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What are some things I can do to help rank better on the french search engines?
-- LOCAL SEARCH --
Multi-language Sites [webmasterworld.com] -and geolocation
Country TLDs [webmasterworld.com] - ranking and local domain extensions
Tell Google Your Site Location [webmasterworld.com] - with Webmaster Tools
Those three threads pretty much cover the current state of things, as far as I know. Especially note the third thread - you now can tell Google from your Webmaster Tools account how to geo-target your site.