One of the more unique challenges of advertising with PPC is targeting customers on the international level. Google has made it maddeningly simple with AdWords (one account can reach the entire world), but Yahoo! and MSN aren’t as advanced. Yahoo! forces you to open a new account for each location you’re targeting – which can thankfully be placed under a single master account login. MSN’s geo-targeting functions are fairly flexible – that is once you decipher the mumo-jumbo that is the adCenter help section. In the end MSN allows you to target multiple countries from a single account, but the language settings keep you rather constricted!

Language before Location

When you create a campaign and ad group in adCenter, you will be asked a series of questions under the “Target your customers” section. The first (and only required) setting is “Distribute your ads by language and market.” This setting is based on the language your ads will be written in and the market your ads will be distributed through. For most of you – this will be English – United States. In other words, the ads will be written in English and distributed throughout the US.

MSN is very clear that this setting “does not prevent people outside the market from seeing your ad.” By default, a new campaign is set to “display my ads to all customers.” Meaning your language and market decision will guide your ads – but technically anyone can see your ads. This is important to note if you have a US-only PPC campaign. If your products can only be sold in the US, you must move onto the “Target your customers by location” section and choose the US accordingly.

The most important note about the language and market settings is that this is a one-time decision! You choose the language and market when you create an ad group – and it is permanent. If you want/need to target other languages/markets, you have to create a new ad group to do so.

Maximize International Exposure

Because this language and geo-targeting process is such a mess, you have to adopt a specific approach to ad group creation with international PPC campaigns. The first thing to realize is that MSN adCenter only recognizes English and French when writing ad texts. After that, you will need to figure out what combinations of language/market and geographic location will work best for you.

One client that I work with targets the entire world – but they do this in English (not the best, I know). So, to maximize this client’s exposure in adCenter, for every ad group I create – there are actually 4 ad groups needed.

  1. Language/Market – English-United States, Location – all countries
  2. Language/Market – English-Canada, Location – all countries
  3. Language/Market – English-UK, Location – all countries
  4. Language/Market – English-Singapore, Location – all countries

Now this is just one example where I am trying to maximize my ads’ reach through the 4 English language options in adCenter. You can of course go much more granular by choosing any of those 4 Language/Market options and then dividing up even more ad groups with specific locations (and set an incremental bid for those locations, too)! And if you’re really feeling industrious, you could write ads and landing pages in French and open up 2 more Language/Market options.

So, if you’re looking for an international PPC boost for MSN adCenter, there you have it. I’d be interested to read how everyone else targets international markets with MSN. Leave me a comment!