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Five Questions for SEMPO Canada

Sempo_logo_2Search Marketing is HOT and should be a key piece in online marketing campaigns as well as a complement to online communications strategies.  But not every marketing department, corporate communications team, PR firm or ad agency knows how to do search really well.  Fortunately, SEMPO Canada is here to help.  SEMPO is a recently launched Canadian offshoot of the American Search Engine Marketing Professional¹s
Organization.  One Degree sat down with co-founders Ken Jurina of and Alexandre Brabant from to discuss SEMPO Canada and the state of search marketing here in the great white north.

One Degree:  Can you give us a background on what SEMPO is and how SEMPO Canada fits in the local Search Marketing picture?

SEMPO stands for Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization. Its mission as a global non-profit organization is to serve the search engine marketing industry and the marketing professionals engaged in it. Its purpose is to provide a foundation for industry growth through building stronger relationships, fostering awareness, providing education, promoting the industry, generating research, and creating a better understanding of search and its role in marketing.

Although SEMPO originates from the United States, there is a committee within SEMPO called SEMPO Global, whose goal is to expand the reach of the organization outside of the U.S. As a result, a few fellow Canadians decided to create a SEMPO Canada Working Group. Our goal, just like the rest of the organization, is to make sure Search Marketing continues its growth in Canada. Because the Canadian market has its own particularities and since it is far more relevant to Canadians to have a local governance and representation, we feel we are in better position to gather every professional involved in Search Marketing and create the Search Marketing Canadian Authority that anyone can call upon for events, research, best practices and so on.

One Degree: What have you been doing so far to stimulate Search Marketing in Canada? And what are your future plans to foster the growth of Search Marketing, coast to coast?

SEMPO Canada is relatively young. It was created in November 2006 by Ken Jurina of and Alexandre Brabant of Our first goal was to actually build the foundation of the SEMPO Canada Working Group and so we recruited a few founding members from the Search Marketing industry. We then created a website ( and organized our first event during SES Toronto in June 2007.

Since then, we have acquired many more members and have created sub-committees to further increase the awareness of SEMPO Canada and its mission by attending internet and marketing related events. We have also been working on a soon-to-be launched survey called the State of Search Marketing in Canada. Our goal is to read the pulse of the Canadian Search Marketing industry. The publication of this report is scheduled for December 2007 and it is intended to help foster further awareness about the existence and benefits of Search Marketing to Canadians as a whole, which is a topic in dire need of attention in Canada.

One Degree: What is the state of Search Marketing in Canada in terms of adoption rate, depth of implementation and the proportion between organic and paid?

Based on the comments gathered by Search Marketing professionals during the Search Engine Strategies conference in Toronto in June 2007, Canada is still behind when it comes to adoption rate and the use of Search Marketing best practices. According to Gord Hotchkiss, renowned Canadian expert on Search Marketing, Canada is clueless about search.  In this article, written during SES Toronto, Gord points out that despite the fact that Canadians see some of the best Search Marketers in North America, “Canadian advertisers haven’t woken up to search yet, and there’s just no excuse for that, because Canadian customers are light years ahead of them.” According to Comscore, Canadians use the Internet more than anyone else in the world.

When it comes to the split between paid and organic search investment, we see another fundamental disconnect in Canada. Whereas most of the conversions are coming from organic traffic, the majority of the investment is put towards paid search advertising. Therefore, it is commonly accepted in the local Search Marketing industry that Canadian advertisers are in need of a wake up call which is what we intend to provide in the future via SEMPO Canada.

Are there certain types of companies that would benefit from using more Search Marketing who aren’t using it right now? Is anyone in Canada doing it really well?

Really every type of company could benefit from incorporating Search Marketing into the advertising spend. Regardless of whether they are service or product based, B2B or B2C, or even not-for-profit. Every organization has something to gain from using Search Marketing as part of their marketing effort. The billions of searches that are conducted monthly across the web represent a massive database of intentions. There are opportunities for any company or organization of any size in both organic and paid Search. In general, certain verticals such as travel, electronics and consumer products represent a larger portion of search volume and therefore lead to greater potential for these specific verticals, but the market is opening up and Search Marketing is no longer focused around any particular verticals.

With regards to Canadian companies who are doing really well with their Search Marketing plans, we know collectively of only a few companies such as who are using Search Marketing as the core of their marketing plan. Generally speaking though, it is unfortunate that most in-house marketing teams do not know of or employ Search Marketing best practices when they launch an SEM program.


One Degree:  I heard someone say recently that search is out and tagging (folksonomies) are in. What do you think about that?

The question of optimizing a website or webpage for search or tagging is setting up a false opposition. According to James Sherrett from Work Industries, whom I spoke to on this topic, you should never recommend to a client that they optimize for search solely for tagging or for voting on Digg, or for video indexing – should that ever happen. We would rather recommend building a strong website for your target market. Website should cater to search engine bots and tagging systems, and anything that might come along.

The point to remember is that in prioritizing all those different considerations, people have to come first. Tagging is in fact very complementary to search. It’s another way any one of us can enrich the information available within a website or webpage – which is good for people and good for search bots.

Regardless of the website or industry consistently the large portion of new traffic to a website continues to come from Organic search. The vast majority of traffic online is generated from search engines and 90% of the time the traffic from search engines is from people clicking on the Organic search results. Sure, tags can augment that traffic, but people love to search.