We talked to Antonin Pasquereau of BlackCatSEO about SEO and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Antonin Pasquereau: We are all doing very well! Especially since the measures were lifted, in France and Canada, at least gradually, people are getting back to life.
But the year has not been easy. For the agency, however, we have achieved an unmatched increase in our activity since we have been in business.
We have recruited 3 new people in the last weeks, and we are excited by the opening of another company and many other internal projects.
We are glad to see our work has had a positive impact in this new world, especially to ease the process for web-related tasks or long and complex projects.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BlackCatSEO.
Antonin Pasquereau: I founded the agency a little less than 10 years ago when I decided to study web marketing and manage websites.
Gradually, I came to SEO since from a good traffic acquisition strategy, we could monetize almost any service or product. With the right amount of traffic, there is money! But beyond the financial aspect, it is the aspect of content, and the semantic representation of activity, that I found the most rewarding.
I started working on influence strategy and media placement. So I came up with a high-value offer for web promotion. Basically, as a client, you can reach out to the best audience without spending or tapping into traditional channel acquisition.
BlackcatSEO then established itself as a leading SEO agency for companies of different sizes in Montreal. By extensions, we have developed a pole dedicated to web design and development in general.
With several years at the service of large companies in several countries, we have acquired a solid reputation in web design as well in Montreal, but also France. But mostly, the interaction between a solid web creation and efficient promotion was key. Both together, even though some clients could come to us just for one, or the other specifically- this wouldn’t bring the same results.
But we know the framework.
Recently, with the arrival of large-scale and international clients, we have opened the company Ekom to meet the hosting or cloud tools and cybersecurity needs of large companies or institutions.
Our service offer is rather senior and oriented towards a clientele already familiar with these areas of web activity. Obviously, we focus on uniformizing complex and web-related structures and strategies for best and measurable ROI at all levels.
How does BlackCatSEO innovate?
Antonin Pasquereau: Through products/software, which we will talk about in the next interview.
We also offer High-performance solutions based on the biggest players in the market and open source technologies, providing high-end, innovative and intuitive web and cloud solutions. In fact, as my partner and Co-founder Arthur Cotton mentions, we create web hosting and cloud collaboration solutions that are unique and agile for information systems and help companies with their digital transformation.
Our responses are based on our client’s expectations and your business model.
There is no need to say: through the optimal integration of web strategies, application platforms, and web ecosystem infrastructure. Where, normally, significant costs exist to transmit information, to simply align with the same processes, between different stakeholders – we treat complex systems in simplicity and united teamwork.
Another simple and yet completely different example is off-site promotion.
We base our entire link building strategy at Blackcat around the media and editorial sites. We do not do other types of traditional links made, such as guest posts or bad quality links, bookmarks, comments, etc. All the content is worked on in-depth, our team looks for angles adapted to the news. There is a whole chain of communication involved, from the creation of editorial briefs to the writing of texts, integration and indexing and then sharing.
The most classic method is a ‘step by step’ protocol, that is to say, that we use a vast network of sites belonging to us or partner sites (several thousand!). We set up an editorial calendar to do a promotional article to a thoughtful destination, a sort of pre-established editorial calendar.
But the most effective method is somewhat ‘viral’, so when the content that we publish is naturally taken up elsewhere, it is then the certainty of reaching their core audience and arriving in force on social networks – at a lower cost. Content is one of the most important pillars of any SEO strategy. As an agency, we have to listen and understand our clients, which go through…words.
So the final thought is that there is no real success in our business without putting the right words into every market and every customer.
Tracking is carried out every 2 weeks; we follow the evolution of the rankings of the keywords relating to the targeted landing pages. There are so many people involved in such quality campaigns that our clients appreciate having ONLY ONE speaker for the whole but still can feel the quantity and quality of work.
When companies trust our team from hosting and infrastructure to web and app development, promotion and influence, it’s a lot of trust and responsibilities that force us to constantly innovate.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Antonin Pasquereau: It’s been positive mostly. The Covid -19 times has somehow revolutionized our industry, and at least our agency, since a wide number of companies are capitalizing on the web. The transition took place, for performing service agencies, like ours, was brutal in growth.
Establishing an effective protocol is not something that we can achieve in a few weeks, with the number of expertise involved.
In order to maintain the same level of quality as at the beginning, we had to spend an enormous amount of time training new people, teaching them our values, and supporting them until perfectly serving the client within the framework of our traffic acquisition mandates.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Antonin Pasquereau: Yes, some of the biggest challenges are to scale properly. So…responding to more customers by offering exactly the same level of service.
In our field, the multitude of tasks is an overwhelming reality. So it is of prime importance to choose a recruit who has certain skills in terms of project management.
In addition, we want to find resources who already know certain techniques or computer codes. So these are complete profiles and most often atypical.
There were a massive number of proposals from different kinds of backgrounds to work at Blackcat recently. We’ve found that multiple interviews with real cases are a good way to go. In order to find the right candidate, you need to establish progressive protocol and understand the best fit for the right position.
It’s an ongoing exercise that requires time and patience.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Antonin Pasquereau: We are actually more and more collaborative tools or tracking tools. It’s a clear consequence of the virtualization of meetings.
In terms of team organization, we use discord, Trello, and some Atlassian products according to specific follow-up requests with certain clients.
But we have and offer our own collaborative tools on a membership basis. We use a collaborative communication platform and online project management tool to improve our communication with our employees and clients. We always try to be on top of things in terms of process: access and share files in real-time wherever you are, thanks to our private cloud tool, completely secured, tailor-made security and backup policies, with full support from our team.
So we can say the integration of CRM as part of any company growth effort is very relevant at this time since Covid has changed the way we interact.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Antonin Pasquereau: Not ever. We are proud to be healthy, balanced, and independent (as a feline.). But we may get some R&D grants for Ekom as we grow.
Your final thoughts?
Antonin Pasquereau: The biggest challenge we’ve faced during those times was to keep our quality standards while answering an increasing number of requests. Not only that, but improving the communication channels and collaborative tools in parallel had a huge impact on the quality of the campaign. We’ve seen an improvement in efficiency at every level while reducing physical meetings and using specific tools instead.
In these times of crisis, we feel responsible for providing excellent service to an increasing number of customers. And that goes for communication and process.
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