Interview with Eric Enge from @StoneTemple Consulting


Passion. That's what drive us. We like to win, and winning to us means meeting or exceeding your goals for your web site and business. - Eric Enge


Eric has been working in the industry for more than 30 years. The Stone Temple Interview series is highly acclaimed for its interviews with top search engine marketers, such as Google’s Matt Cutts, and other industry leaders. he also speaks at a host of events across the continent, including the major search conferences like SMX, PUBCON and more.

Eric has been an entrepreneur for most of his career. He is the Founder, CEO of Stone Temple Consulting (1997-Present). He is also co-author of The Art of SEO book, along with Rand Fishkin, Stephan Spencer, and Jessie Stricchiola.

Also on Techwyse:

Interview with Tad Chef
Interview with Rand Fishkin of @Moz

A big thank-you to Eric Enge for spending the time answering my questions! I’m happy to include you in my list of internet marketing interviews.

Q. There is a lot of debate around how much Google considers social signals. I know that you have conducted experiments around this and concluded that “correlation does not equal causation.”

Before you answer this question, I’d like for you to take a look at some interesting results we notice with our own site.

After we published an Interview with Dharmesh Shah, we saw some strange results in Google index. Below is the exact URL (for the the interview) that was indexed in Google:

This URL was seen in Google soon after we received several tweets within hours of the blog being published. We have also seen the same utm parameter tagged URL when we launched a blog about our new tool Lorem Ipsum Site Scanner. We also noted that there was sudden increase in ranking; it also fluctuated every hour at the onset.

In 2010, Matt Cutts said "I filmed a video back in May 2010 where I said that we didn't use that (social) as a signal, and at the time, we did not use that as a signal, but now, we're taping this in December 2010, and we are using that as a signal."

Again now in 2014 he denies it, what’s your take on this and your views on this topic?

A. We have published 3 studies on this topic:

The conclusions in each of these studies is that social media activity does not impact SEO, except in the case of Google Plus impacting personalized rankings. I.e., if you are logged in to Google Plus, and you search on something, and a friend of mine +1’ed, shared, or published related content, we may see that rank higher, and in some cases, it will rank a LOT higher.

There is one other scenario worth mentioning though, and that is the notion of discovery. Google may well use Twitter and Google Plus (and perhaps other social networks) as a way to discover new content. This can lead to indexing of that content, and that may relate to what you saw above.

But, there is no material evidence whatsoever that sharing a link to a piece of content on a regular web site will cause it to rank higher than it would otherwise rank. In fact, our studies, and ones also done by Rand Fishkin says that they don’t!

Q. Do you believe social signals are nothing but authorship? I.e. the more the author rank you have, the more your content will rank? What are your views on this especially when Google is trying to reduce the importance of authorship by removing author picture from search results.

A. On August 28th, Google ended their support for the rel=author tag. After 3 years of experimenting with it, they found it was just not that useful a program for them. In other words, end users were not getting enough benefit from the markup in the search results to merit the expense in server resources to support the program (and yes there was probably some impact on AdWords revenue as well). However, this does not mean that Google has lost interest in identifying authors and determining which ones are authoritative. They still care a lot about that and will continue to pursue that.

In fact, there is already some evidence of how this will happen. In the short term, it appears that there will be a major focus on a personalized flavor to Authorship, and frankly this makes a lot of sense for them. Once someone has started to show a connection to a given author, and if that author is authoritative for a given query, Google can not only show rich snippets in the search results for that, they can rank that content higher.

This is a good first step for Google, and I suspect that we will see more moves related to Authorship, and AuthorRank, in the future. However, this might not happen particularly quickly!

Q. Most SEOs agree that Google is giving more importance to local search and that local search has become more competitive. According to you, what are the major factors or signals that Google considers when ranking a site in local search results? As a marketer or SMB owner which factors should we be giving more importance to in the future?

A. The number one ranking factor in local search is data consistency. What this means is that your name, address, and phone number information should be shown the same way everywhere it is found on the web. The reason is that when Google sees it represented in different ways on the web, they lose confidence in which version of that information is accurate.

This can, and does, result in ranking your listings lower in the results. Unfortunately, resolving this is hard. Your name, address and phone number information can show up in hundreds of places across the web.

There are services that help you with this, such as Yext, InfoUSA, Axciom, and Localeze that are worth investigating. None of these totally resolve the problem, but they do make it easier to manage. In addition to these services, claim your listing in Google My Business:

Q. Please share some tips to use schema markup effectively for SEO; and according to you, how important is schema markup in future?

A. This is really pretty straightforward - use Schema markup when you can ( Search engines use schema to help them better understand the content of your web site.

To understand what is in play here, search engines try their best to understand what the pages of your web site are about. This is harder that we all think it is, and schema allows you to provide the info to them in a very structured way that is very easy for them to process.

If Schema is too complex for your developers to tackle, then there is a backup plan, which is to make the effort to clearly show the type of information on the page that Schema calls for, but do it in plain text.

The search engines will try to find this information whether you use Schema or not. Schema makes it easier for them, but chances are still decent they find it and use it regardless. So first things first, make sure you are presenting the type of information that search engines are looking for on your page.

I.e., if you are running a restaurant, go look at the Schema spec for restaurant ( and make sure you present the most important information listed there on your page.

Q. What’s your take on links coming from subdomains that point to the main domain? Is Google treating the sub domain as separate and in that case, how those links will be treated?

A. Links from your subdomain back to your main domain basically have little to no value. Google’s algorithm looks to find links that represent 3rd party endorsements of the quality of your content. Links from your own subdomain back to your site are not 3rd party endorsements.

Basically, think of this as the principle in play here: “You can’t vote for yourself”. Since the subdomain is under your control, it’s like voting for yourself, and Google does not count it.

Q. If you see the trend for the term “near me,” you’ll notice that there “hockey stick curve” for searches containing this term. We believe that more people add “near me” or “nearby” along with other search terms. For example: “restaurant near me,” “pizza near me,” etc. This shows an increase in local search trends. What do you predict for the future of Google local search and how should marketers prepare?

A. That’s a big question! I have no simple answer, other than you need to strictly manage your NAP (name, address, phone number) info on the web, and:

* ask people to review your business

* fill out the other fields that listing services give you with clear, concise, accurate information

* pay attention to basic (non-local) SEO practices

I am not really a local search guru, so there are probably others who can fill in the details in better than I can.

Q. How effectively we can track the result of local SEO? Software like WebCeo provides the option to track ranking “product/service + city” but tracking huge number of keywords is costly. What are the best ways to track the progress of local search optimization and what is the biggest challenge in that.

A. Rank tracking definitely has inherent limitations. The major alternative I see to this is tracking what pages on your site bring in the most organic search traffic, and then using data like that provided by Webmaster Tools to try and see what search terms are bringing in that traffic.

The data is not of great quality, I know, but it’s the best data we have on keywords, and you should definitely make use of it.

Q. What are the major misconceptions that you have heard from other authorities/experts and what are you views about them?

A. I wrote about this recently in Forbes: Here is what I said are some of the biggest myths out there today:

a. All guest posting is bad - not true if you focus on it for reputation and visibility building.

b. Social media signals drive SEO

c. Links are on their way out - they will be with us for a long time to come yet!

d. Google’s search results are broken - they are still the world’s dominant search engine.

e. AuthorRank is a ranking signal

f. Correlation studies tell us what Google uses as ranking factors - keep in mind that there is a strong correlation between sales of sun tan oil and drowning deaths (both happen more often during the Summer, because it’s hot out!)

g. SEO Today is Only About Creating Good Content (the Rest Will Take Care of Itself) - No, you do need to know what the limitations of search engines are (for example, see the answers on local search and Schema above), and tailor your content and site to make their job easier.

Q. Tell us little bit about the upcoming test and experiments that you are planning.

A. We are constantly testing different things. We have an extended series of Twitter tests we are doing now. You can expect to see more from us on other social sites too.

Another major area of interest for us is the Knowledge Panel/Vault and Voice Search. We also have a major study underway in that area too. So much to study, and so little time!

Q. What will be your focus towards link building moving forward?

A. It’s all about content marketing these days. Do things that build your reputation and visibility online, and let the links flow from that. It’s a bit hard to learn if you don’t know how to do it yet, but the best time to start learning it is now.

People who have the skill to do this will have a decisive advantage over those who don’t. And yes, it’s a learned skill. You are not born with great creative gifts, you develop them, and it takes practice, practice, and more practice.

Q. How do you maintain a work and personal life balance?

A. In all honesty, this can be very tough at times. As an entrepreneur, sometimes the demands for your time come crashing in all at once. However, I have rules I put in place to protect myself from it all.

I always leave the building to get lunch, even when I plan to eat in. I have times blocked out on my calendar in which I don’t take meetings. I never eat dinner in front of a computer, even if no one else is around. I work out every morning. These are things that I treat as sacrosanct, and they provide me with a mechanical way to help keep me from doing too much.

However, and perhaps more importantly, there are things outside of work that I am passionate about. Family, friends, the exercise I mentioned above, simply taking a walk outdoors. No matter how wrapped up I get with work, I just simply want these things, so I will always find a way to make time for them!

Well that wraps up this very interesting interview. Thanks for sharing all of your expertise and insight with us, Eric.

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Post a Comment


  • avatar

    Great read, the main takeaway points that I agree with is that links aren’t going to lose their value any time soon, guest posting is still a good thing if you’re doing it for the right reasons and that in order to earn links well you should “Do things that build your reputation and visibility online, and let the links flow from that.”

  • avatar

    Great interview, I enjoyed reading what Eric had to say.

  • avatar

    This was great Christy! Learned a lot, especially regarding local search results.

  • avatar

    Amazing inerview Christy,
    Thanks for introducing with Eric Enge. He is such a great person. I liked his interview here. I really learned lot of things from his forbes entry.
    I am agree with his point c and d as below:-
    c. Links are on their way out – they will be with us for a long time to come yet!
    d. Google’s search results are broken – they are still the world’s dominant search engine.
    Thanks again for sharing. It is really interesting.

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