Interview with Eric Enge, US Search Personality 2016

2016 has been a busy year for Eric Enge, CEO and Founder of Stone Temple Consulting. Not only did he win the US Search Personality of the Year, but he also won Search Marketer of the Year from Search Engine Land. Ahead of Eric’s session this November, UnGagged had the pleasure of sitting down with him for an exclusive interview!

UnGagged: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in SEO.

Eric Enge: Well, I graduated in 1982, so I’ve been working for a few years. Most of my early career was very technical (hardware design, software engineering, managing software dev teams, …) but eventually I drifted into business  and marketing, as I was one of those engineering types that could explain things to people.

I’ve been in SEO since 2002. At the time, I was doing business development consulting for people, and it was going quite well. But, a friend of mine took over as the CEO of a DVD De-tailer, and he asked me help him out with some biz dev.

After exploring that for a few weeks, I went to him and suggested that we try to get traffic from search engines. Like a good CEO, he said to me “great idea, you go do that!”  So I did. One year later, we were doing about $3M per year in sales from SEO.

So seeing that, I realized how big SEO really was, and decided to shift my career focus in that direction!

UnGagged: What will you be speaking about at UnGagged?

Eric: I’m going to be speaking about the impact of content quality on SEO. I know, I know, that sounds obvious, but I’m going to take it further and show how you can use things like Term Frequency / Inverse Document Frequency analysis to identify gaps in your content when comparing it to the pages that currently rank in the top 10 for your critical search query targets.

It’s a really cool technique, and it works really well in terms of improving page content quality, as well as search rankings.

UnGagged: In your niche sector, what’s the most annoying SEO misconception?

Eric: There are so many misconceptions to choose from! I think one of them is that many people believe that RankBrain has taken over the whole Google algorithm, and it’s just not true. RankBrain exists for purposes of better understanding user search queries.

It’s able to do that because it has done a comprehensive analysis of language usage across the web and has increased Google’s understanding of phrases, when and where certain words matter, and when they don’t, and other such things.

People don’t appreciate how incredibly complex that achievement already is, and the idea that the very same algo would take over other factors is, well, just a bit nuts. I’ve built machine learning algorithms (I do still do technical things), and because of that, I have an appreciation for why you wouldn’t have one algo do both language analysis,  and evaluating other ranking factors at the same time.

UnGagged: What is your current favorite SEO tool or platform?

Eric: There are so many great tools out there.  The Enterprise SEO tools (Searchmetrics, Conductor, Brightedge, SEO Clarity) all have a lot to offer. Then there are a ton of specialty tools for things like link analysis.

We also build tools in-house at Stone Temple, which we use to cover gaps we see between market needs and what’s available in the market. For example, we have our own web crawler that will happily crawl hundreds of millions of  pages.

UnGagged: What is the best thing about UnGagged?

Eric: I’ve never been before! But, from what I’ve heard, UnGagged does a great job of getting speakers to go deeper than they normally do in public presentations. As the conference is tailored to the more advanced digital marketers, we’ll be able to get down into more of the nuances of what makes something work, and that’s exactly what I plan to do!