Managing an International PPC Campaign

By Megalytic Staff - July 13, 2017

One of the most exciting things about the digital age is its contribution to growing the global community. We are all more connected and more accessible to one another than we have ever been. While that is monumental for social and political reasons, it also fundamentally changes our ability to do business internationally. 20 years ago a U.S. business may never have considered a customer base in Beijing. Today, it’s happening every minute.
Taking a brand worldwide creates new potential for revenue but it also adds a new level of complexity to your marketing strategy. You have to understand language, cultural and legal nuances to effectively reach people in various countries. When you’re dealing with online advertising, you have to understand how targeting and bidding will be impacted by expanding into other countries.
In this post, we’ll cover tactics for reaching an international audience via PPC advertising. First, start by thinking about how international targeting relates to your campaign structure.

International Flags

Do You Need to Divide Campaigns by Country?

When you start targeting multiple countries, there are pros and cons to breaking out separate campaigns by country.

If a company has dedicated marketing budgets for each country, keeping campaigns separate will ensure that you’ll be able to cleanly maintain a set spend by region. This may also entail grouping sets of countries into individual campaigns (for instance, North American and European campaigns). However, if the goal is to simply adjust spend to wherever the highest return comes from, a multi-region campaign can allow you the flexibility to shift your spend based on performance.

In some cases, dividing campaigns by product or service category while targeting all regions may be a more strategic approach. Geographic bid adjustments provide the control to bid a percentage up or down by country (or narrower geographic regions) within the same campaign.

To access geo bid adjustments, go to the Locations tab under Settings for your desired campaign. Here, you can see performance metrics for each targeted location and can use “Bid adj.” column to apply bid adjustments. If your campaign goal is to obtain leads at the lowest cost, a higher than desired cost per conversion should result in a lower bid adjustment. Conversely, a low cost per conversion should prompt a higher bid adjustment.

AdWords GEO Bid Modifiers

Of course you’ll want to factor in outside analysis, like the insight that comes from looking at the actual quality of leads by country. For instance, if Spain is driving customers with a longer lifetime value than elsewhere, it may be worth paying a higher cost per acquisition there.

Language Differences

When you’re targeting countries that require reaching speakers of different languages, you’ll need to account for those differences in the ad, in the keywords, and on your landing page. You may even need to break out different language campaigns per country. First, note that in addition to targeting your desired country, you should also set up each respective campaign to reach speakers of the language you’re targeting. To do that, just use the Language option under Campaign Settings.

AdWords Language Targeting

Next, ensure that all elements of your campaign reflect the target user’s language. That means writing ad copy in their language, but also making sure that ad extensions are in the correct language as well. For example, an ad with German copy and English sitelinks may make the ad less effective or, at the very least, make it look disorganized.

In addition, make sure each ad is linking to a landing page in the proper language. Also, don’t rely on Google Translate alone. If you aren’t a confident speaker of a language, it’s worth the effort and expense to consult with a native speaker or translation expert to ensure that your copy is relevant and accurate. You can easily ruin your brand’s reputation in a country with carelessly translated wording.

Messaging Nuances

Even if the countries you’re targeting don’t speak different languages, you may need to use different messaging. For instance, if you sell truck bed covers, a UK campaign may mention “lorry bed covers” to adapt to British English. If you’re mentioning price points, currency should reflect the region where ads are serving (dollars, Euros, yen, etc.).

In addition, certain discounts may only be available in specific regions. For instance, a large enterprise business may have separate divisions guiding what offers can be presented where. The same business may offer a 10% discount in the U.S.A. but have a 20% discount available for England. Different pricing schemes may have different appeal across regions, as well. Americans may be highly responsive to discount shopping, while other countries may place a higher emphasis on quality of service.

Also understand your brand’s level of awareness in different countries. They may have a large brand footprint in the U.S. with a highly established level of awareness, but in an Asian market the same brand may be completely new to consumers and may need to work harder to distinguish themselves from existing competitors.

Bidding Concerns

Whether separating countries by campaign or relying on geographic bid modifiers, keep in mind the various factors that can affect bidding across countries. First, the level of competition for certain terms will change for each country, as well as the bids used by competitors. In the U.S.A., 20 advertisers may be competing for the same term with aggressive bids, while in Denmark, there may only be 5 advertisers that are active with bids at a lower level. You should also watch the average position by country to either adjust bids in dedicated campaigns or tweak bid modifiers to vie for a better placement.

Finally, currency fluctuations can impact bids for each country. When the British pound changes in value, the conversion from the dollar will vary, in turn affecting how a bid in dollars translates into a bid in pounds. That factor makes it important to keep an eye on economic factors that could shift bids up or down.

Not Everybody Uses Google!

While American- and European-based marketers may assume the majority of customers start their searches in Google, it’s worth noting that Google doesn’t necessarily have the dominant market share in all countries. Baidu has 76% market share in China , while Yandex has 45% market share in Russia (only recently surpassed by Google). Bing has 20% market share in the UK .

If you’re advertising in a country where another search engine has a heavy market share, you’re potentially missing a large portion of your audience by only placing ads on Google. So when you begin exploring new markets, research the dominant advertising systems in that region for other popular search providers. Branching out of Google where the countries prefer other engines will help you reach a wider audience with your messaging.


International PPC management includes nuances that go beyond focusing on a single country. You need to take into account variances in bidding by region, language, cultural factors and technology used among the various countries you’re targeting. Even for an experienced PPC pro, taking the first dive into PPC for multiple countries can feel like a brand new world. Make sure you take the time to review your campaign setup to cover your crucial language and messaging basics. Be mindful of the ways that behaviors and spends may change with your worldwide audience. Your attention to detail will help ensure that you’re tailoring the campaign to reach the potential customers that are most likely to bring value to your business.