While often overlooked by the masses, Google, MSN, and Yahoo all give Canadians different search options than Americans when searching the web. Each gives some sort of preference or boost to sites deemed to be Canadian within their Canadian search results, although offer no benefits obviously for ranking in the generic .com results. This means that Canadian companies need to be diligent about ensuring that they appear in the search results of the most used engines in their home country, especially since the advantages realized do not yet appear to be offset by poorer rankings in the generic .com engines.
Fortunately Google, Yahoo, and MSN all appear to use the same criteria for determining the citizenship of a web site as indicted by the criteria below.
1) If the primary site has a .ca domain or Top-level domain (TLD), the site will automatically appear in the Google.ca (Pages from Canada) results regardless of point #2 below, and will be given a boost in position in the Google.ca (Search the Web) results. If this same criteria is satisfied, sites will automatically be included in Yahoo.ca and MSN.ca too.
2) If the site is hosted on a Canadian IP (ie. usually occurs when the site is hosted with a Canadian hosting company located in Canada and can be checked here http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/website-country/), then sites not meeting the criteria from point #1 above can appear in the Google.ca (Pages from Canada), and will be given a boost in position in the Google.ca (Search the Web) results.
Please note: we do not believe that an extra boost in rankings is given when both criteria are satisfied.
All in all, Canadian companies are afforded an opportunity not provided to their neighbours to the south a chance for superior rankings in their home country. That said, its only an opportunity if its acted upon. So if Canadians are your primary target market, make absolutely certain that you have either a .ca TLD, or are hosted on a Canadian IP. This is something Canadian hosting companies should be actively promoting, but seem to be missing the boat.
This same logic can be applied to virtually any other country with its own TLD too, whether Australia, the U.K., Japan, and so forth.
In a subsequent blog posting, I'll discuss situations where it is advisable to use a country specific TLD such as a .ca, and those where its advisable to host with a Canadian hosting company and not use a .ca TLD.