I was in Florence last week and was lucky enough to meet 6 SEOs all living and working in Florence, Italy. I was put in touch with Elena Farinelli by Gianluca Fiorelli. Elena then arranged for all the SEOs to meet up with me for lunch, who were Stefano Romeo, Lourdes Flores, Niccolo Villiger, Katia Baroncelli and Andrea Cardelli.
We went out to a fantastic restaurant in Florence and had a traditional Italian lunch. It was great to meet so many SEOs in one place. The full interview is out on State of Search, I have written about some of the key highlights from the lunch.
Tourism in Florence
All the SEOs I met have their own company. Niccolo and Katia set up WebMarketingTeam.com and have been working in SEO since around 1998, well before the term SEO was used. They specialise in Educational and Travel markets, and own many travel websites such as http://www.aboutflorence.com.
Elena set up her own blog http://www.ioamofirenze.com/ (I Love Florence) in 2006 which is updated daily (except weekends) and is one of the top blogs people visit for places to eat, things to do and see in Florence. She has been working in online since 2000 when she joined a web company before moving into web marketing.
Stefano and Lourdes own WebPromoter.com and specialise in web marketing services for businesses in the tourism sector. They have created a network of online travel guides, the main one being http://www.DiscoverTuscany.com.
Andrea owns Aperion.it and has been working with the web since 1996 and since 2005 in SEO, initially learning about SEO from Stefano.
Italian search market
The Italian internal market it is not as competitive as in the UK or US and therefore it is easier to achieve great results if working in Italian. However, if you are competing in the English speaking tourism market, then it is very competitive. All the SEOs I met work in tourism and travel as Florence and Tuscany is a major tourist destination.
Some of the team in Florence have been affected by the updates from Google. Tourism is a very competitive industry and for one particular site of WebPromoter, they pursued an aggressive link building strategy which may not have been the most natural anchor text. We have all felt the wrath of Google including this site and therefore they have changed some of the links and anchor text used and are hoping that a new update will see their efforts rewarded.
SEO tools, one made by Andrea
Andrea was affected by Penguin and therefore just five days later published a tool his company had been developing. The tool is www.googlepenguin.it., good name really for a product that is going to help those who have been hit by Penguin. It was already being used internally but made the public release after the Penguin hit. Katia has sent the tool to their Spanish partners and know they are also making good use of it.
People understanding SEO
I was really surprised that many of the clients of the SEO team in Florence found that some of their clients did not understand SEO. Many small local business owners such as restaurants, bars and shops do not have their own website. They do not understand how important it is to have an online presence. One of the main problems with clients is that many do not use Google Analytics and even those who do don’t know how to read the data. This makes it really hard to convince clients that SEO/SEM is needed and effective.
The best bits about SEO
I asked everyone what they liked the most about SEO and they responded with the fact that people in SEO share their experiences with others. It means they have a good excuse to meet great people, eat delicious Italian food and drink Italian wine while finding out more about the updates in the search industry from others. They are all members of a type of SEO club called “Seoring”(www.Seoring.it).
The future of SEO in Italy
The Italian market is smaller than that of the UK and US and therefore has a potential to grow and develop.
The “black hat” techniques will no longer work. Google Penguin was a strong warning to those who engage in such activity.
As some of the other people I interviewed earlier mentioned, SEO is going to be more about the user and content on the site and less about the technical aspects of a website. This will also see the increase in the number of women taking part in SEO and Elena has already seen more women in her SEO classes this year than the previous years.