Sneak Peek at SES Toronto: Guillaume Bouchard on Canadian PPC and SEO Issues

Guillaume Bouchard, NVI SolutionsSearch Engine Strategies Toronto is less than a month away, but conversations concerning Canadian PPC and SEO issues have already started in earnest.  Joining me to continue the conversation is fellow Canadian and industry leading SEO and social media expert, Guillaume Bouchard of NVI Solutions.  If you have ever been to SES Toronto, you’ll hear from the boys from NVI Solutions whether you’re on the expo hall floor, in a session listening to experts such as Guillaume, reading their live tweets, or throwing one back with them after hours.

GP: Guillaume, thank you so much for taking the time to school us once again by giving us a sneak peek at what’s always a hot session at SES Toronto and that’s Canada-specific PPC and SEO issues.  Last year we were in the midst of (what some say was) the worst recession in 50 years, but Canada seemed far more insulated than the USA.  Can you comment on any trends in PPC and SEO you’ve observed as a result?

GB: PPC costs were not lowered as much as we had anticipated in Canada, although big US spenders stopped targeting Canada in many cases, which helped a lot of our Canadian clients increase conversion rates.

As far as SEO is concerned, the recession helped Canadian companies catch up with larger US companies that were ranking like crazy on

It almost feels as though every time the US crashes, Canadians end up paying a bit less for our marketing, plus we are able to close the gap on US competition, so in a way, it’s not really a bad thing!

GP: Last year at SES Toronto, you pointed out that many American businesses rank in Canadian SERPs for both paid and organic results – sometimes even if they didn’t do business in Canada or with Canadians.  Has the situation gotten any better?

GB: Well, “international” versus “US” filters are still the same.  It is virtually impossible for a Canadian company to rank well in the US unless they “spoof” being American.  However, it’s still fairly easy for an American site to rank on “international,” which is what we get in Canada when we use

The only way for us to get better is not to wait on Google but to focus like crazy on getting Canadian IP site backlinks — that will ensure Google helps Canadian businesses.

GP: How do you see online marketing spend allocated between English-speaking Canada and French-speaking Quebec?  Do you think companies located outside of Quebec should market to French-speaking residents of Quebec?

GB: In my experience:

  • Companies located in Quebec with local markets will usually spend their budget targeting mainly French-speaking customers
  • Companies located in Quebec with national markets will usually spend their budget with a 3:1 English to French split
  • Companies located in Quebec with North American markets don’t really care about Quebec, most will focus on English-speaking customers (and utilize purely English e-commerce sites) since that’s where the money is

So, if you are in Quebec and have a local market, you’re lucky because you’re isolated.  Big agencies can’t really penetrate and steal your business, however agencies in Quebec are often weaker because they are not really competing against all other North American agencies.

GP: Interesting, I wonder what that kind of insight will mean to advertisers considering the segmentation of their sites into Canadian-English and Canadian-French offerings?  I guess someone should raise that question to the panel at SES Toronto, if not, I might.

I seem to ask this question of every panelist or speaker before, during and after each SES show but here goes: with the recent popularity and penetration of mobile devices and semi-mobile devices such as the iPad, it very well might be the year for mobile (finally!). Can you comment on experience you’ve had this year in the mobile marketing sector, and what it means for Canadians?

GB: Mobile will outpace Search in terms of advertising within the next 5-10 years, but for me it’s really the same thing as dealing with a different browser or a different language on the web — it’s just a CSS thing — not a revolution.

If you think about it, it’s been here forever in a sense.  The model is evolving just like the evolution of broadband availability did in the home.  More bandwidth allows the web to go “Universal” with more content consumption such as video, and greater engagement and depth of search.

To me, Mobile is just an extension of what the Internet allows you to do, but with a much crappier device, by that I mean:

  • shittier resolution on smaller screens
  • sucky keyboards
  • slow internet access
  • painful iTunes/app stores

The only upside to Mobile is that you can carry the internet in your pocket, or backpack in the case of an iPad.  And it’s getting slightly faster.
As far as Canadians are concerned, I would say I do not know many companies that are serious about Mobile, nor have any concrete plans to really monetize it, aside from Yellowpages of course, and a few other large players.  I mean, if you are Bombardier and you sell planes to 50 companies in total around the world, do you really need an iPhone app of an Olympic torch to sell them?

GP: I love it when we get candid.  Let’s keep that going, shall we?  Personalized search: scary stuff or ripe opportunity?

GB: Imagine a father of three daughters search for the keyword “Paris Hilton nude video”…

GP: Thanks, I’m going to get my blog banned on Google for this…

GB: Well no, think about it.  He’s searching around 1AM with the home computer early Saturday morning and later on that same day one of his daughters uses the same browser to search for “Paris Hilton music”.  What kind of results do you think she would get?  Let’s hope there aren’t many results in nightvision…

I would say that personalized search is one of Google’s largest and most under-discussed subjects and that it will have an incremental impact as it kicks in more and more.  I think it’s bad for relevancy and bad for discovery — we do not need automated filters on top of the main Google filter when we ask a question.

Personalized search is going to hurt smaller niche sites not focusing on content related to all steps in a buying process, and it will also hurt niche content sites that only cover a small portion of a niche.

GP: Like say, a very niche pay per click marketing blog?

GB: Yes.  I DO NOT LIKE IT. But like anything else, we will have to live with it.

GP: Entertaining as always, I want to thank Guillaume Bouchard for the candid discussion of Canada-specific PPC and SEO issues as it relates to a panel of the same name he will be co-hosting at SES Toronto.  If you haven’t done so yet, make sure you register for the only Canadian stop on the SES Tour.

About Guillaume Bouchard, NVI Solutions

Guillaume Bouchard is co-founder and president of NVI, a Montreal-based company specializing in interactive strategies. Founded in 2004, NVI has become the largest web agency specializing in SEO and social media in Canada, with more than 50 employees. NVI’s mission is to build viable revenue models on the Internet for its customers by developing and marketing web platforms.

A graduate from HEC Montreal, Guillaume forged his entrepreneurial character with nine years of experience as a consultant, blogger, and public speaker at major international events. He is recognized by his peers as a leader in the industry and is a highly sought-after conference speaker across North American events, inluding SES Toronto, PubCon, and Infopresse.

Guillaume develops long-term partnerships with his customers, offering them a clear perspective of the web in terms of return on investment. He knows how to surprise the market, maximizing websites that don’t usually get the attention they deserve.

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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