Canadian SEO is Not the Same as US SEO

The chart you see above shows a normal distribution. Let’s assume for a second that this is the normal distribution of all the US search volume inclusive of short tail and long tail keywords. Now, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that Canada’s population is about 1/10th of that of the States, so naturally there’s some changes in proportionality. In simple speak, we get less of everything, as the normal distribution curve is essentially squashed by a factor of 10.

While we’ve got the same population as…oh say.. California, we do have differences in the way we search too. For example, there are far less long tail queries in Canada than there are in the States. There’s a couple of reasons I can think of as to why this disparity exists and a few of them are:

  • Lower total inventory of goods and services. A prime example of this is in the retail goods market, where Canada has far fewer available items than the US does. Lower inventories = lower long tail searches for products and services.
  • Thinner Geo-Centric Marketing – I notice that in the States there’s a lot of categorization by counties, and/or semi large neighbourhoods. Search trends in Canada still hover heavily around generic keywords, or major cities. For example, there are close to 6+ cities that comprise the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) yet, search volumes for each individual city are fairly low when compared to ‘ Service + Toronto’ based searches. Research from existing local clientele in a various industries prove that people as far away as 50-60 kms from the downtown core of Toronto still end up searching Toronto based terms rather their individual city based searches.
  • Sparse E-Commerce Sites and Less Vendor Choices: I could count the number of truly e-commerce enabled sites off the top of my head, as in general, e-commerce in Canada is underdeveloped. This status quo regarding e-commerce creates unique opportunities for vendors, and frustration for customers at the same time.

Of course, then there’s the issue of French SEO, which is a whole different ball game. For example, one general consideration for all my Quebec based clients is having a bilingual SEO’d web site and often ranking them for both English and French keywords.

How to Rock Canadian SEO

  1. Get your spellings right – We spell words differently like favour, colour, cheque, airplane, amortize etc. Here’s some help on getting Canadian spelling correct.
  2. Keyword Research – This is a no brainer,  but you can’t use the same keywords for a Canadian audience as you do you for the US audience. We don’t have zip codes, and while we do have postal codes, no one searches in the fashion ‘ drycleaner M3C1A8’…
  3. Research Cultural Differences – Google trends and insights happen to be handy tools for determining ‘synonym searches’ – For example, while Canadians and Americans alike look for ‘car rentals’, the Australians prefer to search ‘car hire’.
  4. Rock a .CA domain if possible – This is an issue of nationalistic pride and SEO benefit. Having a .CA domain name can boost conversion rates, increase trust, and generally separate your site from the dozens of US competitors trying to advertise in the Canadian market place.
  5. Know the Difference Between Quebecois French and the French of France – To the rest of the world it may be the same, but to Canadian SEO’s in the know, the keyword research tells a very different story between searches for Quebec based goods and services, as compared to similar searches for France.
  6. We use for Almost All Searches – But you already knew that right?…

The past few months have been incredibly busy as I’ve been growing my business, and expanding my reach to local clients and those in the States alike. That hasn’t changed my focus for this blog one bit, so expect actionable, detailed advice on search marketing as always. In the near future I plan to add a massive resources page for all things SEO/SEM related, and also grow this blog horizontally to add more resource segments. To be the first to find out as to when all of this happens, sign up to my RSS feed today!

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About Dev Basu

Canadian SEO & Inbound Marketer. Founder at @PoweredbySearch. Professor @SenecaSoME. I love startups, fast cars, & smart people. Helping brands with #DemandGen.