Going Global: Expanding into International PPC

This is a toolbox post written to give our webinar participants an opportunity to dive deeper into the content presented. This toolbox post is supporting our recent webinar with “Going Global: Expanding into International PPC”, presented by Point It’s Director of Paid Search, Maddie Cary. Did you know that companies still set up spray & pray international PPC campaigns? Stop the madness! It’s time to be better marketers. It’s time to start setting up international campaigns with actual international consumers in mind. For any advertiser considering expanding their PPC program globally, you need to ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Where should you do international PPC?
  • What do international consumers expect?
  • When do international consumers convert?
  • How can you create a successful international PPC program


When trying to decide what markets to first start running PPC in, it may feel like you’re just blindly throwing a dart at a globe. There are a lot of options to consider, including:

  • What countries & languages should I target?
  • Which search engines should I run in (Google, Bing, or international publishers like Naver, Baidu, Yandex, Yahoo Japan…)
  • Which channels should I test first (PPC? Display? Social?)
  • What tactic should I deploy (Text ads? Shopping campaigns? Dynamic ad formats?)

Whatever you decide, it’s important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. You can’t approach international PPC like it’s the US with a fun language twist. Each market has its own languages, behaviors, customs, and preferences that need to be factored into your paid search strategy.As you first begin determining where to start expanding, keep in mind 3 key principles:Visual-1So, where should you run paid search campaigns? Let’s ask ourselves some questions:

  • Can you provide products & services in that market?
    • Yes? Great! Focus on lower-funnel, high intent keywords to drive best CPA or ROI.
    • No? Can’t deliver? Can’t sell? Some sort of roadblock? International PPC may not be right move
  • Do you have localized landing experiences?
    • Yes? You’re off to strong start. Ideally, you have LPs or separate sites per geo & language
    • No? Can’t build them? Then you’re going to drive a pretty poor experience for international searchers. Maybe you don’t want to build them until you know what markets you want to target. It’s a little cart before the horse, but can be workable.
  • Is your brand already well known in that market?
    • Use Google Trends to examine search interest per market, review search trend charts, and even dive into related searchers and top queries in relation to your brand
  • What engines can you launch in and continually optimize?
    • Some engines require a local contact to buy media. Others have interfaces & tools which aren’t offered in English. Below is a breakdown of some top international search engines how much market share they have over Google, and their levels of difficulty:



Anytime you launch a search campaign, you need to know your audience. Don’t run PPC that leaves international searchers shaking their head in disbelief. Not only is it detrimental to your change at conversion, but impacts how your brand is viewed around the world. Consider some key factors when tailoring your tactics to meet what global searchers expect of online advertisers:

  • How do they prefer to pay?Each country’s population has a preferred way to pay. Below are just a few examples:Visual-3
  • What kind of shipping do they expect?

Do shoppers in the country look for 24-hour turn-around? Guaranteed free shipping? Minimum purchase amounts? What does the country’s Amazon presentation look like? That may gave you an idea of how the country has adopted a Free Shipping mentality for their online purchases.

  • What devices do you they expect to find you on?Markets like Spain, Singapore, and Japan have unique mobile user populations above 85%. The Asia-Pacific has more than 1 billion smartphone users, and for a majority of that group, that mobile phone is their only device. Don’t rule out certain device targeting because it didn’t work for you in your US campaigns. Consider each international market’s device interaction and mobile usage rate before you launch new campaigns.


Don’t miss out on high conversion windows in the markets you’re targeting outside the US. Not every country goes wild with online purchasing during Black Friday/Cyber Monday. But there are important online holidays and seasonal periods you should be marking on your PPC calendar if you run international paid search campaigns.

  • What are some international online holidays?Below is a list of some important online international shopping holidays to plan for in your PPC activities:
    • Singles’ Day (early Nov) – China
    • Buen Fin (mid-Nov) – Mexico
    • Click Frenzy (mid-Nov) – AU & NZ
    • Black Friday/Cyber Monday (end of Nov/early Dec) – US, CA, UK, growing in AU, FR, DE
    • Cyber Monday (mid-Dec) – Japan
    • Boxing Day (Dec 26th) – UK, CA, AU, some Western EU, markets with British influence
  • When do people start searching (and purchasing) online for holiday?People are holiday shopping online earlier every year, with search trends indicating purchase behavior starts picking up now at the very start of November. In markets with high Black Friday/Cyber Monday activity, a large percentage of sales actually occur on the Wednesday & Thursday (Thanksgiving) before, as advertisers roll out their promotions sooner each year.

Visual-4It’s also important for e-commerce paid search marketers to be ready for a dramatic conversion drop-off after the shipping window closes as people move to purchasing gifts offline in order to get gifts in time for Christmas.

  • When is the country’s back to school period?Another active online purchasing season is back to school. But not all markets start buying books, backpacks, and laptops at the same time, since they don’t all follow the US school schedule:Visual-5
  • What hemisphere are you targeting?Don’t forget to factor in hemisphere differences when considering time of day, promo times,and even seasonal ad messaging! For example, when it’s 10AM EST in the US during Spring, it’s 3AM in Sydney, AU during their Autumn.


The big question! After you’ve checked off the boxed for the previous questions we just walked through, a long-term successful global PPC program ultimately depends on how you model it. Will you use a decentralized or centralized model? Which one is right for your company? Let’s use an example to layout the two options.Let’s say you’re an e-commerce apparel company. You have over 100,000 SKUs per product category, so you break your PPC marketing team into business groups per apparel type. You have your US teams per business group, but you’ve started expanding internationally, so now you have PPC business group teams in the UK as well. If your number of business groups and targeted markets is fairly small, this model can work (as shown below). But you want to build a model that can be scaled successfully.Visual-6Let’s say you want to build an international marketing program across 10+ business groups. You now also have online stores for 10+ markets, and you’re planning to build sites for more countries in the next year. All of a sudden, that decentralized model is an unruly, siloed beast:Visual-7This model doesn’t scale long-term because it doesn’t support on-going international growth. Communication becomes siloed, and knowledge & best practice sharing is either limited or practically non-existent. Deploying agile, larger-scale campaigns across all markets is very challenging. Most importantly, individual teams will likely set their own goals and monitor their results in a vacuum, without there being a central owner to help regulate how each market program is rolling up to an overall company performance goal.Instead, consider a centralized international PPC program model, with a singular team overseeing multi-market paid search activities. The team will have shared goals and a shared mission, and market accounts will actually perform better because learnings are more quickly shared across campaign owners. This will set you up for scalable, efficient revenue growth globally.Visual-8Not convinced? Check out our Point It case study on how we won a US Search Award for building a centralized model for our largest international client.


It can’t, and a good PPC marketer knows that. It’s critical that you set up your PPC campaigns and online experiences that create trust with international searchers – if you can’t do that, you lose them (and that conversion opportunity).


What challenges have you experienced when running international PPC? Share in the comments or share with us on Twitter @MaddieMarketer & @point_it!
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Maddie Cary About the author

Maddie Cary is the Director of Paid Search at Point It Digital Marketing in Seattle. Her role involves overseeing and developing an amazing team of PPC account managers, while also running the Global SEM Program for Point It’s largest client. In 2015, she won the US Search Award for “Young Search Professional”. You can find her speaking & learning at conferences like SMX, HeroConf, & PubCon, or writing posts for the Wordstream blog. Outside of PPC, her biggest loves are her family, friends, and her idol, Queen Beyoncé.

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