SES Toronto – Day0.6, Relfections on the Canadian Search Sector

Monday, June 11, 2007
Posted by Jim Hedger @ 11:38 am

It’s hot here. The humidity flows down your throat like boiled lead as you breathe it. Blood might be thicker than water but the air down here is thicker than both put together. If it wasn’t for the 15km breeze blowing southeast from Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, the city would swelter. Ten weeks ago it was far below freezing, today it is dangerous to be in the sun too long. It is tolerable in the shade however and I am in my parents’ backyard trying to beat the heat while I think about the state of the Canadian search marketing community.

Up until two years ago, I could safely say that I knew most of the players personally. Not only did I think about the Canadian search sector more frequently back then, it was far smaller than it is today. A search at Google.ca for SEO, Canada brings nearly four hundred thousand results. That, in and of itself, is meaningless. That I don’t recognize many of the names in the Top70 – 80 references, is somewhat more significant. As a matter of fact, there are even a few SEOs operating out of Victoria I wasn’t aware of. Change SEO to SEM, Canada and Google.ca churns out nearly six hundred thousand references. I’m not even thinking about diving into those results.

Tomorrow marks the opening of SES Toronto. Since this is the only major annual international search marketing show in Canada, it is fairly important to the Canadian search marketing sector. As I noted in a post over at the SiteProNews Blog today, it is going to be interesting to see how many Canadian SEO and SEM vendors attend the show. Many I know have chosen to opt out of this one in favour of conventions in the US, UK or China where the market for SEO/SEM services is perceived to be larger.

That is deeply unfortunate because, for the most part, there is very little cohesion, coordination or unity in the Canadian search marketing sector. Though those of us who know each other tend to get a long and truly enjoy each other’s company, there are no formal associations or marketing organizations representing search marketing in Canada. That SES Toronto continues to be the only annual search marketing gathering of note in a country that produces far more than its fair share of online marketing talent is a reflection of the export culture Canadian business is built on.

I think it is going to be a good conference nevertheless. Most of the Toronto based search marketing community will show up, as will many from Quebec, and the Maritimes. Andrew from Page-Zero has organized the speakers list and Seth Godin is delivering the keynote presentation Wednesday morning. I know a few Alberta SEMs I’m definitely going to be spending sometime with. I’m not sure who else from BC is coming but representatives from both Metamend Search Marketing and Enquisite Search Analytics are going to be there.

I have a feeling I’m going to be thinking a lot more about the SEO and SEM sectors in the coming days. If I do, I’ll be posting my thoughts here instead of at SiteProNews, mostly because only 23% of SiteProNews.com readers are from Canada. That means there is about 72% that don’t really care about reflections on Canada’s search marketing sector. That is a sad reality of editing an international magazine eh?

One last reflection… I am often asked why there were so many well known search marketers living and working in Victoria BC. My answers tend to get too complicated for quick conversation but it boils down to Vancouver Island being the warmest and generally nicest part of Canada to live in. A better way to phrase the question would be to ask why there are so many amazing search marketers living in Canada.

I figure it is because Canadians are more internationally focused than any other nationality on the planet. Canada, in its 500 or so year new-world history, has evolved in step and service with the two largest economic empires ever. In order to define ourselves and look to an identity beyond the US and UK, Canadians have had to think of themselves as world citizens, internationalists by nature of the fact that a true sense of nationalism would require reconciliation between seemingly permanent historic multi-national tensions.

That sense of internationalism, along with a strong public school system, early adoption of broadband Internet, and the fact that Canadians have always had to look abroad for greater recognition and rewards, makes Canadians particularly adaptable search marketers.

The breeze has just picked up to a healthy 30km/h. The air is stirring and six hours or so before I expect to see the first of my SES tour friends I am starting to feel more excited. It’s going to be good to see a bunch of Canadian search marketers in Canada for a change.

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