Machine Learning Bada** Mother Facts: Zenith Q & A With THE Eric Enge

In the lead-up to Zenith Conference, we’re highlighting speakers from each of our four tracks: TIL (Today I Learned), Hunter Gatherer, BAMF, and Resource-Challenged. Each track is designed to speak to a different type of marketer — from newbies to seasoned digital veterans.

Today we’ll focus on the BAMF Track… Badass Mother FACTS: Extremely tactical, cerebrum-intensive. These are the sessions that will rock your socks and blow your mind. Today we’ll zoom in on “The Machine Learning Revolution and its Impact on Search” session.

Who doesn’t want to get in on the machine learning revolution? Learn how the world of SEO is changing and how Google’s RankBrain algorithm fits into the mix — now and down the digital road. Take the journey into the future with Eric Enge, CEO and Founder of Stone Temple Consulting. Want to meet him? OK!

Here he is…

AIMCLEAR: We’re excited to have you in our cozy, Northern Minnesota city. Can you tell our audience where you hail from?

Eric: I’m from Massachusetts. Born and raised there, though I’ve lived in California for a year and a half and France for 4 months along the way.

AIMCLEAR: Have you ever been to Duluth? If yes, what is your impression? If no, what do you expect? Be honest (with accents and all).

Eric: I have never been to Duluth before, so, to be frank, I don’t know what to expect. Bears roaming the streets? People wearing raccoon caps? Well, that’s probably all crazy. But, you might enjoy knowing that 4 or 5 years ago I did go on a 4 day camping trip North of Ely in February. We were camping in the boundary waters (for you non-Minnesota types, that’s on the Canadian border). The weather got down to 30 below. Three adults (one of which was our guide) and five boy scouts. One of the fun things that happened is that our guide took a pot of boiling water and threw it in the air… came down as snow and ice. Amazing! I have more stories, but if you want them, you’ll have to come up to me at the conference and ask. ;->

AIMCLEAR: What inspired you to enter your career field?

Eric: Truth be told, I fell into it. I was running a business development consulting business that was doing well. A friend of mine asked me to help him do biz dev work for his DVD e-tail site. So I took it on. After 30 days, I noticed that they were not getting any real search traffic, so I went to him and said: “we really ought to try and get traffic from search engines.” Like a good CEO, he looked at me and said: “good idea, go do it!” SO I got stuck with this project.  A year later, we were doing $3M per year in organic search sales. I said to myself, “Self, maybe I ought to do more of this!”

Now, as to what inspires me to stay in digital marketing and search and the reason why I’m excited to get out of bed every day, that’s easy. It’s always changing. It’s demanding. I’m always learning. One moment it’s technical, and the next, it’s marketing focused. I love the challenge and the variety!

AIMCLEAR: What excites you most about the future of your field or area of expertise?

Eric: That’s easy. The rate of change is accelerating. There is more to learn and do every day. What could be better than that? Constant challenge, and constant learning.

As for specifics, I’m excited about the new ways that technology (e.g. machine learning) is being applied to enable marketing. But I’ll talk more about that in the answer to the next question.

AIMCLEAR: Why were you interested in speaking at Zenith about your particular topic?

My topic is “Machine Learning and its Impact on Search.” Truth is that I’ve come to love this topic. Last Fall, I took the machine learning course on Coursera and have since built several of my own machine learning algorithms. You can see my Retweet Probability Predictor here.

One thing that I learned is just how powerful machine learning can be to solve certain types of problems. However, there are many in the industry who get carried away with where we are with this and assume that Google is shifting all of its algorithms now, or has done so already. In particular, many believe that this is what RankBrain is, and that’s not true.

So at a minimum, I want to help set the record straight with where we are with RankBrain, machine learning, search, and where this is all going.

AIMCLEAR: What do you hope attendees gain from your session?

Eric: Machine learning is having a big impact on the world around us, and in more ways than just within search. Learning a bit more about that will be by itself useful. Within the world of search, it will have a continually growing impact. Every digital marketer needs to have an appreciation of how that’s likely to unfold.

In addition, I hope to impart some ideas as to how this all impacts your digital marketing efforts, including tips on how to position your business to benefit as the changes come rolling in.

AIMCLEAR: OK, off the topic of marketing, BUT do you plan on doing anything fun in Duluth?

Eric: Unfortunately, my travel and work schedule won’t allow me to spend extra time in Duluth, so I won’t get to play the tourist. That said, I am looking forward to meeting lots of the people at the conference and getting to know some of the people there and to hang out after the event. That’s always one of the most fun parts of every conference!

AIMCLEAR: We agree! Thanks for joining us, Eric! We’re pumped up. 

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