Three Considerations for International Expansion

Taylor Carmines / 16th April 2019 / Comment

Let’s say you’ve been running text ad campaigns targeting the entire United States for a while now, performance has been steady, and you have some extra budget availableWhat’s an enterprising SEM account manager to do? If you’re advertising a product or service that is available to consumers regardless of where they’re located, you might be interested in exploring the prospect of international expansion.

To Expand or Not to Expand

The decision to expand your horizons and run paid search ads targeting users outside of your “normal” targeting regions will depend heavily on what exactly it is you’re advertising. If you’re selling tangible products that need to be shipped to customers upon purchase, your ability to advertise to users abroad will hinge upon whether you (or your customers) can incur the added cost and time of shipping products internationally.

However, if you’re advertising products that can be purchased and used regardless of the user’s location (think software, ebooks, or tickets), theoretically you can advertise to anyone so long as they are interested in purchasing what you have to offer.

Things to Consider:

You’ve decided you want to start advertising premium event tickets to anyone online that’s searching for them. Fantastic! Before you go updating your campaign targeting settings to ‘Everywhere’, there are a few things you’ll want to consider and research first.

1. Language and Localization

Even between English-speaking countries, slight differences in spelling and vocabulary can make your non-localized ads stand out like a sore thumb. Without careful consideration of how they might need to be adjusted to “fit in” with the targeted area. You’ll want to make sure that currency, addresses, and phone numbers are still relevant to the market you’ll be targeting. If users in France are seeing the call extension for your US-based phone number, that won’t be a positive experience with your brand. You’ll also want to make sure your phone line is either open 24/7, or your extension is scheduled to serve only during operating hours.

If you’re looking to run text ads and keywords in an area where the primary language is different than that of your home country, it goes without saying that it’s advisable to work with a professional translation service (or in a pinch, a native speaker you know and trust) when it comes to reliably translating your keywords, ad copy, and landing page content. Although Google Translate has come an impressively long way over the years, it can still fall short of providing accurate, natural translations.

Because localization and translation of ads, keywords, and landing pages is essential, you will likely not want to go all-in and immediately begin serving ads in every other country; you’ll want to take a calculated approach, likely starting out with just a few new countries or regions. One way to get an idea of where you might want to expand into is by checking out your site’s traffic by country in Google Analytics. This can help provide insight into whether people are reaching your site from countries you might not expect. If people are finding your site organically in a country, it’s likely that there is a market for what your company provides. Unless your company has carried out extensive branding efforts, note that you will not likely see the same level of performance from brand keywords as in your traditional region.

2. Scope Out the Competition

You’re probably already aware of tried-and-true research tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, but another helpful way to gain insight into the competitive landscape abroad is by using the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool. One feature of this tool is the ability to change your location, domain, and browser language settings, effectively allowing you to view SERPs as they appear in various locations around the world. Are other advertisers running English-language ads, or are they translated into the local language? Are ads even being served for queries of your most important keywords?

Though the Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool is probably most often used for looking at paid results, it’s also worth examining how the organic listings differ in the new location. It could be you already have a strong organic ranking for key brand or non-brand queries in that location which could impact your decision on whether it’s beneficial to launch paid campaigns abroad.

3. Same Products, Different Currency

Running a Shopping campaign in a different country can be a quick way to achieve incremental scale without having to worry as much about keyword and copy translation, but just remember that you’ll need to import a new feed with the appropriate currency and shipping rates applied. You should also review if your prices are still competitive with those offered by other advertisers in your new market. It could be that higher shipping rates make your product less appealing to users in France than buying from a domestically-based advertiser.

All of these points can be boiled down to one thing: customer experience. Ensuring your messaging is positive and clear, understanding your competition, and making sure pricing is competitive and consistent from ad to payment are all essential considerations. International expansion is a great way for your company to reach new customers, but your success will depend on whether you’ve carefully planned and strategized your approach to giving international customers the same quality experience that your local customers receive.

By Taylor Carmines