SEO For Canada – The Virtual Mosaic

Canadians are a diverse people. Anyone who has spent any time in Canada knows this. There is as much linguistic and cultural variety in Montreal or Toronto as in all the rest of North America put together. Add Calgary and Vancouver to the mix and the plot thickens. Consider the Maritime provinces and you add yet another element to the so called cultural mosaic that is Canada. We haven’t even considered what unique web marketing approach might work best in Winnipeg!

Canadian SEO, at its best, includes localisation for each of our key markets, as well as bilingualism by default. Any web marketing campaign for Canada must encompass both English and French as well as localisation by market. Anything less is not truly a national SEO strategy for Canada. This eliminates all uni-lingual English SEO companies from contention when it comes to an national Canadian SEO strategy.

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Bilingualism – A Canadian SEO Standard?

It is not uncommon to find a Canadian company with a bilingual English-French website where one language or the other has developed on-site SEO while the other languishes with “Home” or “Acceuil” as the title tag on the home page. Most companies have a language of choice that they use in internal operations and the natural thing is to neglect the other language, especially if internal resources are not available in both languages. This phenomenon is by no means limited to English language operations outside of Quebec. You will find Montreal businesses that operate primarily in English with minimally developed French web sites, and of course there are Quebec-based companies that use French internally with weak (or non-existent) English SEO.

The French SEO Localization Opportunity

These on-site content issues are an incredible opportunity for content localisation. The French language side of a Canadian web site is generally targeted primarily at Quebec. This is not to say that francophones in other provinces like Manitoba or New Brunswick don’t prefer the French version of national Canadian web sites; but when crafting the French content we will have the primary target market in mind. In most cases, the French side of your Canadian site is essentially for Quebec and can be loaded with localized content.

Canadian SEO best practice is to exploit the Quebec localisation opportunity by creating unique local content on the French side of a bilingual web site. Don’t leave the translation of your English pages into French in the hands of a translator – they do not understand your marketing objectives – and they may not even understand the unique language and culture of your target market. Only an in-market native French speaker can effectively render your original English content in a way that will ensure messaging continuity across language and culture.

General Motors had good localization when they decided to re-name the Buick Lacrosse as the Allure in Quebec upon understanding that “la crosse” has  an additional meaning in Quebec; and it is not at all aligned with their branding! See full detail about the potentially embarrassing other meaning of LaCrosse on Wikipedia.