While diving into international waters is a brilliant and exciting time for any business, it doesn’t come without challenges.

As a PPC Manager, your client requesting you expand your PPC activity into new territories (especially where you may not speak the language) can lead to sweaty palms and visions of furiously Google translating your search query reports. But it needn’t be that difficult…

Below I have shared some of my biggest Do’s and Don’ts for international PPC, learned while managing campaigns from Bristol to Brisbane, Boston to Bangkok, and beyond.

Don’t fail to prepare

Before launching PPC campaigns ensure you have appropriate landing pages, translated where necessary and using the local currency. You can instill trust in international customers by including local store details and their local shipping options on the landing page. An international website using a single domain is often the simplest way to establish a unified brand for international customers, but being able to serve these users goes beyond the website alone. Consider how you can provide customer service to international users. Is your distribution set up so goods reach the customer in a reasonable amount of time? If your business is operating outside of English-speaking countries, can your customer service team communicate with your customers? Do your operating hours suit your customer’s time zones?

Do be global, then be local

(This tip comes from a fantastic SearchLeeds talk by @MattHolmesXX, previously running the PPC show over at Emirates)

Ensure you have a baseline identity and a brand vision, which influences everything your team do, no matter where in the world they are (or are targeting). Then make everyone’s life easier with shared reporting methods, campaigns structures, and naming conventions. Ensure your team is aligned with this. And only then is it time to adapt to your local markets.

Don’t get lost in translation

This is a big one. There is no quicker way to lose your user’s trust, offend a potential customer, or just look plain silly, than getting your non-English translations wrong. If you are targeting non-English speaking countries and do not have a native speaker in your team, use a professional translator.

Even in English-speaking countries, consider vernaculars, idioms and even humour that will not translate well, or may need to be phrased differently to suit your target audience. For example, users searching for ‘pants’ in the US, as opposed to ‘trousers’. Sounds simple, but if keywords are not adapted valuable search traffic will be lost. 

Do your research about PPC channels

It’s often assumed that Google and Facebook are the big PPC players worldwide, but do your research into the market share of search engines and social media channels in all the countries you plan to expand into. Some results may surprise you.

For example, 33% of searches in the US are on Bing. But thinking of launching Bing campaigns in the Asia Pacific region? Probably not worth it, with Bing receiving only 3% of searches.

There is always new PPC channels to explore as well. Russia’s Yandex search engine has a 53% market share (compared to Google’s 43%), with a suite of advertising options. Or the mighty WeChat, with over 1 billion users (90 million of them now outside China).

Do consider cultural differences

When advertising globally it’s important to consider cultural differences and adapt your strategy, messaging and creatives. Look at any of the world’s biggest global brands and you will see that they run completely different ad campaigns in different countries. If your budget/reach doesn’t stretch to this, still consider details such as what associations and messages are used in your creatives to avoid offense or negative connotations. If in doubt, a native marketing consultant could help you avoid any ad faux pas.  

A side-note to this; also consider how your customers go about their daily lives and how this can affect traffic and sales. In Dubai the working week is typically Sunday-Thursday and in Japan, office staff typically work late into the night/early hours. Factors like this will inevitably affect the most profitable days/hours for your campaigns.

Do think about seasonality

Another big one. Climate, public holidays and festivals/celebrations are all factors that will affect the performance of your PPC campaigns. It sounds obvious, but if you are a fashion retailer, your peak seasons for winter/summer focussed products are going to be very different in the UK compared to Australia.

Also be aware of public holidays and festivals; for example ‘Singles Day’ in China is one of the biggest gifting days of the year. Create a shared calendar for your team so you can be aware of these key dates and plan accordingly. There are two advantages to being aware of this;

  • You can plan sales and promotional activity accordingly to maximise sales at these key times
  • If holidays don’t equal sales in your industry (i.e. if you’re a B2B business), you can plan to move budget and set client expectations when conversions may be lower

Don’t neglect testing

Do not assume that your winning ad copy, or the landing page with a killer conversion rate, that did so well in one country will perform the same in a different country. As best practice, I treat every new country as if it were a new client. I start testing from scratch and look at split test results (whether it be landing pages, ad copy, device performance, and more) for every country independently of one another.

Do know your ad blockers

Attitudes to advertising vastly differ around the world. India is ahead of the ad blocking game, with 59% of mobile devices blocking ads, while this figure is estimated to only be 23% in the US. You’ll want to consider this when projecting traffic and sales. There isn’t a way to overcome ad blockers, but you can build trust by delivering well-timed and highly-targeted messaging that is useful to the user (but if you’re doing PPC right, then this should be common practice already!)

Do consider device adoption

Being aware of the use of desktops/tablets/mobiles in your target locations is not only important for the obvious reasons, like device based bid adjustments or creating a device-specific campaign structure, but also for how users search. 

In the US there are 129 mobile devices for every 100 people. The rise of voice search on mobile and devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo mean search queries are changing to mimic colloquial speech, and your campaign’s keywords (the keyword itself, the length, and the match type you choose) will need to reflect this.

Don’t get caught out by Google Shopping restrictions

Google Shopping is still unavailable in a number of countries. If Shopping forms a major part of your strategy, you’ll need to re-think your approach.

When you submit your product data to Google Merchant Center, you’ll need to use a language and currency that’s supported for your target country (the target country is the country where your products are sold and will be shipped). The items uploaded must meet the requirements for the target country you submit to, including the feed specifications and policies.

Becky Carré

PPC Account Manager

Improving client's online presence with ad campaigns on search networks and social media platforms. Travel lover, yoga teacher in the making, and keen marathoner.

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