Pay-per-click advertising can be one of the fastest ways to drive new traffic to your website. For companies looking at breaking into new markets, it can be a low-risk, cost-effective way to get started.

However, many businesses are failing to realise its full potential, especially in other languages.

As more of the world gets online, many e-commerce companies are starting to look further looking further afield with their digital marketing. Internet use may be reaching saturation point in much of Europe and North America, but it is soaring in other parts of the world. McKinsey reported this month that e-commerce is booming in Brazil, with the majority of the country now having internet access.

The latest figures from ComScore show that Venezuela, India,  and Indonesia saw the highest growth in internet use this year, with Italy in fourth place.

Only around a quarter of the online population speaks English, and this proportion is falling. Companies targeting foreign language markets have a competitive advantage, since there is still relatively less content in other languages.

Also, running a PPC campaign in Portuguese or Japanese is usually cheaper than in English, due to the lack of competition.

PPC is also cost-effective compared to more traditional forms of advertising. A survey by Practical Ecommerce found that 87.5% of respondents used it to increase web traffic, and said it was good value for money.

Other studies have found that many companies are missing out on its full benefits. Recent research by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) found two-thirds of international companies lacked an effective PPC strategy.

For global businesses looking to increase their performance in a short timeframe, a PPC campaign should be an essential part of a marketing strategy. It’s a quick way to climb the search engine rankings, build brand awareness and drive more traffic to your website.

Of course the secrets of success include effective planning, and monitoring and evaluating campaigns. Here are five steps to getting started.

Choose your keywords 

If you already have international sites optimised for your main keywords, then this is a good start. If not, then there are plenty of tools, such as Google’s free Keyword Tool and Global Market Finder, that can identify keywords and levels of competition.

These won’t necessarily be direct translations of English keywords. It’s best to check with a native speaker, to ensure they match what they are likely to search for. 

For example, many German searchers will use English keywords for technical terms, instead of the correct German equivalent.

Know your search engines

Although Google is the market leader in most countries, this isn't the case everywhere.  If you’re targeting China, then Baidu is by far the most popular, while Yandex is the favourite in Russia. There are many other local competitors, including Naver in South Korea. And niche search engines could be a good choice for certain markets.

It’s worth getting to know some of the quirks of different search engines. Each one will have slightly different rules for PPC, such as whether you are penalised for irrelevant keyword use.

Compared to Google, Baidu has fewer sophisticated tools, and getting relevant click-throughs can be challenging. But it doesn’t limit paid search results to only three above the natural search results. Yandex’s multi-tier bidding strategy makes it easy to bid for first, second or third place positions, depending on your budget. 

Capture users’ attention

With PPC advertising, you have only a small number of words to intrigue a potential buyer and push them to clicking on your advert. There’s no room for clunky translations or poorly worded text – hiring a native speaking translator or copywriter is essential.

They can make sure the text strikes the right tone with readers, is culturally appropriate, and avoids causing confusion or offence.

Close the sale

This is the make-or-break point: the last thing you want is to pay for lots of click-throughs, but turn off users when they reach your site. Creating a great landing page, with information in a user’s native language, is vital.

It’s worth remembering that more and more people are browsing on their mobile phones, especially in certain markets, such as Japan and India. Making sure that your site is mobile friendly will avoid losing customers.

Make it as easy as possible for users to make a purchase.  Research by the European Commission found that most people were reluctant to buy if prices weren’t in their local currency.  Preferences in payment methods can also vary across cultures.

A little research will find out whether people are more likely to use credit cards, bank transfers, PayPal (or all three). Include contact details for any customer service queries. If you don't have on-the-ground sales staff, then it's best to restrict these to email or online forms, rather than expensive international calls. 

Measure and monitor

PPC marketing can take time to get right, and it’s essential to monitor and evaluate the success of your campaigns. Checking click-through rates and visitor behaviour will give you valuable information about the effectiveness of your strategy.

This data can be used to tweak the campaigns, for example by changing keywords or targeting specific cities or geographic regions. It’s also vital to monitor your competitors to ensure you stay one step ahead.

If you’re juggling campaigns across multiple countries and search engines, then bid management tools are an effective way to analyse and track the results.

Christian Arno

Published 30 July, 2012 by Christian Arno

Christian Arno is Founder and Managing Director of Lingo24 and a contributor to Econsultancy. He can also be found on Twitter

23 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (8)

Save or Cancel
Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

Good introduction Christian. I think it's also very valuable to consider extra functionality available and relevant cultural references that could benefit / hinder your campaigns.

With AdWords the use of location and sitelinks extensions is a must and product extensions is very valuable to e-commerce sites.

Some PPC campaigns work very well when they piggy back popular news stories and events with a twist to get you interested in their product, if you can do this in other countries and languages you should be on to a winner.

about 6 years ago


ashok sharma

Thanks for nice write up on " successful global PPC campaign"

about 6 years ago


Sakina Najmi

Very interesting article. I totally agree that it is imperative to customize your PPC campaigns according to countries, in their language and taking utmost care of their social and cultural values.

about 6 years ago


Tanielle Lobo

Great article highlighting some of the challenges PPC marketing. Also interesting to note that the proportion of English speaking online visitors is decreasing.

We deal with a local product that has an international audience and have identified that before targeting clicks from countries speaking different languages, staff and websites must be able to cater to these customers with a varied multi-lingual skill set.

about 6 years ago

Christian Arno

Christian Arno, CEO at Lingo24

Thanks for some very interesting comments! Anna, that's a great idea - keeping up with local news and events in other countries is beneficial both for PPC campaigns and SEO marketing.

Tanielle, it's good to hear about your experiences. Of course PPC is only one part of global marketing, and it's vital to back it up with great customer service across all your languages.

about 6 years ago



Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post.

It was funny. Keep on posting!mydirtyhobby

about 6 years ago



Thanks a lot for this post... this has seemed to be of a great help to me.

almost 6 years ago

Rajat Tyagi

Rajat Tyagi, Digital Marketing Professional at Techmagnate - SEO Company

Hi Christian!

Really very useful guidance for creating an effective Global PPC Ad campaign with a high ROI. I'm also think that setting up a PPC campaign in Google AdWords or Bing Ads is quick and easy, however, optimizing your advertising can be a different story. For generating more leads with PPC campaigns, you can also refer to this infographic:

Anyways, thanks for sharing this post.

about 2 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.