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May 3, 2011

We Have SEO in Canada, Too! No, Seriously!

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The following guest post is courtesy of Dawn Wentzell of SpeakFeel Corporation. You can learn more about Dawn at the end of this post.

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Performing Internet marketing outside the United States can be a challenge, while at the same time presenting unique opportunities for marketers to take advantage of.

Last week, Search Marketing Expo conducted its third Canadian conference in Toronto, Ontario. Although I often attend conferences in the U.S., I also like to attend Canadian conferences for the chance to share with, and learn from, others who experience the same issues.

Canada’s Marketing Challenges and Opportunities

Chris Sherman, executive editor for Search Engine Land, pointed out in his keynote, how search outside the U.S. is often much less competitive. Search tactics often don’t have to be as aggressive or sophisticated, simply due to the fact that fewer companies are engaging in SEO and PPC. According to Montreal-based Guillaume Bouchard, the search ecosystem in French is even less competitive.

Add to the mix that Canadians are the most social media-friendly population, as stated by Jeff Quipp; that presents some unique opportunities for Canadian marketers to be creative and push boundaries.

So, how can it be so challenging? Canada has two official languages: English and French, and many websites need to be bilingual. In addition, with a growing multicultural population, languages such as Mandarin, Italian, Punjabi and Tagalog are often spoken in homes.

Being a bilingual country subjects SEOs to three different algorithms, pointed out Guillaume: the English Google.ca algorithm, the French Google.ca algorithm, and the international Google.com algorithm (which is different from the U.S.-based Google.com algorithm). It’s a lot to keep up with!

Additionally, a lot of new features and algorithm changes at Google and Bing get rolled out much later than they do in the U.S.

SMX Toronto: The Sessions

Sessions on both days of SMX covered the basics from search-friendly design, development and information architecture, to link building with social media, and how to optimize for the new Google Places.

Other sessions reviewed many of the changes to Google’s algorithm in the past year, such as the Panda update and Instant search, how they are changing the face of the SERPs, and techniques on leveraging them in your marketing.

Intermediate and advanced sessions focused on specific issues that Internet marketers encounter. The Industrial Strength SEO session discussed the unique challenges of working with both large sites and large organizations.

Vanessa Fox outlined methods of prioritizing critical technical issues to ensure changes are implemented, while Guillaume talked about how difficult it can be to preserve initial SEO momentum in the long term, and accomplishing internal alignment of goals in large organizations.

The Multi-Lingual Social and Search session may have been the most attended, as the techniques and issues discussed relate to both bilingual search in Canada as well as international search strategies.

Determining URL structure and location of hosting is key for international websites, and all three speakers – Guillaume, Jean-François Renaud and Ani Lopez – all discussed it. Ani recommends always going with a country-specific top-level-domain (ccTLD), with directories being less ideal, and subdomains being an entirely bad idea.

Guillaume gave case studies of sites with language selection pages and the indexing issues they cause. He recommends using IP to determine a user’s country, and browser settings to determine their preferred language.

As Kate Morris mentioned, in international SEO, a language and a country are not one in the same. Ani Lopez used Spanish as an example: Spanish slang and colloquialisms varies greatly from Castilian Spanish, to that spoken in Argentina, which again varies to that spoken in Mexico.

The Future of Internet Marketing

So where does Internet marketing go from here? A few sessions took a look at up-and-coming techniques, such as display advertising and remarketing, as well as mobile marketing and location-based services.

However, traditional search engine marketing is alive and well, as Chris Sherman recommended not letting go of the fundamentals. Bruce Clay asserted that SEOs need to become accountable – not just for rankings, but for traffic and conversions.

And the common thread throughout the two days was that marketers need to integrate all disciplines; the silos between analytics, CRO, PPC, social media, and video need to be broken down for continued success.

Thanks to Monica Wright, Jon Henshaw, Dr. Peter J. Meyers and Tony Verre, and a hilarious night of outsourcing titles on Twitter, for the title of this post.

About Dawn Wentzell
Dawn Wentzell is currently project manager of mobile technology at SpeakFeel Corporation. Dawn has experience with SEO for both local businesses and national markets, and is now working in custom mobile app development. She joined SpeakFeel in 2011. You can find Dawn on Twitter.

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12 responses to “We Have SEO in Canada, Too! No, Seriously!”

  1. Ani Lopez writes:

    Chris Sherman: “search outside the U.S. is often much less competitive” Be careful with that.
    I don’t know very well how it goes in all continents but I can tell you SEO is very competitive and high level in old Europe so taking for granted it is going to be easy as pie to compete there can be a error costing you a nice chunk of money.

    (Thanks Jessica for the mention)

  2. Jessica Lee writes:

    Thank you for added insight, Ani! Really glad you came by to comment. And we’re happy to have you. Thanks to Dawn for the mention, as she is the fabulous author of today’s post. :)

  3. Dawn Wentzell writes:

    Thanks a goog point, Ani, thanks for the clarification!

  4. Ani Lopez writes:

    Thanks to you for the article and the mentions.
    lesson learned: don’t talk about cultural differences while making some jokes nobody understand this side of the world. It was a good example though :D

  5. Jim Rudnick writes:

    @Dawn..thanks for the updates on the sessions at SMXToronto…and yeah, I’d also take issue with the notion that “search outside the U.S. is often much less competitive…”

    Not for me and my client list….we compete okay but there IS competiton, sometimes pretty aggressive and always evolving….so while g.ca is diff…it’s much the same for my client roster….

    :-)

    Jim

  6. Webmaster T writes:

    ummm seriously… I bet outside of Gov’t employees outside of Quebec less than 1% know French well enough to use it to search. We are bilingual only in that govt services are guaranteed to have someone who can serve you in French…upon request. Don’t mean there is a line for english and one for French.

    As to much of this… ya might have wanted to talk to some locals..cuz I see most of this as… not what I’ve found in the 15 years I’ve been doing SEO out of Toronto Canada.

    Ca is a little less competitive but if you aren’t bound to local by the the product or service… Ca, is almost inconsequential compared to getting found globally so we look at local as the low hanging fruit.

  7. Dawn Wentzell writes:

    Hey Jim, thanks for the comment :)

    I was really just reporting what the speakers said :) I haven’t done SEO in the same industries in the US and Canada – and I’ve never worked outside North America – so I personally can’t compare.

  8. Dawn Wentzell writes:

    Actually many of the speakers were Canadian – most based in Toronto or Montreal. The bilingual part of the session was really targeted towards solutions for a national audience, including Quebec. Obviously if Quebecers aren’t your target audience, you don’t need to worry about most of that and can just focus on doing SEO in English.

  9. Ani Lopez writes:

    Where were you Jim? I don’t have the chance to cross this large country every day and I thought I could meet the one and only Canadian SEO there.
    It will have to be next time.

  10. Jim Rudnick writes:

    @Ani…dang! I was away in the US at a client’s marketing “retreat” – marketing speak for drinking single malts and cursing the economy…

    so yup, I missed same (ever notice that northeren Wisconsin is dang pretty in the rain?)….and was glad to see that Dawn made notes…

    but yes, next time sure…are you coming to the June one in Toronto?

    oh and as for the “only Canadian SEO” comment, nice to see my keywords work, eh!

    :-))))

    Jim

  11. Jessica Lee writes:

    Bahahahahaha! Brilliant.

  12. Ani Lopez writes:

    My near future has no details so who knows where I’m going to be next June. We’ll meet sooner or later.

    Your keywords are valid in the meantime I get my citizenship, right now I’m the “permanent residence Canadian SEO” a bit more longer tail thing :D



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