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All About Canadian SEO Eh!


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 Google.ca 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 the Author

Hired Gun of all things Internet Marketing & SEO. Founder at @PoweredbySearch. Local Search aficionado, and startup lover. I love fast cars & smart people.
  • http://www.StocksHaven.com StocksHaven dot com

    Great job buddy, interesting points on the canadian lingo vs. usa, and the whole searching by zip code vs. how no one does it here in canada. Good stuff, keep it up!

  • http://seoroi.com/about-seo-roi/ Gab Goldenberg

    What are you using for Qc keyword research?

    Good points on the city searches and non postal code searching lol.

  • http://www.Bilal.ca Bilal Jaffery

    Yet, another great post! Love it!

  • http://www.nvisolutions.com nicolask7

    interesting post. i know that you’re mainly talking about Canadian companies targeting Canadian people but there are also important differences for Canadian SEOs targeting the american market. we wrote a post few months ago about differences between google.com us version compared to the google.com international version http://www.nvisolutions.com/blog/seo/googlecom-international-vs-googlecom-usa/

  • Nadia

    I’ve had some problems registering a .ca domain for a US-based company, even though the company has a different domain focused on Canada… any tips on doing that?

  • Nadia

    Thanks for the reply Dev- that is exactly the problem I’m running into! Figures that the CIRA wouldn’t know/care that their rule hurts SEOs :)

  • http://www.pilotfishseo.com Leanne

    Most of our customers are US-based but as a transplanted Canadian who only got into SEO once I moved the the US, this type of post is fascinating to me. Even though people often joke that Canada is just another US state, obviously I know that not to be true and because Canadians are different, I also know that we search differently.

    I had to laugh at your joke about how Canadians wouldn’t search for “drycleaner M3C1A8” – what a hoot! :)

  • http://stever.ca Stever

    Hey Dev, nice post.

    I feel using the .ca domain goes beyond just nationalistic pride. I think web users seeing the .ca domain in results have an instant recognition that it is indeed a Canadian site. Adds to quality and a strong first impression. And as the web matures, and .com domains get harder to find, this will come more into play.

    I tell my Canadian clients to grab both the .com and the .ca, when both are available. Run the site on the .ca and redirect the .com over to it.

    Canadians don’t search using Postal Codes because the Postal Codes are too fine grained in terms of the amount of area each one encompasses where as Zip Codes cover larger regions, so Americans think in terms of Zip Codes. As well with counties, we just don’t see that in Canada.

    Curious how in the large metros, like Toronto, you don’t see as much searching for North York, Markham, etc… (except maybe in real estate market). I think it’s a cultural thing and we self- identify with the main encompassing city name, not the old city name before amalgamation. Our cities are more spread out so when we speak to other people and they ask where we are from you would say “I’m from Toronto” when you might actually live in Scarborough. I remember when I used to live in Bedford, Nova Scotia I would tell people I’m from Halifax, and this was long before the city officially amalgamated Bedford, Dartmouth, Sackville and other smaller surrounding areas into the HRM (halifax regional municipality).

    Whereas in the US many of the cities merge and blend together across the landscape. Look at the eastern seaboard, its an almost continuous urbanized area from Portland, Maine down to Miami, Florida with city after city, and towns, all bordering on each other. So it becomes more necessary to identify with your actual city, town and neighborhood name.

    Some other differences on the Canadian side of the border, for local businesses, is in the Internet Yellow Pages and Local Review space. I wrote about it over here http://stever.ca/local-internet-marketing/state-of-local-search-canada/

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  • http://www.devilnoangel.info DeViLnoAnGeL InFo

    Hi all,
    because i’m not an US/Canadian citizen, so i really dunno that there is a differences of US SEO and Canadian SEO. Is this going different to with other State/Country ?

  • Pingback: devbasu: Would love to see some discussion going on http://poweredbysearch.com/canadian-seo/ - Comments are appreciated by fellow Canucks and Amerifriends. | Tonetek Blog()

  • Pingback: devbasu: Would love to see some discussion going on http://poweredbysearch.com/canadian-seo/ - Comments are appreciated by fellow Canucks and Amerifriends. | Tonetek Blog()

  • http://seoroi.com/about-seo-roi/ Gab Goldenberg

    Thanks for the followup Dev. Mind if I swipe some of those for my SMX preso :D? I’ll cite you, of course !

  • http://www.thehoustonseo.com/guaranteedhoustonseo.html Guaranteed Houston SEO

    It could be a complete and appreciable if you have put some more updates but I am not criticized this effort, it was also remarkable.

  • http://www.internetbusinesspath.com/ Ecommerce Help – Tyrone Shum

    I really have no clue that US SEO differs to that of the Canadian SEO however this has been a very good post. It has been very informative regarding the way things differ and how to overcome these differences. Particularly vital tips to those thinking about venturing into the Canadian SEO. Apart from that, I also think that keywords are vital no matter your site is a .ca or a .com, however inputting a very long keyword like drycleaner M3C1A8 but instead will look at a more general version like dry cleaner.

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  • Pingback: Playing SEO Defense; and Twitter Takes All Comers: Link Precap June 2009()

  • Eric

    Hi, when you say it’s important to use google.ca, do you use the option “pages from Canada” or do you use “the web” option (by default)?

    Thanks for the great post.

  • http://www.energik.ca Graphic Design Wiz

    hehe, nice one – specially about the google.ca tip.

  • http://www.wholinks2you.net/ Abhay Singh

    nice article..