Ready to expand your PPC reach on a global scale? Here are three steps to help you lay the foundation for a successful international paid search strategy.
If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you probably did the following to prepare:
- Selected your destination/s and created an itinerary
- Got a passport
- Researched the location and culture (What language do they speak? Any major customs you need to be aware of?)
Believe it or not, developing an international paid search strategy is not unlike planning a trip overseas. At first glance this may seem like an oversimplification (after all, nothing about managing a sophisticated paid search campaign is easy!), but this framework will help kickstart your planning process.
step 1: Choose your destinations and Make an Itinerary
If your company has made the decision to “go global,” you’ve probably received a list of expansion countries / regions. So, where do you start? Do you tailor a paid search strategy to fit that list exactly? Do you mirror your domestic strategy overseas? Maybe… but maybe not.
Similar to planning a trip, it is best to select only a few destinations, so you don’t stretch your time or money too thin. The same is true for developing an international paid search strategy. If you don’t know where to start, a great first step is an analysis of your organic website traffic.
It’s likely that there are already several non-US users interacting with your site. Start by identifying location trends among those users and then select the top countries/regions. These web trends may indicate interest in your product/services, which could point to potential paid search traction in that area.
In terms of content and messaging for this new market, start with branded campaigns. Tying your branded terms to more generic, popular keywords at first will not only establish brand recognition, but generate a collection of search terms for identifying trends and eventual keyword expansion. While mirroring a mature domestic strategy for an international launch might make sense for some brands, you may also find that the high-performing keywords/messaging from your U.S. account are not as relevant in these new markets.
STEP 2: GET YOUR PASSPORT
Now that you’ve identified key locations for your international PPC launch, it’s time to make sure you can gain “entry.” To succeed in a foreign marketspace, your brand needs to be positioned for acceptance and your organization needs to be equipped to support global sales. As a marketing professional, you may or may not have much impact on getting literal feet on the ground in these new markets. You can, however, do a few things to ensure your brand is positioned to succeed:
- Secure a local domain for your website: From a brand validation standpoint, this is huge. Adding a country code to your generic top-level domain (gTLD) or replacing it completely (ex. “.com/uk” or “.co.uk”) could be difference between receiving a click to your site or not. Learn more here.
- Select the primary search engine for each new location: There is a lot of variation in engine preference by country. For example, Google is the leading search engine in the United Kingdom, whereas in Japan Yahoo! Japan is the leader.
- Ensure you are safely and securely capturing lead information: With GDPR on the horizon, it is imperative that companies who plan to market on an international scale are taking the necessary steps to set up GDPR-compliant lead forms and privacy policies.
STEP 3: RESEARCH THE LOCATION AND CULTURE
In addition to laying the necessary groundwork from a “market entry” perspective, it’s important to have also done your homework on the following:
- Language: As a rule of thumb, strive to keep the entire buying journey consistent for your customers. If you need to speak or read English in order to operate your product, exclusively advertising in another language may be misleading. However, if your product, customer service, and sales team is able to cater to multiple languages, translating your ads, website, and marketing collateral will be important. Note that this translation typically won’t be a 1:1 with English – understanding intricacies related to dialects and differences in search behavior by country is crucial to success.
- Seasonality trends: Make sure you are aware of common “heads up” or “heads down” times for your geo-targets. Avoiding a PPC launch during Europe’s peak vacation season and being mindful of major religious holidays in other countries will not only generate better results for your campaigns, but show your organization is sensitive to cultural trends and differences.
- Competitive landscape: If there is a market demand for your product or services, chances are there is already another company doing the same thing. Keep this in mind when expanding your paid search strategy, as trying to keep up with existing market leaders can get expensive fast. Rather, think of ways you can strategically position your brand apart from competitors — what new and exciting features can you bring to this space?
Launching an international paid search strategy can seem like a daunting task — but it doesn’t have to be. With the right information, tools, and strategies in place, your organization can achieve brand recognition and market share on a global scale.