Bid Optimization for International PPC: Tips for the Enterprising Software Vendor

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Way back in 2017, I taught English in Israel to a gaggle of elementary and middle school students.

These kids struggled for weeks with the word “night” but were more than familiar with “night vision goggles.” The common roots were lost on them, and the latter was somehow more commonplace in their minds.

I walked away from this experience with the understanding that language is strange and confusing and that the things that matter to a specific country go beyond the linguistic and into the cultural.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re planning to launch an international pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to generate more leads abroad.

Without clear knowledge of the nuance of local languages, cultures, and business practices, it can be a struggle for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) to know whether or not they’re optimizing their international PPC bids.

Header illustration for "Bid Optimization for International PPC: Tips for the Enterprising Software Vendor"

When I talk about optimizing bids, on a surface level I’m talking about getting the most bang for your buck.

But let’s take a deep dive into what that really entails, because the specifics go far beyond the fiscal.

Nuance is the key to quality clicks when it comes to translation

Sit back and think of a carbonated drink.

Depending on where you’re from, you might have thought “pop” or “soda” or even “Coke” (looking at you, Atlanta). This is an example of localization: how linguistic specifics vary by region.

Localization matters because if you’re advertising in a specific region but using the wrong term, it’ll alienate you from your leads.

4 ways to address localization concerns


  1. Translation software. These systems can range from cheap to costly, and the efficacy of what they can do varies accordingly. If you have little capital, you can opt for a cheaper system, but the text will most likely not be localized.
  2. Translation services. Though more costly than translation software, this option lets you actively communicate with translators to adjust your content until it’s where you want it to be.
  3. Partner with local marketing companies. This carries all the benefits of translation services but can be more cost effective and brings insight into marketing in specific regions. It’s worth nothing, however, that you might not be able to communicate with potential partners effectively because of language barriers and timezone differences. Also, certain marketing companies might want to be your sole partner for an entire country, rendering your localization ineffective.
  4. Hire PPC managers. This is the costliest but ultimately most effective of these four options. Not only is it these managers’ job to know the local language, it’s also their job to know how to effectively market in the regions you’re targeting. They streamline this entire process, but they do eat into your profits.

Ensure high-quality clicks with longtail keywords

Longtail keywords are the holy grail of SEO and PPC campaigns. They’re three to four words long and specific enough that, though they generate less traffic, it’s higher-quality traffic.

Higher-quality traffic brings leads who are more likely to click through to your ads and become eventual customers, as their queries are more closely aligned with your product.

That means that you have to nail your client’s search intent, which in a foreign language can be really challenging. The four translation options listed above can help, but if none of those work for you or your business, you’re not out of luck!

5 tricks to helP you identify your most relevant longtail keywords


  1. Take a look at your local competition. How is their product used? How are they seen? What exactly do their clients use their software as a solution for?
  2. Study your competition’s marketing campaigns. How do they sell themselves? How do their customers find them?
  3. Analyze click frequency for various longtail keywords to see which are the most selected in specific fields.
  4. Use query reports once you’ve started experimenting with your text to see both your negative keywords and what possible searches led people to click on your ad.
  5. Be aware of character limits in foreign languages, especially ones that use other alphabets.

Think beyond the link

Getting leads to click on your link is only half the battle in a PPC campaign. You also have to make the appropriate adjustments to your landing page and your calls to action (CTAs).

As much attention as you paid to the copy of your ad itself, you must also apply to the content on your landing page.

Images maintain a universal appeal across language barriers but can seriously hinder your loading time. According to MachMetrics, 53% of users will click away if a landing page takes longer than three seconds to load.

CTAs are particularly tricky, as it’s hard to determine what information particular regions are comfortable providing. This, however, is less of a translation issue and more of a cultural one.

Embrace the cultural zeitgeist when developing your PPC campaign

Here is where things get a little less literal (and literary). To effectively market, you have to know who you’re marketing to, what matters to them, and how other products are marketed.

“[L]anguage goes beyond the words—it’s about culture,” according to Lazhar Ichir, CEO of tropicseed.com, a digital marketing and brand management platform.

Ichir expanded his company into both Spain and Germany and initially attempted to translate the same copy into both using low-cost translation software. When that didn’t work, he changed tactics:

“German ads performed better with a more imperative copy while Spanish ads did well with exclamations and expletives.”

This is where international buyer personas can come in handy.

These personas can include information such as “who typically makes the business decisions” and “when are typical working hours,” as well as “do they make business decisions on websites or on mobile sites?”

Personas can inform how you direct your marketing, what blocks of time you focus on placing your heavier bids for different keywords, and how you design your landing page.

How does advertising and branding work in your target country?

There are two important components to this question: how marketing typically functions in your target country, and how your brand is perceived there.

For the former, bear in mind the numerous PPC channels that are used in this country. Not every nation ranks Google Adwords at the number one spot.

This is something that a PPC manager and local marketing teams can help you with.

It’s also incredibly important to adapt your marketing strategy toward both what works in that country and what matters to the people in that country.

Here’s a real world example: Sony took the superhero movie Venom, billed as an action film in the United States, and marketed it as a romantic comedy in China.

Bid optimization is all about the romance.

A far cry from American advertisements (Source)

The result? An opening weekend in China of $111 million, and an overall box office of over $850 million, making it one of the most profitable movies of 2018.

The lesson here is to study the marketing and cultural trends of the country you want to launch your campaign in to have the most effective copy possible.

PPC is used as a means of generating growth rather than establishing a presence, so presumably you already have some sort of presence established in the country you are targeting.

This means that the query reports mentioned earlier can provide a strong understanding of who your potential customers see you as and what they associate with your product and brand. From there, you can either lean into this perception or act against it with your PPC campaign.

Pay attention to how much you’re spending, but don’t let budget stop you

I’ve already written about using a flexible budget with your PPC campaigns. This can be even more important when focusing on bid optimization for an international PPC campaign.

Lazhar Ichir came to his realization about different buyer personalities in Spain and Germany after testing out different types of keywords. He used a flexible budget to ensure the freedom to play around, and it paid off.

Ichir and TropicSeed began by:

“Testing several creatives and copies and remov[ing] underperforming ones. On Facebook and other obvious social networks […] we increased the CTR by ~25% using the domestic language. And then, after changing the copy multiple times to fit the local culture and energy, it was an additional 15%.”

The lesson here? Be prepared to spend a little more as you hone in on your best keywords and copy.

As a final note, be sure to pay attention to the fluctuations in the exchange rate between your native currency and that of your product’s new home. Otherwise, your bids will be either too big or too small, neither of which is a good place to be if you want to succeed.

Looking for Vendor Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Vendor Management software solutions.

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About the Author

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Adam Rosenthal

Adam Rosenthal is a Senior Specialist Analyst covering Vendor Marketing. He received his Masters from the University of Chicago and worked on several TV shows you might have heard of.

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