We Have SEO in Canada, Too! No, Seriously!
The following guest post is courtesy of Dawn Wentzell of SpeakFeel Corporation. You can learn more about Dawn at the end of this post.
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.
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.