International marketing

Google ads language targeting: How to target languages effectively

Google ads language targeting: How to target languages effectively
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
July 7, 2023

Setting up language targeting for your Google ads ensures your ads get seen by only users who speak those languages. It’s a step not to be skipped, as it helps you get the highest return on investment on your advertising budget.

While the language targeting process is simple, there are related issues to think about as you plan your targeted Google ad campaign. These include:

  • How does Google detect a user’s preferred language(s) in the first place?
  • What’s the difference between language targeting and its related cousin, location targeting?
  • Should you translate the Google ads you’re using for your targeted campaigns?

We’ll cover these – plus how you can target specific language users for your Google ads, of course – to make your Google ad campaign a success.

What is language targeting?

In the Google Ads context, language targeting is the process of setting up your Google ads to be shown to only users who speak a certain language. For example, if you want only Spanish speakers to see your Google ad, which is in Spanish, then you’d set your ad’s language targeting settings to Spanish.

There are various benefits to using language targeting for your Google ads, such as:

  • Helping you reach your ideal customers: If you are trying to reach users who speak a certain language, you can have Google Ads show your ad campaigns to only such users. This way, you don’t potentially waste your advertising budget on showing ads to users who speak other languages (and may hence be uninterested in your offerings).
  • Test the demand for your products: A high click-through rate for ads you’ve targeted at certain language users could indicate that demand for your products among such users is especially high. With this knowledge in mind, you could channel more resources toward serving this target market.
  • Increase your sales: When more of your ideal customers learn of your offerings through your language-targeted Google ads, you may make more sales and revenue!

How does Google detect a user’s language?

Google uses machine learning algorithms to determine the language(s) a person uses – and hence which Google ads are in the right language for serving to them. Its techniques for detecting a user’s language vary based on whether you are placing an ad on its Search Network or its Display Network. (In case you need a refresher, ads on Google’s Search Network appear on the Google search engine results pages, while the Google Display Network serves ads on the websites people visit.)

Google uses various signals to identify a user’s language for displaying the appropriate Search Network ads. These signals include the language of the user’s search query and their browser language settings. For example, if a user has conducted a Google search using German keywords but has set their browser language settings to English, then Google may show them search ads in either German or English.

As for Google Display Network ads, Google evaluates the user’s page viewing history to detect their preferred languages. For instance, if a user has recently viewed web pages in French and is currently viewing a web page in English, then Google may serve them display ads in either French or English.

Language targeting vs. location targeting: what’s the difference?

Apart from targeting Google ads by a user’s language, you can also target your Google ads according to a user’s location. This location can be as broad as entire countries or as narrow as within a certain radius of another location.

Since people in a specific location tend to speak a certain language, you could theoretically target ads in a certain location to also reach users who speak the language common to that area. So when should you use language targeting for your Google ads over location targeting and vice versa?

Language targeting would be more appropriate where you want to reach users of a certain language, and it doesn’t matter so much where they are geographically located. For example, if you are advertising an online cooking course conducted in Spanish for which anyone in the world can sign up, you could set up Spanish-language targeting for your Google ad.

On the other hand, location targeting is helpful for reaching users within a certain geographical location (regardless of the language they speak). For example, if your business is expanding into a new regional market or looking for clients in a certain area, you’d want to target your Google ads for these specific locations.

That said, language targeting and location targeting aren’t mutually exclusive. If the situation calls for such precise targeting, you could set up both language and location targeting to show your ads to only users within a certain location who speak a certain language!

How does language targeting work in Google Ads?

When creating your Google ad (whether it is a Search Network or Display Network ad), you’ll be able to set up its target languages. The default setting is “All languages” unless you select the specific user language(s) for which your ad should be shown.

Google supports language targeting for over 50 languages, including:

  • English (Australia, United Kingdom, and United States)
  • German
  • Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
  • Dutch
  • Norwegian
  • Thai

On a related note, your Google ad copy itself also needs to be in a language that Google supports. It supports most of the languages you can use for language targeting, with a handful of exceptions, such as Icelandic and Tamil. If you create a Google ad in an unsupported language, Google will not approve it for displaying to users.

The full list of supported languages – for both Google ad copy and language targeting – is available here.

How to target language users for your Google Ads

Whether you’re creating a new Google Search Network or Display Network ad, the process of setting up language targeting is the same.

Create your ad as per usual in the Google Ads (previously known as Google AdWords) platform, including selecting your campaign objectives and conversion goals. As you do so, you’ll be asked to select the languages your customers speak. Fill this out accordingly.

Set up language targeting for new Google ads campaign.

(Don’t forget that you can target only users who speak languages that Google supports!)

That’s the basic language targeting setup completed. If you need more precise targeting (especially for search ads), you can set up negative keywords to restrict Google from displaying your ads on certain search engine results pages or display network websites.

For example, let’s say you’re advertising jelly to English speakers from the United States. “Jelly” is known as “jam” to English speakers from Britain, so it might be worth adding the negative keyword of “jam” to your Google ads to better exclude the Brits from seeing your Google ad.

Finally, if needed, you can also use the location targeting options to select the geographical locations in which Google should display your ad.

Set up location targeting for new Google ads campaign

If you want to change your language (or location) targeting settings after creating your Google ad, you can do so from your ad’s main campaign settings.

Change language targeting settings for existing Google ads campaign

Should you translate your Google Ads?

Google doesn’t translate your ads for you. So if your ad copy is in a different language from what your target customers speak, then you should absolutely translate your ads. There’s no point in displaying ads your audience can’t understand!

Translating your Google Ads will involve:

  • Localizing your keywords: The existing keywords in your keyword list may not be the same keywords your potential customers use for their online searches. Translate them into the local language, then refine them to take local slang and dialect into account.
  • Checking that your translated ad copy fits within Google’s character limits: Google caps headlines and descriptions to 30 and 90 characters respectively. As you translate your ad copy, it may exceed these character limits or take up much fewer characters. That’s your cue to shorten or lengthen your ad copy accordingly.
  • Translate your landing page: Facilitate a smooth user experience by making your ad landing page available in your searchers’ preferred language as well. Don’t forget to provide the URL to the translated version of your landing page – and not the URL to the original, untranslated landing page – when setting up your ad.

If you’re running separate campaigns for each target audience (and language), translating your ad copy and landing pages manually can be quite a chore. Consider investing in a website translation solution like Weglot, which uses machine learning technology to instantly translate website content with a high degree of accuracy.

Reach and convert customers with targeted Google ad copy and landing pages

Targeting specific language users for your Google ads is a straightforward process. It takes only a few seconds but can significantly improve the quality of visitors who land on your website via your ads. If you know which languages your target customers use to communicate with others, we highly recommend setting up language targeting for these languages for every Google ad campaign you run.

Apart from targeting your Google ads to specific language users, you’d also need to translate your ad copy and landing pages to create an effective ad campaign. Weglot can take the burden off manual translation work: once added to a website, Weglot automatically detects all website content and translates it using a proprietary mix of machine learning translations coupled with full editing control. With Weglot capable of making entire websites multilingual within minutes, it speeds up the process of running Google ad campaigns in the right languages to help you reach new customers quicker.

Weglot is compatible with all leading website and ecommerce platforms, including WordPress, Shopify, and Webflow. Try Weglot on your website for free here.

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