There are a number of common pit traps that American companies risk falling into as they start to push their search marketing campaigns out into Europe.

Localise. Don’t translate.

The language barrier is just the first hurdle. It is equally as important to use local terminology. Cellular phones are a good example of this. In the UK we’d call them mobile phones. Neither ’cellular’ nor ‘mobile’ would perform particularly well for the domestic German market as the word ‘handy’ is much better.

Multiple currencies.

In some large European brands – especially in travel – it is not uncommon for the booking engine to allow people to select their preferred payment currency at the point of purchase. Does your tracking system cope with that?

If your tags are able to tell the difference between £10 and €10 you also need to make sure your bid management strategy does too. Which is worth more? £10 or €10? Bid management systems must not confuse the two or they’ll start to make the wrong bids and if products are being sold across a mixture of currencies all at the same time then this can be quite a challenge for some systems.

Eyes on the ground.

As search becomes ever more sophisticate the requirement for local expertise rises dramatically.

For example, what could a sudden surge in searches for the keyword [Barcelona] on mean? Has Barcelona suddenly become the must visit destination for Italians? Perhaps a popular travel show featured the city on Italian TV? Alternatively, could it be that the hugely popular Barcelona soccer club is due in Milan for a crucial game?

The great advantage of eyes on the ground – local search experts – is that search surges can be predicted. That’s far better on your ROAS than simply trying to work out what just happened.

English flies faster.

It is not easily possible to stagger an announcement so that different parts of Europe become aware of the news at different times.

For example, an English language press release relating to a new product or feature and your dot-com site will generate blogger buzz, interest and possibly links back to your dotcom. Following up that same news in Swedish two weeks later will do very little for your dot-SE site. A Swedish press release first, however, is much more likely to be restricted to Scandinavia.

Cultural changes at Google.

Don’t expect Google France to treat you the same as Google USA. Europe is divided into a number of regions. Region One – Ireland, Benelux and the United Kingdom – is most like Google USA but the other regions can be very different.

Perhaps one of the most significant differences from some of the Google regions is that the relationship between Google and agencies is much more strained. Agencies get annoyed that Google attempts to ‘poach’ clients. Google gets annoyed that some of the traditional agencies still controlling the search budgets are perhaps not doing the job they could do and therefore restricting search budgets.

Localised Affiliate Integration.

It is equally as important to coordinate your affiliate campaign with your search campaign in Europe as it is in the USA and Canadian. It is a matter of debate whether there is any single affiliate network that sufficiently covers all of Europe and it is likely you will need to engage a number of different networks. If you don’t have strong relationships with local affiliates and local networks then this can become a significant challenge.

Money matters.

Are you happy to use your credit card to buy something for a website? There are countries in Europe where sites that only accept credit card payments will find it very tough. Look at expanding the number of payment methods you support and make sure you can track these transactions so you can measure your search success.

Too many cooks.

Many of the challenges in bringing a search campaign to Europe as a whole can be surmounted by hiring local search agencies. The downside to this can be a lack of coordination and little economies of scale.

Whereas there are many search agencies that can happily scale a campaign across the length and breadth of the United States there are only a very small number of agencies who can accurately claim the same European scale.

Andrew Girdwood

Published 18 March, 2009 by Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood is Head of Media Technologies at Signal and a guest blogger for Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter here.

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Comments (3)

Elsa Marthinsen

Elsa Marthinsen, Retired at Amalie's box

All comunication is difficult. Even in your mothertongue.

Just look to the daily conversation in your own home. It is a road full of pitholes even there.

As a Scandinavian, we have the same problem in the Danish, Swedidish and Norwegian countries. You should belive that we understand each other well enough to follow over neighbors meaning and thoughts, but...

How to meet each other on a ground we all understand? Often has English been the solution in many cases,just to be sure they all understand. But here, you tell us that the problem is huge even among the "infants".

Greetings from Elsa

over 9 years ago


Robin Gurney

Another trap that sometimes gets fallen into is the fact that Europe is made up of more than 25 countries and so when planning a search strategy in Europe don't underestimate the combined buying power of the lesser known / smaller countries.

Don't just focus on the big players eg France, Germany etc.

For example, I work in Estonia and we run campaigns in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Russian too.

Competing for search terms in the newer and smaller EU countries is MUCH less competitive and therefore usually produces great ROI despite the relative small size of the markets.

I say small but Poland, for example, has 38 million people.

The population of Europe is larger than that of the US.

If you are shopping around for local experts as Andrew rightly suggests then you could also speak with the people at, and companies affiliated with and who can coordinate through, MultiLingual Search.

over 9 years ago


Edith L. Pjetrovic

Language is one of the barrier in local terminology. Whatever the barrier as long as your goal is to have us people search you can do it, what is important is enabling to convey what you are looking for.

about 9 years ago

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