Yahoo! Canada issues a call to action for the Canadian SEM/SEO industry

Martin Byrne of Yahoo! Canada issued a call to action on behalf of the Canadian Search Engine Marketing/Optimization (SEM/SEO) industry. Byrne was a panelist at a session on SEM in Toronto this morning along with reps of Google and Microsoft

According to Byrne, Canadians love the Web. We spend more time sitting in front of a computer on the Web than do citizens of any other G7 country. This time is being drained from other media. And the online share of the total Canadian advertising spend has increased from less than 1% five years ago to over 6% this year. Byrne predicts that the Canadian SEM business will rise to approximately $400 million in 2007.

Against this background, he feels that Canadian businesses are missing the boat. Less than 36% of Canadian companies who do online advertising incorporate SEM/SEO in their programs. And they spend less than 18% of their online budgets in this area. Contrast this with the 79% of US online advertisers who engaged in SEM in 2006.

Why this low rate of adoption in Canada? One reason, low awareness. Recent research showed that 47% of online marketing decision makers were unaware that they can target Canadian users through Search Engine Marketing.

Essentially, Canada has been a one provider marketplace until recently. Consequently, there has been a lack of education and promotion of the channel in Canada. There is also a desperate shortage of talent and skills in Search Engine Marketing/Search Engine Optimization. In fact, in Ontario, you cannot obtain formal educational certification in this area.

SEM agencies have had a harder time establishing themselves in Canada. They have long sales cycles, small budgets and limited campaign opportunities. By contrast, the SEM agency business in the US has been expanding rapidly. Byrne warns that if we do not stimulate the industry in Canada, the indigenous companies may not be able establish themselves and the larger US-based companies may simply move into Canada.

Byrne suggests an aggressive action agenda to turn this situation around. SEM Agencies need to get together. Canadian rsearch/case studies must be developed and distributed. Client education channels and opportunities must be created and expanded, especially for small and medium businesse. Standards for policing of traffic quality must be developed. ‘Black hat” vendors should be shut down. And the seach engines need to step up and shepherd the industry to success.

What is Yahoo! Canada doing? They came late to the party with their Canadian platform, but they have launched here now. And they will soon be launching a platform in Quebec. They have located a comprehensive management and client service team in Canada. They are working aggressively to assemble a network of Canadian publishers.

According to Byrne, Yahoo! Canada sees their own success as depending on: supporting SEM education for Canadian businesses, building a stronger SEM industry and growing the SEM business.

All in all, Byrne’s presentation showed that Yahoo! Canada understands the value of being part of and giving to the community. With this approach, watch for them to break out in awareness and profile in the Canadian market this year.

 Jason Dailey of Microsoft Canada focused on the adCenter product that Microsoft has just launched in Canada. Dailey suggested that conversion rates for clients using adCenter are increasing substantially. For one client, conversion rates have increased from 1/2 to 1% to 5 to 5 1/2%. 

Some search issues: The average time from query to answer is 11 minutes. Nearly 50% of complex queries go unaswered. Only 50% of the web is searchable. And currently search is a destination, not fully integrated into our routine processes. Microsoft  is attempting to leverage their platform and technology to expand the number of touchpoints for search capabilities.

 Eric Morris from Google Canada pointed to the free tools and services provided by Google. YouTube and Google Video are a great way to generate great traffic for your company. Google Sitemaps provide you with visibility about which of your pages are in the Google Index and how the crawler is finding you. Google Maps provides businesses with a means of being searched geographically by uploading company information through Google Base.

According to Morris, the two most important factors in search engine marketing are targeting and reach. Google provides advertisers with the ability to reach over 85% of Canadians in any month – either through Google sites directly or partner sites.

Google’s contextual advertising appears in Gmail. Google believes that contextually relevant ads in email are useful to users and effective for advertisers. However, Morris did acknowledge in response to a question that, in the aggregate, contextual ads yield a much lower click through rate than on search pages.

Google has added a display advertising program to keyword and contextual ads to provide a full range of advertising opportunities.

Finally Google Analytics provides users with the data they need to understand and fine tune the performance of their sites to achieve their marketing objectives.

Julie Batten of non-linear creations rounded out the morning by focusing on organic search. She presented four tactics in this area.

Social media marketing (SMM) should be used to encourage interaction and information sharing. An example of this done right is the Google Pain Relief letter -
Google sending a letter and headache tablet to a blogger who had complained about the large number of recent changes in Google. An example of social media marketing gone wrong: The Coke Score Flog. Bloggers punished Coke with negative posts about this fake blog.

Link Baiting. An example of a success: How Much is Your Blog Worth? This simple widget generated more than 42,000 links and raised the host blog to # 25 on Technorati.

Personalized search. Search engines now encourage users to create personal profiles so that their home search page can be personalized to reflect their preferences and behaviour. This can be a challenge for marketers. They can respond by incorporating elements that will support users to incorporate the information of most interest into their personal profiles. Include product information, buttons to tag and local information.

RSS marketing. As RSS feeds are attached to more and more current content, the Web usage patterns are changing. Companies should harness this trend by adding RSS feeds to their content.

All in all, this morning’s session provided an interesting contrast between the style and approach of the three major search engines in the Canadian market.

Now, I’m looking forward to Dave’s next session in March, Digital Advertising – What’s Next?

You can go to Canada's Web Conference

MeshRegistration for mesh07 opened today.

The line-up of keynote speakers at this year’s event includes Richard Edelman head of the eponymously named PR firm, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, GiveMeaning‘s CEO Tom Williams and tech entrepreneur Austin Hill.

Last year’s mesh conference was a colossal success. Great speakers, great participants. Fantastic discussion.

I wholeheartedly recommend mesh for anyone who is interested in exploring the leading edge of social media and the new communications. I’ve registered. You can do it too by registering online.

I'm not at podCampToronto

PodCampToronto

I’d printed my boarding pass before going to bed last night, showed up at the airport this morning an hour before flight departure, passed through security and made my way to the Air Canada lounge. That’s when the passenger agent told me that Air Canada had in fact cancelled my flight!

(I suspect the plane I was supposed to be on was transferred to the Ottawa-Vancouver flight. As I passed that gate, I heard the passenger agent announcing that, due to mechanical problems with the aircraft assigned to that flight, Air Canada had been forced to “down-gauge” the plane – and they would offer 10 passengers $200 each to give up their seats. “Down-gauge.” Now that’s a good term. Makes a passenger feel like sausage stuffing. Yechh!)

So, there I am in the passenger lounge at 8:05 in the morning heading to Toronto for the 10AM opening of podcampToronto. Air Canada had cancelled my flight. But they could put me on a flight at 1PM. Oops…

So I missed the sessions I was hoping to attend: Mitch Joel‘s presentation on Building Your Personal Brand Through Podcasting, Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche‘s session on Building a community, Julien Smith on Giving your podcast a Google presence, Peter O’Connell‘s tips on audio tools, resources and production techniques, Mark Blevis’ Editing techniques, Tari Akpodiete‘s session on Getting started with videoblogging, Leesa Barnes on Planning a killer podcast and Mitch Joel and John Wall on What’s hot in Marketing Your Podcast. And I won’t get my long-overdue chance to meet Bryan Person.

I’ve tried to connect to the Quicktime video streams on the podcamp Wiki. But, so far no luck.

I’m hoping that those people who did make it to podcampToronto will blog about the sessions they attend. It’s not quite as good as being there. But this conference is just too good to miss completely.

Naked Conversations authors just keep giving back…

Naked ConversationsShel Israel recently posted about the first anniversary of the publication of Naked Conversations. (Is it only a year? So much has happened in social media that it seems a lot longer than that).

I still recommend to people that they read the book. Some of the examples are getting a little long in the tooth. But the underlying truths and lessons for business people trying to understand the potential importance for blogging and social media is still as apt as it was at the time of publication. And yes, I encounter many (maybe the majority) of business people who are still social media sceptics.

Naked Conversations lives on in another real world way. And I saw another example of this Wednesday night in Montreal.

Shel IsraelSince the book was published, both of its co-authors, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, have travelled extensively. And wherever they have gone, they have provided the social media community with an opportunity and a reason to come together. I saw this when Shel Israel came to Canada in September 2006 and let Terry Fallis and me schlep him through six events in three days in both Ottawa and Toronto. The legacy was the successful launch of Third Monday and Third Tuesday – events which continue to grow and serve the social media Robert Scoblecommunity in Canada. I saw it again when I travelled to Chicago for the Ragan Conference. Kevin Dugan and Chris Thilk posted that they’d like to hold a bloggers dinner on the opening evening of the conference. I showed up. And so did Robert Scoble, knapsack on his back. And when Robert said he was going, the community came in droves.

I saw this phenomenon of giving generously to the community again on Wednesday evening, when Shel Israel decided that rather than go back to his hotel and put up his feet after an all day conference (and a cross-continent flight the night before), he would instead offer himself up as the rallying point for a bloggers dinner that drew together the Montreal social media community. At the end of the evening, one of the participants told me that Shel’s presence had attracted people from at least three separate social media communities. Bob Goyetche says something similar in his post about the dinner.

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Two classy guys who just keep giving back to the community. And that’s a standard we should all aspire to.

Faces of Social Media in Montreal

Shel IsraelOn Wednesday night, Marc Snyder used the occasion of Shel Israel‘s visit to Montreal as an opportunity for a bloggers dinner.

I made the trek to Montreal to see what is happening there. And I’ve got to say, one heck of a lot.

The fascinating conversation underlined for me that bilingual Montrealers have the best of all worlds. They reside in one of the great cities of North America where they can daily experience both the English and French cultural traditions. This provides a unique flavour and perspective to their conversations.

You may want to check out YULBlog, which aggregates a number of Montreal bloggers and Yulbiz, which brings together Montreal’s professional blogging community for periodic meetups.

Here’s are a set of pictures of the great bloggers and podcasters I met in Montreal. Click on each picture to link to their blogs and podcasts. Check them out.

Marc Snyder
Julien Smith

Marie-Chantale Turgeon

Michel LeBlanc

Bob Goyetche

Craig Silverman

Mark Goren

Mictch Joel

Claude Malaison