Not any more

Google eyes Canadian expansion

In Canada on August 16, 2010 at 08:30

Canadian e-commerce is lagging and Google GOOG-Q plans to hire more staff to strengthen its business brand in this country, says the new head of Google Canada.

“The message is very clear: invest for growth in Canada,” Chris O’Neill said in a phone interview from the search engine giant’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Google already has 150 employees in Canada at offices in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and the Kitchener-Waterloo region of Ontario. Mr. O’Neill isn’t sure yet how many new employees the company will hire but they could be in engineering, sales, marketing and policy.

“A big part of my job will be to hire all-star players,” said Mr. O’Neill, a Canadian himself, who will be based in Toronto.

He will also focus on ensuring that Canadian businesses use more Google products and services, and not just advertising.

“Google has a very well-known consumer face,” Mr. O’Neill said.

But from a business perspective, the same recognition isn’t there, he said.

“I’d also like to see Google’s business brand be even stronger such that we’re more part of the business community in a meaningful way, more so than we are now.”

Two-thirds of Canadian retailers are using e-commerce but their websites are generating just five per cent of total sales, according to a study released this summer by the Retail Council of Canada.

Another study recently suggested that businesses spend only 11 per cent of their marketing budgets online.

For Mr. O’Neill, that means Google needs to focus on getting Canadian businesses to turn to the search engine as “one of their top three to five business partners.”

Google could provide not only advertising, but business applications like email, Google maps, the Google business channel on YouTube, co-marketing opportunities and product integration, he said.

In Canada, Google will be competing with Yellow Media Inc., publisher of the well-known digital and print directory Yellow Pages.

“Google is both a partner and a competitor for Yellow Pages,” president and CEO Marc Tellier said in a recent interview.

Yellow Media is transitioning to an online company and is targeting small- and medium-sized businesses with services such as website building, email marketing, video production and search-engine marketing.

Yellow Media also helps businesses that have websites improve their rankings with search engines such as Google, Yahoo YHOO-Q or Bing MSFT-Q.

Mr. Tellier has said he expects about 25 per cent growth in digital revenues in 2011. The company currently has $430-million in digital revenues annually.

“We think that’s more than Google, Yahoo or Bing in Canada,” he said, adding that Yellow Media has about 230,000 customers that pay for its digital products.

While Google says it has more than one million advertisers worldwide, the search engine didn’t have a breakdown of how many advertisers it has in Canada.

Mr. O’Neill said Canadian businesses need to think about the importance of the digital world and how it will benefit them.

“If you’re not there, there’s something wrong with that,” he said.

He was most recently head of Google’s digital strategy as retail industry director in the United States.

Mr. O’Neill has worked in marketing, strategy, and partnership development with companies including HSBC and Oliver Wyman.

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