specific purpose. It used to be like Facebook on steroids; it was designed to be everything that anyone would want in a social network. Now they’re saying people don’t really need that. That’s not what they’re looking for. They love the hangouts and the photo products, so it made sense to make those accessible apps on their own.
What about Google+ itself? Obviously it’s still around. Earlier this year they added the collections feature which is like Pinterest on steroids … Bradley Horowitz, who is head of Google+ and the photos and hangouts, said that Google+ wants to now center itself around shared interests. Eric and I picked up that the head of Google’s Deep Mind project, which is their investigations in artificial intelligence, said in an interview back in January 2015 that the first place we’d see any implementation from that project would be in Google+ and it would come before the end of the year. There was no more detail — it was one paragraph. But I’m putting this together and wondering if they’re working on coming up with some amazing way to bring people together based on their interests rather than having the same social graph (friends, etc.). Maybe, rather, we’d come together because we’re both interested in Star Trek or airplanes or whatever it might be.
EE: The original Google+ launch was flawed in one sense. In this case, the Google+ team made every Google account login tie into having a Google+ account. A large part of the community resented that, like it was being forced down their throat whether they wanted it or not. That was bad PR and there are people who still hate the platform today because of it.
KK: With all the new technology platforms coming out, like Blab.im, for instance, how do you decide where to invest your efforts? The tried and true? The new and novel? How do you identify what’s going to work? How do you judge the value?
MT: Blab.im is a live-streaming video chat platform. It’s tied to Twitter, more public, seems to be easier to use and more intuitive than Hangouts for a lot of people. I’ve been experimenting with it a couple weeks now and find it very intriguing. I’m particularly intrigued by how quickly it appears you can grow an audience.
Eric and I are both early adopters — we have that FOMO (fear of missing out). A large part of what we do at Stone Temple Consulting involves social media and we have to at least be aware, but we also have to have some wisdom about it. We look at it, assess, and say this has some value for our clients for their audience. One platform as an example that we haven’t used is Ello. When Ello was introduced, I jumped on it and wrote an extensive guide to it, but Ello, while I love it and what they’re doing, it’s not something I can spend a lot of time on is because what it’s become is a great place for artists and creatives to hang out. People are posting beautiful images and poetry, and I love that but it’s not where our customers hang out.
EE: On the walls in our cafeteria there’s a huge decal of a wave that is meant to remind us that our job is to be in front of the wave. We do that for our clients — we’ll jump in and test things out and make sure that we understand how they work. We want to know if it’s good for us to use, but we also have to understand if the latest technology will be effective for our clients.
KK: The third edition of “The Art of SEO” just came out — Eric, how long were you, Jessie Stricchiola and Stephan Spencer working on that edition? What’s in store for readers?
EE: I think I was working on it for 27 years, although that’s probably an exaggeration. To be honest, I don’t remember when we started. It’s a very long process, and we started working on it last year. It grew from nearly 800 pages to nearly 1,000 pages. There’s a whole new section on Panda, Penguin and penalties and that part of the algorithm. The linkbuilding chapter was completely rewritten into a content marketing chapter. The technical SEO chapter was completely updated — lots of things changed. From our perspective, we’re trying to provide people with a comprehensive resource designed for everyone from beginners to the more advanced people. It really covers a lot of ground and there’s a lot of cool new stuff in it. But, to be honest, the best part of every book writing project is when it’s done.
KK: Eric, you recently wrote a blog post for Moz about the value of interactive content. How do you implement interactive content in your own digital marketing (or plan to?)
EE: There are lots of people who are cranking out content. I don’t see a situation where there’s too much content – I see a situation where there’s not enough high-quality content. Most people who are starting ‘content marketing’ are pushing out a lot of poor quality content and that’s not what it should be about. This is where the interactive aspect comes in. Create content that people are going to want to share, tell others about, write about, and link to. These are all things you should really be attempting to do with your content.
Seth Godin used a great word for this: a need to be remarkable. If you look candidly at most content marketing efforts that people put together, they’re not remarkable. It’s garden variety, who cares kind of stuff. So the focus needs to be how can we something a little deeper and a little different. A lot of people get scared. Put aside the fear, take a close look at what others are putting out there and think about what your potential customers need and what kind of help they could use … I don’t know of a market space right now, including SEO, where you can’t come up with new ideas of things that are not being addressed. You can come up with lots of good ideas that people are going to want to engage with and can benefit from. And that’s how content marketing is done right. No content shock for me — to me, it’s all opportunities. Let’s go out there and get it and produce some great content.
KK: This is a fun question — how did each of you get into SEO and digital marketing?
EE: As with nearly everything in my career, I stumbled down a dark alley and found myself doing SEO. It wasn’t literally a dark alley. I was consulting in business development. I was putting companies together, putting partners together. A good friend of mine hired me to do business development for a DVD e-retailer.
I told my friend, “I think we should try to get traffic from search engines” … I just started doing it, trying to figure out how to do it, and a year later, they were doing millions of dollars of sales and I kind of scratched my chin and said, that felt pretty good — maybe I oughta do more of that.
MT: Somebody one day threw me in the deep end of a pool and said see if you can swim. A number of years ago I was working for a small independent bookstore in Philadelphia. It was in the early days of Amazon when Amazon was all books and they were killing us. Literally, just killed. The manager said, ‘You know about this Internet thing.’ He sat me down in from of the computer and said figure out how to take us online and see if we can somehow compete and getting a bigger audience for our books. I had no idea what I was doing but over the next two years I figured it out.
It was fun. We were doing outreach and working with bloggers and linkbuilding and I started seeing the organic traffic going up — the bug bit. I loved it and it became my passion and I wanted to learn everything about it. I got hired by a small agency and sucked everybody’s brains dry there. I’m an ex-teacher, so when I learn something or know something, I’ve got to share it — that’s why blogging and videos and speaking at conferences just flows through my blood. And now I get to do it with one of the best people in the business, Eric Enge.
Many thanks to Eric and Mark for joining us for this special hangout! Catch them speaking at SMX East and Pubcon Las Vegas. Haven’t registered yet? We have some exclusive discount codes for you. For SMX East, save 10% with this code: SMXW15BRUCECLAY. For Pubcon, save 15% with this code: ex-2072615 (only good for the first 10 to use it!) or 10% with this code: ex-6104410 (unlimited).
And if you’re unable to attend, no fear! Virginia Nussey and I will be liveblogging choice sessions throughout both conferences. Check out the liveblog schedule for a sneak peak at what articles to be looking for! Our liveblogs are the next-best thing to being in the audience.
UPDATE: Read the full liveblog of Eric Enge’s SMX East presentation Direct Answers: How Should SEOs React?