France and Search Marketing: SMX Paris 2013
Search Engine Optimisation

France and Search Marketing: SMX Paris 2013

14th June 2013

Europe is a big continent and because many blogs and websites are mainly focussed on English speaking countries most ‘news’ of what is going on in the world of search and social is focussed on US and UK markets. But there is so much more going on. This is why at State of Search we have been looking at the German and Spanish market already.

Another market which is very interesting and growing in Europe is the French market. But how to get an understanding of that market? We’ve asked Anders Hjorth, founder of AZNOS in France, to look at the market and update us on what is going on with the French. Today he talks about Paris, SMX and even Rand Fishkin.

Come to Paris – later

Weather has been awful in Paris up until last week. Then, some improvement for a couple of days and back to all grey again. Paris is so beautiful – but so much more beautiful in sunshine. I may consider migrating – after all, why pay taxes in a country that doesn’t live up to its reputation anymore? Oh and the weather in Politics and Economics hasn’t improved much since our last update. The President is still convinced (Last Man Standing) the unemployment curve will be inversed before the end of the year while stacking up new tax initiatives.

Did the Fishkin scare the Penguins off?

Now two big things happened since our last update and this post will concentrate on this. First there were the Penguins and then there was the Fishkin. Now if you were thinking that the Penguins feast on Fish you will have underestimated the founder of SEOmoz.
Searchmetrics did an extract of sites that had important drops in traffic just around Penguin 2 date. The most important one appeared to have been a domain name migration and quite frankly, I don’t think I had ever been to any of the sites on the list. Many of them have names implying X-rated contents:
In various articles, the Penguin 2.0 update was commented and rumours of “I heard of someone who was impacted” or “people have likely changed linking behavior” seem to be leading the opinion.

The SAScon conference in Manchester took place on the same dates as the SMX Paris and it seems the general opinion was as follows:
06 June, SAScon Manchester: “Penguin seems to have had more effect in France than UK” (grabbed from the Koozaï recap of the conference)
07 June, SMX Paris: “Penguin seems to have had more effect in UK than France” (we were there, we heard it).


(photo: Olivier Ffrench, aznos,

Storm in a Tea cup?

On the SMX Paris conference, there was a whole session dedicated to the Google Zoo. It was a hugely popular session featuring Rand Fishkin, Dixon Jones and Sébastien Monnier. We did a Twitter Stream Graph of #smxparis13 hashtag and as you can see there was actually a lot more talk about Panda than on Penguin in the end:


(This Twitter Stream Graph was made with a free tool provided by Jeff Clark @jeffclark of Neoformix which I can strongly recommend as a topic and enhancement tracker: )

The quote that made the most impact must have been this one:


Dixon Jones (@dixon_jones) had an interesting point related to the apparent over-communication pre-Penguin and the little apparent impact. Perhaps there was more to the message of “don’t do bad netlinking ” and “don’t do advertorials with clearly stating they are such” than actual algorithmic update behind it. Or perhaps the sectors that were targeted were not represented on SAScon and on SMX Paris.

Marketing is broken

Now, let’s rewind just a little bit to the morning keynote by Rand Fishkin. This was the first time he delivered this speech and it carried a grand message of “marketing is broken”. Why is Brad Pitt promoting perfume? How come 85% of clicks on the web are made by 8% of people? How come 85% of Americans don’t believe what they see on the Internet? Why are Ad visibility and click-through rates atrocious?


(photo: Olivier Ffrench, aznos,

Well, because marketing is boring, selfish and myopic. We have stopped listening to the customers. “We are killing ourselves”. There was a grand moment of a keynote speaker telling the audience that they are on a totally wrong track with a funny note, a big smile and a lot of energy – and the audience, enthralled, applauding and laughing as they take in the point but not its consequence like the crowd in Life of Brian shouting “We are all individuals” (I love that film. To see/rediscover that moment, go to the 30 second mark on this one:  Rand didn’t get the audience to shout “we are killing ourselves”, though…

A recap of the big topics on SMX Paris

Overall we had an intensive 2 days on SMX Paris where a couple of things made the event stand out:

  • The grand return of Google on Search conferences. Very nice
  • Conference quality stepping up with the advent of International speakers

So Google had sent 2 speakers on the first day and yes, they were talking about Search! So even though this was mainly paid search, I haven’t seen a lot of Google representatives on the European Search conferences for a long time. Very nice also to have a Facebook representative as speaker.

And on the international side of things, Rand Fishkin and Dixon Jones were a a big hit.  Please can we have some more of that.

In terms of the topics at SMX Paris there was no surprise:

  • Google Enhanced campaigns: presented by Google and in context. Nice
  • Content Marketing: the theme was omni-present but examples not so great
  • Google Zoo : Panda, Penguin. Big success

There were some surprising themes that emerged due to the quality of presentations:

  • ASO: AppStore Optimisation: really cool and great quality presentations
  • Youtube optimization: great coverage of a complex theme. Also great quality.

There was very little coverage and interest in themes like Remarketing & RTB and the international dimension of Search wasn’t so big.

Recaps (in French) of SMX Paris
This young man won a free ticket to the SMX
Personal recap made by an Agency SEO.
Recap of all sessions and photos from the event from BDBL – disclaimer: I was pretty involved in this)
Personal recap from a speaker with embedded slideshare of 2 presentations
(with links to several presentations)
Recap of the Youtube session on a major news site,

What does Summer look like?

So coming up very soon will be Summer Sales for ecommerce. The activity stays pretty strong in July although a lot of French tend to take summer vacation in the second half of the month. The other part of the population will be out in August and you can generally count on almost no activity during the 2 first weeks of August: that is the time to visit Paris but not the time to launch any big campaigns. So right now is just about the last opportunity to launch anything you want up and running before Summer in the French market.

About the Author, Anders Hjorth

Anders Hjorth (@soanders) is a digital native, entrepreneur, a frequent speaker on Search Marketing and occasional blogger. He is the Founder of AZNOS [Content Marketing] and of BDBL MEDIA [Biddable Media], 2 Digital Marketing agencies based in Paris. 

Featured image source


Written By
This post was written by an author who is not a regular contributor to State of Digital. See all the other regular State of Digital authors here. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of State of Digital.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.