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Canada-specific SEO and PPC issues revisited

I thought about starting this post with a comparison of how Canadian industry is faring better than our neighbors in the United States and across the pond in Europe, but I didn’t want to rub more salt in the wound after a stellar Olympic Men’s Hockey Gold medal win.  After all, we need something to hold on to because we Canadians have a whack of challenges when it comes to search engine optimization and pay per click marketing.  That’s why I love a show like SES Toronto: you get all the Canadian online marketing experts in one place for a show that’s big on practical advice and attendee satisfaction.

SE-Oh-Oh, Canada!

Although the best practices and fundamentals of SEO are obviously the same between the United States and Canada, marketers north of the border face a slew of tough questions. Hence, the “oh-oh” list:

  • Location is everything: the world has gone hyper-local and Canada is no different. Consider the following indicators search engines use to rank a website in Canadian SERPs:
    • Country code top-level domain (ccTLD) versus generic domain (i.e. .CA versus .COM)
    • WHOIS location of a registrant
    • IP location of a website’s physical host
    • Geographic targeting selection in Google Webmaster Tools
    • Address listings on contact pages
    • Mobile accessibility, localization is critical for mobile
    • Backlinks from Canadian sources or authoritative sites
  • Language sensitivities: although French and English are our official languages (see how I put French first? Smart!), Canada is a multilingual country.  This can have a huge impact on optimization decisions, including:
    • Language-based or Country-based or hybridized directory structure
    • Keyword selection, search volume, and potential competition varies widely by language
    • Product names, feature sets and content marketing must be sensitive to multiple languages/cultures/dialects
  • Competitive landscape: with the land of the free on our doorstep and many online businesses operating “border free”, Canadian marketers face additional stress:
    • Optimize English-language pages for Canada or USA, or both?
    • Google.com versus Google.ca?
    • US-won-Canadian traffic to non-relevant landing pages, i.e. Canadians can’t convert because the business isn’t “border free”

Paid Search, Pay per Canadian

Pay per click marketing in Canada has several advantages and disadvantages.  In fact, one of my original posts back in 2007 outlined the quick wins many Canadian marketers can realize with Canadian paid search campaigns.  Aside from some of the concerns detailed above that may be valid to both SEO and PPC, there are a few additional “gotcha’s” to consider with pay per click marketing in Canada:

  • Population: Canada is a tenth the size of the United States.  From my experience, paid search spend from Canada usually averages about one third to one half of equivalent US campaigns.
  • Quality score: due to less competition, higher quality score, lower CPCs, and greater CTR can be generally accomplished much easier than American-targeted ads.
  • Conversions: it’s not all bad news for Canadians; on average Canadian paid search visitors convert a lot better than our American counterparts.  My main challenge is reaching more Canadians.
  • Cross-border competition: US advertisers play in Canadian markets.
  • Content network: many online media sources operate their own ad servers, so high-traffic Canadian-controlled content network destinations are few and far between.  Although, overall content network quality is good, volume is often too low to actively manage.

About Search Engine Strategies

Search Engine Strategies is the definitive digital event for marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search engine marketers (SEMs), including pay per click (PPC) advertisers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals. Attend SES Toronto, network with your peers, and learn the tips, tactics and strategies that will grow your business online.

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