Language in International PPC : Rose By Any Other Spelling May Smell Sweeter

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Everyone knows – though many fail to use – misspelled keywords in their PPC or organic search optimization efforts can be very effective. Interestingly I have found that many major players in our field tend to forget this process when they start to do any kind of multilingual or foreign country marketing.

I will admit that I have been guilty of this as well, but recently discovered just how much traffic this can bring.

Misspelling in International Campaigns

What we have to realize is that many people in other countries may search in English, but too often they misspell or even miss use grammar when doing it. I always include English words in all multilingual PPC efforts, but in a recent effort to grab more traffic I started using misspells.

Surprise, surprise – in many cases I was getting more searches for them than the correct spelling.

It makes sense though, you hear it when you talk to someone who is using English as a second language.

Phonetics and PPC

The other area many people do not consider but is a goldmine are phonetics. More than just misspells, we need to be aware of the way other people spell out our words. You see it all the time in English language forums where people wanting to learn come and slowly write in a foreign language to them. They sound out the words and place them in the order they are used to in their own language.

Multiple word keywords are particularly good for this approach. The scope is endless and as I slowly test new ideas about this I am finding plenty of traffic.


The other part is to be aware of this when creating landing pages for them. Keep the copy simple – avoid the tendency to use niched industry terms and try and write using a very simple vocabulary. You are not writing down to them, you are actually helping them understand your site.

Just like when we were learning that compulsory language as kids, we tended to grab the words and use them as we would our own language. Keep that in mind and you will be rewarded with new and happy visitors who have a tendency to click more through a site they find accessible.

The next area I plan on testing is the use of combined languages. My recent trip to Amsterdam and Beirut – two countries that use multiple langauges has shown me that many people use a combination of languages when trying to communicate with non-local speakers. Exactly how I may pull this one off is a discussion for another article.

The guest post is by Frank Watson of KangamurraMedia (Paid Search Assistance) – follow Frank on Twitter!

Frank Watson
Frank works with sweetiQ developing local marketing tips and guides for location-based marketers
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  • All good tips Frank! Being a former English Teacher in Japan, I’ve been exposed to the common misspellings and dependency on phoetics when trying to spell or write a word.

    Understanding local phoetics is also very important. Japanese being a phoenetic language breaks out word characters in specific syllables. Ka-Ke-Ku-Ke-Ko … etc.

    So, a search for “Forex” by a Japanese searcher could be entered as “Fo-Re-Ku-Tsu”

    Likewise, not all countries are limited to their own citizens or native language speakers.

    A Brazilian living in Japan will search using English, broken English, or Portuguese.

    A Lebonese living in the UK will search using different forms of queries.

    An American living in Russia and searching Rambler will make misspellings in Russian.

    You’ve started a great conversation and I’m looking forward to future posts!

  • Good points Frank, I just wish there was more in the way of keyword tools once you step outside of the well-trodden English circles. Working in the Russian market, we’ve had to develop everything in house for our keyword research – and there is a lot left to do.

    Misspellings are on the list though!

  • Brilliant points that are often missed…

  • This was a really great post. I wrote something similar a few weeks ago about breaking out campaigns by country and watching for how each county spells something. This takes my post up a notch and given me some ideas for international campaigns.


  • Taking Loren’s comment: Brazil has more lebaneses living here than Lebanon itself, did you know that?
    Did you also know that Brazilian portuguese has 3 different expressions to define a tangerine, depending what region you live within the country? And the brazilian slang for a gay person (“bicha”) means “line” (as people are in line to enter the cinema) in Portugal, where you also speaks portuguese?
    Plus: Argentina and Mexico – both spanish speaking countries – have different ways to say “rent an apartment”.
    I wouldn’t bother buying english keywords in LatAm, unless the right ones, used on daily basis in each country.
    Can you handle this? No, International PPC without local assistance is really a guessing effort which takes time and often money.

  • Good point Marcelo… which makes misspells so more appropriate

  • Frank, you’re a genius. I’d add that forum terms can be effective, from personal experience. Particularly when you write copy recognizing that they’re pros in the field, which is what jargon users tend to be/consider themselves.

  • Great tool for adding spelling mistakes on your keywords:

  • Hey Frank, very interesting post. We do a lot of i18n development and it is interesting to note the trouble phonetic language speakers have with English spelling at times. German and Spanish are more examples of phonetic languages.

    Foreign people are aghast when they hear that we English speakers don’t learn grammar at school! On the other hand it’s a new concept to some that we have to actively learn spelling at school! Hee hee.

    Misspellings have lost value in organic results from what they had. Google not only now kind of corrects your misspellings and pushes the “what we think you want” pages to the top of your results, but also at times entirely ignores what you typed and searches on what it thinks you want (very frustrating when you genuinely typed what you wanted correctly!).

    Not to say they have no value of course. But sometimes it’s really painful for a perfectionist English speaker to try and fit misspellings in on a web page. I think most perfectionists and fellow copyrighters will know what I’m talking about.


  • trebuchet

    So what do you do once you’re account has been slapped with QS decreases if advertising on Google due to the perceived non relevancy of your misspellings? Is there a specific tactic or strategy that you use to make sense of which misspellings may be unnecessary or harming your accounts performance?

  • If you have then in a separate campaign and small ad groups you can do okay since the words have little CTR