When I was in Paris earlier this month, I met the SEO Director of NetBooster, Stéphanie Sallée. We went to a typical French café and talked about the search market in France.
What does your company specialise in?
NetBooster works in all areas of digital marketing including SEO, PPC, Facebook, display and affiliates. We launched the social department last year. We also have a user experience department and emailing marketing and e-crm department. Our creative department produces a lot of the banners we use in display and we build websites for our clients.
We also work with inhouse SEO teams in large organisations to help them with their overall SEO strategy. For the smaller companies, there may just be one person responsible for the marketing which we also help with.
How did you get into SEM?
At the end of my degree in which I studied Information management, I joined NetBooster. At that time it was a very small company. Now we are an international group with 12 different offices across Europe, Brazil and Asia. The head office in Paris has grown from 15 people when I joined 12 years ago to nearly 130. Globally, there are 500 people in the company.
What is the search market like in France?
The French market is mature as it has been around for more than teny ears. When I started in SEO, Google did not exist. In some sectors such as travel and tourism and hospitality, the market is very competitive. The same is true with ecommerce and retail.
Do you often have to optimise your sites for English and French?
In France we mostly optimise the sites in French. We do have some clients who have sites in several languages but also offices in other European countries.In the Paris office, we can handle campaigns in in English as well as French, the other languages can be handled by our local offices..
Where we have a client who have local offices, we work with the other European countries. For international projects, there is always a leading country/city and we need to regularly liaise with them.
In London we have an international team. However, the French team also works with this team if the project requires French translation and French work.
Are there many SEM events in France?
There is SMX in Paris in June and SEO Camp in March. There are not many events in Paris, compared to London. I have been to SMX myself but I have never been to SEO Camp Aperitif where SEOs meet in a bar, talk and have a few drinks. It is very informal.
The SEO community in France is quite small but they are very active on Twitter.
What link building do you do and do you conduct this in English or French or both?
For more than three years we have been carrying out link building for SEO campaigns. We are focused on building high quality links rather than just lots of low quality ones. We focus on specific keywords and if the client is French, we conduct link building in this language.
Link building is part of an overall online campaign. We work on partnerships with other high quality websites. We also syndicate to some directories which we choose. We also syndicate press releases and engage in link baiting such as infographics and widgets
Do you have any French specific clients where you solely work in French?
Most of the clients in the French office are French. Many of these clients do not need a site in English and therefore we solely work in French with them.
What are specific tactics that work in France?
What differs between countries is how we as a company deal with link building. Here in France and in the United Kingdom, link building is very important and we look for high quality links. However the importance of link building may be less in other countries such as Italy and Spain.
If you were to put France on a timeline and the US is “2012”, the UK “2011”, where would France be?
Google updates are mostly launched in the US, UK and then in the other countries. The impact from these updates comes quite quickly after hitting the UK market. The French market Is impacted by these changes but we regularly communicate with other offices to find out if there has been a negative or positive impact on our clients’ sites.
Were you affected by the Google updates?
We were affected in a positive way, some of the rankings for our clients increased. We also saw some of the spammy, low quality websites disappear. We did have a few webmaster tools Google alerts, but these were correlated to affiliate links. Overall the updates from Google are good, they are communicating more and more with website owners.
Do you work much with Bing?
We do not for SEO but we do work with Bing for our PPC campaigns. We have noticed any specific focus from Bing for the French market. We work mainly in Google as it represents more than 90% of the organic traffic. What is interesting is that their webmaster tools which has some different information than Google does.
What do you like the least about SEO?
I do not like the fact that Google is dominating the market place.
The area I like the most about SEO is the fact that there are a lot of changes. This means you always have to keep updated with the news and what is happening in the industry. This is one of the reasons I have been with NetBooster for 12 years. What we do now if very different to the work we did 5 years ago.
SEO is becoming part of the digital strategy for our clients and they are therefore recognizing the value in this service. We deliver an integrated search strategy for our clients which includes SEO, PPC and Social.
What do you see as the future of SEO in France?
The future of SEO is very similar the future of SEO in the UK and US. With universal search and rich snippets, the space for organic results on Google SERP tends to diminish so reaching the top 5 or even top 3 rankings is key to generate traffic. Therefore content and link building will become even more important. Rich content (which includes videos and images) will become crucial in SEO. More and more user generated content like reviews will be seen as a big ranking factor. Brands should be communicating with their customers and interacting with them. The more useful content the company generates and spreads, the more links a site will acquire. In this way, linkbuilding campaigns must be user oriented: producing and spreading user friendly and relevant content naturally generates quality links.