How to Avoid an International PPC Incident

Nobody said that international diplomacy was easy. And that truth applies not only to politics but also international PPC.

Just when you’ve mastered the PPC campaigns of your U.S. headquartered client account, they give you authorization to implement campaigns for their international divisions.

Which is awesome! But also scary—especially if you haven’t crossed international PPC borders before.

In this post, I’ll give you four potential blunders to watch out for in international PPC—blunders that can unwittingly lead to an international PPC incident.

international PPC

1. Consider Language Targeting

The best practice for overseas campaigns is to have ads and landing pages in the language of local users. So if you’re running a campaign in Germany, for example, ads should have German-language text and click through to German-language landing pages.

Sounds simple, right? You set up your ads and landing pages in German, and you’re done.

Well, no. Because what if someone in Germany searches for your product in English? Which isn’t uncommon, especially for high-tech products and services where lines between different languages blur.

To account for that kind of situation, you need to create an English version of the same campaign and target English as the language instead of German—while running the ads in Germany.

For more on language targeting, take a look at the AdWords help files Language Targeting and About Language Targeting.

Of course once you have all these campaigns in place, it’s not unusual for clients to spot them and think that they’re duplicates. But they’re not, of course. Both versions are important for campaign success.

2. Make Sure International Sales Teams Are Sufficiently Staffed

One of our clients supports ten languages on their website. Ten!

They initially wanted ten corresponding ads and landing pages for each language. But during our discovery phase, we learned that the bulk of their business was coming from four language areas. So we started by developing a robust campaign for those four, with scaled down versions for the remaining six.

After a few months, we discovered that one of the “secondary” campaigns was pulling in lots of leads, and the client was eager to ramp up our PPC activities in that area. But when we talked with the sales manager of that division, we learned that they were unable to keep up with the existing volume of leads, never mind adding more.

Granted, this is a good problem to have! Our response was to add text to the landing page that conveyed a slightly longer wait time for salesperson response. This bought the sales team the time they needed to increase the size of their sales force so they could tackle leads in a more timely fashion.

The moral of this story is that you can’t assume that every international division will have the boots on the ground necessary to leverage successful PPC campaigns. And this is something you need to consider when rolling out internationally.

3. Don’t Make Any Assumptions

Let’s continue with the theme of international divisions not having the same resources as U.S. headquartered divisions. Often this lack of resources manifests in ways beyond short-staffed sales teams.

When international divisions are stretched for resources, we often find communication (and responsiveness) a challenge. Sometimes PPC initiatives are given a lower priority. Sometimes differing holiday schedules lead to bottlenecks. Sometimes it takes time to track down the best people to communicate with.

But whatever the reason, you can expect to put more time and effort into following up and communicating with international divisions. Ultimately, as a PPC agency, it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone’s on board and knows what’s going on. You can’t rely on the U.S. headquarters to pass along all your discussions, decisions and plans to their international divisions.

And you can’t assume that international divisions will do things the same way they do them at headquarters.

It’s for these reasons that we recommend treating international divisions of U.S. headquartered accounts as new PPC clients. Not making any assumptions at the outset can save you a lot of hassle and angst down the road.

4. Expect a Shift From Branded to Non-Branded

Your U.S. headquartered division—with its long history and brand power—will probably do well with branded campaigns.

But the situation might be very different for international divisions. If an international division was only established a couple years ago, it likely won’t have the same brand recognition. And as a result, you’ll need to allocate more of your budget to non-branded campaigns internationally.

In some cases, you’ll find that branding is all over the place internationally, with no guidelines in place. If that’s the case, it’s up to you and your marketing team to create those guidelines to ensure consistency.

After all, nobody wants to see different colors, logos and messaging used around the globe—unless it’s a conscious, strategic decision.

So save yourself from getting embroiled in an international incident. When rolling out international campaigns, leave what you think you know at the border.