Today, we have a very special guest on Blurbpoint board: Eric Enge is the CEO of Stone Temple, a 65+ person digital marketing agency out of Boston. He is co-author of The Art of SEO, was named 2016 US Search Awards Search Personality of the Year, and 2016 Landy’s Search Marketer of the Year. Stone Temple provides SEO Services and Content Marketing Services to large enterprise organizations.
Ravi: Google May Release Mobile First Index Slowly In Batches, So what we should do to avoid impact of Google’s Mobile first index update?
Eric: “The first thing I would do is crawl your mobile site, to make sure that Google can find all the pages of your site in a mobile environment. In addition, look for differences in content between your desktop and mobile pages (do the mobile pages have less content?) Are you missing schema on your mobile pages? These are the kinds of things that will trip up many people once mobile first comes out.
Note: We did a study using our own proprietary crawler to do a mobile crawl of many brand sites. A significant percentage of the sites that we looked at has major problems. We even saw one major brand whose mobile site has only 3 pages. They will disappear from the search results if they don’t fix this prior to the mobile first index coming to their marketplace!“
Ravi: What is the most effective strategy to perform the keyword research, when Google provide more value to user intent and conversational search queries?
Eric: “While keyword research has gotten much harder, there are many approaches you can take. You can still use Google’s Keyword Planner to get some data. It’s not great, but it still has some value. Then you can supplement that with data from the Moz Keyword Tool, the SEM Rush Keyword Tool, Answer the Public, and Keyword.io. Then you can supplement that data with paid enterprise SEO platforms such as Searchmetrics, Brightedge, Conductor Searchlight, SEO Clarity, SimilarWeb, and others like them.
Last, but not least, if you have site search on your site, you can see what people are entering in there as well. All of these sources have value, and then it largely becomes a matter of balancing the time you spend across all of them (so you don’t spend TOO much time!) to get the right amount of value.“
Ravi: In regards to link building, what are few things you expect SEOs should do now that Google might consider in the near future?
Eric: “While an increasing number of people are saying that they think that links are going away as a ranking factor, that’s completely inconsistent with what I’m seeing out there. We continue to see the rankings rise for sites and pages that obtain new links. It still happens over and over again. The key though, is to focus on quality over quantity. A few very high quality link from highly relevant pages can have a powerful impact.
From Google’s perspective, they’ll continue to get better at assessing the value of link, screening out bad ones, etc. They also have to confront the challenge of handling links in a mobile first world where links are a more scarce resource. It’s not clear how they will address that, but I don’t think that they’ll simply stop counting links, so I believe that they’re here to stay as a ranking factor.“
Ravi: How would you suggest to recover from Google ‘Fred’ Algorithm Update?
Eric: “The Fred algo appears to have primarily targeted pages with a mix of thin content and link quality problems. This gives us the key to understanding what we need to do to recover:
(a). Look at your site and find pages that appear to be relatively thin in content. Best in mind that “thin” has a context, specifically what your page is about. Some pages may merit 700 words of content, and other pages may only merit a five or so sentences. If you own a pizza chain with 40 locations, you may only write smaller amounts of content about what makes each location different (location, phone number, menu differences specific to the location). On the other hand, a research paper may consist of thousands of words.
(b). Evaluate your backlink profile to find low quality links and disavow them. Focus on those that may be unnatural or spammy. Don’t simply use a metric like Domain Authority to judge a link as spammy. Take the time to understand each one.“
Ravi: According to the John Mueller, one can use as many H1 heading tags as you want. So, what your opinion / thoughts regarding the same?
Eric: “John’s answer is being given from Google’s perspective, and I’ll take it at face value that he’s saying that there is no downside to using multiple H1s. But, from a user perspective, I personally think there should only be one main headline on a post, so I’d use only one H1.
Note: I’ll take a moment to address a myth. Don’t think that using multiple H1s will somehow magically elevate the page for certain keywords. It won’t. If you use many H1s, Google will simply treat the first one, assuming it’s at the top of the page, as the headline for the page. They’ll treat the rest of them as subheadings.“
Ravi: In the digital marketing industry, we deal with the clients who wants see their website performing on the top SERPs in just few months. So, can you tell our readers that how would you deal with such clients?
Eric: “We just try to be honest with them. If someone is demanding a commitment to top performing SERPs in a time-frame that’s just not reasonable, than they may not be someone we choose to work with. It does happen that once they know that we’re willing to turn down their business that they realize that we must be quite serious about the time it takes to get strong results, and they soften their position. But, it goes the other way too, where they can’t accept our position on the matter, and they don’t sign with us. That’s OK!“
Ravi: What are the biggest challenges you faced at Stone Temple since the beginning? How have you overcome them?
Eric: “One of the biggest challenges was the rapid growth we went through. We grew from 25 people to nearly 70 in just 3 years. That’s a lot of growth for an agency, and even when you grow that fast, you want to keep the quality of the people on your team very high. To help accomplish that, here’s what we did:
(a). Remained stubbornly selective during the hiring process. We never rushed hiring, and this was a big key to keeping the quality of our work high, even as we grew.
(b). We invested a lot of effort (and continue to) in training here at Stone Temple. We hold regular Stone Temple University classes every week, and use these to cover many different topics. We also have built our own quiz based platform where people can test their knowledge on many topics, and then for each answer they get wrong, they get given resources to read to learn what they got wrong and how to do better.
(c). We use many other meetings for training and Q&A purposes to help people speed their personal growth and career development.“
Ravi: Any advice for Internet Marketers / SEOs for 2017?
Eric: “There are so many directions I could go with a question like this one! But, the suggestion I’ll make today is to realize that we are living in a highly dynamic and fast moving environment. As part of this, the way that things do things is continually changing. This will lead to many major changes.“
Ravi: How do you maintain a work and personal life balance?
Eric: “I truly love what I do at work, so this can be quite challenging for me. The main way I deal with it though, is to have other things I’m passionate about, such as my family, playing basketball, and other things that will help pull me away from the computer or my phone!“
Thank you Eric for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing some great insights with us.