Best Practices for Multilingual PPC

Launching a multilingual pay-per-click campaign is a good way to quickly have a presence in a country. Many companies do not have the resources and budgets to build multiple versions of their website based on language, but through the wonders of pay-per-click, advertisers can efficiently and effectively reach an international or bilingual audience online.

The problem with most multilingual pay-per-click campaigns is laziness. Many advertisers will launch international campaigns without consideration for accurate translations and culturally relevant messaging. Thankfully this problem is easy to overcome with a little extra consideration and planning. So before you launch a multilingual pay per click campaign, take to time to focus on the following best practices:

  1. Translations. Translations. Translations. The success or failure of a multilingual pay-per-click campaign lies in the crux of translations. The quality of translation is the most critical component, and thus should receive the most attention and consideration. Many advertisers are guilty (often unknowingly) of translating ad copy in a literal sense without consideration for localization. When this happens, ad and landing page copy is often confusing to a native speaker, decreasing the effectiveness of your campaign. Not to mention, literal translations stick out like a sore thumb, native speakers can immediately pick up on the lack of consideration for their language, and will immediately dismiss your message.Don’t fall victim to this common mistake. Don’t use a simple online tool. You need a human! Spend time researching a quality translation service at the onset. A quality translation service will read the content in English, then rewrite the content to it conveys the same message and tone in your language of choice. Once you receive translated content, run it by a native speaker to ensure the job was done right.
  2. Leverage Existing Campaign Structure. Campaign structure is very important with a multilingual pay-per-click initiative. Regardless of the quantity of languages targeted, campaigns and ad groups should be separated based on language. You can only set language and geographic targeting at the campaign level in Google, so your language breakdown must be at this level.Leverage your well-organized campaign structure from your English-targeted campaigns. To build a campaign in another language, duplicate the structure (but not the keywords) of your English campaigns. Next, modify the keywords (see multilingual keyword research below), ad text and landing pages accordingly.
  3. Pay Attention to Your Campaign Settings. According to the AdWords help section, “the AdWords system looks at a user’s Google interface language setting to see if it matches one of the languages that your campaign targets.” If your campaign only targets “Spanish” for the campaign settings, then the ads will only serve to users who have designated “Spanish” in their Google account. For example, a user is searching on and has their personal account settings set to “Spanish,” then they will see ads from Spanish-targeted campaigns. Similarly, if someone is searching on the language default is French, etc. If you are targeting users in a different country that speak one common language, then set your AdWords campaign to target that language.However, depending on your campaign objectives, this type of language targeting may narrow your search too much. Particularly when you are targeting a bilingual audience. In this case, you can expand your campaign targeting by changing your campaign settings to target more than one language.
  4. Conduct Multilingual Keyword Research. Don’t just translate your keywords! In most cases, keywords or phrases can have multiple meanings when translated in another language. If you use a direct translation, then your keywords or phrases may not be relevant to your product. Conduct multilingual keyword research to best target keywords in the targeted language. Get started on your keyword list with the following:
    • Search Query Report. Run a search query report to identify existing foreign language keywords that are serving your ads.
    • Competitive Research. Refer to competitor ads and landing pages to identify keywords or phrases that are relevant to your campaign. Note, be aware you’re your competitors translations may not be accurate. Always run these keywords or phrases by a translation service or a native speaker prior to launch.
    • Translate Existing Keywords. Start with the keywords that you are targeting in English. Hire a strong translation service to identify the most common translation for that keyword or phrase—be careful of taking direct translations!
    • Ask a Native Speaker. Once you have completed your keyword research, run your list by a native speaker. This simple step will identify any red flags in the translations. It can also spark new keyword-targeting opportunities.

    If you plan to target a campaign in Spanish, you need to target keywords in Spanish. While some advertisers target Spanish speakers with English keywords and ad text, it is strongly recommended to cater your messaging to the native language. First, keywords in other languages are much less expensive, so you will see lower cost-per-clicks within these campaigns. Secondly, your campaign will be much more relevant to your target audience if you speak their language. Take the time to translate your entire language-targeted campaigns, this simple step may give you a leg up over your competition.

  5. Use Language-Specific Ad Text and Landing Pages. Translated ad copy and landing pages are mutually exclusive. You cannot have one without the other. The landing page needs to play off of the cultural promise from the ad text. So, if your ad text is in Spanish, then your landing page needs to be in Spanish. To maximize relevance and effectiveness of your campaign, both ad text and landing pages need to be translated to the targeted language.As with keywords, both the ad text and landing pages should not be a direct translation of the English copy. I apologize if I am starting to sound like a broken record, but work with a strong translation company to translate your landing page and ads from English to your targeted language. A strong translation service will make adjustments to cater to local dialects and cultures. Landing page localization does not just stop at translations— incorporating culturally relevant images, design and color schemes also should be considered to improve relevancy.

Have your launched a multilingual campaign? Please share your experience and suggestions!