A strong return on investment for each of our customers

99Digital is a fledgling web marketing agency that’s a bit of a line of business that is (too?) well established today. If the acronyms SEO, SEA or CRO are now part of the common vocabulary of the marketing departments of all companies, from medium-sized companies to large customers, not everyone understands them in the same way.

The engine of our growth remains ambition, innovation and passion

While a large number of web marketing agencies focus on visibility and related statistics, 99 Digital focuses solely on its clients’ return on investment, the only real guarantee of their satisfaction and a lasting relationship. To discuss 99Digital’s efficiency-based philosophy and strategy, we spoke to Geoffroy De Becdelièvre, the agency’s CEO and co-founder

Geoffroy, you are therefore co-founder of 99Digital, a web agency founded in 2018. Can you explain to us why you only recently started a digital marketing agency when the key players in the market seem to be well established?

The beginning of the story with 99digital starts a few years ago when I founded and developed the online travel agency Marco Vasco, bespoke travel designer. The company developed very quickly and quickly became a leader in its market. After 6 years we have achieved a turnover of €70 million with 280 employees. One of the main reasons for Marco Vasco’s success was a significant investment in SEO made in-house.

Why this choice of internalization when digital marketing agencies were already thriving?

We were looking for a solution solely focused on return on investment and what the different players in the natural referencing (SEO) market were offering us didn’t satisfy us. SEO performance is still too often measured by traffic today. Which doesn’t make sense to us. We have therefore decided to create our own internal SEO structure within Marco Vasco. Very quickly, 25 people were working full-time on the topic, always with the terms performance, conversion and return on investment in mind. All pages of our website have been developed with the aim of appearing first in the Google search engine, in order to optimize both the number of transactions and sales.

Do you have an example for us?

Secure. Typically, there are many keywords that weren’t interesting to us when they came out at #1; For example “Thailand visa” or “Brazil passport”. On the other hand, ranking #1 for keywords like “travel to the United States” or “travel to Thailand” is much more interesting, simply because the internet users who enter these keywords have an actual travel intention. In practice, therefore, we have always discarded the words for which we could find large volumes, instead focusing on requests for information in order to favor the keywords that offer the best volume/conversion pair. Above all, we wanted to capture pure transaction traffic. This is undoubtedly thanks to Marco Vasco, who had one of the strongest tourism growth in a low-margin activity sector. And it is this expertise that we bring to 99Digital today.

In a way, you’ve been testing the services you offer today within 99Digital on your own business for years. But how did you get from online tourism to pure web marketing? how did you cross the line

99Digital was born from a shared reflection with Mathieu Bouchara (former e-commerce director of Marco Vasco) and Pierre Woo (former marketing director of Marco Vasco), who are my partners in this new adventure. But most importantly, in Marco Vasco’s time, some friends who managed SMEs and some of our clients pointed out to me that no matter what destination they typed into their Google search engine, Marco Vasco always came out at number 1. Of course they asked us if we could do the same for them, for their own business. We have therefore taken exactly the same approach and adapted it to their field of activity.

So naturally when you sold Marco Vasco you went into web marketing…

Yes. We even started before Marco Vasco was sold and without an agency. When I received a specific SEO request, I forwarded it to Pierre, the head of marketing, who handled the request. When I sold Marco Vasco to the Dassault/Le Figaro group, the question of a possible continuation of our adventure arose. 99Digital was born.

And how are the first two years going?

The business is developing very well. Our job is fascinating because it follows the developments of Google and the changes in digital marketing on a daily basis. We are active in many business areas. The growth trend is extremely positive in a very deep market. All indicators are green. We have grown from 0 to 35 employees in two years and our turnover is doubling every year. Our customers are mainly very business-oriented SMEs (from 20 to 200 employees) and some ETIs (with more than 1,000 employees) who primarily want to increase their online sales with a real return on investment. Our mission is to calculate the extra margin that this SEO work can bring according to the position of natural referencing to very specific keywords, the most appropriate keywords for the field of activity, for the target market and always for a transaction goal. The goal is not to generate 100% of the traffic, but it is the traffic on the keywords that generates a real return on investment.

Let’s say you determine in your calculation that the SEO approach generates very little additional margin or no margin at all for your customer…

It’s very easy. We don’t sign. We have absolutely no interest in signing up with a client if we know they won’t make a living even if they rank #1 or #2 in the top keyword positions. Simply because he will end up being unhappy and quitting. It’s no use. The relationships we maintain with our customers are based on trust and efficiency. 99Digital is not losing any customers, not even those we started with under Marco Vasco. We can sometimes tell a customer that the transaction is not financially attractive for them. My reasoning is very simple: if it were my business, I wouldn’t invest there. So why convince a customer that they should do it? Let’s stay consistent. SEO is not necessarily profitable for everyone. It’s not a marketing panacea. Again, our role, we believe, is to help our clients increase their market share and online sales, not to generate traffic to the form. Accordingly, we may occasionally advise a client not to work with us.

So will you continue this philosophy committed to efficiency in a lasting relationship?

Absolutely. When 99digital started I thought that SEO is a very mature market and that it would have needed to grow to gain market share from our competitors. In fact, I find that there is a much greater depth of market than I would have imagined and that the SEO agency market is still growing strongly, which opens up great perspectives. For our part, we will continue to innovate to continue our organic growth while remaining open to external development opportunities. In summary, the engine of our growth remains ambition, innovation and passion.

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