TWiO-43: Is SEO Different in France Compared with the UK or the USA? With Laurent Bourrelly

This is the forty-third episode of ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.

In this special episode of TWiO we’re looking at how different SEO in France is compared with SEO in the UK or the USA.

Our host @DavidBain is joined by Laurent Bourrelly – @laurentbourelly from Also joining us on the call is Bastien Brugeille (@bbrugeille), Account Manager for France.

Sign up to watch the next show live over at and share your thoughts on what’s discussed using the hashtag #TWiO on Twitter.

Topics discussed on the call include:

  • Is Google’s algorithm any different in France compared with the UK or the USA?
  • Why might different tactics be more effective in ranking a site highly in France compared with the UK?
  • What are the main areas of focus for the French SEO?
  • Are backlinks still priority number one in France?
  • What aspects of on-site website strategy might be different in France compared with the UK of the US?
  • Are there any off-site SEO practices that are more common in France?
  • What tactics are more effective in France compared with other countries?
  • Are there any other search engines that we need to concentrate on the France that we don’t bother about for the UK or the USA?
  • What about for UK firms who want to launch a website in France – what are the differences in website content tone that they need to be aware of?
  • Are there any content marketing tactics that work well in the US or the UK but shouldn’t be used in France?
  • What about communicating with customers via social media – are there subtly different ways to communicate with prospects and customers on social media in France?
  • Is mobile ranking just as important in France?
  • Are there any elements of web design that should be different in France?
  • What is the future of SEO and might this be different in France compared with other countries?


DAVID BAIN: Is Google’s algorithm any different in France compared with the UK or the USA? Why might different tactics be effective to rank a site highly in France compared with the UK? And what are the main areas of focus for the French SEO? All that and more in a special pre-recorded edition of This Week in Organic SEO in France, Episode Number 43.

Hello and welcome, I’m David Bain, and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. And today we have a very special episode looking at whether the skills of being an SEO in France is actually any different to being an SEO in other countries. So, without any further ado, let’s find out more about today’s guests – where they are from and what they are looking forward to talking about today. So starting off with Laurent.


DAVID BAIN: Bonjour! En Français aujourd’hui? Non, non! S’il vous plait.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: No, okay, I’m going to try to speak clearly in English for you.

DAVID BAIN: That would be pleasant, thank you! [laughing]

LAURENT BOURRELLY: So, do you want me to introduce myself? Let’s begin in 2003, when I started as an SEO with my own site and it was so successful that everything was backlisted. We took a big hit at the end of the 2003, and also took the famous Florida update. So it started off badly, really badly! [laughing]

DAVID BAIN: But it got better.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: But I was also really on the Black Hat SEO side of things. French people like shortcuts, we like to cheat, [laughing] so I started on the dark side and little by little I moved more towards the White Hat point of view. But still, I kind of float between both sides, but the real break came in 2004 when I joined the second in the world and the first in France SEO contest, which was on the keyword ‘mangeur de cigogne’ (don’t ask!). [laughing] If I translate it – I don’t even know what a ‘cigogne’ is in English.

DAVID BAIN: Is it a swan?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: No, it’s a white bird that carries the babies.

DAVID BAIN: Stork? Yeah.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Okay! So it’s a stork eater!

DAVID BAIN: [laughing] Okay!

LAURENT BOURRELLY: That was a keyword. And for three months, 24/7, I did SEO – meaning I tried stuff, I tested stuff to rank high and to destroy my competition. So a negative SEO, ranking high plus negative SEO. And basically I got it, after three months of doing anything. If you want to learn how to play the piano or how to ride a horse and you do it 24/7 for three months you’re going to be pretty good at it!

DAVID BAIN: But do you think it was back then, in 2003, when perhaps the algorithm was a little bit easier to understand and to actually rank your site highly and quickly? But maybe if someone did the same thing now, then they wouldn’t be so successful and they wouldn’t get so much good experience?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well, you know in business, it’s also about being in the right place at the right time.


LAURENT BOURRELLY: So I guess in early 2004 was definitely the right time and the right place to try to span Google, right? We can try to wrap it up in very nice words, but back then, basically that’s all that it was about, is how you can stuff as much as you can, as cheaply as you can and as fast as you can without caring about anything else. Of course today, it’s a different ball game.

DAVID BAIN: So you’ve gone to the White side a little bit today – just remind our viewers of your website, just in case they want to look up what you’re doing at the moment.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well my website is my name, but since in English my name is difficult to pronounce, it’s:

DAVID BAIN: We’ll include links to it in the show notes here to make sure that people can find it.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well maybe that’s my next challenge – I’ll try to rank highly for “French SEO touch” or something like that, it might be easier in the future when I speak. Because you know this is the first interview in English that I’m doing?

DAVID BAIN: Well you’re doing a wonderful job! You can certainly keep on sharing information by the sounds of it.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: I’ll have an easier domain name to give you, so I’ve got to fix that!

DAVID BAIN: That’s okay, that’s a good thought. But viewers can obviously see that I also have a chap sitting here beside me here as well. So I think I should let him introduce himself. So, also with me here today is Bastien.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Yeah, hello there England. Salut Laurent!


BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Unfortunately, David I’m French today.

DAVID BAIN: Malheureusement!

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: So this isn’t “This Week In Organic” – maybe it’s “Cette semaine in organic”

DAVID BAIN: [laughing]

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: So let’s see, just for the record, I’m Bastien, the Account and Marketing Manager for or Analytics SEO. But only for the French markets so I can’t wait to speak with Laurent about the French SEO market and maybe make some comparisons with the UK and the USA markets.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, yeah, I’ll be intrigued to find out both of your thoughts and see whether you think if there is any significant difference between being an SEO in France and an SEO in the UK and perhaps we can compare the US as well. Perhaps, to begin with, Laurent, I could maybe ask you the question: do you think that Google’s algorithm is any different in France compared with the UK?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: What are we talking about? The basic algorithm, like the page rank algorithm?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: I don’t think it’s any different.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, it’s a good point, because there are so many different algorithms now aren’t there?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah, you have different layers and sure, to be an international SEO is really interesting because you have tactics that are kind of old school for us and work wonders in let’s say Eastern Europe Google or South American Google, but France has maybe some kind of delay, sometimes, compared with the .com. It’s an interesting market for Google because of all the cheaters and Black Hats and all the techniques we use, so they love to study us.

DAVID BAIN: Do you think there are more Black Hats in France, as a percentage of the SEO population, compared with other countries?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: It’s in the spirit of French people to cheat, to take short cuts.


LAURENT BOURRELLY: You’re in England, you pay your taxes, you don’t cheat, over here – it’s part of the game. It’s the same in Italy or other countries, but it’s just a state of mind, it’s very different. But of course, you do have a lot of Black Hats, a lot! Maybe fewer now, but even the spirit of the Black Hat is different. Let’s be precise, I’m fully clean, just a regular SEO consultant, maybe on the side I’m still playing a little bit but 99% of my job is totally respectful of the guidelines.

DAVID BAIN: We want to find out about the 1%! [laughing] So, do you think as a whole that people purchase links more in France compared with other countries, on average?


LAURENT BOURRELLY: I don’t know. It’s a tough question because I don’t know how much you guys are buying links or expired domains or doing sneaky stuff like that, but I know in France, just about everybody is doing it. I mean, if you’re not buying links then you’re not building links. In parallel you also have link-bait tactics and doing interest and QALY content that gets natural links and all the blah blah stuff. But I don’t know if you guys are using public relations…I don’t know what you call that in English?



LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah, PR. And the new generation of PR are learning that they also need to build links on top of getting the press citation. If you pay them, at least the new ones – the old school ones don’t know how to build links, but the new ones, yeah they do. And they are just part of the regular tactics and you have maybe the only market place for buying and selling links alive today is French. I don’t want to say its name, but all the other ones are dead! But in France there is still one going really strong, and I don’t think it’s close to getting caught by Google.

DAVID BAIN: When you say that, ‘Everyone’s doing it,’ do you mean big agencies and enterprises as well as independent SEOs?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just part of the basic arsenal to get links. It doesn’t mean that you don’t try to do it the right way also, but even if you try to be natural and do everything by the book – if you try to do everything by the book then you don’t get any results. Okay, if you listen to Google, don’t buy links, I dare you try and get any results without getting links, as far as I know it doesn’t work. But maybe for other people it does. The truth is on the screen – you can’t lie – it’s always the fact that what is on the screen doesn’t lie and behind every page that ranks, you have links.

DAVID BAIN: So is [pause] just put off by my colleague throwing his books about there!


DAVID BAIN: Are links then, the most important activity for an SEO at the moment? The most common activity for an SEO to be doing in France?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Like everybody else, Google Penguin was a halt. Now that I look back, I think it was a good thing. But it was magical because Google never won the fight against Spam, they solved the problem with what I call Info War, with psychological warfare. They installed fear but Penguin was not updated for about nineteen or twenty months. But what was crazy was that they launched the filter and everybody stopped doing links for three or four months there was not one link built on the entire web. [pause] And they say, ‘Well, that’s crazy, with PR it works better than with engineering.’ And looking back I think it was a good thing because it was becoming crazy, it was nuts – the web-linking that was going on. So now we have to work a little better but I think in front of us there is still an algorithm and we are supposed to be more intelligent than the robot and we can still manipulate what seems to be natural and send out a perfectly natural signal with only a very small chance of getting caught, perhaps not passing through manual revision or manual audit, but algorithm filters won’t catch it. Penguin is easy – don’t do any uncalled text. You can still make links, blog comments – you can build directories, you can make all kinds of links, just never build commercial anchor text. That’s 99% of Penguin.

DAVID BAIN: I guess the key thing is that so long as you are still providing a very good high quality user experience, then it doesn’t matter if you’re still building links, as long as you are driving the right traffic at the site, and that traffic is staying at your site for a long time. Obviously doing the right things on your site. Do you think that user experience in general is becoming a bigger part of SEO?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: I always believed in that, I branded it, I called it The Person Rank. And I got that from Google itself back in 2005 I think, it was about the smell of the user, meaning, the user is profiled, their story analysed and of course they used the metrics, the user behaviour. What is a better mark of trust than someone putting your site in their bookmarks or subscribing to the RSS feed? And of course it has value, and of course Google should be looking at this kind of thing, but again, we didn’t really succeed but to some extent we can also manipulate that.

I have a famous story (I can’t say the name, but it’s a poker site) which was like a Trojan horse into the software. So everybody who was playing poker on that site was also helping out user experience on the website as well, without their knowledge of course. And that’s totally illegal what they did but they blew up in the subs, they magically – in a matter of weeks where it would typically take months with the regular techniques or even years (or even never) just by manipulating user experience they achieved great results.

Now try to do the same thing by Twitter Likes or Facebook Likes; or Twitter LRTs on fiverr for $5, and it’s not going to work. That is the difference between the robots doing it and the real users. So how can we fake real users? That’s the question today!

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, I think that over the last few years that is one thing that Google has got a lot better at, to actually distinguish who isn’t an authoritative relevant user and probably giving a lot more authority and relevance to links and social mentions from those people. Obviously, five, ten years ago it wasn’t really looking into that, or at least it was easy to fake that.

But, just in regards to what we were talking about previously, that is, user experience – Bastien – obviously Bastien works on the account management side of things, I’m just wondering from his perspective, do you think that you’ve had more questions from customers about tracking things like user experience now or is generally the most important for our customers still links and how to track links on a website?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Well, today the user experience is starting to be important for the customers. But I think the back links are more important for them again. I agree with you Laurent, today I’m working with a lot of web agencies for Authoritas and they are aware that they cannot buy 100 back links for $5. They are aware that they have to create some natural backing but to create natural backing is very difficult so yes, they have to buy backings. But, for example, the PR backing, which is at least as good. The user experience has started to be important, but the backing for them is more important. Unfortunately, because I was in a conference with the SMS at Munich last week, and Rand Fishkin said, ‘Today, the user experience, may be the main setting, the main creator that Google will take care of.’

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well I don’t care what Rand Fishkin is saying or John Moore is saying. It’s still keywords in title and backlinks with uncut text. Okay, you can’t do uncut text anymore but the two main factors are still title tag and backlinks. Period. User experience, yes, all the other ones, yes, but as far as I know, those are still the top two elements.

DAVID BAIN: One thing that Rand did (he did a SMX Munich as well actually), is he did a test on click-through rate from search, to see if that impacted rankings. And he did a live test to get as many people as possible to click on a result that was number seven. And apparently within an hour, that same result went to number two. So that was quite intriguing to me, that click-through rate could have such a significant and sudden impact on rankings. Is click-through rate something that you’ve looked at all, Laurent?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: I did the exact same test, but for Google address, not for Google…

DAVID BAIN: Google Plus?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: …no, the address…


LAURENT BOURRELLY: Google Loco, the Google business links. And the same test, in a public dock I said, ‘Okay everybody, pull out your smartphone and type (it was a restaurant in a ski resort) and we’re all going to click on that result,’ and, yeah, maybe 100, 150 people clicked on the same result at the same time, and before the end of the talk the result was up. But it was an organic result again. I was – I don’t know what you call it – the business whatever results.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, good. The Local Business listings on Google? Yeah.

So I’d like to try and distil down any slight difference between actually doing SEO in France and the UK and other countries. What about onsite SEO? You mentioned page titles and links as being the most important aspect of SEO in France – what about something like Schema, or Microdata? That seems to be getting a lot of discussion and press, certainly in the UK and the US. It will let different webpages start to appear and show different data in Google’s SERPs. Is Schema and Microdata something that is very important in France as well?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah, that’s about the same. If you want to cut to the chase and you want me to teach you something today? [laughing]

DAVID BAIN: Go for it.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: I’m very proud because the French are well ahead in terms of onsite and on-page tactics. Way ahead of what’s going on in England or the US. It started off with something that I built, which is really fundamental and it started off with what’s called the Topical Page Rank, which is also used for the Topical Trust Flow of Majestic.


LAURENT BOURRELLY: Topical Trust Flow of Majestic looks at the semantic affinity between the topics of the page that links to you and your page. And I applied the exact same concept but on site.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Can you give an example?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Can I give an example of what?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: For the Topical Trust Flow from Majestic.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Topical Trust Flow – well if you type – what’s the newspaper in England?


LAURENT BOURRELLY: The Times? Okay. If you type The Times in Majestic in order to look at the Topical Trust Flow, The Times is going to have links from sites about sports, from sites about weather, from sites about anything! But the main category should be news, newspaper.



BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: That’s subcategory. You mean the sub?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah, the subcategory could be a little bit of everything but the main, main category that all the links should be coming from similar or exactly the same type of site.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Okay, so if I, for example, if I select Quicksilver, the Topical Trust Flow will be the regular score but the name of the Topical Trust Flow, of the category, will be a sport web, for example.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well they could also be [pause] business, because it’s also a business. It also could be surf, like sports because Quicksilver is also associated with this type of activity. So that’s okay if you are not exactly sportswear. But if, for example, it was gardening, or if it was poker, then that’s too far out. So it’s all about who is in the collection with what, and why, basically. And that’s offsite, that’s Majestic.

And back in the days, back in 2004 when I started to affiliate websites and I had one big website which ranked really well. So I was, ‘Okay! I’m lazy, I’m going to put everything on this one website.’ So it was talking about all different topics but I realised that when I was mixing up the topics it didn’t work as well as when, for example, the affiliate part when I was selling products for swimming pools, when I started making links with the part that was doing poker affiliation or gardening products, well it wasn’t working as well as when I was really sticking to the topic and the surrounding topics within this area of this big website. And then, afterwards, I said, ‘No more of the websites that talk about everything, just stick to one topic per website.’ And then the siloing came into the mix – do you all know about the practice of siloing for a website?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Can you explain just a little bit for our English listeners?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Silos – well there is a famous Bruce Clay poster about siloing, but basically, if I recall his images, you have sweets – blue, red and yellow, in one big bowl. And if you want to separate them, you have two options, you can take three bowls and put the blue sweets in one bowl, the yellow sweets in a second bowl and the red sweets in a third bowl. Or, within the same bowl you could organise your sweets to be in groups, but they are still touching each other, not separated like between the bowls. So the key would be to organise everything that is really together but is not totally separated. You can still have connections between silos.

Of course, it’s much easier if you are a specialist. For example, if you have eBay – eBay is talking about everything. They sell every kind of product. So it’s going to be very difficult for them to be expert in every single topic. But if you are, let’s say a travel site, or even better, if you are an airline company like Air France or British Airways, then it’s going to be much easier for you to become an expert in every city that you have a plane going to. And you don’t talk about the other cities in the world.

But that’s the basic structure of it, and the siloing is an architectural system for a website where you work in silos, isolated one from each other. And if you go further into the reasoning then you are going to introduce a semantic affinity concept, which is related to the topical page rank. So basically, the bottom line would be called semantic siloing, which is organising silos, within the silos you have the semantic affinity, but then you have other levels that I am working on.

And the ultimate level would please you David, because it’s trying to solve the famous intention – keyword to intent. What does the user really want? What is he searching for? And the entire concept is basically trying to solve the user’s problem. Trying to answer his questions. Here are our questions. But that’s a little bit difficult to explain because that’s another level of understanding, which from my experience in France is still a little bit difficult to understand. But basically, what I introduced was a simple concept that was used offsite, very obviously – topical page rank – and nobody thought to apply it onsite. And there is siloing, which is a well-known technique to help to optimise the architecture of the website.

And obviously I have been working on this for over ten years and I was working on this with my clients as a consultant, one-on-one, and in 2014 I decided to release it to everybody. I started to talk about it a little bit, but really it was in 2014 when I released it to the public and it’s been a breakthrough because other people started building tools, everybody really followed up on the concept because it works. Like I said, the truth is on the screen. You do it, and you rank. It works. And we have amazing tools to analyse all the semantic affinities, semantic on page.

The other day I saw Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin, which is about topic-related keywords and so on. I tested his tools on Moz Pro and honestly, what we have over hear in France is way, way ahead. But you’ll know about it because I’ll try to explain more in English and try to do some talks and some podcasts about this concept. That’s one big difference compared with the rest of the world, I’m very proud to say that we are ahead, for once! [laughing]

DAVID BAIN: That’s great, so essentially what you’re saying is that in France, generally, you’re doing a better job of helping search engines understand the meaning behind the content and directing them, and making them more confident about the content on your web pages.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: It is basically to answer one single question: why do I deserve to be number one? Why am I more interesting than the other pages? It’s not about the page itself, you could have the best page written by a Pulitzer Prize winner, you have some video production or photo shoot that costs £200,000; it’s an amazing page! But you know that without links, it’s not going to rank, it’s not going to go anywhere.

And my strategy is to have a smart on-site linking strategy to tell the search engine that behind this page you do have other pages that are also very interesting and also very smartly connected. Therefore, the search engine can discover that behind the page Travel – I’m going to have Travel Advice; behind the page Travel Advice – I’m going to have a page What to Check Before Your Flight, and so on. So it’s all about the connection.

Let’s play a game, okay?

DAVID BAIN: Okay! I was just going to ask how you structure it. Do you structure it as an internal link wheel with a category of content? Or do you have one core piece of content within a category and then other sub articles that point towards that main piece? Or something else?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: If you really want to go to the ultimate goal – the famous Keyword Intent – the biggest issue is to place yourself within the buyer’s persona, you are not thinking as a seller, you are thinking as a buyer. Place yourself as the internet. And it’s really like a switch, it’s very difficult for most of the clients to think as the user and not as the seller. And really, to be able to do this, changes everything.

In answer to your question – it does change the approach of writing content when you (I’m talking more about e-commerce websites, people who don’t really know how to create content for users but more to push products) can do this, it does change the tone of the content and what the pages are all about. But that is more of a commercial aspect.

If you want basic advice, if you want a technique I use – let’s say you have to write on the topic of [pause] vacation in London. So you are the writer and you are going to send me back your copy about taking a vacation in London. I’m going to pick out the keywords – vacation and London. I pick out two key words from the page, two words. Of course, every time you have London or holiday or vacation – I’m sorry I have American English, is it vacation or holiday?

DAVID BAIN: It’s holiday, but that’s okay, we understand.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: [laughing] Okay, whatever! But you understand what I mean? Every time it is written London or every time they use vacation, you pick it out. And if you can still understand the meaning of the page without those two words, then it is a good page.


LAURENT BOURRELLY: Because you surrounded the keywords with a context, with other types of entities, with other types of words. We know how to attract all of those interesting words to put around the keyword. That’s another very big difference. I think we are ahead, or different, in the way we think about the keyword. Now that the reasoning is on the environment around the keyword, a group of keywords – clusters, but the keyword is not alone, it doesn’t mean anything anymore to us.

DAVID BAIN: And do you think that it is enough to write a great article, maybe a long article over one thousand words about a topic naturally, and expect those phrases to come in naturally or do you think those semantic-related words have to be found by an SEO and ensured that they are included within the article?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: I would just like to ask a question – according to your explanation Laurent, do you think that it’s possible for a page to rank even if the keyword or keywords are not included in the content?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: I just said it was possible.

DAVID BAIN: I remember when The Whitehouse website ranked for miserable failure [laughing] and that was only to do with back-links, but that was a long time ago when George W. Bush was in power, you can search for that.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: No but it is part of one of the big things for Google – it’s called something Queries, when the user types something and you know it says, ‘Do you mean this?’ It just gives you something a little bit different and it completes your question – it thinks that you’re not actually searching for what you typed but actually for something else.

But yeah, in theory, and I tested it, you can rank. On my pages, I use the keywords for a maximum of 500 words per page, the keyword is used four or five times. That’s it, no more. There is no need to insert the keyword in everywhere. In contrast, I stuff every keyword that is semantically connected into the text.

Basically, if you want to learn about the algorithm behind this, you have to know the certain questions used, you have to know about the Ngrams, you have to know about the Topical Page Rank, you have to know about named entities, there are maybe five or six large algorithms that you have to know. And I’m not a scientist and…

DAVID BAIN: I think…

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: It’s not too technical.

DAVID BAIN: I think the one thing that you said there that jumps out for me is, ‘Stuff the page with semantically-related keywords,’ that you’re not actively trying to rank for. I think that’s an incredible tip. So the keywords that you are trying to rank for, obviously you include that within the page title, your – and probably your H1. And you’d include that maybe a couple of times in the page copy. But really research and include semantically-related words lots of times within the content to make search engines more comfortable with the context of your page.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah, exactly. And like I said, now it goes beyond the page. When I say, ‘You stuff,’ it depends on the writer. That’s where as a consultant I have to draw the line. I’m not really responsible if all my clients can do is some kind of Google text, not readable for the users; or if they are very talented and experts in their domain, or they can hire very talented writers. It’s not really up to me.

There is the system and then there is the quality. What is quality? Google says, ‘Oh do some quality and you’ll rank.’ Yeah, but what is it? For who? In what context? Again, it means very different things in different instances. I remember when the whole Ponder hit and there was the famous update, and everyone was making fun of eHow and this famous article about how to tie shoelaces – the journalists, the bloggers, were all saying, ‘Oh that’s not quality content, you are writing a tutorial on how to tie shoelaces!’ Go to and search for how to tie shoelaces. There was a brilliant talk about how to tie shoelaces on TED, and I’m not talking about TedX, I’m talking about the real San Francisco TED.

So, the topic is not silly, it’s just the way it’s treated – the talk is brilliant, because it’s basically telling you that since the beginning of shoelaces, we haven’t known how to tie them, it doesn’t work!

So again, Google is stupid, it can’t understand what it reads. It can only analyse.

DAVID BAIN: So it seems to be just Google that we’ve talked about so far, as a search engine. Are there other search engines in France that are becoming important as well?


DAVID BAIN: [laughing]

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Hallelujah! I almost forgot. Bastien is smiling! But yeah, we are very proud – we have Qwant, which is not a Google killer, like some people would assume, it’s a very old search engine, but Business-to-Business – B2B – and they decided to do a B2C version, just because they could. Just because they knew how and it was kind of like (in French we say something else – I don’t know how to translate that).

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Yes, just for example, when you are having a party with some friends and you are drinking a lot and you and your friends are all drunk and you decide to do something stupid.

DAVID BAIN: Or perhaps it’s just something that you guys do.


LAURENT BOURRELLY: But let’s say, you had dinner with your friends and you are all in the Search business and you are having drinks and you shake hands, saying, ‘Oh yeah, tomorrow let’s build a search engine!’ [laughing] So that’s Qwant, and it’s doing well because it found it’s UVP – it’s Unique Value Proposition, which is that the projection of data does not track you. The interface is very different from Google, it’s similar in some respects but…

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Apparently there was almost an issue when Google launched – I don’t know if it was Google Alphabet or its own logo.


BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: The Qwant logo and the Google Alphabet, or Google logo were pretty close.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Exactly, yeah. So there is even Qwant Junior, which is a search engine for kids, which is the best in the world. Google has also just released a search engine for kids, which is called Kiddle. It took me less than 30 seconds to find things on the Google search engine for kids that I did not want to see on a search engine for kids. You know what I mean? It’s very easy, just off the top of your head you can think of words that you don’t want to appear on a search engine for kids. Took me just 30 seconds to break Google. And Qwant – it’s almost bullet proof.

DAVID BAIN: So you are talking about one of the main USPs and the fact that you don’t track users. That sounds quite similar to DotDotGo. Is it similar to that, in that manner?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well DotDotGo is not a search engine, it is a basically a scrapper of Google and [laughing] no that’s not a real search engine. But basically it’s the same spirit of not tracking the user.

One very interesting thing about Qwant is that everybody has started giving them money, they raised millions and millions just because people were fed up with Google. Do you remember Axel Springer – the German equivalent to Murdoch? Axel Springer is a big press magnet in Germany and the US and is very angry with Google news, obviously. So just because Qwant is born, and offered an alternative to Google, he decided to pitch in because otherwise you have what – Microsoft? Yahoo?

DAVID BAIN: So what percentage of the French market does Google actually have at the moment?


DAVID BAIN: Right! Okay. [laughing] Because I remember that the US isn’t that big – off the top of my head I think the US is about 71%, the UK is about 85% or something like that, and I think when I was in Australia, it was about 95%, so it was just about all Google.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: That’s about the same, and Qwant’s goal is to get 5%. They are coming to the UK actually. The statistics are wrong though, because knowingly or not, we use different search engines throughout the day.

DAVID BAIN: As in YouTube, iTunes?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: It’s actually over 100%, it should be like 140% or 160%. And if you look at the metrics differently, then especially in the US, Google is not that dominant when you find that Yahoo plus Bing equals Google. Basically. But it’s very interesting how you can make the numbers tell different things.

DAVID BAIN: It’s an interesting thought that search is changing as well, because people are starting to move to the native search within their phones as well. And apps, pages within apps are getting indexed as well and people are going directly to there. And that’s tricky to track, to see what people are actually doing and it’s difficult to work out what percentage of the market as a search use is actually getting nowadays.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: True. True. And I also like the Amazon syndrome. Google never saw them coming on mobiles. They took a big dent in the US on searches because if you want to buy something and you are on your phone, if you go on to Google then you type a query, you compare five different websites where you have to put in your credit card details, register, verify your email when you don’t know them, you don’t trust them – or you just open Amazon and in one click you are done, tomorrow it is there at your house. So like you said before, user experience does win in the end. And Amazon was so good at it, they even took a bite of search – just by being so good for the user.

DAVID BAIN: So Laurent, I’m keen just to cover a couple of different topics here, just before we come to the end. One is: what if we have a British firm, or an American firm that wants to build more international websites? So they want to build a website for France – is there anything significantly different that they have to do for the French market compared with the content for other countries?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Oh definitely! It’s well known in the international business community that some people don’t even want to do business with the French, at all! They prefer to ignore France because it’s so different!

First of all, on the level of marketing aggressively – aggression. The French and especially all the Latin countries like Spain, Italy, but especially the French – be careful not to copy and paste your marketing strategy without some kind of toning down the level of marketing that you are doing because even if you are selling the same thing and at the end of the day they are going to buy it, they are not – how can I phrase it?

DAVID BAIN: I think you mean toning down the level of hype, is that what you mean?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: No, no, the aggression. You know Bastien what I am talking about?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Yes, just for example David, when I came here and arrived in London, the first time I saw a TV show, for example, and TV advertisements, it was mostly, ‘Buy this for £10, or 10% discount.’ Whereas in France you cannot see this kind of information. It is very, very aggressive for France.

In France for example, we don’t – most of the company, for example. Don’t send three or four emails every day. It’s more like Laurent said, it’s less aggressive. We talked about the price, about money, but not as much as the English or the American people.

DAVID BAIN: And do you think that’s changing or staying the same?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Well I left France two years ago so I don’t know yet. But maybe Laurent you can answer that?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: It’s evolving a little bit but you need some decorum, basically. For the French [pause] you need to think of Versailles, the kings of France and whatever decorum there was then and you know, there is a famous comic in France, he’s dead already – Coluche, he said, ‘The rooster is the symbol of France because it’s the only animal, the only bird who can sing whilst standing in shit.’


LAURENT BOURRELLY: And that’s basically France. When everything is going down, the economy is bad, but we still have this prestige and, ‘Don’t try to sell me your thing, I’ll buy it but do it with some manners,’ basically.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Yeah, yeah, like if you were on a date.


LAURENT BOURRELLY: Exactly! On a date.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Like a French woman, you need to see them, chat to them.

DAVID BAIN: So what about when you’re chatting with people on social media then, not on your web site, does the same apply there? Are you trying to build relationships with people? Do you have to be very, very careful about not asking for a sale on social media?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For example, if someone follows you on Twitter and you send out an Automatic DM saying, ‘Thanks, happy to chat, what can I do for you?’ You are going to get killed in France! They are going to kill you! While it’s standard practice everywhere else. We don’t accept pop-ups, for instance.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: It’s automatic in the UK but not in France, and it’s tolerated in the UK or the US. But in France you cannot.

LAURENT BOURRELLY: It’s forbidden.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: When you subscribe to a website in France, the part, ‘Yes subscribe to my newsletter,’ it’s by default anti. Because it’s too aggressive.

DAVID BAIN: So what about the actual web design itself? Is there any less use of mobile in France, because obviously certainly in the UK and the US we are seeing a lot of industry sectors with over 50% of people visiting their websites on their mobile. Is there a similar trend in France?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well mobiles, they face a big struggle I would say, like everywhere else. I love to hear those big talks saying, ‘Yeah mobiles do this, do this, do this.’ From my end, trying to sell on mobile – very complicated. You have to do it differently and I don’t think we’ve cracked it yet. But the usage is huge, yes sure.

DAVID BAIN: So you think that at the moment, for most industries, most people use mobile as a way of consuming content. But when it comes to making the final purchase, they’re more likely to go onto desktop?



LAURENT BOURRELLY: Except for Amazon, which is [laughing]…

DAVID BAIN: Who are managing in France as well?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Basically, if you want to adapt to France, or if you try to come in and hire people, you have to understand something – what I love about the US and to a lesser extent the UK – you are very good at marketing and doing process and saying you go by step when you do this to when you do this, et cetera.

In France, we just do things! We don’t know how it works, don’t ask us why or how, it kind of works with some magic to it. I’m not saying it’s good. For example, if you do a podcast then at the end, yeah you should say, ‘Okay, don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, don’t forget to send me a review, blah, blah, blah.’ In France we forget.

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Enough Laurent, I think you are maybe being a little bit hard. For example, do you forget to tell it?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: All the time! I never ask for anything. And sometimes I even forget to ask my host, ‘You ask me okay, why can’t I reach you?’ It happened before – I totally forgot to ask a guy when he was going to lunch or where I could reach him! I don’t think we’re very organised, and the way the companies are structured are with many layers, and you have to answer to your sub-boss, who answers to the sub-boss of the sub-boss who answers to the big boss. Whereas in other countries it’s more direct and you can talk to the top directly – well not in France. The way you organise it in open space is not as common in France. And even if some companies try to do it, most of the start-ups do it, it doesn’t fly really this open-space working. People don’t like it; I can see that.

DAVID BAIN: Well, we’re coming up to just about an hour here and it feels like we could quite easily extend the conversation to another hour. But I’m sure it may be better to (hopefully) have another conversation at some point in the future, because you’ve shared a lot of interesting thoughts already, Bastien has as well. I reckon we’ve just got enough time now to actually leave with a single take-away and find out more details – some selling of your website Laurent! [laughing]

So first of all, in terms of what we’ve discussed today, what would you say was the number one thing that people should think about actually implementing in their current SEO strategies?

LAURENT BOURRELLY: Well, what you mentioned before – don’t think about keywords by themselves, think about everything around the keyword. It could be on the page, around the page, around the website – it’s all about the context and not just the single entity but what’s around it basically. That’s the bottom-line concept that you should remember.

DAVID BAIN: Lovely, and can you remind the viewers and listeners of your website address please?


DAVID BAIN: Okay, I’ll make sure there are links to that in the show notes.

So Bastien, in terms of what we’ve discussed today, have you got one thing that you think our viewers should go away with and really think about?

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Well, like Laurent said, I think the SEO today is very large, very big so I think today we can talk about two different sub-areas, meaning the offsite and the onsite. And Laurent spoke about the onsite, with his new theory, so it could be interesting to have a look on his website to understand more about that, but don’t forget the offsite, especially the backlink or the visibility, for example. Don’t forget too, about the user experience.

DAVID BAIN: So no matter what search engine – linking isn’t dead yet.


DAVID BAIN: Great, okay, and in terms of people finding you Bastien, I suppose it’s

BASTIEN BRUGEILLE: Yeah. Also there are some articles on and on Twitter if needed.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, well thank you. In terms of a take-away from me I think I’ll revert to what we discussed as well – I loved Laurent’s idea about taking your primary keyword phrase out of the content and then trying to actually decide whether or not your content gave meaning to what you were trying to talk about. So does your content still make sense without your primary keyword phrases in there? I think that’s a great thing to be going away and thinking about.

So, I’m David Bain, Head of Growth here at Analytics SEO, the agency and enterprise SEO platform with big insights. Sign up for a free demo of our platform at and you can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over Now, if you’re watching the show as a recording, remember to watch the next show live, so head over to and be part of the live audience for the next show. Interact and add your comments to the next live show that would be great. But for those of you watching live we also have the audio podcast of previous shows, so you can sign up to email updates at and you’ll also receive the podcast links from there too. But until we see you again, have a fantabulous week ahead and thank you all for joining us. Adios.




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