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Search Marketing Insight: How To Expand Into Canada

If you’re looking to expand your search marketing program beyond the United States, put Canada on your map. With a steady rise in online advertising spend, Canada is ripe for advertisers that want to expand their reach, boost awareness, and drive sales.

In a recent study, eMarketer looked more closely at online advertising in Canada. They forecast this segment will increase 30 percent by 2016, when it’s anticipated to reach CA$4.51 billion. Within this growth, search is expected to represent the largest share of online ad spending.

Given these numbers, it’s likely more marketers will be investing their efforts in Canada in the near future. Now is a great time to enter the market before other U.S. companies and take advantage of easy visibility among a smaller amount of competitors. If this is un-chartered territory when it comes to your search marketing program, your efforts may be all for naught unless you’ve taken the time to better understand how to establish and run successful search marketing campaigns in Canada.

While there are many ways to break into new markets, the following are tips regarding six key areas to consider as you venture into Canada. These recommendations will help you successfully navigate the territory and make the most of your efforts in the country. These areas are:

  1. Campaign structure
  2. Keyword strategies
  3. Maximizing limited budgets
  4. Separating query reports
  5. Holiday campaign planning
  6. Shipping rates’ impact on conversion

Campaign Structure

While it’s easy to just add Canada to the geo-targeting of your current U.S. campaigns, you will see far better results when you take the time to create separate campaigns and target them only to Canada. Separating campaigns allows you to better recognize areas for expansion and optimization and tailor a strategy to your efforts in the country. The special attention will keep Cost-Per-Click low, Click-Through Rates high, and bring you traffic that is more likely to convert.

Keyword Strategies

Canadian shoppers will be looking online for ways to buy and ship U.S. products to their current location, and their keyword searches will reflect that. For this reason, be sure to build “Canada” and “Canadian” modifiers for your top keywords. It may also be worthwhile to add major Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal as modifiers to your keyword list.

Knowing that there are two predominant languages spoken in Canada—English and French—you will want to be sure you are speaking to both audiences.

If you are able to translate your keyword list, try building campaigns with French keywords and ads. This will cater to French-speaking Canadians across the country. Be sure to test them in campaigns targeted to those with their browsers set to search in English, as well as French.

However, not all French speakers, especially in a country where most speak English, set their browsers to the French language. The traffic may be low, but being visible for French searches on browsers with English settings could bring incremental sales and traffic.

When targeting campaigns to browsers set to the French language in Canada, keep in mind that still often returns English results both in SEO and in paid search listings, especially for brand keyword searches. So if you are targeting French speakers with their browsers set to the French language, test English ads against French to see if there is a difference in CTR.

When it comes to Bing, it would be worthwhile to create a separate campaign for “French-Canada” market distribution and apply the tests above to properly optimize your campaigns.

Maximizing Limited Budgets

While search is growing in Canada, it is difficult to anticipate exactly how profitable your traffic will be before you take the leap into international advertising. If your search marketing budget is limited, consider taking a closer look at a map and aligning your efforts with cities that have a physical store presence. Consumers in these areas may be more familiar with your brand, and therefore, more comfortable buying your products online.

Separate Query Reports

Since you have built separate campaigns to target Canadian audiences, you will be able to leverage search query reports that isolate the way searchers behave specifically in this country. When you pull these reports, you’ll likely find that the query phrasing can be a bit different in Canada from the approach taken by U.S. searchers.

For example, a search for “red jeans” in the United States could be “jeans red” in Canada. This is an instance where perhaps a French Canadian is searching in English. More specifically, English words are being searched, but they are structured the way they would be in French with the adjective after the noun.

Holiday Campaign Planning

Just like in the United States, the holidays in Canada present additional opportunities to boost online sales. Taking a closer look at the calendar, here are the four biggest Canadian holidays:

  • Victoria Day: Kicks off the start to summer and is usually held in mid to late May.
  • Canada Day: July 1
  • Thanksgiving: the second Monday of October
  • Boxing Day: December 26

Much like the United States, the end-of-year holiday shopping season presents significant online opportunities. Yet, as you develop your holiday campaigns, keep in mind that the approach to holiday shopping differs slightly in Canada. In Canada, Boxing Day is actually bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday see less traction than Boxing Day, there is growing momentum throughout Canada to take advantage of the biggest online shopping days in the United States.

In fact, a recent survey for PayPal Canada found that 52 percent of Canadians were aware of Cyber Monday, up from 24 percent last year. Given this upward trend, Cyber Monday has the potential to be even bigger than Black Friday given the accessibility and deals presented online during this time.

As for the remaining holidays, although not all of them are gift giving ones, they could mark a shift in seasonality that is not consistent with the United States. For example, Victoria Day, which is seen as the kickoff to summer, could cause a shift in searches for summer merchandise in mid to late May. In the U.S., you may not see this shift until mid to late June.

Shipping Rates’ Impact on Conversion

When it comes to shipping, be aware that rates can be higher when shipping from the United States to Canada, and this can have an impact on conversions. However, if you can heavily promote free or discounted shipping in your ad copy and landing pages, you have a better chance at conversion.

As you venture into Canada, you’ll find that it may take a little time to start seeing traction. Be patient and follow the guidelines above, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the increasing opportunities emerging in the country.

Category SEO

Sarah Gyson

Sarah Gyson is Manager, Client Services at Rakuten LinkShare where she is responsible for driving successful search marketing programs.

Search Marketing Insight: How To Expand Into Canada

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