During the Lyon web event organized by Lafermeduweb, Novaway and Lacuisineduweb at the Lyon convention center, I had the opportunity to meet David Degrelle, president and founder of the ’SEO agency 1st position. I was able to have an interview between tweaking these slides and his conference: The challenges and strategies of multi-channel referencing on Google in 2012. Here is the transcript …

Concretely what does an event like “web event” in Lyon and for web marketing companies like yours bring?

This allows us to make ourselves known locally. Because we are particularly known at the national level, we still need to develop and make ourselves known at the local level. And then, it must be recognized that we complain a lot that all the events are always in Paris: workshops, conferences, trainings etc … Everything is centralized in Paris and we feel that there is a real demand in region, so it’s important to have events like this locally.

What is your core business today, what makes you live?

What has made us live since 1999 is natural referencing. It’s 1st lever that we developed. Then, in the early 2000s, there were the sponsored links that appeared with the Google adword platform. We have followed this development and we have offered our customers to manage their sponsored link campaigns on Google Adword in addition to natural referencing. Since 2004, we started to take an interest in social networks. Today, we support our customers in terms of social referencing strategy. What makes us live today is SEO (natural referencing), SEA (sponsored referencing) and SMO (social media optimization) which is social referencing on social networks.

Why you and not a competitor? What added value?

It’s always a tricky question because we have all of our specifics. Ours, compared to our colleagues, it is to integrate the three levers of the creation of targeted traffic which are the natural, the paying and the social, and to manage them in synergy. This makes it possible to develop interactions and to pool levers and feedback.

Typically, when you optimize your SEO, it also optimizes the cost of sponsored link campaigns and lowers the cost per click. When you optimize a social referencing strategy on social networks, it also helps to reinforce natural referencing. We can clearly see, in this logic of multi-channel referencing, that the fact of managing the three levers simultaneously allows our customers to reduce their costs, the number of intermediary agencies, meetings, appointments to make and especially of improve return on investment. But this works from the moment you can manage the three levers simultaneously. If clients work with three different agencies, one for social, one for natural and one for paid referencing, it is clear that the three agencies will each strengthen their own system.

We are talking about natural referencing, paid referencing and social media. Email marketing, display, don’t you tackle it at all?

We specialize in traffic acquisition. Then, there are all these issues around e-mailing, affiliation … We decided to keep a focus and a very specific expertise in terms of SEO. The three cumulative levers, which we are talking about, represent between 50 and 60% of the traffic of a website. It is true that we work more in a logic of acquiring traffic for our customers than in a logic of loyalty. Even if through social networks, we still participate in the loyalty of visitors. Our role, as we define it, is really to be a creator of performance and targeted traffic.

Will you have or are you expecting spinoffs at contract levels after an intervention here?

We’re not going to lie, we’re still waiting for it. But it is true that the conference just now is going to be interesting because it will allow us to share with web designers, developers, integrators and see a little vision and approach they can have. Are we particularly expected to be clients at the end of the conference? We will see if my speech pleased. Today, we are really in a professional environment with actors we meet every day, the aim is also to share information with them. After if there are contracts so much the better, in any case it will have allowed us to meet and exchange.

Do you find Lyon dynamic on the web level? Do Lyon companies have a strong demand for development at this level?

There is a high demand, yes! We are feeling it more and more and that is why we decided to set up an agency since 2008. We have seen that the Internet in the regions is attracting more and more interest from companies. There weren’t necessarily many players in the Rhône Alpes region in terms of SEO. Now much remains to be done. SEO strategies at local level, we are only at the beginning, when this represents really major issues for local businesses. What we want to show them is that indeed the Internet is capable of driving traffic to physical stores through approaches like “I am looking for information online and I am going to buy in a store”. This is an approach which is of interest and which is working more and more in the regions, but there is still a long way to go, and that is why we exist.

Do you see the changes in style of the new Google Penguin algorithm update as opportunities or threats to your agency? and why ?

So let’s be clear, we have no customers who have been affected by Google Penguin and we are very proud of it. Since 1999, we have defended an ethical and sustainable approach to referencing. This represents a threat for agencies that have implemented strategies around spam or the creation of low quality links.

For us, this is an opportunity to make customers understand the interest of developing their SEO in a sustainable way. SEO is not an immediate action, it takes time. And if the results come too quickly, chances are they will go down too quickly. We defined our advantage role as an accompaniment role for our customers with regard to Internet culture. We do not define our job as a SEO only as a job which consists in positioning the sites in 1st position on keywords in Google. We define, in 1st position, our job as a real consulting job to help companies develop business on the internet and to understand the mechanisms, the culture of the Internet, the philosophy of the Internet. So, in this sense, penguin brings us back to the origins of SEO and the watchword is: think about the end user, create quality content and relevant content by interesting you to Internet users rather than Google.

How do you keep up with this level? How quickly do you get results?

Since 2004, we have published a site called engine secret, which is one of the most used sites by the referencing community in England and which is a monitoring service which is made available free of charge. This is a watch that we carry out daily and on which we invest a lot with a person who takes care of selecting the best news every day in the field of SEO. It is this service that keeps us at the forefront. Afterwards, in terms of results, it is reasonable to count between three and six months to obtain results in terms of natural referencing. But it can happen, on very competitive themes and for new entrants who did not have websites in the past, that they are given lead times of one or two years to successfully position themselves on generic keywords. It must be understood that SEO and visibility on the Internet is a construction that must be done over time. As I said earlier, if we offer solutions that are too quick, inexpensive, etc. … it’s necessarily that there is a wolf behind, the Internet is more complex than that.

Is the lack of diploma training in e-marketing a real problem for recruiting?

This is a problem from all points of view. We still lack schools, universities, and really relevant training in SEO. We are starting to see courses that are given on referencing in schools and it is very good. It’s often a few hours of lessons in the year and it’s largely insufficient.

Besides that, there are initiatives that are carried by university officials or department heads. I am thinking in particular of SRC Montbéliard, who have decided to focus on all the levers of e-marketing and in particular the levers of referencing. There is also an IUT in Mulhouse which offers a professional license in this area. It’s really very encouraging.

After, it is clear that today, the field of SEO is hiring a lot. There are more offers than really competent and qualified people. Finding a SEO that has between five and ten years of experience in England is difficult, there are not many. These are profiles that are highly sought after, it is true that this poses difficulties in terms of recruitment. It is difficult to recruit qualified profiles and the fact that these profiles are highly sought after generates monstrous inflation in terms of remuneration. When someone has a year or two of experience it is a senior in the field of SEO, which makes us jump a little. Advertisers are starting to internalize more and more the referral function and they clearly come to poach in the agencies which play the role of training center.

What is your policy at this level? What need (s) do you have?

Our recruitment needs? We’re not looking for graduates that much. We are especially looking for profiles who have developed expertise even on an individual basis. We have sometimes recruited young people who have been doing personal referencing for two or three years. Even if they had no professional experience in our sector, the fact that they developed their expertise on an individual basis made them extremely good at SEO.

Today, what has evolved in our profession, is that we are looking for both SEOs who have a technical fiber and therefore a knowledge of development languages: php, html 5, java script, jquery. They do not necessarily have to know how to develop. They must be able to understand a development language, a computer language, to be able to give recommendations, to orient the developers or the web agency with which we are required to work.

We are also increasingly looking for SEOs with editorial expertise. We will no longer be looking for literaries, because SEO and social networks are extremely consumers in terms of content. It is this style of profile that we need to develop this expertise. And then after, we also look for people who have a real “communication” culture, a “marketing” culture. In particular to optimize the performance of our customers, set up analytical reports, be able to analyze statistics and define recommendations. So the profession of technician, which is the original profession of the SEO, over the years, we have moved on to a profession that has become multiple, between a technical aspect and a marketing aspect.