Written by IABC Ottawa volunteer Brittany Skinner
In Canada we don’t all live in igloos, but we have an abundance of snow; we don’t ride moose to work, but have magnificent wildlife; and we aren’t merely an extension of the United States, but we have numerous similarities. As neighbours that share one of the largest borders, Canada and the United States are major trading partners, allies and sports aficionados driven by the business sector. Both nations rule under democratic legislation, have similar education systems and religious beliefs, and share a love for the culture/entertainment industry. However, while we have numerous shared interests, the way we go about things, and thus the way we are impacted, is often slightly different. Canadian SEO is one of these differences.
On Wednesday March 26, 2014, IABC had the pleasure of hosting an educational and interactive discussion on Canadian search (SEO), which featured Helen Faber, Partner and Lead Search Strategist at WebFuel.
Without getting overly technical, Helen began her presentation by explaining that SEO (search engine optimization) is the process in which a website gets listed on a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search result’s page. In order for this to happen, search engines crawl, index and display results by going through website content and looking for keywords (using algorithms and fighting spam), in order to pull the most relevant sources to the front of the search engine results page (SERP). As such, even if a website has the most amazing content in the world, if it is not coded properly/doesn’t use the right keywords, it will not be easily found. However, it is important to remember that clicks matter – even if you are able to generate a high ranking on a results page, people still need to actually click on the link to your website in order to get to your content…
Helen went on to explain that within the relatively short life span of search engines (Google having only turned 15 last fall), the way search is used has already transformed substantially. Since technology can be accessed anywhere and anytime, it is important for businesses to consider what devices people use when they search, as shorter keywords may be used on a mobile device, versus longer explanations on computers. Likewise, people who use voice commands on their devices will generate different keywords than those that who type out their query. It is also important to note that since many people continue to use search engines as a means to finding a website (even if they already know the company’s URL), the search results are often a customer’s first interaction with a company’s brand.
“Your brand is what Google says it is”
Helen then moved on to highlight the central point of her presentation – the distinctive characteristics of Canadian SEO. In a similar manner to Twitter’s verification process used to establish the authenticity of individuals and brands, domain names act as identifiers of ownership or control of a webpage. In this regard, the .ca domain name (which turns 27 this coming May) would indicate that a source is Canadian.
Canadian SEO is also unique for a number of reasons: we have our own search engine (Google.ca) and therefore, searches done within Canada on Google.com will be redirected to .ca; we have our own index; two official languages; and unique spelling. Furthermore, Canadians visit more webpages a month than any other country (86% of Canadians are online), and over ½ of Canadian Internet users shop online at least once a month. Finally, it is important to acknowledge that Canada is a bilingual country and both languages have their own set of keywords. As such, English keywords should not be translated directly to French and vice versa. If your website is bilingual, take the time to develop relevant keywords in both languages.
In sum, whenever you read anything about SEO, ask yourself if it’s relevant to your Canadian brand.
Here are a few photos from the event.