The referencing of building materials, by Eric D.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and hence the bounds of professional discretion require that it’s desirable to anonymize texts. The letters X, Y and Z don’t refer to the same organizations from one work to another. Any resemblance to existing natural or legal persons of the past, present and future is purely coincidental.



Although the list isn’t exhaustive, I would like to add my thanks to the following persons who, through their support and confidence, have contributed to this project really becoming possible:

-          Mr. Da X, Mrs. Ma X, the X family and all members of their business

-          Mrs. C Y, Mr. P Y and the full body of the Y team and the Z group

The Y business students of my graduating class for the years 2016-2018, and other students at the Y school whom I constructively worked with.



This essay was born out of a concrete concern for the website of the company, so that its products are as far as possible correctly indexed by search engines. Within the pages you’ll discover a more detailed presentation of stakeholders and issues. I’m going to speak now about my motivations.

I was born in 1975, I have been integrated into the labor market since 1993, and I have worked mainly in the field of sales, especially in real estate. I embarked on a hands-on training path, with already five years of professional experience as a sales manager and a supervisor, and it was only late in the day that I was finally able to apply to a business school, because my record over the past years in my activities and the work I do today allow me to have enough time to participate fully in training and take full advantage of it.

It’s possible to conciliate various activities, but working and pursuing vocational training and education at the same time is more difficult. In my personal and professional experience, marketing is considered as a natural development of sales force and bargaining; similarly, my interest in construction materials and building is experienced as a way of deepening the specific knowledge which I have of real estate. This essay is the result of this convergence.

So with this foreword I would like to talk about me. As will be seen below, the choice of referring to myself in the third person (using terms such as “the candidate”, “the student worker”, “the man on mission”) is a natural choice as this may help to show a willingness to take distance. The following pages come from the shop floor. Reflection paved the way for their final form.



The building materials trade is a traditional business. At the same time the importance given over the Internet in the economy since the 1990s has led all players in the sector to take account of the need to serve the public, through information and communication technologies (ICTs), in such a way as to provide the best information we can and thus improve the attractiveness of such materials, while showing how the business sets itself apart from the competition into the surrounding geographical neighborhood, especially in terms of choice and quality. The imperative to keep customers up to date in order to attract more demand raises the question of the referencing of building materials on websites.

It would become immediately obvious that analysis should consider two important things: in addition to the above-mentioned referencing, there are also user experiences. Given the diversity of activities and products within the context of the construction sector and the building materials trade, do we always have to do the same when we are expanding a dedicated website content, in compliance with the specific recommendations of a communication agency in order to ensure search engine optimization (SEO) of the site? That actually brings us to another question, which is the central issue of this essay: when trying to achieve the double objective of improving SEO and enhancing the user experience (a site that can easily be found and satisfied surfers with the content), in this case in the building materials sector, do we always have to meet the same criteria? In other words, to sum up: do we always have to bring SEO into line with user experiences?

Whatever the answer to the key question is, the resulting working hypothesis builds logically upon the search for balance between, on the one hand, a well-referenced corporate website in comparison with other traders competing in materials and, on the other hand, customers who are pleased with the website and agreeing with giving the business a chance. We can see that the goal of this question, the central question, and the working hypothesis is part of a commercial and pragmatic vision, for this goal suggests that a well-referenced website in search engines is only beneficial for the business if, once accessed, the website provides tangible results, such as new interested visitors who have discovered the business through the Internet and have therefore decided to purchase locally because they valued the online presentation of the products concerned.

This passage from the Mercator summarizes the topic brought up by the generalities of referencing: “We have seen that the display order of search engines results is a crucial factor as the top positions monopolize clicks. The position in search engines results is dependent on the quality of what is improperly called “natural indexing”, which actually has little to do with a natural process since it’s largely the result of the full respect of technical recommendations in relation to search engines (programming languages, texts formatted with tags, organization of websites facilitating indexing by search engines…). It is worth adopting best practices in terms of developing editorial contents (section names, keywords) and applying techniques that can be used to make websites more popular (number and quality of the links to them)”[1].

In order to explore these issues related to the features of building materials, we will follow a three-point plan. Firstly, it will be a matter of establishing a theoretical framework for the referencing of building materials. Secondly, this essay will provide an example of a business website in the X case relating to the building materials trade. Thirdly, an attempt will be made to present the means of action for implementation intended to improve SEO of the materials website following a number of findings in the field.

At first it will be necessary to define the main concepts involving the referencing of building materials: referencing, building materials, materials, fields of construction, trading, materials trade, products, construction products, and after that reference will be made to the generalities of natural indexing (even though the authors of the Mercator don’t find these terms appropriate as we have juste seen), SEO of corporate websites in all sectors and SEO of corporate websites in the building materials trade. Attention will also be given to principal authors who are experts in the field of referencing, their ideas and the practical implications of these ideas in materials trade: following a brief presentation of the history of the Internet, a quick report on research into referencing and recent developments, we shall quote some authors and ideas, and after that we will be able to provide an overview on the implementation of these ideas in practice, looking at some corporate websites in the number of big businesses in the building materials sector.

Next, the book’s first section will focus on the relationship between referencing and the many skills deployed throughout and around this particular field, in the following points: the versatility of companies in the materials trade and its influence over referencing, the role of communication agencies in the natural indexing of traders specializing in building materials, the case of the referencing of materials suppliers’ websites for professionals, the local competition and local strategies. This will bring us to the very heart of the subject, and from this approach, therefore, trading companies as such will be seen as belonging to an advertising, economic, cultural, ethical and evolving dimension. The first section will conclude with the question of the direct and indirect impacts relating to referencing, communication and marketing, in general and in particular with respect to building materials.

In a second step, we will present the X business and the context of the mission with regard to communication & marketing: the facilities, the suppliers, the communication agency, the business school and the marketing man on mission, the company’s history, the aspects of the mission relating to the referencing of the website; the teams, the product families. In this way, having laid these foundations, we will then be able to form a better understanding of the contents we needed to produce for the purpose of the website, through the perspective of a complex approach involving referencing, communication and marketing, right to the edge: user experiences, photos on the website and the underlying methodology.

Third and last, progress updates will be made, areas of improvement will be defined, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and the following questions will be answered:

-          What more could be done to manage the website and related issues?

-          Who is going to be dealing with them and how is that going to happen?

The introduction and the first section cover all footnotes. The reason for that is because the sources from which it has been possible to write the second and third sections follow on from the first theoretical references, or from the help received from field agents throughout the mission: information provided by managers or employees + professional literature and technical documentation available for consultation on the premises. Please refer to annexes for further detail. With the exception of competing websites, it can therefore be assumed that there’s only one footnote in respect of the second and third sections of the essay as a whole: the source is always the X space or X materials. The style is sometimes enumerated, which is justified by the importance of explaining the context through use of correct terminology.


Part one – Theoretical research regarding referencing construction products and building materials


1.1.      General information about the natural referencing of building materials trade companies

1.1.1.      Definitions of the key concepts of the referencing of materials

As can be seen here referencing can be defined both as “taking into account websites in search engines and directories” and “technical processes designed to improve the position of websites in search results (position in search engines)”[2]. This double definition is rather general in nature and at the same time gives some idea of the complexity of referencing, while being suitable for the problems encountered on companies premises in the efforts aiming at increasing visibility in public life.

In keeping with the title, this essay deals about the referencing of building materials. Building materials are “materials used in the construction sectors: building and public works (BPW)”[3]. The term materials usually means: “naturally or artificially occurring elements transformed as a result of human action to produce objects”[4]. These broad definitions are nevertheless correct and may have merit for use in an analysis of multifaceted companies from a supply side perspective, which is the case of trading of building materials companies in comparison with one or the other of their specialty suppliers.

Regarding the construction sectors, we must also point out the following: “Construction activities are mainly implementation or installation activities at the customer’s site, both for new construction as well as renovations, including repair or maintenance. (…) Building and civil engineering works are complex structures as a result of business activity in many areas. Subcontracting according to the specialty of the professionals concerned is common in this sector”[5]. As discussed in the next part, the materials trading company at stake in this essay has a client base of both the new construction and renovation sectors, which is generally reflected in others in the field.

This last precision leads us to define what is meant by the terms trading in general and, in particular, materials trade: “The word trade is used when concerning commercial operations or merchant sales. In reality, it’s clear that this word is used as a synonym of “business”, which is commonly used. It denotes all activities relating to companies in connection with consumer goods or capital goods. We note, for example, that professionals who resell goods to other professionals are often referred to as trade experts. Such business follows the roads of B2B (business-to-business). This trading activity is generally very important since it often involves the wholesales sector. With regard to, amongst others, the materials sector, business and commercial negotiation are often called trade. Trade experts often compare a number of offers from firms to select the most appropriate choice”[6].

In the case of materials, the products concerned will also be mentioned, for the two must go hand in hand. Products are defined as “the basic elements of marketing mix on which the other three variables (price, distribution and communication) depend. They form part of what is known as verifiable variables, in other words variables that businesses can influence. Thus, products aren’t limited to physical characteristics, since they are also, more generally, described in terms of services rendered to costumers. As a consequence, products are defined not only by technical and objective characteristics, but also by a benefit package being perceived by consumers as such, all these helping to meet a need”[7].

In the construction area, building products are “products or kits manufactured or marketed to be sustainably incorporated in construction works or parts of construction works and whose performances impact on the performances of construction works with regard to the basic requirements applicable to these works”[8]. Indeed, even when there’s no explicit reference to the concept of product, this concept is implied by all situations where there are building materials. The position taken in the essay on these matters deserves to be emphasized for a better understanding of what this is all about. The problems that result from the referencing of building materials, no less than the question of the definition of a good SEO in this case, don’t involve a sharp distinction between materials and the need to which they respond.


1.1.2.      A few words on natural indexing

Like any for-profit enterprise, materials traders try to achieve improved results and lower transaction costs. That’s why, through the Internet, businesses care about natural indexing, without in this way excluding paid indexing from their website:

“Natural indexing or SEO refers to the set of techniques consisting of aiming for top positions on search engines dealing with websites as well as sets of linked web pages in terms of natural or organic search results, according to requests launched on the engines. In practice, this essentially means ranking high on Google, preferably on first page. The “state of the art” in natural indexing therefore is to achieve the highest ranking in the first page on Google following Internet searches. Depending on areas of activity, financial challenges related to this presence are sometimes very important”[9].


1.1.3.      A few words on corporate websites in all sectors

From one communication agency to another, the advice given is more or less the same when it comes to good SEO at corporate websites level, which also applies to non-commercial websites: “Knowing the background of referencing, using the right keywords to introduce websites in an optimal way to the search engines, creating high-quality content with a high added value, using addresses of pages adapted for better indexing by all search engines, taking advantage of criteria for optimization of search positioning, rewarding mobility, moving in a direction of innovation with web 3.0 user experience, improving link building and the visibility of web pages, opting for paid indexing if necessary, removing referencing traps”[10]. We will also have an opportunity to throw light on such matters and acquire a more specific picture of this advice with regard to the issue.


1.1.4.      A few words on corporate websites in the materials trade

Web agencies may list various economic sectors according to the type of customers and, for each one of these sectors, provide examples of achievements. As by doing this they can promote their technical know-how to professionals in the particular field. Thus we can see that the Advertis website “Materials” category[11] details the projects carried out on behalf of Ageka[12], Batimieu[13], Fimaco[14], Graniterie Andolfatto[15] and Vosges Injection Bois[16]. Then when we provide keywords in search engines, including from a geographical point of view (“Vosges”), as surfers we will be able to consider whether the website is well positioned. Such an approach isn’t science-based but taken from practice, which is a problem for researchers, as made clear in the subsequent pages.


1.2.      Research regarding referencing, major authors, main ideas and practical implications in the building materials trade

1.2.1.      A brief reminder of the Internet, a state-of-the art survey on referencing and new developments

The literature on the Internet is as old as the Internet itself. The same applies to the antecedents of the Internet, which brings us to look further in the past: “Leonard Kleinrock at MIT published the first paper on the use of packet switching in July 1961 and the first book devoted to the topic in 1964”[17]. The problem of Internet referencing comes in conjunction with search engines. “Contrary to a widespread belief, Google was far from being the first web-based search engine. “A dozen directories of websites existed in the 1990s, but they were highly imperfect”, as Daniel Ichbiah explains, as the author of two books on Google”[18]. Today, those who are doing research on referencing agree on the three criteria to be identified as accessibility, relevance and popularity: “Accessibility is important since the technologies used can’t be interpreted by robots of search engines with regard to numerous websites (including showcase websites), because the code isn’t accessible (Flash, Images). The lack of accessibility makes referencing virtually impossible. Relevance is the next step: it helps ensure that the contents of websites are well highlighted on the results pages of search engines. Finally, popularity intervenes rather at the finishing stage. It’s rooted in the principle that, in order to be positioned among the first search engine results, pages (or websites) must have many links that point to them. The more links pointing to these pages, the more popular they are and rank well in search engines results”[19].


1.2.2.      Major authors and experts in the field of referencing and debating ideas

Among the leading authors in the English-speaking world, one can cite Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiola, Adam Clarke, Jason McDonald, Bruce Clay, Andy Williams, Matthew Capala, John Jantsch, Phil Singleton, Shane David, R. L. Adams and Christopher Nash[20].

At the French level, a small list can be as follows: Olivier Andrieu, Benjamin Thiers, Julien Ringard, Stéphane Briot, Laurent Bourrelly, Alexandra Martin, Mathieu Chartier, Daniel Roch and Isabelle Canivet[21].

Olivier Andrieu provides an example of the difficulties experienced with respect to some approaches aiming at confirming the scientific nature of indexing methods: “Anytime we try to discuss whether some improvement in internal linkages had a beneficial effect on search engine indexing of websites, it’s going to continue to be a problem to separate the effects of the method from the effects of a change in the Google index or algorithm, including a change in other signals related to websites”[22].

It’s one aspect of exchanges of ideas among authors. As a result, in communication and marketing, when we don’t know the technical elements of websites and search engines so thoroughly, we will turn to communication agencies specialized in referencing with a view to receiving appropriate advice. Whether we are taking a science-based approach or using empirically-based information, there’s consensus, of course, about the concept of use of keywords, as seen above.


1.2.3.      Consequences inherent in putting ideas into practice with regard to referencing in the materials trade

The notoriety criterion serves to illustrate plainly problems concerning research on referencing and the practical consequences of the mains ideas that have arisen: “For example, we may consider that your notoriety is well on track when surfers see that your website is among the top three of search results on Google, as well as an Adwords sponsored link in relation to your website based on the same query, additionally with banners linking to your website on the other websites in line with the query”[23].

When we enter “Building materials” in Google, we can readily see that the most important French companies in terms of how well known they are from this perspective are still Point P (as on Baidu, the Chinese search engine)[24], Gedimat[25], Bricomarché[26], Bigmat[27], Leroy Merlin[28] and Castorama[29]. We note also that a young company, such as Mes Matériaux[30], succeeded in being on the first page on Bing (as well as on Yandex, the Russian search engine) and can also be found on the first page on Yahoo.

By contrast, Ask seems to privilege informative data (Pages Jaunes, Légifrance) rather than focusing on business elements, like the American version of Google as a result of the same input in French – directories first, then companies. In turn, the Orange search engine mixes national and regional companies in results pages.


1.3.      Referencing, the versatility of building materials trade companies, communications agencies, suppliers and local competition

1.3.1.      The versatility of building materials trade companies and its influence on referencing

The concept of professional versatility applies in particular in connection with activities rather than the variety of supply: “It’s generally accepted that versatility is defined by the quality of skilled tradespeople who are able to carry out several different activities and speaks of their personal and professional commitment”[31]. However, selling different materials and products implies diverse knowledge and it’s with this in mind that the versatility of companies, which remain nevertheless specialized in trading, can be related to the many materials and products available.

The relevance of this issue here is dependent on the terms of queries in search engines according to surfers’ expectations, sometimes taking into account different areas of research. When customers need materials and express their need not directly but based on the intended use of the materials concerned or the type of work conducted, the connection between the versatility of companies, the variety of supply and referencing is more evident. Leroy Merlin has taken advantage of this situation through its practical information.

When we enter “Moving a wall”, “Repairing a wall”, “Installing an automatic watering system”, “Repainting a ceiling”, “Installing a plumbing network”, these leaders of the sector in France are always on the first page on Google through information contained in their Campus: “Moving a non-load-bearing wall”[32], “How to repair a wall before repainting it”[33], “How to install an underground watering system for use on small areas”[34], “How to repaint a ceiling”[35], “How to install a cross-linked-polyethylene plumbing network”[36]. The activities and the requisite skills and knowledge are varied, but the same company demonstrates and confirms its expertise in these fields. Consequently, one can understand the relevance of mixing versatility with the variety of supply and a good SEO.


1.3.2.      The role of communication agencies in natural indexing in connection with traders specializing in materials

As we have just seen, the various trades within companies have some impact on referencing. By considering now a second factor influencing referencing from an outside perspective, then we see that it relates to the role of communication agencies specializing in referencing: “Web-orientated agencies aren’t just creating and making websites accessible on the Internet but also managing domain names, hosting websites and supporting customers as they make their choices. Web agencies can also include websites in the best online directories. Moreover, we see that some agencies may also provide referencing for businesses and help them improve the sites deployment and master SEO”[37].

In the building materials sector, as in other business sectors, indicating whether companies engaged the services of communication agencies by making reference to them on websites isn’t a priority, since the goal is of course to promote materials companies and their products. At the same time, a spirit of “win-win partnership”[38] can be observed, insofar as communication agencies, in return, receive more publicity so that improving brand recognition shows, at least in principle, that in the end everyone will gain. For example, SIMC[39], on its website, inserts a link to the communication agency Choosit[40].


1.3.3.      The case of the referencing of materials suppliers’ websites for professionals, local competition and local strategies

Of course there are materials suppliers’ websites, but they aren’t intended to increase their visibility with the general public and these businesses aren’t focusing on that. Symptomatically, when we google “Building materials suppliers”, the result comes in line with the results discussed above, with the exception of the Europages directory[41], which ranks first, listing materials suppliers across Europe according to the categories selected by users on websites. “Concrete cores and frameworks” results, amongst others things, in: ROC Confortation[42], Atelier de Coordination José Baland[43], MD Béton[44], CICOP[45] and Eurobeton[46], those names being unknown to the general public whereas professionals know them well.

One might think that googling “Concrete cores and frameworks suppliers” would give users direct access to a list of suppliers; this isn’t the case, the Europages directory appears again among the first sites in results pages. Depending on the professional status of the target audience, specific objectives are complemented by specific methods of referencing. Would this mean that suppliers aren’t at least potential competitors for traders? At first sight, there’s no reason to think that.

However, even though it doesn’t seem appropriate for this kind of competition to reach the light of day, it’s easy to understand that it translates into field activities rather than into Internet referencing, and this is indeed the case, notwithstanding the fact that large general retailers take over the market at the expense of small retail operations: “Retailer and supplier relations, which in most cases may well be called vertical non-integrated relations involving a complicated mix of competition and cooperation, have experienced in the past few years power struggles often of benefit to large general retailers”[47].

It doesn’t mean either that, in comparison with the dominant players in hardware distribution, small companies specializing in the building materials trade would be well referenced and better able than suppliers to establish their online reputation. Strategies based on differentiation, which are suitable for local branding, are put in place to cope with competitive pressure: “Differentiation strategies are strategies with an objective to differentiate products and thus do away with competitive forces”[48]. Local criteria are especially important in referencing: “According to Google, what one has habit to call local searches make up more than 20 % of all search queries. Bearing this in mind, it’s important that professionals find ways to appear in the top search results, and this is possible through referencing. Referencing depending on geographical criteria helps position websites among the first search results linked to local business”[49].


1.4.      Referencing, online visibility, economy, traditions, culture, ethics, the evolution of building materials trade companies

1.4.1.      Websites serve as showcases of materials trade companies

Making a good corporate impression on the Internet is one of specialists’ principal recommendations to businesses: “Nowadays, the use of the Internet offers numerous opportunities to companies. Start by having your own website domain name, a layout and contents that are derived from the corporate identity as you expected”[50].

The following is an excerpt from the wording of the home page of CMEM’s website (Centrale Multi-Enseignes Matériaux): “CMEM built from the ground up with a goal of increasing the volume of purchases from suppliers and obtaining more advantageous conditions for building materials trade companies, both in terms of independent companies as well as business federations and coalitions”[51]. The focus is very much on a win-win approach and an effective presentation of the information on the mission thus defined.


1.4.2.      Referencing, economy, trading of materials and other traditional business sectors

To put into context the problem of optimizing websites indexing of building materials, the globalization of the economy on which this media relies then calls for us to widen the context by considering the relationship between the digital economy and traditional business sectors.

When we compare the situation in France to that of other countries, this country is falling behind when it comes to the digital economy: “The French digital economy was ranked only 20th worldwide (which is in relation to 2009 a set-back for 5 places) according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, however today it might benefit from the opportunities of globalization in such a way as to save local and traditional jobs featuring open borders and the Internet as a communication channel”[52]. Indeed, “in 2009 Internet sector businesses generated 3.2 % of the GDP, and 3.7 % in 2010. That represents more than some sectors of the “old economy” such as transport or agriculture”[53].

In the same time it has been noticed that “Saint-Gobain is one of the world leaders in manufacture and marketing of building materials. (…) Vinci is the world leader in services within the area of concessions, construction and associated services. (…) As a world leader in production and trade of building materials, Lafarge is in the forefront in these areas”[54]. As a further explanation, the following should be added: “If, on the one hand, international trade means little more than 5 % of production worldwide, on the other hand only five major players share half of the market: these are Anhui Conch (China), Lafarge (France), Holcim (Switzerland), CNBM (China) and Heidelberg Cement (Germany)”[55]. One knows in fact that we have made a habit of speaking about LafargeHolcim since 2015[56].

How can we analyze and cross-check this data? What can we conclude about the impact of the referencing of the websites concerned? Globally, there’s no clear relationship between the continued well-functioning of the building materials sector, including at the level of French leaders, and the development of the digital economy. There’s nothing to indicate that the building materials trade would be a business sector requiring the use of the Internet for a global influence. It’s precisely because the companies in question are world leaders that their websites are effectively indexed by search engines, and not the reverse.

The obvious conclusion is that small companies in the building materials trade need to optimize search engine indexing of their websites even more than others, with the aim of indirectly further gaining market share based on properly focused research at the local level. Admittedly, as mentioned above, enhancing the corporate online image is important for all businesses, including in the materials sector. It’s clear, however, that the stakes in search engine listing vary depending on company size and geographic coverage.


1.4.3.      Referencing corporate culture and ethical values in the materials trade

To differentiate themselves locally, meaningfully make a difference in the marketplace and potentially reach national or international scales, trade companies bring to the fore their own corporate culture and specifically the ethical values that define them.

Professional ethics can be defined as a “set of written or implicit rules mainly governing organizational working relationships”. It’s intended to “maintain the reputation of a company or corporation by bringing it more closely into line with, for example, an innovative spirit, a dynamic attitude or a sense of justice according to basic values” and “addresses three dimensions: the members of the organization, the organization itself and external relationships”[57].

Ethical values in the decision-making process of businesses can be brought up as the conditions for a partnership between a trader and a transport company thinking along the same lines, as we see with Bâtimat (chairman: Mohamed Farès) and CENTRIMEX in West Africa; it’s noted that keywords form the main elements that connect business ethics with Internet referencing:

“Among the values and strengths put forward by Mr. Farès are efficiency, responsiveness, listening, reliability and professionalism, demonstrating that these same values, for which Philippe Haddad stands, in his capacity as chairman of CENTRIMEX, are widely shared by all the company’s employees and perceived as such”[58]


1.4.4.      Referencing and business development in trading in building materials

The different mutations that companies go through throughout their histories sometimes have a lasting impact on websites outside the business concerned, and the referencing of these traces value the work when it’s progressing well.

Thus we can see that the article entitled CMEM has grown at a fantastic rate published in Bricomag makes a sustainable contribution to CMEM’s good reputation through search engines: “CMEM was already well positioned last year and good progress has been made since that time, resulting from the involvement of Bigmat, another giant, in the center! The rupture with Gedimat has actually taken place! The group leaves the central buying operation known as Timolia, which it had helped create seven years ago. Founded in 1981 in response to an unprecedented evolution in construction and building markets following the oil crisis, Bigmat doesn’t show up empty-handed at CMEM!!! Making the most with its 110 members, 336 outlets, a turnover of 1.2 billion euros, 4.000 employees and 450 suppliers, it’s thus of significant importance for the already successful CMEM”[59].



1.4.5.      Is search engine indexing a difficult concept to grasp for the building materials trade?

Can it be inferred from the previous pages that it’s more difficult to involve the materials market and its products in Internet-based search engine indexing, rather than involving another business sector, and that this presumed lack of interest would make the integration of the concept of referencing more difficult in this situation? The opposite is happening.

Whether for promotional, economic, ethical or historical reasons, not only major well-known companies are updating their websites so as to remain visible over the Internet, smaller companies are furthermore showing growing interest in investing in Internet communication, because they are more aware of the potential benefits of search engine optimization.


1.5.      Referencing construction products and building materials, communication & marketing, direct and indirect effects

1.5.1.      Creating content for natural indexing, communication & marketing around construction products and building materials relating to them

Natural indexing implies a drafting process: “Be judicious and proper in your choice of words, begin with a good title, insert interesting hyperlinks and create on a regular basis content of quality (it’s always a matter of content!)”

This golden rule concerns also the home page of the site: “Take the time to look after your home page, so that web users immediately find the information required. 30 % of surfers leave websites when home pages aren’t very well designed”[60].

Communication through corporate websites is being defined in relation to the following three questions: “What specific needs do the website meet? What are the challenges facing this website? Who is going to be dealing with it, maintaining it and updating it?” It’s always a matter of “increasing your visibility on the Internet; providing substantial traffic; displaying messages”[61].

The first major step in web marketing, from which the other steps are derived, consists of “dealing with your website in terms of maximizing online conversion”. In other words: “Websites aren’t only about informing visitors, they are also and in particular about converting visitors according to the objectives set: generating leads, making email lists, increasing online product sales…”

In conclusion: “From the tree structure of websites to web content, forms or encouragement to action: everything must be designed in such a way that the objectives are achieved. All the efforts you are making to drive traffic to your website will be rewarded, thanks to customer conversion rate!”[62]

According to a Hallvarsson & Halvarsson Swedish agency study: “In 2009, for the second year in a row, Lafarge is ranked number one among French websites. In particular, this study outlines the quality of the sections “Journalists” and “Candidates”, which are ranked first among French websites”.

The numbers speak for themselves: “The website receives an average of 130,000 visits each month. 200 pages of data, practical cases, a thematic traffic from search engines and a glossary of technical terms are available. To cite a few examples, additional features may be a mechanism to subscribe to RSS feeds and podcasts, or social bookmarking (sharing option)”[63].

1.5.2.      The referencing of construction products and building materials, direct and indirect effects, internal linkages

Increasing visibility, creating links, generating traffic: one reference leads to another. Both the results of queries made by users of Google services or other search engines (direct effects) and potentially interesting pages (indirect effects) must be taken into account: “Increasing internal linkages adds value for visitors. If web users are interested in your suggested themes and appreciate the proposed content, they want to find out more. Internal links help you work with them through the site content to deliver the best user experience”[64].

If surfers enter, for example: “Plaster the wall” in search engines, one of the top search results is one of the Leroy Merlin practical fact sheets described above, in this instance: “How to plaster a wall”[65]. A brief introduction is included with the explanatory video: “Puttying, smoothing, sanding… Where there’s a great looking paint job there’s careful preparation of a painting fund. There are some simple steps you can take to produce perfect results”.

A list of the corresponding materials and tools, each showing the price, includes a series of internal links: “Paint roller pan, 7-inch”[66], “Steel coating knife, 12-inch”[67], and “Concrete levelling layers”[68].

Some other sets of internal links arise in the same way, through the section entitled “Customers who bought this product also bought”. The page dedicated to the paint roller pan takes you back to the pages dedicated to the paint roller pan refill, the paint roller pan refill set, the masking tape for smooth surfaces, the wall and ceiling paint refill set and the protective canvas roll; the page dedicated to the steel coating knife, 12-inch, takes you back to the pages dedicated to the steel coating knife, 9-inch, the painter knife, 6-inch, the two coating trays, the airless paint sprayer; the page dedicated to the concrete levelling layers takes you back to the pages dedicated to the hardener, the wood filler, the powdered plaster, the wall filler, etc.


Part two – The natural referencing of the X business’ construction products and building materials


2.1.      The context of the communication & marketing mission on behalf of the X business

2.1.1.      The key players on the ground: the X business, the premises, the suppliers, the communication agency, the business school and the man on marketing mission

The X business, which is based in the Grasse area, Maritime Alps, France, is a family owned company specialized in selling building materials, tiles, stones, joineries and kitchens.

Physically, the company consists of three centers located in the same neighborhood (Plascassier): center 1, Building materials, contains most of the building materials and the fleet of delivery trucks, as well as the tools, general hardware and building supply store, the executive offices, the accounting and business support services; center 2, Materials facilities, contains some other materials; center 3, X space, brings together tiles, stones, joineries and kitchens. Only center 3 and center 1 are relevant to the subject-matter of the present essay because of practical reasons.

The X business doesn’t carry out extraction operations, nor does it produce materials: it’s limited to trading activities and promotes the stocks of suppliers among customers. Whether it’s in relation to Space (center 3) or Materials (center 1), there are many local, national or international suppliers. Among them, examples could include Charles Réma regarding kitchens, Technal regarding joineries, Fiandre regarding stones, Société d’Exploitation de Carrières regarding aggregate, Lafarge regarding cement and dozens more.

In order to present its activities on the Internet and attract new customers, the business has a website that is managed by an online platform being part of the Jalis communication agency. The X business pays Jalis to be granted access to this platform, have a fully functional hosting and take advantage of an optimal indexing in search engines.

The Y business school, a member of the Z group, has hallowed the candidate to do his internship with the X business as part of a training period towards the achievement of the Marketing & Communication Manager level two professional designation certified by the state.

The man on marketing mission, the author of this essay, was hired during the period between the 21st of November 2016 and the 17th of February 2017, during which all the skill sets required by the terms of the Y professional passport have been demonstrated and validated. As the title suggests, the essay only attempted to address two selected issues surrounding the mission, for two reasons mainly: one reason is the richness of the mission with regard to communication & marketing in such a short period of time, which would have permitted the drafting of several essays from different perspectives, so it was a matter of choices; a second reason is that all elements related to the website are ultimately more evident than others and that, as a consequence, it’s thanks to this choice that the author was able to respect the confidentiality of the information provided by the X business, which doesn’t want to make public sensitive data.


2.1.2.      An historical overview of the X business

The family business, which is named after the man who founded the company, began its operations on the French Riviera in 1961, has existed for three generations and markets materials to help customers bring the various stages of their construction projects to a successful end, from structure to finishing. As a member of the France-Matériaux network consisting of unrelated traders, the company wants to remain true to the values established by its founder X: quality, service culture, effectiveness, honesty, work.

The business initially specialized in modelling (center 1 and center 2), and was eventually widened out to include an exhibition space (center 3) enabling customers to buy also stones, tiles, joineries and kitchens. The goal is to give this business a new public image, since the local population usually sees X construction trucks on the road near Grasse and neighboring towns, thereby ensuring it the opportunity of gaining prominence in activities aimed at habitat enhancement, both inside and outside the building, in addition to the initial stages of construction.

The website contributes to this development. It was X Space’s marketing manager, Da X, the grandson of the founder, who had the vision of creating this website. He’s aware that an evolution of perceptions about the company in order to ensure its long-term future also involves Internet exposure in general and, in particular, search engine marketing, and he persuaded the management of the company to invest in the services provided by a communication agency specialized in websites and natural indexing.


2.1.3.      The aspects of the mission in communication & marketing relative to natural indexing and the X website

It was necessary to write content to expand the website. The marketing manager had no time to deal with contents, photo management and professional illustrations intended to enhance articles in an effective way. This work couldn’t be delegated to Jalis, whose core business is in this case the websites themselves and not their substantive content. For this reason, when considering the other aspects of the mission in communication & marketing undertaken by the trainee during the above-mentioned period, there was, of course, a place in this mission for the drafting of articles concerning the X Company’s products and materials.

It was also clear that providing relevant content in terms of intelligence of products and materials, and then adding pictures of these products and materials, wasn’t enough in this particular context. The natural indexing, communication & marketing approach meets a threefold requirement:

a) On the one hand (natural indexing), using keywords in order to maximize the chances of being found in the first results of a search engine, particularly in terms of local criteria: around Grasse, Maritime Alps and the bordering area in the department of Var, with, as recommended by Jalis, titles of articles containing 5 words, content of articles containing where possible 100 or more words and a repetition of keywords 3 or 4 times per article

b) On the other hand (communication), adapting the function, length and tone of each article to people concerned by these issues: a message may be drafted differently, depending on whether it’s addressed to individuals thinking about refurbishment of terraces involving the relaying of tiles in the spring months or workers in urgent need of construction tools

c) Finally (marketing), highlighting the elements of the definition of products and materials that are best suited to customer service and satisfaction, such as: what purpose they serve, the type of setting for which they are intended, inside, outside, on the ground, on the walls, the architectural style adapted to them, their durability, their resistance to climate and outdoors, their safety standards, their ease of maintenance and cleaning, without forgetting to mention the quality of service provided by the technical advisors, as a result of which the company wants to differentiate itself from the competitive pressure from Ciffréo Bona, Costamagna and the Provençale de Matériaux, just to mention an area of 3 kilometers around it.


2.2.      The X business, the teams and product families

2.2.1.      A presentation of X Space and its product families

X Space was the beginning of the mission, a situation which is linked with the sales department, where the idea comes from, in addition to which major parts to be made concerning the drafting were going to be undertaken with reference to X Space, offering the man on mission the opportunity to validate the merits of the marketing & communication approach, including aspects related to this essay, before ending the work placement at X Materials.

X Space represents just 20 % of the company’s overall turnover. Its ambition is therefore to become more important and it’s also doing it to show X Materials that all this development work related to X Space, including natural indexing, will have positive benefits for X Materials themselves. Accordingly, when referring to natural indexing and the referencing of building materials in the context of the X business over that period, attention to both direct effects and indirect effects is necessary: with regard to direct effects, this is because some articles are of course devoted to X Materials, and indirect effects translate into advertising of X Materials by X Space.

X Space is a 500 square-meter showroom. The objective is to offer customers a large choice of leading brands of products belonging to the following product families: tiles, kitchens, joineries, wood floor and stones. Three inside technical advisors and a traveling technical sales representative are on hand to provide advice to customers according to their budget and other needs.

Since risks related to after-sales service are higher when it comes to joineries because of a higher level of expert advice that is specific to this kind of business, there may be differences in the distribution of staff members’ workload, insofar as, when joineries are sold, the numbers of parameters to be estimated in order to ensure that there would be no mistake is greater than that of other areas. For this reason, the content of the website related to joineries tends to value, above all, technical mastery, which explains the mention of measurements and installation carried out by trained artisans.

The area devoted to tiles includes accessories (various accessories and tilesetter’s tools, tile cement, joints, expansion joints, cleaning and treatment products, edging profiles), waxed concrete, cement tiles, faience tiles and kitchen splashbacks, mosaics, technical tiles (flooring and tiles in antibacterial ceramic, ventilated façade systems, tiles with thin or large thickness, high-resistance tiles, large format tiles, pool and spa products) and terracotta.

The area devoted to kitchens includes various elements (accessories, lighting, built-in speakers, sinks, taps), contemporary kitchens (high-gloss Acryl, concrete surface coatings, lacquer, melamine, assembled melamine, assembled frame melamine, polymer, laminate), household appliances (wine cellars, traditional ovens, microwave ovens, dishwashers, cooking ranges, baking trays, refrigerators), work surfaces (Dekton, granite, quartz, laminate) and traditional kitchens (oak wood with a frame, oak wood with mismatched wooden dowels, oak wood coated with an aged effect matt paint, natural oak wood, oak veneer with brushed or saw-textured knots, oak wood frame, oak finish).

The area devoted to joineries includes dressing rooms and closets (furniture, closet facades, dividing spaces), stairs (contemporary stairs, luxury stairs, traditional stairs), windows and sliding systems (sliding systems, casement or slide-and-turn systems, partition systems, corner sliding systems, corner partition systems, large size sliding systems, fixed sashes, complete systems, steel windows, aluminum windows, wood windows, roof windows, composite windows, œil-de-bœuf windows, PVC windows, special opening joineries, special shape joineries, automatic powered opening/closure sliding systems, folding doors, steel French windows, aluminum French windows, wood French windows, composite French windows, PVC French windows), gates, fences and railings (fences, aluminum railings, wrought iron railings, stainless steel railings, glass railings, security fences, aluminum gates, wood gates, wrought iron gates, PVC gates), garage doors (overhead, roll-up, side or sectional garage doors), entrance doors and landing doors (aluminum, wood, composite, mixed or PVC doors), interior doors (door frames for sliding door frames, service doors, wood interior doors, sliding interior doors, technical interior doors), sun protection systems (external venetian blinds, carports, outdoor storage areas, roll-up mosquito nets, bioclimatic pergolas, awnings) and shutters (rolling shutter casings, aluminum casement shutters, wood casement shutters, PVC casement shutters, louver window shutters, renovation rolling shutters, sun protection roller shutter systems, traditional rolling shutters).

The area devoted to floors includes accessories (flooring adhesives, baseboards, floor cleaning products, underlays), wall coverings made of wood (wood paneling, wood siding systems), wood parquet floors (floor laminate, cork, solid wood, flooring for washroom construction), vinyl or laminate flooring as well as wooden terraces (ipé, teak, other woods). This doesn’t mean that wall coverings made of wood should be considered as floors, but that knowledgeable salespeople can help you decide both on floors and wood paneling, including in the same project.

Finally, the area devoted to stones includes various elements (arrangements, columns, fountains, kitchen tops in natural stone, shower trays), interior arrangements, granite, marble, Burgundy stone (Bleu de Lignères, Charmot, Massangis), Dordogne stone, Egyptian stone, Indian stone, Italian stone, Moroccan stone, Vietnamese stone, travertine (beige travertine, gray travertine), facings (contemporary facings, traditional facings), paving (including in the Roman style), pool surrounds and stone terraces.


2.2.2.      A presentation of X Materials

The company’s four key functions: the delivery fleet, the storage of materials, the store and the offices are located at the company’s headquarters. The access is free in such a way that trucks and visitors can move easily and that the store is visible from the main road, while having enough space for the gigantic piles of sand, metal bars and other massive material stocks that you can see all around.

It only takes a path from the store to climb the stairs leading to the offices where, around director Ma X and administrative manager J X, who is one of her sons, three employees having more than thirty years’ experience continue to ensure that it’s a well-managed company.

Director general Di X, who is the oldest son of the founder and Da X’s father, for his part, has an office one floor above the store, where he supervises both the business and traffic in and out of these premises, remaining ready to intervene. He delegates certain responsibilities with regard to the store to another long-term employee sitting behind the reception desk.

What this employee is supposed to do is more about trading than about negotiating: he greets customers, enters sales orders and handles the cash, but he doesn’t have to argue, nor does he have to convince, which is in sharp contrast to X Space. This isn’t only a matter of distributions of functions and tasks but also relates to cultural differences within the company: it has become very clear that center 3 and center 1 employ different people to respond to different customers’ needs and demands that are far from uniform across the product lines. Regarding building sites, professionals know what this is all about. Actually they only want to know whether and when the equipment is available, nothing more and nothing less. As explained later, these differences are significant regarding production of commercial content for the web, insofar as they illustrate that the company is versatile and multifunctional.

The area devoted to materials includes structure, tools, hardware and finishing. The area devoted to structure includes aggregates (ballast, road gravel, gravel, concrete mixture, mortar sand, trenching work sand, porous sand, leveling sand, topsoil), reinforcing (steel castings for custom applications, tying reinforcing bars, ribbed steel bars for concrete, HEA, HEB, IPE, IPN, footings, columns, ground beams, welded steel mesh), sanitation facilities (grease traps, retention bins, gutters, spreading and drainage, septic tanks, geotextiles, small purification plants, rain water recovery plants, manhole covers and nozzles, PVC pipes and fittings), waterproofing (self-adhesive compression tape, Delta MS, bituminous waterproofing membranes, polyethylene films, liquid waterproofing systems, waterproofing under tiles), walls and facades (aerated concrete, insulation blocks, bricks, formworks, plasters, renders, external thermal insulation composite systems, monomur blocks, concrete shuttering blocks, hollow concrete blocks), floors (hollow bricks, beams), powders (lime, cement, glue, plasters, renders, mortar, concrete, plaster, finishing concrete), roofs (lumber, frames, chimneys, rooftop elements, roof windows, gutters, insulation panels, roof plates, roof tiles).

The area devoted to tools and hardware includes construction chemistry (adjuvants, adhesives, primers, resins and coatings, cleaning and maintenance products), electricity (accessories, bulbs), portable electric tools (accessories and consumables, appliances), and personal protective equipment, building tools, PVC pipes and fittings as well as screws. Finally, the area devoted to finishing includes landscaping, waxed concrete, walls, insulation and painting.


2.3.      The referencing of the X business’ website, communication & marketing

2.3.1.      A few words on writing web content around X products

At first sight one would erroneously think that the different versions of the same product, such as mosaic, bring about articles that are invariably based on the same background information valid for all mosaics, while at the same time stressing their special characteristics when appropriate, namely the best use of wood mosaic, glass enamel mosaic, porcelain stoneware mosaic, metal mosaic, mosaic combining two or more materials, stone and marble mosaic and glass mosaic, and that this redundancy would have the effect of enhancing the website by improving its position in results of search engines.

The communication agency has confirmed that this assumption was unsubstantiated. Only one article about mosaic in general is sufficient, simply to introduce this category, in which each specific article is limited to the characteristics of each mosaic.

To put it another way, repeating in every article the background information provided doesn’t guarantee that the website of the company will have a high ranking for popular search terms. The usefulness of repetitions is more evident in each article, on the basis of keywords and their proximity. This observation means also that, even if the number of words per article isn’t always enough to best address the criteria for defining referencing, it’s better to stick to a limited number of words rather than overfill articles by repeating the background information provided.

In addition, it’s recalled that a better experience for users implies that people aren’t comfortable every time finding these general points when it comes to comparing mosaics. From a perspective based on criteria related to referencing, there are sufficient long articles to enable the short articles to make information easier to read. Furthermore, the sales manager is in charge of organizing the website and rewriting its content at his discretion.

You can see that the aspects of the mission that are the subject of this essay are sustained by a more complex balance than was thought: referencing criteria, recommendations from the communication agency, communication, marketing, user experience and an arbitration by the sales manager, together with on the one hand the distinctive qualities of the author’s writing in each particular sales space and on the other hand the advice of technical advisors.

It must be pointed out that the author of the essay, who is a former real estate sales agent, aiming for focus on core competencies in marketing, isn’t presently an expert in the field of materials. The technical documentation is in itself not sufficient to always explain everything, because it isn’t always easy to interpret it correctly and retrieve meaningful information. As a result, the drafting of commercial content for the corporate website has only been possible thanks to the help of the sellers who were there to inform the trainee, as they were aware of the fact that it was in their best interests in terms of trade.

It will be also appreciated that a focus on long articles would be inconsistent with Materials as well as totally counterproductive. While customers have a distinct perception of the aesthetic and functional qualities of Space products, which justify further development and sometimes cover historical and cultural information, we observe the opposite to be true with Materials because it has to be brief and one must get to the heart of the matter, that is to assure workers that the company has everything they need for working on their construction site. The referencing of building materials in a narrow sense is brought about indirectly through X Space.


2.3.2.      Criteria relating to natural indexing, construction products, buildings materials and the X website

If we continue with the example of mosaic, which has the advantage of being easy to visualize when we don’t have photos at our fingertips, here’s the basis for the online article on the presentation of mosaic in general:

“A variety of mosaics

Your X Space offers standardized solutions for your mosaics, based on the principle of producing coverings by using small tiles with the same dimensions, which vary generally between 0.39 in per 0.39 in and 1.97 in per 1.97 in through different colors and materials. Nowadays, mosaic is used mainly for swimming pools and is suitable for other uses (thalassotherapy, shower rooms, kitchen walls and living rooms). In the shower, you will appreciate mosaic, with its many visible joints, as a solution when slip-resistance is necessary. Come to visit X Space, and you will see that all kinds of materials can contribute to your mosaic projects. Not all of them are suitable for all uses, but the available scope is enough to help you finalize all sorts of projects at your home”.

It’s clear that the respect of criteria relating to natural indexing depends on several aspects:

-          A title containing 5 words

-          An article containing 100 words or more

-          The repetition of the main keywords: “mosaic”, “mosaics”

-          The presence of other keywords: “tiles”, “swimming pools”, “thalassotherapy”, “shower”

-          The repetition of the terms “X Space”.

On the other hand, note that it’s useless to say in each article that the business is within the geographic area of Grasse or in the Maritime Alps, because that has already been made clear in the general description of the company’s operations. And in due course, the content of the article should be sufficient to allow X to be listed on the first page of results found by search engines when, for example, we google “Grasse mosaics”. Alternatively customers accessing the X website by means of a targeted search will find that X Space also provides mosaic. Mosaic isn’t the core business of X Space, as the goal is above all to respond to queries such as “Grasse tiles” or “Grasse joinery”.


2.3.3.      Aspects related to communication around construction products, building materials and the X website

Still on the theme of generalities on mosaic, it’s an article that can be adapted to the needs of target customers, thereby enhancing communication around products: the length of the text, which is quite consistent, is primarily intended for individuals who have the time to read, shop around, learn and compare offers. There are references concerning the fact that visitors “appreciate” mosaic in the manner of an art gallery’s exhibition, to which X Space is being compared. This highlights the pleasure of discovery alongside the pleasure in products.

When we talk about materials, structure and building sites, which entails emergencies and effectiveness, the difference is striking. This should be noted in the articles because the context changes. The interlocutors shall be either professionals who have firsthand knowledge of the situation on the ground and want to get to the heart of the matter or individuals who are experts in materials and works (such as a plasterer who, when having free time, builds his own home), which would mean the same result. Here are some classic examples related to what to do in that circumstance:

-          “Ballast: We have ballast with a particle size of 20/40 (other particle sizes are available on request), so that you can easily dig filtering trenches, the first layers of accesses and backfilling work.”

-          “Steel castings for custom applications: If you need steel castings for custom applications, we’ll be pleased to order them for you.”

-          “Mortar and ready-mixed concrete: If as a craftsman or a private person you work around the house, we have mortar (as well as refractory mortar) and ready-mixed concrete.”

-          “Roofing products: Ventilation, mechanically controlled ventilation, attic spaces, different roof ridge types, detailing, fixing clips, gaskets and sealing strips, metal panels, floating roof seals, roofing underlayment, valleys, roofing ornaments, flashing: we have everything you need.”

-          “Electrical accessories: We have an electrical accessories department (flexible cables, rigid cables, cable sleeves, outlets, connection links, wire clamps, distribution boards, mounting boxes, plastic cable ties, smoke detectors, electrical wire) when you need it in everyday life.”

2.3.4.      Aspects related to marketing around construction products, building materials and the X website

As mentioned earlier, elements of a definition of products and materials incorporated into the drafting of articles meet the demand of customers. And understanding the demand of customers requires both the company’s in-depth experience and market research. Close relations between definitions of products, deep insight in the demands of the market and relevant content perfectly summarizes aspects related to marketing around construction products, building materials and the X website, and this principle applies to all levels.

Thus it appears that the general description of mosaic:

-          Presents in brief the main elements of mosaic (“Producing coverings by using small tiles with the same dimensions”)

-          Lists its main uses (“Swimming pools, thalassotherapy, shower rooms, kitchen walls and living rooms”)

-          Outlines its benefits in terms of security (“Its many visible joints, as a solution when slip-resistance is necessary”)

-          Ends with the many possibilities that mosaic has to offer (“All kinds of materials can contribute to your mosaic projects”).

Other elements are sometimes quoted according to the products and materials concerned; we must be able to adapt when we need to, and take into account variables. When we think about travertine, it’s good practice to first start by giving some historic background, because the long tradition and nobility of the product earns the trust of customers:

“Limestone travertine, which has been used to construct the greatest monuments of Ancient Rome (the Coliseum), is characterized by cavities of small dimensions”.

The rest of the article (the origin, the appropriate use and the technique used) is along the same lines:

“Beige travertine is a natural stone originating in Turkey, which is known for its beautiful extraction sites and whose colors go from a hazelnut color to a light beige color. Your terraces and landscaping efforts lend themselves to being complemented by beige travertine selected from your X Space products. Beige travertine, which is 23.62 inches in length, 15.75 inches in width and 0.47 or 1.18 inches in thickness, is also available in different shapes that allow Roman Opus application (7.87 x 7.87, 7.87 x 15.75, 15.75 x 15.75 and 15.75 x 23.62)”.

The end of the article is a matter of combining the pleasant and the useful:

“You should clean this porous stone once every three years using protective products, which shall be easy to use and accessible via your X Space. Call in a tiler for the joints, it only takes once”.

Safety standards on the one hand and the value of advice on the other hand are emphasized as often as necessary, even though their relevance varies according to the type of product. It’s important for a family to know that the youngest of them aren’t going to skid or slide when running around the swimming pool. When it comes to joinery, the example of railings speaks volumes, because professionals know that fatal accidents involving children have occurred in the past (their head being trapped between rungs):

“If you want to install railings or barriers at home, remember that regulatory standards must be adhered to for your safety, when the accessible area is more than 3.28 feet: the empty spaces in the vertical rail whose height is more important than their width shall have a width of 4.33 inches or less, and the empty spaces in the horizontal rail whose width is more important than their height shall have, on the one hand, a height of 4.33 inches or less under the still plate and, on the other hand, a height of 7.08 inches or less if the empty spaces are all more than 17.71 inches above the floor area. The specialist manufacturing suppliers of your X Space design and build railings and barriers that meet the regulatory standards defining the dimensions and model test cases relating to railings and barriers with security considerations in mind, as well as appropriate efforts for each location”.

In contrast to what was said above, these general considerations would need to be exceptionally incorporated in every article related to railings (aluminum, wrought iron, stainless steel, glass), not in order to optimize search engine indexing of the website but to protect the business by protecting customers: the approach is fully effective. However, it’s also possible to write the specific articles based solely on minimum information without adversely affecting the visibility of the website, as illustrated by the example of mosaic. The ambivalent features of articles are consistent with demand from customers who look first at the aesthetic aspects then look for practical information, and the opposite approach. In any event, the major issue is expressed through security considerations, at the level of both marketing and sales space. This is the immense value of good advice.


2.4.       User experiences, photos on the X business’ website and the underlying organization

2.4.1.      User experiences and the X business’ website

When it comes to natural indexing, it’s essential to make it clear that this aspect isn’t an end in itself. This is about a company with a commercial goal, like all businesses, which also includes retention and an upstream work to limit damage in connection with consumers using the after-sales department. At the early stage of research on the Internet, this commercial goal starts with user experiences when beginning to explore the website of the company.

On the assumption that the referencing work was effective and that potential customers get access to the website, would they want to read through the web pages and especially take those steps and go physically to sales space? In addition to basic precautions ensuring that this isn’t a question of misleading advertising or unattainable targets, aspects related to natural indexing, communication & marketing should take into account user experiences to stimulate action.

In some cases, this means not basing work on criteria relating to natural indexing, to the benefit of improved ergonomics and for better reading. An illustration of this can be found in the articles on mosaic, which are characteristic of niche product marketing and of secondary importance to other product families as mentioned above (especially since a mosaic competitor has premises just in front of X Space, across the street). That explains why there are short articles devoted to this subject, even though in most cases the articles dealing with X Space have more than 100 words each:

-          “Wood mosaic is both original and traditional, and will make a nice addition in your Provencal-style home.”

-          “Glass enamel mosaic (0.98 inches x 0.98 inches) has a bright appearance and represents a recommended functional solution for your swimming pool.”

-          “Porcelain stoneware mosaic, in addition to its elegant look, is robust and versatile, which makes it an ideal solution for your shower rooms and will make you stand out from the rest as regards the construction of your swimming pool.”

-          “Metal mosaic (especially aluminum mosaic) will be consistent with the beauty of your urban style interior walls (kitchen, dining room).”

-          “Mosaic combining two or more materials (mix) will enhance the richness of your projects.”

-          “Glass paste mosaic (0.79 inches x 0.79 inches) is matt and is a recommended functional solution for your swimming pool.”

-          “Stone and marble mosaic will highlight the solidity and nobility of your interiors and outdoor spaces.”

-          “Glass mosaic is prestigious and particularly suited to plans for your home involving friezes and other compositions for indoor use.”

To conclude articles, we can add some more details to what has been said, stressing the value of the advice given by the sales staff and technical team on X Space’s mosaic.

In the event that the sales manager ultimately opts for a short article format for railings and barriers, finding that it’s better to ensure there’s only one mention of safety standards in the general part of the relevant articles, the same principle shall also apply here, namely the focus on the particular characteristics of the materials (aluminum, wrought iron, stainless steel and glass).

When, however, there are common elements in X Space and X Materials, as products can be purchased through the two sales areas (waxed concrete or Velux roof windows), we can use the same approach, regardless of the length of the articles, for a better user experience:

-          “Authentic waxed concrete is a material with pigmentation declining itself in various colors (up to 15 colors available) and different finishes (a raw, matt, waxy, varnished, glittered or rough finish) for your waxed concrete projects.”

-          “For your roof windows, with the undertaking X you will find the solutions provided by Velux technology: motorized intelligent windows, luxurious roof windows, revolving windows, awning windows, roller shutters for windows, external roller window blinds, sieving roller window blinds, integral blinds (with the choice of 24 colors for blackout fabric) as well as flat roof windows. To care for your health, protect your well-being, safeguard comfortable indoor climatic conditions, increase your energy savings, ensure your peace of mind and daily comfort, give you a great view of the outdoors, reduce the street noise and balance natural light and your general well-being, X has the roof windows you are looking for.”


2.4.2.      The photos with the articles, communication with X suppliers, invisible work and imponderables

The photos with the articles improve both user experiences and referencing, especially considering that words on the photo caption are sufficiently detailed. This allows beginners the chance to familiarize themselves with products and materials, and presents an image of unity and consistency to connoisseurs who see the articles. In addition to visual pleasure, photos, by means of referencing, contribute to the dissemination of a positive image in terms of seriousness and service quality. All the photos come from image banks provided by suppliers.

Seeking from suppliers, by e-mail or by phone, photos of products and materials, requires a diplomatic effort, which consists of convincing their marketing department, if there is one, of the importance to encourage exchanges that use a win-win approach in terms of natural indexing, with the aim of overcoming the resistance due to copyright issues and the fact that, within the same product family, everyone knows that the dealer in building components puts several factories in competition, and this situation can lead to an attitude of approval (“If my competitors are visible on the X website, I want it as well”) or disapproval (“Why should my photos join the others”?)

When dozens of suppliers have to be contacted, an attempt should first be made to avoid mass e-mailings using the blind carbon copy. To reach them there’s a drive towards personalization, and it takes time. It’s on this basis that it’s important to specify the materials and products concerned, as well as the series, collections and specific designations. Product names differ from a supplier to another: it can be seen that Egyptian stone and Sinai stone are the same product. This impacts referencing, because at the end of the day it’s about using the terms “Egyptian stone” and “Sinai stone” in the same article to maximize online exposure. We can see here that there’s a link between the images problems involved and the text elements in terms of natural indexing.

And last, we don’t immediately work on the Jalis platform, whose use is however simple and intuitive, a dropdown menu appearing listing the following options: home page, categories, content management, etc. that are easy to modify. We firstly have to manage the Windows folder-tree storing DOC and JPG files after they were modified by Gimp or Photoshop if necessary. If this invisible work isn’t considered, directly improving the website can produce chaotic results as well as, in the best-case scenario, a waste of time equivalent to months if not years, and referencing may remain just a possibility, insofar as we have to keep up with time constraints for professional reasons.

In this regard, and to give some figures, it should be noted that this part of the project totaled a minimum of 336 articles to be written as well as more than 10,000 photos to be organized and edited after contacting suppliers and acknowledging receipt. Efficiency, comfort and security due to the organization of the underlying folders helps ensure a good SEO.


Part three – A line relating to the referencing of materials at the level of X, identified areas of improvement and practical recommendations


3.1.A line relating to the referencing of materials at the level of X

3.1.1.      A line relating to referencing at the level of X Space

When the traineeship period has ended, a first version of the website was temporarily accessible over the Internet, featuring a few articles in each category. The new version of the website is expected, provided of course that the sales manager still wants that this is a project being done, and there’s no reason in principle that he withdraws, considering that he was still on the front line, defending the project. Furthermore, he read all the articles that had been drafted during the traineeship period and renewed his appreciation for the work done by the man on marketing mission, in view of these factors and all the missions.

At the time of writing (April 2017), when thinking of the value of Google search positioning in connection with X Space and the first version of the website, the following remarks can be made: when we google “Grasse tiles”, X Space is out of the list related to first search result pages, with the exception of the Google map coming up, including a link to the website, which is at least a start; when we google “Grasse joinery”, X Space doesn’t appear at all, even when we browse a dozen pages. According to all probabilities, from this it can be seen that what needs to be done as a matter of priority is the referencing of joinery rather than that of tiles, in order to improve X Space’s online reputation at all levels.

An encouraging feature is that, when we google “Grasse kitchens”, X Space remains one of the 22 companies marketing kitchens according to the Google map. However, as may be seen, it appears that competition is severe in this area of practice when we consider geographic proximity.

Let’s turn our attention to a more detailed analysis of product families. “Grasse waxed concrete”: no results regarding X Space for more than a dozen pages. The same applies to “Grasse cement tiles”, “Grasse faience”, “Grasse mosaic”, “Grasse windows and sliding systems”, “Grasse garage doors”, “Grasse interior doors”, “Grasse wood floor”, “Grasse wall coverings made of wood”, “Grasse laminate flooring”, “Grasse stone veneer”, “Grasse pavement of stone” and “Grasse pool surrounds”. The sales manager therefore had been right: it was imperative to work on search engine optimization, and it’s reasonable to assume that, once the new version of the website is accessible, the intended changes will take place, by the time Google takes them into account.

Methodologically, in the previous chapters we had the opportunity to demonstrate as to how recommendations of specialists in the SEO field generally on the one hand and, on the other hand, especially the Jalis communication agency, would make the business more visible. In the spirit of improvement, it could also be said that information on competitive websites we may have overlooked should complete our comparative analysis. Should this not be the case, these aspects will confirm or deny that the hypotheses accepted within the framework of these missions are valid.

When we google “Grasse tiles”, the five competitors that are listed first are:

-          Domenech Frères (

-          Cerastyle (

-          Ceramica Azur (

-          Azur Pierre (

-          Décocéram Tordo (

When we google “Grasse cement tiles”:

-          Castorama (

-          Ciffréo Bona (

-          Point P Plan-de-Grasse


-          Cimenterie de la Tour


-          Décocéram Tordo once again.

When we google “Grasse faience” and “Grasse mosaic”:

-          Entreprise Ponce (

-          The same as for “Grasse tiles”.

When we google “Grasse joinery”, the five competitors that are listed first are:

-          Action Menuiseries Glass


-          Prest Service (

-          Miroiterie des Marronniers


-          LNV Menuiseries


-          Xyleo Menuiserie (

When we google “Grasse windows and sliding systems”:

-          K par K


-          AMC Komilfo


-          AMG, Prest Service and Miroiterie des Marronniers once again.

When we google “Grasse garage doors”:   

-          Azur Domotic (

-          Italu (

-          Lovag Aluminium (

-          Alu Phil Services (

-          Partner Menuiseries


When we google “Grasse interior doors”:

-          Norba Menuiserie (

-          Ciffréo Bona, Prest Service, LNV Menuiseries as well as AMC Komilfo once again.

Among these 24 competitors, Ciffréo Bona is the only player present in both tiles and joinery, but X, as a result of the new web indexing, should distance itself from all the others in search engines based on its rich product offering. In terms of tiles, Décocéram Tordo, although the company’s principal place of activity is Cagnes-sur-Mer and not Grasse, is the only one showing up in all the results on search engines. Finally, in terms of joinery, Prest Service shows up 3 times out of 4. Accordingly, there’s considerable interest in studying the following websites: Ciffréo Bona, Décocéram Tordo and Prest service when discussion turns to areas for improvement and concrete actions.


3.1.2.      A line relating to referencing at the level of X Materials

On the one hand, the articles that were drafted for X Space are very close to the Jalis specifications, which is consistent with a particular viewpoint and a restrictive approach for optimization purposes and, on the other hand, the articles that were drafted for X Materials are based more on the criterion of keywords alone. Commercially speaking, we can see that none of the websites dedicated to materials is interested in including a more detailed explanation of products. Also, for functional reasons, it makes no more sense to issue detailed technical documentation about materials, and hence the section on X Materials will tend to place user experiences over referencing.

In spite of the differences between the two centers, the exercise of focusing on competition at the level of websites to step back and take distance can be good for all cases. This leads us directly to the question of googling “Grasse materials” and, whilst remaining in touch with the first version of the website, here’s the result: X ([a link to the X website]) is in the Top 5, as are also the following websites:

-          Point P Grasse


-          Ciffréo Bona Plan-de-Grasse


-          Les Briconautes Grasse


-          Costamagna Distribution Châteauneuf-de-Grasse


This observation might shed additional light on the motives of the sales manager within the company, given his responsibilities throughout center 3: that doesn’t mean, however, that there’s a scientific correlation between center 1’s dominant position within the company and the fact that X Materials are listed before X Space in Google use, but it will be understood that X Space wanted to make sure that this communication & marketing initiative was accompanied by reinforced efforts to restore a level playing field and create the conditions that are needed for referencing X Space’s tiles, joinery and kitchens as well as materials. Whether we can achieve that remains to be seen.

What about “Grasse structure”? Except for Point P and Ciffréo Bona, it’s the companies offering bricklaying which are listed before the others in Google use. Besides that, only these companies show up when we google “Grasse finishing”. As for “Grasse tools and hardware”, in addition to Les Briconautes already mentioned, the following have to be reckoned with:

-          Zolpan (

-          Balitrand (

-          Proxipro (

-          The Leclerc shopping center in Grasse


Perhaps Ma X wouldn’t be eager to encourage her company to compete with specialists in hardware. It was emphasized very often that the important thing to concentrate on is what the company does best. What are the thoughts of her son Di about it? In response to questions on this view, he answered that there’s a hardware department at X if customers have any problem with their work sites. As long as Da simply presents their products available for purchase on site or by custom order, and his work has gone some way to achieving this, it implies that his elders have no problem with him making quality online content to showcase their product range.

When we google “Grasse aggregates”, activities concerning quarrying appear first, and therefore Eurovia ( emerges as the clear winner, even if Balitrand, Ciffréo Bona and Point P make appearances in the next pages, as well as practical advice on concrete and mortar mix design according to Tout Calculer (

When we google “Grasse walls and facades”, companies that specialize in renovating facades are promoted, as well as practical advice, but we can also see Castorama as it can be found on the third page. As for “Grasse roofs and frames”, this includes, of course, carpenters such as Toit & Bois ( and AF Toiture (

When we google “Grasse outdoor spaces”, landscape architects are at the forefront; as for “Grasse waxed concrete”, practical advice; as for “Grasse walls”, wall-building construction companies; as for “Grasse insulation”, companies that specialize in building and roofing insulation; as for “Grasse painting”, house painters. In short, craftsmen are generally more visible than dealers when Google search queries don’t specify whether this concerns purchasing materials or construction works.

Does this mean that the following should be pointed out: “Buy materials for outdoor spaces in Grasse”, “Buy waxed concrete in Grasse”, “Buy materials for walls in Grasse”, “Buy materials for insulation in Grasse” and “Buy painting in Grasse”? The results of Google are: Costamagna, Point P, Ciffréo Bona; the Béton Ciré France e-commerce company (; Tout Faire Matériaux (, Ciffréo Bona, Balitrand, Les Briconautes; Point P, Ciffréo Bona, Costamagna, Balitrand; Zolpan, Leclerc and Les Briconautes respectively.

If the direct competitors of the company rank high on Google when we make it clear that we want to buy materials, then that means the X website can be improved as regards natural indexing, through content enrichment projects in both quality and quantity, hence, once again, the pertinence of this communication & marketing mission, and, once the update is promoted, we expect the website to show improvements in line with the core business of the company, the building materials trade. With regard to the conclusions, from X Space to X Materials, there are numbers of similarities.

The two methodological aspects that have been taken on board as a matter of priority are also the same: firstly, the drafting of the articles that constituted a part of the project and that have been mentioned in the previous chapters; secondly, in terms of creation of critical distance as contained in the present chapter, a stronger interest in competitive websites to try to understand in more detail, however difficult, the causes of their online exposure and performance. Ultimately, the fact that these websites are older and their more complete content probably offer the best explanation for these causes.

Speaking of historical aspects, when studying the company’s evolution, we can see that it's the whole issue of this business, as it has been from the very beginning, since it was founded by X himself: Ciffréo Bona and Costamagna as direct competitors have been present earlier, bearing in mind Point P, Zolpan and Balitrand.


3.2.Key areas of improvement in the referencing of materials at the level of X

3.2.1.      Creation of critical distance and quantitative aspects at the level of the X website

For convenience, the first version of the X website, as discussed earlier, will be referred to as the alpha version; the extended version of the website, comprising the articles written by the trainee, will be referred to as the beta version; what will become the website, once these articles are read and rectified by the sales manager, will be referred to as the gamma version. In April 2017, only the alpha version is publicly available on the Internet; the beta version is available on the web with restricted access; the gamma version is only in the process of being drafted.

The alpha version is a collaborative effort of the sales manager and the trainee in the run-up period, but the difference in style reveals that most of the articles were written by the sales manager, who sometimes writes youthful, warm and enthusiastic prose, while the trainee writes sober, cold and rigorous prose. Details regarding qualitative aspects will be reviewed below; for now, numbers are the main focus.

The alpha version of the X website is made up of a dedicated section on X Space and a dedicated section on X Materials. As regards X Space, the general articles relate to: the showroom, the company’s history, tiles, stones, joinery, kitchens, indoor and outdoor spaces, services and access/contacts, for a total of 9 articles. Tiles include: porcelain stoneware, terracotta, cement tiles and mosaic, for a total of 4 articles; stones include: natural stone, reconstituted stone, indoor and outdoor spaces, as well as facades, for a total of 4 articles; joinery includes: windows, entrance doors and landing doors, shutters, garage doors and gates, for a total of 6 articles; windows include: bronze, aluminum, wood and PVC, for a total of 4 articles. 9 + 4 + 4 + 6 + 4 = 27 articles are therefore devoted to X Space, plus the 4 articles (the company’s history, products, services, access/contacts) devoted to X Materials, for a total of 31 articles.

The beta version of the X website has a richer and more complex submenu tree. The product families concerned have been listed in the second part of the essay, so we don’t want to come back to that. These elements correspond to all the new or current articles, that is to say 1 article about an introduction to the company in general; 240 articles about X Space; 95 articles about X Materials, for a total of 1 + 240 + 95 = 336 articles (including redundancies), which was confirmed. This amounts to saying that the number of articles involved in the website increased tenfold in three months, namely the duration of the traineeship.

What can be said of competitors with regard to these figures? As previously announced, let’s back up to the following websites:

-          Ciffréo Bona (

-          Décocéram (

-          Prest Service (

-          Costamagna (

-          Point P (

-          Zolpan (

-          Balitrand (

At Ciffréo Bona the home page speaks for itself, because we are already up to 44 pages with the following sections: the promotion section, the online customer center, the online supplier center, the best products, catalogs, 2012 energy regulations, the company, contacts, human resources department, structure, frames and roofing, walls, ceilings, insulation, construction chemistry, waterproofing, joinery, gates and fences, public works, wooden and laminate panels, moldings and floors, tiles, painting, ventilation units to reduce the need for heating, tools, tracing and measuring, protection and security, gardens and swimming pools, plumbing and sanitary equipment, kitchens, our retail outlets, our businesses, benefit cards, obtain an estimate, collection centers, our services, the ecological premium, environmental labeling, the showroom, our latest updates, our universes, our other universes, newsletters, legal notices and web development. Then we add about 10 subheadings per activity and a submenu tree where there are product sheets, internal links, technical sheets and direct PDF links, indicating a result which is greater than 336. At first sight, pages can be thousands.

At Décocéram, the number of web pages appears to be more modest, reflecting a less diversified offer, in spite of the fact that the home page contains in total 51 links: internal research, our agencies, my account, our products, outdoor tiles and terraces, exterior surfaces, wall and floor tiling, cement tiles, wall tiles and faience, internal flooring, decorative tiles and strips with accessories, mosaic and pebbles, baseboards and floor tiling with accessories, technical tiles, wall tiles and faience, special tools for tiling, consumables and portable tools, flooring and laminate, baseboards and laminate flooring, stones, natural stone, natural stone paving, natural stone slabs, application products, tile joints, powder-based joints, bathrooms, furniture and accessories, toilet facilities, bathtubs and accessories, lavatories, wood effect tiles, white and colored tiles, concrete effect tiles, stone effect tiles, decoration ideas, a focus on products, projects, simulator, tile samples, our values and commitments, our partners, practical tools, training, presents, see also, general catalog, contact us, our terms and conditions, legal notices and cookies. In fact, when we look a little closer, we can readily see that there are hundreds of pages.

However, at Prest Service, there are as many pages as there are main sections, accessible from the home page, namely ten: verandas, windows, joinery, other activities, glazing work, aluminum gates, shutters, photos, map, contact us; they rank highly on Google, based on locally determined criteria linked to joinery, and this may partly be explained by pages containing many keywords.

At Costamagna, the total number of pages is below that of the beta version of the X website: products (materials, public works, structure, insulation and walls, frames and roofing, wood, signalization and security equipment, DIY and tooling, tools, hardware, plumbing, electricity, finishing tasks, joinery, tiles, toilet facilities, kitchens and arrangements, floors and panels, decoration, painting and leisure, indoor and outdoor spaces, textiles, accessories, gardens, street furniture), services (logistics, customer service, business and financial services, convenient service, after-sale service), their 22 retail outlets located in the Maritime Alps and Var, company news (selected products, general information, product of the month) and the company (presentation, group, activities, history, key facts and figures, Alteral Club Négoce, recruitment, employment opportunities, spontaneous applications, job profiles, human resources policy).

Finally, given the size and scope of these companies, the proof that Point P, Zolpan and Balitrand’s websites are one step ahead of the others is only a few clicks away on the basis of criteria taking into account internal links, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. This doesn’t preclude the X website from showing up based on properly focused research at the local level. Admittedly, Ciffréo Bona achieves this result thanks to regional and interregional development as well as a large number of agencies and products, which is reflected by its online presence. That being said, however, Costamagna would accomplish the same purpose, although having a more modest website from a quantitative point of view. And Prest Service and Décocéram are surfacing thanks to their specific areas of expertize (joinery and tiles). The X website thus has a chance of showing up and leading to some contracts by expanding, which seems reasonable as things stand.


3.2.2.      Qualitative aspects at the level of the X website

As pointed out above, the quality of websites depends on several factors. We selected three factors: keywords, the enhancement of the company’s culture and internal linkages. So, how do the alpha and beta versions of the X websites differentiate themselves, setting themselves apart from the competition?

From the perspective of keywords, let’s take a simple issue like stones, and let’s quickly compare what X says about it with what Décocéram says about it, insofar as this competitor, to a lesser extent, also offers natural stone for sale. The alpha version of the X website proposes the following text:


X Space offers you a varied range of floor coverings or wall coverings, as well as decoration products in order to design indoor and outdoor spaces, drawing upon the most beautiful stones in the world. Stone is a noble product and a durable material, which has always been used for construction purposes, decorating buildings, monuments or homes”.

The text in the beta version partly reproduces the same article:

“Noble and durable natural stones

The X Space offers you a varied range of natural stones, floor coverings or wall coverings, as well as products in order to design indoor and outdoor spaces, drawing upon the most beautiful stones in France and in the world. Stone is a noble product and a durable material, which has always been used for construction purposes, characterizing the building appearance. Flooring, paving, wall facings, work surfaces, columns, fountains, fireplaces… We probably have the right stones for you”.

Décocéram has no presentation text as such, but offers instead a description of the main characteristics of the stones concerned (natural stone, beige stone, light and bright colored stone): 66 lbs. per box, 0.47 inches high, natural stone (material), classic color, light beige (color scheme), same appearance, matt finish, a product intended for the internal flooring.

The two approaches are complementary. When it comes to writing, the advantage is that we can go beyond the sole objective aspect related to products and make their definition more dynamic, with a view to addressing both natural indexing and user experiences. The definition in question reflects the key elements of the issue, namely stones, their use and the many projects concerned. Finally, Google searches are: “Flagstones”, “Stone paving”, “Stone work surfaces”, “Stone columns”, “Stone fountains”, “Stone fireplaces”, to which may be added “Grasse”, and reference has been made to the company.

Now, let’s look at cultural aspects. From an historical perspective, X and Ciffréo Bona are two companies having in common family culture, as is clearly shown in the history of each business, when we know that René Bona, in his function as CEO, is the son of José Bona, who helped found Ciffréo Bona.

The alpha and beta versions of the X website use the same presentation text as regards the company, and the end of the article stresses ethical values and geographical identity:

“From every point of view, the X business will remain independent in order to carry on its function and fundamental values, as it has been for three generations and the very beginning with Mr. X: Quality – Service – Effectiveness – Honesty – Work – Customers. The company is easy to reach, ideally situated between the coast and the close hinterland of the Maritime Alps, near to Grasse, Valbonne, Sophia Antipolis, Mouans-Sartoux, Mougins, Le Rouret, Opio and Châteauneuf de Grasse”.

Ciffréo Bona’s website, for its part, focuses on skills and services that create differentiation:

“Our main strength is the fact that we are still dealers, which means that we don’t want to touch other niches, nor do we want to expand into sectors that don’t lie within our competence. We have grown over the years by working and dealing with professionals, yet without this in any way stopping us from remaining on the lookout for opportunities in new markets such as DIY. And our sales outlets in the city center are still open. In Nice, at rue Diderot, we offer services such as valet parking, which is rather unique!”

What this means is that goals are to emphasize the importance of a significant element of differentiation, given the number of years that this competitor has existed, its many agencies and its presence in other areas.

Finally, internal linkages remain problematic, at least for the time being, and the point wasn’t made strongly enough. We can come back to it when discussion turns to concrete actions. It’s comforting to know that, from that perspective, Ciffréo Bona’s website, even though it contains more pages than the X website, isn’t in a better position: when the user finds product information, there are no links to complementary products or practical advice.


3.3.Practical recommendations in order to benefit from the referencing at the level of X

3.3.1.      How can the X website and what is involved be managed?

When the traineeship period has ended, the expected number of articles was written and the objectives were being met. But we needed to add more articles.

This has primarily been progressive enhancement along the way. The first step (the alpha version) was to showcase the company on the website. The second step (the beta version) was to present the most important products on the market related to X Space, as well as general information about X Materials. The third step (the gamma version) is to read the website content and, where necessary, modify it, in its entirety on in part, and it’s time for the sales manager to carry this work forward.

Once this third step is finished he will have to add new content. On the one hand, this was already set out by the project manager, especially with regard to X Materials, finishing, tools, screws and electricity, where it’s possible to develop further the aspects related to the particularities of the products concerned. On the other hand, adding new content coincides with the need to maintain the website and update existing contents, depending not only on developments in supply, but also on new standards for maintenance procedures and regulatory developments in the area of security over time.

Communication with suppliers confirms the fact that they would like the X Company to keep them informed of developments when there are updates in this site, particularly those who were insisting on the importance of respecting the copyright indicated beside each photo and mentioning the name of the company in the captions of the pictures. This is a problem or a potential problem if we take into account the views of the suppliers who are more inclined than others to show understanding: why should one mention selected suppliers by name? How will they react to this differential treatment? It might be more appropriate to ensure that nobody is left behind.

However, this requirement doesn’t necessarily apply if one adopts the points of view of Da X who, for his part, would prefer not to give precise names, due to the competition between suppliers and dealers. Indeed, when names of suppliers can be found, customers may be tempted to do other research about them and approach them directly for advice without needing an intermediary, even when the production facilities are in Italy because, from the perspective of customers, if X can start a construction, then it’s something everyone can do.

A word of thanks to all suppliers is certainly called for, under a special section on photographic credits with no names given, which may strip such recourse of some of its harshness, “all rights reserved”. Then surfers might understand that these images aren’t the property of the X Company, but nevertheless can be disseminated with the agreement of their authors, who would notice that there’s a degree of fairness in the processing of data held in the files of both the company and its competitors. The captions of the pictures could thus avoid the need for what this debate is about, while at the same time using designations, names of series or names of collections.

For the moment, it’s possible to say that the workload has two components: the maintenance of the website and the follow-up to the communication on the website with regard to suppliers. Talking about the workload is appropriate since it should be kept in mind that there are dozens or hundreds of stakeholders. In addition to replying to emails from Google users, one would also offer a customized approach for each of the files examined taking into account the reactions of the suppliers. In this respect, it’s a matter of better responding to the situation, avoiding legal proceedings and maintaining good trading relations. In light of this workload, this will result in the compartmentalization of emails in various mailboxes depending on to whom one speaks, thereby helping with time management. Inevitably, a file in Word or Excel facilitates the work to have a more optimized organization of information.

However, alongside this quantitative approach to information, supplementary questions about quality give rise to a number of issues concerning both internal linkages and properly focused research at the local level.

On the other side, we may wonder why Lapeyre and Leroy Merlin didn’t show up when we were dealing with the referencing of competitors in Grasse. The answer is that the websites of large companies don’t have the same philosophy or the same objectives as the websites of less established companies: nowadays, everyone has a stake in increasing one’s visibility on the Internet, but the reputation of Lapeyre and Leroy Merlin was built before the explosion of the Internet (we all have somewhere in the back of our mind slogans such as “Lapeyre, no two are alike” and “Your desires come to life at your home”); as a result, instead of “Grasse joinery”, “Cannes joinery” or “Nice joinery”, surfers google Lapeyre or Leroy Merlin stores in the Maritime Alps. However, when Leclerc manages to rank highly on Google both locally and nationally, that’s another matter for investigation, and this needs to be stressed. There’s something even more important: what about internal linkages?

We can’t set aside this topic without mentioning that the quality of internal linkages appears to be independent of the quality of natural indexing in terms of properly focused research at the local level, but it’s also true that, between large companies and less established companies, it’s the latter which have the greatest interest in acting on all fronts. Leroy Merlin’s website and its Campus provide internal linkages that are usually of higher quality compared to websites such as that of X and its direct competitors including Ciffréo Bona, yet Leroy Merlin doesn’t show up first when googling “Grasse Materials” or “Maritime Alps materials”.

As a result, deficiencies in information management will need to be addressed from a qualitative perspective so as to catch up with the best websites and, in so doing, the X website could find some reasons for proposing, for example, four sections containing links to supplementary sources of information: “You will also appreciate”, “Have additional tools”, “Practical advice”, “What you need to know about maintenance and security”. The following should be pointed out: “For your information, if you need any assistance, X can refer you to qualified professionals who have experience working with us in any projects”. Therefore, this would increase both the quantity and quality of contents, provided, of course, that there’s sufficient information to make complex internal linkages viable, which remains to be proven.

We can go farther in providing interaction, and this has been done. Facebook and Twitter pages were tested during the traineeship, then these pages have been removed until the new version of the website is accessible. The sales manager will decide at that time whether or not the experience needs to be renewed. More work will be needed on website usability as well as compatibility with all operating systems and environments, including PCs, laptops, tablet PCs and smartphones. Finally, there has to be new customer satisfaction surveys available to answer targeted questions (“How did you learn about us?”), in order to consider the actual weight of online advertising in terms of the evolution of sales, following the publications of the new versions.

At the stage of the alpha version, the contact form is already available, allowing users to ask for quotes or other information, which one can receive by e-mail. Unlike in the case of mass-market retailing, where, when using market research, competitors can record prices directly in the field, in the building materials trade at a local scale it’s important to exercise a great deal of discretion. It constitutes one of the most important differences between this sector and DIY. Therefore, it’s redundant to suggest now that we should maintain this attitude: everyone is doing it. Subsequently, the company will rely on the results achieved to take a clear stand on the issue of demand (mass marketing/niche product marketing), and the website will follow after that.


3.3.2.      Who will manage the X website and how?

Within this vision of the enterprise’s long term sustainability, as it has been from the very beginning, it must be admitted that the implementation of a marketing department would be too expensive for the X business. Therefore, except as may be required by other specific missions, no one apart from the company’s employees will manage the website and its updates. Long-service employees, center 1 staff, directors, managers and other key employees, with their long experience as members of the company, aren’t directly interested in this website and, except when their action is required because of contentious information or exceptional events requiring their participation, they probably won’t make it their business. Other employees of Materials, such as truck drivers, are even less concerned about this.

The website remains intrinsically linked to the area of competence of center 3. This is the consequence of the sales department that is situated in X Space on the one hand, and on the other hand X Space in itself. The fact that, for the moment, the X Space section of the website contains more detail than the X Materials section is symptomatic. Beyond the issue of natural indexing, X Space focuses on marketing itself better than in the past, among both customers and the company as a whole. Maybe one day these different entities will cooperate more with each other. For the moment, the website belongs to X Space.

When the traineeship was completed, Da X decided to take over as scheduled. The trainee gave him a complete activity report, as well as a supplier database and an external hard drive containing full image banks. In addition to a number of recommendations accompanying these documents, there were some methodological considerations made to help the sales manager save time, such as a technique that allows one, by using graphic software, to resize the images contained in a single folder at once, which is of practical value.

Suppliers received e-mails to inform of progress, and it didn’t take long before they turned to the X Space manager in his capacity as sales manager. Once again the latter realized to what point answering all the messages he received the same day and during the following days was time-consuming over and above his other responsibilities. Will he succeed in spite of the risk that it can last for another six months to a year? He’s aware that rapidly available data for the beta version couldn’t have taken place without this ad-hoc assignment, and he must undoubtedly know that he will need a clear division of labor among employees.

However, other employees are also facing a lot of challenges, especially those who are experts in the area of joinery, as shown above, but also their colleagues in their own specialist field. The versatile administrative assistant accounts for each and every order and transaction, both at X Space and X Materials, in such a way that the administration and management departments always have real-time information. This means that the sales staff ensure a correct communication of data in a vigilant manner. Any error related to transaction receipts that are non-existent or inadequate is a waste of everyone’s time.

Salespeople themselves thus contribute to a smooth functioning of accounting activities. They have to manage customer relations, project outlines, exact measurements and the launch of projects, as well as a number of bureaucratic constraints, administrative procedures and paperwork, which they very quickly see as a lot of additional work, despite their best efforts. The difficulty they have lies in the delays encountered in work organization, team building and effective coordination.

In the team, the secretary and the employee who sells tiles have more than twelve years’ experience inside the company, the kitchen specialist has seven years’ experience but the joinery technical advisor has one year of experience and the sales engineer has just a few months’ experience inside the company. Given their affinities, mood and skills, it’s a good atmosphere to work in, but it’s most likely that somewhere along the way management has been overtaken by the need to review the workforce and the professional consequences of the varying levels of experience. It’s hard to find good joinery technical advisors and keep them in the company.

This means that at the present time the employees of X Space meet demand in an empirical and, therefore, disordered way. Their communication with each other takes place in the same manner. There are long delays, the risk related to after-sale services is a source of constant stress and such events lead systematically to overtime work. Therefore Da X has planned a revision of the way people communicate.

If we make an optimistic assumption, once a global method has been set up, this burden will be reduced and they may engage in other business, thanks to the effectiveness of this solution. Using the same assumption, each person then has to find time to very quickly learn how to use Jalis and gradually advance towards modification and updating of the website. On the basis of their area of expertise, every salesman will reply to e-mails.



To meet the challenge of referencing websites dedicated to building materials in an effective way, we see that the same criteria must generally be applied as for those dedicated to other areas of activities. It has also been noted that this doesn’t by itself guarantee that users will enjoy the experience.

Sometimes, being within the limits of criteria regarding a good SEO in accordance with recommendations from communication agencies creates a dynamic user experience, in this case with long articles: such is the case, for instance, of X Space (stones, tiles, joinery and kitchens). Why? Because the finishing stage is more suited than the start of an on-site work to good writing skills, when the house isn’t even built yet.

However sometimes, we are coming to see that it’s better not to respect all these criteria scrupulously, provided that we want to continue to ensure that users enjoy the experience on the website, in this case with short articles, which brings a complementary perspective to the above concerns: such is the case with X Materials (structure, finishing, tools, hardware and electricity).

One of the interesting features of building materials in relation to the elements concerning corporate websites, communication & marketing is that families of products are varied enough in models, special pieces and accessories to strike a balance between a good SEO and user experiences.

As might be expected, in this highly competitive market the challenges also remain significant, particularly among small companies. These companies are under constant pressure to lower costs and can only hire outside marketing specialists on an occasional basis, which is why maintenance of websites is a significant challenge at that level and to a lesser extent for large national or international companies, particularly because of the issue of workload.

This is, in fact, one of the main reasons why there’s a hesitancy to invest in marketing, and this hesitancy is also found at the level of the labor market in general. The author of this essay maintains a website at and suggests the use of the term undmark (underlying marketing, which means that marketing is latent) to conceptualize the fact that some companies will welcome marketing while others will not, but we can use marketing techniques everywhere, provided that it could be established in the context of staff recruitment.

Terence DEN HOED
alias Eric D. - Marketing manager

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