Guillaume Bouchard is the President of NVI Solutions based out of Montreal, QC, and a leading voice in the SEO industry. He’s speaking at the upcoming Search Engine Strategies Toronto, taking place June 9-11, 2010. I’ve had an opportunity to interview Guillaume, regarding his panel on “Successfully Integrating Search & Social Media“. I’ll be liveblogging SES Toronto, so catch more coverage there.
Q: You started NVI in 2004. With 3 founders in the mix, what was your role at leading NVI from a fledgeling startup to a bustling agency in those crucial first years?
A lot of people usually think that you need a killer idea to get a start up to become mainstream. It is probably the main thing that I learned during those first few years: the idea you initially had really doesn’t matter. When NVI started, in 2004-2005, we had the “ORIGINAL” idea of launching a web design / web development company. That was it. For the first 12-18 months, the only thing that we did was websites and trying to figure out how to do them. But then, when you have the chance to have great partners and 1-2 key employees early, you are succeeding in getting the right people on the bus, and the right people on the right seat, a lot of new opportunities arrived on the table. My role, along with one of the co-founders (Simon Rouillier), was to ensure that we would pick the “best” opportunities and focus on them. I was more the creative guy filled with funky ideas and Simon was the grounded guy who was acting as the devil’s advocate for any opportunity that we had to decide on. As an example, I wanted to start selling / doing SEO after I saw & met Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz.org and also after I had a class in school about eMarketing given by a guy who became a friend (and now a friendly competitor) Jean-François Renaud, butme and Simon disagreed, and since I’m hard headed I decided to do it for our own NVI’s website during 2005-2006 Christmas and here we were, ranking on top of the SERPs for a few French web development keywords, and the phone started ringing. We had learned that marketing existed on the web. And honestly, the rest is history – we’re just trying to get better at doing Search, Social Media, Web Development, Conversion Optimization, Affiliation and Performance-based display advertising.
Q: How did affiliate marketing play into your revenue mix as NVI started growing bigger and bigger? Did you use affiliate marketing as a testing ground for strategies later to be used to market clients?
I would be lying pretending that we are a strong powerhouse in affiliation, although we are pretty good at launching competitve campaigns and managing them along with our other approaches. So, all in all, we have strong folks internally that do affiliation, but I would say that the Canadian demand for affiliation is extremely weak and poorly known – don’t get me wrong, businesses are starting to get SEO – they still have a long way to go to understand what lies beneath a great affiliation program. That will come, though, as I believe SEO & affiliation are the only types of acquisition channels that can yield incremental ROI on a month to month basis, compared to degressive ROI models like PPC & display advertising.
Q: What’s the biggest difference you see in the market for SEO and SEM in Quebec versus the rest of your Canadian clientele?
Besides the obvious fact that we are bit behind in terms of trends / knowledge based on the language barrier, I would say the main difference doesn’t lie at the client level, but more at the “offer” level. What I mean by that is that is you are to accomplish large scale SEO campaigns for the French / Quebec market, a lot of the time you will find very few great properties to get links from, so it can get tricky to get the links or influence you could generally get from English driven properties.
Q: You’re speaking on the Successfully Integrating Search & Social Media panel at SES Toronto – Do you think the Fortune 1000 is finally understanding the important of where search meets social?
Not at all. Social Media is still being perceived (and to a certain extent, it’s the agency’s fault) as an activity mainly for “branding purposes” because the main Social Media services offered are still brand & community management or online PR for event-driven initiatives.
For me, integrating Social Media with Search is not to provide services such as online PR or brand/community management; it is much more the action of creating original content and promoting it to sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Propeller, Mixx, Reddit to get eyeballs but most importantly links or launching & promoting an SEO friendly widget that exports your content and that can be installed on anybody’s website.
Q: What aspects of the internet marketing industry in general do you appreciate the most?
The fact that the greatest guys in our industry share most if not all of their secrets (not always during their conference presentations, more often during parties or happy hours though!) because they want the industry to grow. Great guys like Rand Fishkin or Jim Boykin have helped the industry get to another level of understanding and trust.
Q: Summers in Montreal are a mix of fantastic weather, great food, and a vibrant city. What are some of your favourite things to do when you have some down time?
Fishing in Quebec’s northern lakes, biking, golfing & tennis in terms of sports, and any decent restaurants with a patio, on top of all the summer festivals filled with electronic & jazz music.