Eric Enge is a search engine optimization expert, the founder and CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, a published author, and a public speaker at search industry conferences. He co-teaches the SEO Specialization on Coursera.

How did you get started in SEO?

My background is in engineering but I eventually started a business development consulting company. My good friend was the CEO of an e-commerce site that sold DVDs and asked me to come work with him. Not long after, I noticed the opportunity for growth online and said, “Steve, you should consider how to get traffic from search engines.” Like any good CEO, he turned to the person that brought him the problem and said, “Good idea Eric, you go do that for us.” A year later we were doing a couple million dollars in sales from search engines (organic search). Then it dawned on me: “Hey Eric, maybe you should do some more of this,” and it’s been my career ever since.

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of tuning your website and your online presence to increase the likelihood that Google and other search engines will rank you more highly in search results. Most people tend to think that the higher rankings happen because a staff of editors somewhere chooses which sites are bad or good and rank them manually, but it’s actually a software algorithm. It’s useful to understand a little bit about how that algorithm works so that you can make sure it understands what your site is about and why it should rank for something.

What made you want to teach on Coursera?

I’ve actually taken courses on Coursera! I’ve taken the Machine Learning courses and think it’s a really good platform for reaching a lot of people. For me, I really enjoy the process of teaching. I’m the only person in my family that’s not a university professor, so teaching is in my blood and the opportunity to reach people through a platform like Coursera was attractive to me because I could help a lot of people learn SEO.

What can learners expect to learn from this Specialization?

SEO is very complex and this course gives people a strong introduction to what SEO is. From this course, you should get to the point of being knowledgeable and start trying to do some basic things. SEO is a very intense topic, so it’s useful for people to understand they’re going to need to keep learning. There’s always going to be a lot more to learn so it’s important to keep going and keep up the journey. In terms of the course making you more hirable, absolutely, now they can rightly say once they completed the course they have a basic level of knowledge of SEO, how it works, and what to do with it.

What advice would you give to someone who’s interested in a career in SEO?

Understand that it’s going to be constantly evolving and changing. Digital marketing is an incredible and dynamic space that is constantly changing. For example, just in the past year one of the big new opportunities has been the emergence of AMP (accelerated mobile pages), which is an initiative originally sponsored by Google, but is now an open source program designed to dramatically speed up mobile web pages.

That’s a whole new area for someone to study and learn about that you wouldn’t be thinking about two years ago. Learn to expect that and embrace change, because if you embrace the process of continuous learning then you’re in a good spot to have a career in SEO. The other piece of advice I’d give is to take the time to be comfortable and know both the technical and marketing sides of SEO. You might be a very technical person but if you understand the marketing side of SEO that will make you more effective in your technical work. And, if you’re good on the marketing side of things, knowing some of the technical side of things will help you as well.

What industries do you think SEO has changed the most?

The power of SEO as a channel for any business that is trying to reach people online is just incredible. There is no other marketing channel that has the same ROI potential. If I run an SEO campaign and I’m able to increase my site’s traffic by 20% in the same year of that campaign, most people think that 20% lift is the total benefit they got.

That’s short-sighted because even if you don’t continue to invest in SEO, the lift you obtained will continue in the next year, and probably for several years after that. The result is that extremely high levels of ROI over time are possible. Also, I don’t advise stopping your SEO efforts just because you can! I advise that you keep doubling down on it so you can keep driving your market share higher and higher.

The true ROI is extremely high in successful SEO campaigns in a way that doesn’t happen in paid search marketing. In paid search marketing the moment I stop investing dollars in the campaign, the revenue flow stops immediately. There’s  no sustaining value, and the other aspect of SEO that’s important is the brand impact. When you rank first on Google people think you’re the best and that has huge brand value. The search engine, which for most people is Google, is a whole new paradigm for how you get information that never existed before, which is transformative for digital marketing.

What do you enjoy most about teaching on Coursera?

I think Coursera is a great platform because it’s really easy for people to engage. As someone who wants to reach more people and help them learn more about SEO, it’s a great way to get great reach. I’ve had a number of people tell me they loved learning about SEO, and getting those messages is truly gratifying.

Sign up for the SEO Specialization now.

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