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Helen FaberThis is the second in the series of SEO Wednesdays Canada. I’m Helen Faber, President & Lead Search Strategist at WebFuel. We are a Canadian Search Results Agency – based in Ottawa, Canada. My last post was related to the Basic Truths about SEO from a Canadian perspective.

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 lack of understanding, confusion and too often misinformation that is frequently published on this topic.

Bilingual Websites

English & French language websites are not uncommon in Canada. However there is still a real lack of understanding when it comes to targeting both Anglophone & Francophone  audiences with one website. A recent comment from a perspective client, one that we hear too often, kicked off this topic.

“Once we address the English Website, we’ll just have it translated it into French.”

Not quite…

Let’s Start with Basic Truths

Anglophones and Francophones search and consume new media differently. They are two very different target audiences. Understanding and evaluating the differences between theses two language groups is critical to your digital strategy.

Here are the factors that you should be considering:

1. Language Search (English & French)

Canada has two official languages. If you are targeting both, you need to optimize for both. Period. There is English SEO. But there are also French SEO strategies. If you simply translate English to French, you have got it wrong. The biggest issues I find related to Language Search when I perform SEO audits are the following:

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  • High bounce rate on the French side of a bilingual website (landing page is also the exit page)
  • Lack of French Canadian website visitors (should come from the province of Québec as well as French specking cities and communities across Canada.
  • Too many visitors from other French speaking countries (which is not relevant web traffic).

The geographic target locations for each language needs to be clearly defined – and optimized for the relevant Search Engines.

2. Keyword Research (English & French)

If you are doing keyword research in English, and then translating your keyword list into French, you have got it wrong. Francophones use different keywords when they search. French-speaking searchers often use terms related to their culture. Also popular are location keywords (i.e. Québec) to ensure they get relevant search results for Canada (rather than other French speaking Countries such as France). In addition to Québécois, French is also spoken in Atlantic Canada (only one example). It is commonly known as Acadian French. It likely goes without saying, but the written content should also reflect the target audience from a dialect perspective.

3. Google (English & French)

In Canada, most searchers use Google. As in Google Canada (or Google.ca). Francophones however use the French interface (see screen capture below). As a result, Google will display French SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) that differ from the English SERPs even for the same search term.
Google Canada French
While this Search Engine is popular with Anglophones, it is less so with Francophones. Especially in terms of local search.

A Final Note: SEO should always go beyond rankings and driving web traffic. It should be about web conversions. This holds true for both language groups.

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!