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8 Tips To Build Successful International SEM Campaigns

By Liz Elting

Search Engine Land – November 22, 2011

As the majority of online searches are in languages other than English, it’s important to understand how businesses can benefit from search marketing and approach search campaigns in international markets. Marketers can follow these tips to improve their international search engine marketing strategies.

1. Pick Humans Over Machines
The pressure to produce a successful, multilingual pay-per-click (PPC) campaign is exponentially greater now, since company budgets are often limited and conversions are closely monitored. Machine translation can be tempting given financial constraints, but its ability to support revenue goals is questionable.

Even with adequate time for review and planning, machines can make small errors in translation and localization that can have major ramifications in terms of lead generation and conversion rates. Because the machine has no ability to capture context, the translation, while literal and accurate, may have nothing to do with the intended message.

The most common example of the machine missing the mark is the word “love.” One can write the message, “Love your car,” but without context, a machine gets creative and makes this a very different kind of love.

From a keyword standpoint, think of the word “operator.” The machine might give you the proper translation for a person who operates machinery, but perhaps we’re talking about a phone operator, or a type of tag in a coded file. The machine is none-the-wiser and could spit out the wrong keyword.

2. Optimize Your In-Language Keywords
Just because an English keyword has a high search volume on Google does not mean that the translation of that keyword will have a high search volume in another language or market.

For this reason, you must adapt your English keywords to reflect the in-language version that will likely be used for the same search. You should also perform search engine research and validation to determine whether or not the term actually has a high search volume in another market. Research and optimization do not transfer automatically to translated terms.

As an example, the keyword “cell phone” might have the highest search volume in English, but its translation in another language may receive a lower volume of search terms than perhaps a slang word commonly used in the foreign culture.

3. Focus On The Right Search Engines For Each Market
No two search engines use the exact same algorithm. The optimization techniques required for the Chinese search engine Baidu, for example, are vastly different from those needed to optimize for Google. Businesses that want to reach targeted users need expertise not only in language, but also in culture and technology.

This is one reason why enterprises must adopt an integrated approach to international SEM to determine the proper wording and create consistent, relevant messages in ads, landing pages and social media posts.

4. Adapt Your PPC Ad Copy & Choose Each Character Carefully
Adapting, researching and validating your keywords are only part of the equation. Your pool of optimized keywords will only help get your ad displayed when someone searches and you bid on and purchase the keyword.

The hard part is getting the user to click on the PPC ad. If the messaging is not properly adapted, it may not resonate in a foreign market, leading to the failure of your international SEM campaign.

You should also note that most search engines limit the number of characters you can use on each line of your PPC ad. Unfortunately, if you try to translate an English ad, the resulting translation will likely exceed the limitations imposed by the search engine because the number of words and length of the words are often longer in other languages.

Therefore, it is important that you edit the adapted ad to fit within the character length limitations without sacrificing your message.

5. Define Your Success Criteria
In order to determine whether or not a campaign is successful, you must define your goals.

  • Are you trying to lower your cost per action?
  • Are you trying to lower your cost per click?
  • How are you defining a conversion?
  • Do you want more people to submit a quote request?

Make sure you have defined goals in advance of your campaign to prove that what you are doing is valuable.

6. Content Is King
Even if you have a great set of adapted ads and keywords, you will not have success with your international search engine marketing if the landing pages tied to your ads do not provide relevant information for your visitor.

You must make sure that your copy on the landing page is rich, relevant and exciting. Proper localization tied with international search engine optimization is key for ensuring your content is useful to visitors.

7.  Make Conversions Easy
If your goals have anything to do with a conversion (and they should), then you need to do everything in your power to make it easy for visitors to convert. On a custom landing page tied to your campaign, you should give the customer the opportunity to register, get a quote, contact you or make a purchase. The easier you can make it for a visitor to convert, the greater the likelihood that you will have success with your international search engine marketing campaigns.

8. Monitor & Manage The Campaign
Just as with an English-language SEM campaign, businesses should continually monitor campaigns to identify which ads perform the best for the lowest possible spending. Ads that are not performing should be discarded and replaced with new ads, and the keywords should be continually refreshed.

Just like domestic SEM, international SEM is an iterative process.