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Helen FaberThis is the fourth in the series of SEO Wednesdays Canada. I’m Helen Faber, Founder & Director of Search at WebFuel. We are a Canadian Search Results Agency – based in Ottawa, Canada. My last post was related to geographic targeting in the Canadian marketplace. This post focuses on Canadian SEO – and how it is different.

What is SEO Wednesdays?

The concept behind SEO Wednesdays is education. It is based on Canadian Search – or in some cases Local Search in Canada. Why? Because of the general lack of understanding, confusion, and too often misinformation that is frequently published on this topic.

Canadian SEO

SEO issues related to targeting Canadian businesses are quite common. There is still a real lack of understanding, and confusion, when it comes to optimization for search results for Canadians. In 2013, the situation is worse than ever. Why? This is due to in-house implementation of strategies that are not Canada-specific, the huge upswing in our nation of so called “SEO experts” (that are clearly new to the industry), and the fact that there are still a large number of organizations that have hired agencies from other English speaking countries such as the USA, United Kingdom or Australia. A recent blog post that was working on getting found for the keyword phrase “Canadian SEO 2013” in Google kicked off this topic. They were off the mark.

“SEO in Canada is not that much different than SEO elsewhere. The main difference might be in the local and linking strategies that you would deploy.”

Not really….

Let’s Start with Basic Truths

Canadian SEO is complicated. It is not the same as SEO elsewhere. Period. While many Canadians speak English. Canadian English is not the same as American, British or Australian English. Now factor in the cultural differences. The result? Difference keyword phrases. And… Canada also has a large population of Francophones. The French speakers in Canada search and consume new media differently than Anglophones do. These are two unique web audiences – and require two very different SEO strategies. Understanding and determining the uniqueness of Canadian SEO is critical to your overall digital strategy.

Here are some additional facts to understand from a search engine perspective:

Domain Names

1. Domain Names

SEO best practices for targeting a specific country is to use the relevant top-level domain; as in the two-letter country-code. This is a strong signal for search engines. The country code for England is .uk. For Australia it is .au. That is simple enough. The most popular domain name extension in the USA is .com (rather than .us). Google however assumes websites with a .com are targeting the United States. Now bring Canada into the equation. For the over two million registered .ca domains (2,113,654 as of today), Google gets that you are targeting Canada. But what about the Canadian businesses or organizations that are targeting Canada using the .com, or another TLD? This is where it gets more complicated. Many of our SEO Site Audits are for .com properties. Many are simply not getting found in a Canadian search (or a local search in Canada). Now let’s factor in language. .ca performs better for anglophones than for francophones. Registration of .ca domain names with French characters is just new this year. And… the new generic top-level domain .quebec (targeting the province of Québec) is still in the pre-registration stage.

Sidenote: It likely goes without saying, but switching from a .com to a .ca without understand your domain name authority with the Search Engines and not correctly addressing Search Engine index’ handling will hurt your search future results.

2. Language

The language of a website is of course taken into consideration by Search Engines. English search results are displayed for those searching in English. There are however many countries that use the English language. Spelling then becomes important. So do cultural differences in terms of search terms. And then there are those that search in French. Canadian French is not the same as Parisian French. Again there are cultural differences as well how end-users in each country search.

Sidenote: For bilingual websites (English & French), there is one site and two target audiences. Again, you need an advanced knowledge of search engines when these sites are built.

3. IP Address

Where your website is hosted can be factored into the equation by the Search Engines. A website hosted in the UK is likely targeting a British audience. One hosted in France is targeting people in that country. Simple right? Yes. Canadians business however largely host their websites in the United States (for a wide variety of reasons). Again, this complicates things.

A Final Note:

Canadian SEO is unique. There are many Search Engine factors to take into consideration. Think of the business that use . com, in a popular language such as English and the website is hosted in the USA. No wonder Google gets it wrong sometimes.

About SEO Wednesdays Canada

SEO Wednesdays is a Canadian Education Series hosted by WebFuel. It is intended for those who need to get found in a Canadian Search. Topics are driven by real search related scenarios in Canada.

Got a question? Just ask!