PPC is a cost-effective way to reach your preferred target audience. But when your campaigns span across countries, cultures and languages it can present a significant challenge. Running a successful international PPC campaign involves tailoring a wide range of factors for each and every region targeted. But everyone loves a challenge, right?

We certainly do at Fifty Five and Five—and our teams have a lot of experience and expertise working on large international PPC campaigns for some of the world’s biggest technology companies. We wanted to share some advice to help you succeed with your own paid media efforts.

We sat down with Maria Angelino, Fifty Five and Five’s original PPC superstar—just days before she heads off on maternity leave (good luck, we’re going to miss you)—and explored what to consider when running campaigns across multiple countries. Maria highlighted four tips you cannot afford to ignore. We’ll cover:

  • Why research is so important
  • Why you need to think locally as well as globally
  • Why search engine market share is important
  • Why PPC cost variation can catch you out if you’re not careful

1. Research is everything

The first thing Maria tells me: “You really need to stress that international PPC means a lot of research, research is everything—the reader might not like to hear that, so say it nicely. Make sure you tell them that it’s 100% worth it. Because it really is.”

Paid media is a fantastic way to reach your target audience and direct their attention to your products and services. In a HubSpot poll of 1000+ marketing professionals, 79% of respondents said that they rely heavily on paid advertising and social media. And 83% said that quality is more important than quantity.

We are highlighting this because it gets right to the core of what’s required for international PPC. It can be tempting to publish the same ads all around the world when you have a deadline. I mean, the copy is great, it’s been translated into all the respective languages, and you just want to get your ads out to all your target regions as soon as possible.

With so many businesses like yours relying on paid media, using similar keywords and targeting the same c-suite professionals on LinkedIn, your ads need to stand out. We’re talking quality in terms of genuinely nailing the nuances that come with the differences in language, culture, and user activity/behaviour of such a diverse world.

What we want to achieve is a little intimacy, like your ads are helpful friends solving specific pain points and nudging the customer towards your products. And this won’t work if you’re sloppy—for instance, using a colloquial term that makes no sense abroad or publishing on LinkedIn during a public holiday. Ideally, you need to approach each region with the care you would if it was its own campaign—and put in the hours of research accordingly.

2. Every global citizen is a local one too

Continuing from the previous point, it’s essential to put yourself in the shoes of the target audience. These people are not vague abstract dots on a screen. They are real people, living and breathing the cultures of the countries they are located in. So, it’s crucial to know your target audience inside out – what they’re searching for (and how) – and to tailor ads successfully.

Some of this may seem obvious: language, spelling, and time zones. But these things still take research and then careful execution to get right. Others can be more complex. Keyword research for every region is essential. Search queries don’t just vary by language; the wording will differ between regions, users might prefer different devices, and user intent can vary. Keywords must be localised for each region of your campaign.

Let’s take Europe as an example. Europe is made up of lots of close neighbours that each have different cultures, languages, backgrounds. Every country has their own way of interacting with ads. For instance at Fifty Five and Five Maria has noticed that, compared to likeminded demographics in other countries, German professionals are more concerned with data privacy issues and are less likely to give out data easily. So, lead generation campaigns might be less successful in Germany. So, trying a different approach and adjusting the budget or changing your expectations and how you measure success is key.

3. Take search engine market share into account

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that in every country people use search engines and social media platforms their own way. They don’t just use different platforms, but similar demographics might use the same platform in subtly unique ways, e.g. an HR exec in Bulgaria may react differently to one in the United States. And, of course, each platform varies in popularity wherever you are, i.e. the search engine market share will be spread differently across regions.

Therefore, which platform you focus your ad budget on is vital. It will be different for every country, and you’ll only find out by trial and error or – to save some time and a lot of budget – by conducting your own research. In many cases it will involve small tweaks. With LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, and Facebook, proving to be the most popular generally. For B2B campaigns targeting professional people, you would go to LinkedIn for campaigns in North America, the UK, and most of Europe. But this is not the case worldwide, for instance, it will be more useful to run ads on a search engine like Baidu in China or a social platform like Naver in South Korea.

Trends might be similar but it’s getting to grip with the subtle differences that takes your campaigns to the next level, results-wise. This might just mean getting over the biases of your own culture. That’s why paid media specialists who have experience in running international campaigns know this better than anyone else. If they have been getting results it’s because they step out of their heads, out of their own cultures, and more importantly put in the hard work when researching.

4. Don’t forget PPC cost variation

Now on to cost. This one did surprise me.

Maria: “PPC costs more in certain countries so you have to adjust….”

Me: “Really?”

Maria: ”Of course. When we run campaigns in North America it costs more than in the UK.”

Me: “How come?”

Maria: “It’s going to cost more to target the c-suite in the US because everyone is doing it. There’s more competition. Also, there are complexities between different states that can make it tricky too. What’s more, your clicks are going to cost you more if you set certain goals and target certain audiences in certain countries.”

So, the variation in cost for PPC across countries and regions can be significant. To run a campaign in North America you have to consider a higher pay per click, for instance. In fact, you are going to be paying a premium cost.

Platforms are priced differently too, and this is also tied to who you are targeting and where they are based. As Maria summarises: “A good rule is that LinkedIn is expensive. Google is cheap.” But this doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other. It depends on your goals and on your budget. For certain roles within particular industries, it is going to cost more, but the results will probably be worth it. But you also cannot assume that one region will outperform another and push less of your budget in that direction. It’s a balancing act between PPC cost, performance, and how you are going to measure success.

First you need to have clearly defined goals and understand the expectations of all stakeholders. Then it’s only with the right research that you will find creative ways to optimise your budget for PPC cost variation.

Make international PPC work for you

So those are our four tips for making international PPC a success. Why not try them out and let us know how you get on? As PPC superstar and soon-to-be supermom Maria says: “The most important thing is to do your research properly. No ifs or buts.”

Want to get measurable results from PPC? At Fifty Five and Five we help companies to grow their business, drive brand awareness and achieve their marketing goals. And we run international PPC campaigns for some of the world’s largest technology companies, navigating all the tricky nuances outlined above.

To learn more about our paid media services and how Fifty Five and Five can help you run successful international PPC campaigns, get in contact with our team or go to our services page to learn more.