International marketing

International PPC: How to succeed with a global campaign

International PPC: How to succeed with a global campaign
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
September 15, 2023

Word of mouth, search engine optimization (SEO), and content marketing – these are all great marketing strategies for increasing brand awareness. But they all face the same challenge: they take a while to deliver results, and thus aren’t suitable if you want to get the most eyeballs on your business as soon as possible.

In such a situation, it may be worthwhile to redirect your marketing budget toward pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. This marketing strategy helps you gain immediate access to your target audience as you advertise your business on keywords relevant to their needs. Just take care to place the most effective ads on the right keywords: otherwise, you may end up draining your marketing budget with very little to show for it.

Does PPC advertising sound right for your business? Then let’s explore the benefits of running global PPC advertising campaigns and six top tips for making your next PPC campaign a success.

What is PPC advertising and how does it work?

PPC advertising is an online advertising model where advertisers pay on a per-click basis to display ads on publishing platforms.

These publishing platforms include web pages and search engine results pages, and advertisers will aim to have their ads appear on pages with keywords relevant to their ads. For example, if an advertiser sells toasters, they may want to place toaster ads on the search engine results pages for search queries that include the “toaster” keyword.

As the name “pay per click” implies, advertisers pay an amount for every ad click. If nobody clicks your PPC ads, you pay nothing. (That said, you may still have to pay a deposit or management fees depending on the advertising platform’s PPC service model.)

If users do click your PPC ads, you’ll be charged an amount known as the “cost per click” (CPC). Different PPC ad platforms may calculate CPCs differently: for example, the Google Ads platform uses factors such as ad quality and ad space demand to determine the CPC payable.

PPC ads work on an auction system where advertisers will bid for the available ad slots on the publishing platform. To do so, they’ll set a maximum CPC amount representing the most they’re willing to pay for an ad click.

The advertising platform receives the bids, then determines the ads to display on the publishing platform. Generally, ads with higher maximum CPC bids have a better chance of being displayed (and appearing more prominently on the publishing platform too). However, the advertising platform may also consider ad quality and other issues when shortlisting ads.

Once the advertising platform has decided which ads to display and in what order, it’ll set the actual CPC payable for clicks on these ads. The actual CPC tends to be lower than advertisers’ maximum CPC bids as advertisers need only pay an extra minimum amount – such as $0.01 – needed to beat the bid for the ad displaying below theirs.

What are the benefits of PPC advertising?

If you’re undertaking PPC advertising in the form of placing search ads, you’d be engaging in search engine marketing (SEM). This digital marketing strategy differs from SEO, which involves taking steps to rank web pages on the organic search listings.

Unlike SEO work, SEM incurs an advertising cost as you pay to feature your web pages on the search engine results pages. But the benefit of doing so is that your web pages can appear on the search engine results pages much sooner than the weeks or months it takes to organically rank web pages via SEO.

If you’re trying to reach international customers, SEM – or PPC advertising in general – can also bring about these benefits for your business:

  • Get your advertising campaigns seen by your target audience: You can set up your PPC campaigns to be served to just your target audience demographics, and increase the quality of users who view your ads.
  • Shortlist the highest-converting ad campaigns with ease: PPC advertising is an agile form of marketing, where you can simultaneously run multiple ad campaigns with different copy and creatives to identify the most effective ones.
  • Enjoy fast and measurable results: With PPC advertising, increasing brand awareness in new markets and reaching potential customers can be as straightforward as placing ads where your target audience is likely to see them. And unlike some forms of marketing whose results are more difficult to quantify, the performance of your PPC campaigns is easily measurable in the form of increases to your website traffic volume and conversion rates.

How do you set up a successful global PPC campaign?

PPC advertising platforms generally have intuitive processes for setting up new PPC campaigns. But to make your international PPC strategy a successful one, it pays to follow these six top tips:

1. Identify your target markets

While you can set up your PPC campaign to be seen by people all over the world, such a campaign is likely to be an inefficient use of your advertising budget. That’s because you don’t need everyone to see your ad – only those who are more likely to be interested in your products and hence more likely to convert. Showing your ads to anyone else might just result in you throwing perfectly good advertising money away.

What’s more, running a generic ad campaign for all audiences dilutes your campaign’s effectiveness as it won’t have taken your audiences’ tastes and preferences into account. As a result, your ads may not be as persuasive or relevant as they need to be to get people clicking on them.

So before you set up a new PPC campaign on your chosen advertising platform or even start putting together your ad collateral, determine the target markets for your ads. Be as specific as possible in terms of their geographical locations, languages spoken, cultural preferences, and other personal characteristics. The more well-defined your target markets are, the better you’ll be able to tailor your PPC ads for the highest conversions.

For example, if you intend to display PPC ads to searchers in Canada, you may need to run at least two separate ad campaigns to cater to the main languages spoken in that country:

  1. One ad campaign for people in Canada who speak English, and
  2. One ad campaign for people in Canada who speak French.

2. Determine your target keywords and CPC budget

PPC advertising works by displaying ads on pages containing keywords relevant to such ads. Therefore, research and shortlist the keywords for which your ads should appear.

To do so, draw up a rough list of keywords relevant to your ads – this will serve as the starting point for your keyword research. For example, if you’re advertising winter jackets, you may want to target keywords such as:

  • winter jacket
  • winter coat
  • winter jackets for men
  • girls puffer jacket

Next, add your potential keywords to a keyword research tool, such as Ahrefs, Semrush, or the free Google Keyword Planner to get detailed insights on your keywords’ search volumes and estimated CPCs. These tools may also be able to suggest other keywords worth targeting.

For instance, here’s the Google Keyword Planner report showing keyword ideas, and their respective highest and lowest CPC values, for the “winter jacket” search query:

Google Keyword Planner report for the ‘winter jacket’ keyword”

It may be worth prioritizing keywords with higher search volumes as you could get more people viewing – and clicking – your ads. At the same time, the estimated CPCs will tell you how much it may cost to run ads on those keywords. Use this information to decide your advertising budget and allocate it among your shortlisted target keywords.

If you’re targeting the same keyword in multiple international markets, you may need to translate the keyword to suit each market’s native language. A website translation solution like Weglot can instantly translate large volumes of text, and is a good option if you need fast and high-quality translations of many keywords.

Finally, once you have translated your keywords, localize them to account for local culture and slang to increase their relevance to your target markets. We have a full guide to improving a localization strategy if you need more details on this subject.

3. Place your ads on the platforms frequented by your target audience

PPC advertising platforms include Google Ads, Baidu Ads, and Yandex Ads. Run your ads on those that can help display your ads on the publishing platforms your target audience frequently visits.

For example, Google is by far the search engine with the largest global search market share. Its Google Ads advertising platform is thus a good choice for putting PPC search ads in front of much of the Western and English-speaking world (or on the websites that such users visit via the Google Display Network). But for certain specific market segments, taking out ads with other international search engines may be more appropriate.

If you’re aiming to advertise to people in China, for instance, consider buying ads from Baidu as it is the search engine most favored by the Chinese. In contrast, if you’re eyeing a slice of the Russian market, we suggest advertising on Yandex, the preferred search engine in Russia.

The different search engines of choice in different countries will have their own PPC ad policies and requirements, and you’ll need to follow these to a T for your ads to be approved. For example, avoid placing ads related to gambling, tobacco, and other vices on Baidu – the search engine’s PPC services prohibit ads containing such content.

4. Localize your PPC ads

We’ve briefly mentioned the importance of localizing your target keywords above, and this pointer applies to your PPC ads themselves too. Localizing your PPC ads will increase their relevance to your target audience, making users more likely to click your ads and convert.

For an example of localized ads, check out these ads by ecommerce marketplace Amazon. The first one is targeted at searchers from the United States, while the second is targeted at searchers from the Netherlands:

Amazon United States PPC ad”
Amazon Netherlands PPC ad”

Amazon has localized its ads for both markets in ways such as:

  • Writing its ad copy in the main languages of both countries – English for the ad for searchers from the United States, and Dutch for the ad for searchers from the Netherlands.
  • Pointing the ads to its dedicated websites for each market, which are for the United States market and for the Netherlands market respectively.
  • Displaying prices in the Netherlands ad in the country’s official currency (the Euro).

If you upload your ad copy to a temporary page on your website, Weglot’s website translation solution can help you translate your ad copy into over 110 supported languages and create as many multilingual PPC ads as you may need.

5. Make the conversion process smooth and straightforward

Getting clicks on your ads is satisfying, but that’s hardly the end goal. Instead, you want people to convert! Each ad click costs you money, so you’ll need to earn enough sales from your ads to recoup your advertising budget – and make a profit – for your PPC ad campaign to be successful.

To this end, review the page flow users go through after clicking your ads. Which web pages are they likely to visit, and have you optimized these pages for conversions? The language of your web pages plays a major factor here: at the very least, your web content should be localized to your target audience’s spoken languages.

For example, visitors to the French version of the From Future website will view the fashion retailer’s checkout pages in French:

From Future French checkout page

In addition, if you’re running PPC ads for your ecommerce business, you can improve the checkout experience – and hence your conversion rate – by taking steps such as:

  • Removing unnecessary form fields to keep your checkout form as easy to fill out as possible.
  • Displaying your prices in your target audience’s native currency.
  • Letting users save their credit card and shipping information for future purchases.

6. Monitor your campaigns

PPC campaigns shouldn’t be something you set up once and forget. Instead, keep a close eye on your ads’ conversion rates to see if they’re bringing in enough value compared to the amount you’re spending to run them. And since you can modify your PPC campaigns anytime and have your changes take effect immediately, make use of this opportunity to refine your ads for the greatest return on investment.

For example, you can update:

  • Your ad copy and creatives: Test different headlines, copy, and calls to action to find the combinations that compel people to click your ads the most.
  • Target keywords: If your ads on certain keywords aren’t getting many clicks, you may want to stop targeting those keywords. To do so, set up these keywords as “negative keywords” for which the advertising platform should not display your ads.
  • CPC bid: Budget permitting, increasing your maximum CPC bid can improve your ads’ visibility and drive more traffic to your website.

And here’s a top PPC management tip! If you haven’t already done so, separate your campaigns by country or region. Doing so lets you not only run more targeted campaigns for each geographical segment but also adjust your CPC bids separately for each campaign and optimize your advertising budget.

Ready to launch your international PPC campaigns?

The idea behind international PPC campaigns is simple: set up your ads and state how much you’re willing to pay for every ad click. The advertising platform then helps put you in front of your target market. It’s the perfect marketing strategy for businesses that want to reach an international audience quickly and without too much upfront investment. The flexibility of PPC campaigns also means you can adjust them on the fly to lower your CPC and get the most conversions for your advertising budget.

Of course, there’s still homework to be done upfront, such as identifying your target markets and keywords, and writing your ad copy and website landing pages. The latter task can be especially challenging if you want to run PPC ads in various countries and need to create ad collateral in multiple languages. However, using a website translation solution like Weglot means you can instantly translate your website into the languages you want. 

With the help of machine translation technology, Weglot translates and displays your whole website, including any landing pages planned specifically for ad campaigns. All the translations are stored in a central Weglot dashboard for your convenient fine-tuning and localization before use. 

It’s free to start using Weglot to translate your website – all you need to do is to sign up for an account here.

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