1. SEJ
  2.  ⋅ 
  3. PPC

Market Research for International PPC Success

International PPC can be difficult, performance often falls below expectations. Research these key areas to ensure you're equipped for success!


International advertising is more than just translating campaign components into new languages and changing targeting settings. International paid search advertising in particular is even more complicated given that we are directly replying to search queries in different languages, cultures, and economies. In-fact, simply translating campaigns that were initially built for US geo-targets may be the biggest mistake I see advertisers make when moving into international markets. Well…this and simply applying international geo-targets to existing campaigns written in English. It’s just not that simple guys.

Before setting up your campaigns, or even beginning your keyword research, there are some key pieces of market research you must carry out first. These can really make or break your international campaigns and keep you from wasting resources on marketing efforts that don’t pan out. Here are a few specific areas of investigation that will help you localize your campaigns for success.

Search Behavior

Search behavior differs by country, region, and culture with differences in device choice, search engine choice, and keywords length used to search. For example, did you realize that according to mobiThinking, 30 percent of the world’s mobile users live in India and China? This is a huge percentage of mobile users, so a mobile strategy may be vital to your expansion strategy into these markets.

What about alternate search engines? Do you know about Eniro in Sweden? What about Navar in South Korea? There are a multitude of search engines out there. Google isn’t the heavy hitter in every market. Many of these engines have their own pay per click ad platforms, some of which back fill with Google AdWords, while others stand on their own two feet completely. Know your options; know the people’s choice in each market.

Online Buying Behavior

Online buying behavior is easy in the US, we love eCommerce. Sure, there are still some people who don’t trust their financial info on the web. I’m altogether too trusting when it comes to this I’m sure, but for the most part we’re all about buying online in this country.

What about other countries? Not every culture is as comfortable with this as American’s are and in some countries there are additional barriers to consider. One good example of this I had to learn the hard way while running a campaign in Brazil. The Brazilian economy doesn’t support large credit backed transactions. Brazilians are open to purchasing online, but in order to make most purchases they have to use more than one credit card. Use of multiple credit cards with small balances is a regular and accepted part of the Brazilian economy and payment terms are often referred to as x2 or x3.

Had I known this when I started my campaigns, I would have included this language in my ad copy and advised my client to include it on their landing pages to ensure I was giving the target audience payment terms they were comfortable with. Instead, I spun my wheels for months trying to figure out why my campaigns were under performing in terms of online conversions but my call volumes were high.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences are probably the most obvious area of research when you sit down and think about it. Do people in Japan or the UK know what Black Friday is? What about Cyber Monday? People in these markets may know what these major commerce days are, but they do something different. European culture has January Sales that start around the same time the major US holiday shopping season, mid-November. It would be a real bummer to run your eCommerce holiday campaigns advertising Black Friday sales in the UK when users are actually looking for January Sales events.

Another good example of a cultural difference is in how people in different countries speaking the same language use different terms to describe the same thing. The classic example is mac and cheese in the US vs. Kraft dinner in Canada. If you advertise coupons for mac and cheese in Canada, you probably won’t do as well as if you were to use the correct terminology for the target market: Kraft dinner.

The same phenomenon is seen with tennis shoes in the US vs. trainers in the UK. We’re speaking English in both markets and we’re talking about the same item, but cultural differences cause us to refer to them in different ways.

Socioeconomic Market Segmentation

Pay per click advertising uses market segmentation and personas just like any other advertising medium. These have to be created specific to each culture or market due to differences in income, occupation, and education, as well as other indicators such as lifestyle, price sensitivity, and brand preference.

Different brands have holds in different markets; a 28 yr. old woman in Mexico will have different interests, responsibilities, and societal expectations than a 28 yr. old woman in Japan. Thus these two women will respond differently to different messaging and will search differently.

These four areas are very important to research and account for in your international search campaigns. Of course, there are additional items to consider like rules and regulations specific to the country you are targeting, language and location settings within your tools, international competitors, barriers to market, and others. But if you start with a good foundation of research in these areas you are better equipped for a successful international PPC campaign.

What research do you conduct before starting your international campaigns? Share with us in the comments!

Category PPC
Heather Cooan Paid Advertising Manager at Infusionsoft

Heather Cooan is Paid Advertising Manager at Infusionsoft. Heather is a regular writer and speaker on topics digital advertising topics ...

Market Research for International PPC Success

Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Conquer your day with daily search marketing news.