Q&A with Rob Swick of Atlantic Canada Internet Marketing Association

SES Toronto 2009 is coming up June 8-10 and one of the event’s association sponsors is the Atlantic Canada Internet Marketing Association (ACIMA).

ACIMA is an industry association dedicated to unifying the Internet Marketing community in the Atlantic Provinces (Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland), as well as to promoting and sharing Internet marketing knowledge and best practices. The association mandate is comprised of Education and Training, Networking, Information Sharing, Representation and Profile Raising.

Rob Swick.jpg To learn a little more about ACIMA, I interviewed the association’s President, Rob Swick. As founding President of ACIMA, Swick coordinates the overall association activities. He also leads the charge for the association’s promotion and growth.

Jarboe: ACIMA is a relatively new trade association, dedicated to unifying the Internet marketing community in the Atlantic Provinces (Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland) and to promoting best practices in this growing field. What are Canadians in this region most excited about in this Web 2.0 world? Any particular tools or developments that stand out?

Swick: Not on thing in particular. But Atlantic Canadians are famous talkers. It’s a very social culture, so Web 2.0 in general has a high appeal. One thing I was surprised to see that even government seems to be shifting to Web 2.0 press releases. Usually government would be slow to adopt things like that but there’s a real sense of understanding of this particular sea change.

Jarboe: How would you characterize Canadian search habits or queries? Or for that matter, in the Atlantic Provinces? Do search trends hover more heavily around generic keywords?

Swick: It’s amazing how persistent broad search queries are, but the numbers show that search tail is producing better visitors, lower bounce rates, more time on the site, so we target those and we target more broadly and with more depth. I imagine it’s the same all around.

Jarboe: Canada’s population is about 1/10th of that of the United States. How underdeveloped is e-commerce in Canada and where do you see ACIMA’s role in expanding it?

Swick: Until a few years ago this was a real issue. People still talked about whether ecommerce was safe and reports kept showing that the smaller percentage of Canadians who DID want to shop online couldn’t find Canadian etailers to shop from. Things have changed a lot – and quickly. I think Canadians gravitated first to things like online banking and paying bills online. Maybe it’s the cold! Canadians love doing things from the comfort of their homes. And now that they’ve made the leap numbers for even big purchase items are showing that Canadians are catching up quickly and embracing the convenience and value you can get through ecommerce. Kijiji apparently is growing more rapidly here, and especially in Atlantic Canada, than in the US.

Jarboe: How important is the .CA domain when creating a Canadian website? Is .COM considered an affront?

Swick: Both are fine in Canada. They’re the most common extensions. Dot-ca is what a lot of companies have because it allows Canadian companies to actually get their name as a domain. Dotcom is just as acceptable if you happen to have it. Either – or. We’re practical people. I don’t think anyone sees dotcom as ‘American’. It’s just ‘Internet’. You even see some provincial extensions (for Nova Scotia for example it’s domain.ns.ca) though most people find those cumbersome and irritating. They’re more common in Quebec which has a more nationalistic leaning. You’ve probably heard a little about that – remember the time on the Simpson’s that Homer was reading the newspaper and said “hmmm…they’re holding a referendum in Canada”. Okay, probably not.

Jarboe: Social media tools are all the buzz right now. Twitter, in particular, is receiving lots of attention. What’s your take on Twitter? Do you see the Internet marketing community in the Atlantic Provinces using it effectively to market their business?

Swick: I think it’s still mostly for early adopters, though they’re a passionate, active, and involved group and I think it’s the actual personalities – I could name a handful of names – that are building networks of Tweeting friends and followers and they’re taking the message into their companies that this is a cool and efficient way to get the word around on what’s happening now. As a mainstream tool… Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, each one I think currently has a thin slice of influence. At our AIM conference we have three different talks on Social Media. The interest is there. The adoption…. just starting.

Jarboe: What do you look forward to most in attending SES Toronto? Any particular panels or sessions?

Swick: I always enjoy meeting and seeing the speakers I haven’t seen before. I’m also more interested in optimizing for different countries and languages so will be looking forward to hearing and talking about that. I first worked in Montreal so have done a lot of optimizing for French engines – but now many of our projects are truly global so there’s a lot to learn about specific engines in other countries, usage and behavioural patterns. Lots and lots to learn – it’s a big globe.

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