Using PPC to break out of your domestic market

| 16 Jul, 2014

With many companies facing difficult economic conditions in their domestic markets, going global can offer huge opportunities for growth.

PPC is a great channel to reach the global market but there are some key challenges that need to be managed if you are going to maximise its potential.

Key challenges of managing a global PPC campaign

There are many nuances when managing global PPC campaigns that need to be addressed in order to ensure profitable growth. This post addresses some of the more important ones.

  • Planning – With a huge number of disparate and different markets to target, limited budgets make planning critical.
  • Structure – Balancing simplicity with rigour in terms of how accounts and campaigns are structured.
  • Devices – Stressing the importance of mobile as part of the mix and its implications.
  • Budgets – Ideas for effectively splitting budget across accounts and campaigns.
  • Localisation – Looking at how to respond to local market segments regarding language and landing page look and feel.
  • Managing performance – How best to manage and streamline the increased complexity.
  • Beyond Google and Bing – The importance of not ignoring local search engines.


Expanding your horizons globally increases your potential market to a massive extent.

It is sometimes easy to forget that the differences which segment your audience on the home front can pale when compared to those that differentiate audiences across the world. Spending time up front researching and planning your target markets can really help you hit the ground running, so you don’t waste time and money getting yourself to the starting block.

There may be many reasons why you may want to exclude various countries or regions from your initial targeting. Is it likely that the audience in a particular region can afford your product? Maybe you offer an online education service which requires the student to speak English and have access to a desktop PC rather than a mobile. There might be political reasons or it might be the market is already saturated. The list goes on...

Having a clear picture up front of which markets are likely to offer the best fit and best opportunity for growth will enable you to focus your pounds and maximise your return.


When you have identified the top 30 markets that you want to target, if you're not careful it would be easy to allow the complexity of PPC activity to get out of hand, so much so that it makes it difficult to manage. This is particularly true when you start your global adventure. At this point you want to try and keep things as simple as possible, at least while you get to grips with the activity.

So, for example, is there a way that you can group your target countries according to broadly similar relevant characteristics? For ease of management. it probably makes sense to set up a PPC account for each under an MCC (My Client Centre), then build out sets of campaigns for each account. Foe example, a campaign to pick up brand traffic, one for generic traffic and then one each for each product category.

By doing it this way, you may still end up with a fair number of campaigns but it will certainly not be as complex as it could have been. At least you will be striking a good balance between control and management simplicity.

Then when you start running the campaigns and you see where the core value is coming from you can start to get more granular and build out specific sets of campaigns for those regions.


As long as this fits in with your business model, mobile devices can dramatically increase your addressable opportunity. This is particularly true in some regions such as Africa and parts of Asia where the penetration is already very high with a growth rate to match.



You should have a top line view of how much you want to invest globally over the first few months. The next step is to then decide how you want to split your budget across your accounts and then campaigns within those campaigns.

When you start you don’t really know which account is going to deliver most value and so the goal would be to set up the activity as best you can so that you end up with roughly equal levels of conversions across accounts. If some of the countries you are targeting are (for example) in Asia or Africa, then it is fairly likely that your research will show that for your keywords, average CPCs for those regions are likely to be lower and therefore all things being equal (CTR, CVR, ARPU etc.) you would assign less budget.

As regards splitting the account budgets across separate campaigns...

As long as your brand is pretty unique, the traffic from your brand campaigns is likely to be relatively cheap and so you wouldn’t normally want to limit those budgets. Next to brand, your product specific campaigns (if you built out a structure similar to what was described earlier) should deliver your most qualified traffic and therefore you would want to assign the bulk of the budget to these campaigns. Lastly you would assign a smaller budget to the generic campaign which normally would be expected to deliver a higher CPL. If you find your account budget is not being spent, you could always push up the budget on your generic campaigns and watch performance.


Although English is the dominant language in a lot of countries, there are many countries that you might you’d like to target where it won’t be.

When you initiate your global PPC activity, it is likely that the keywords you bid on, the ads you show and the landing pages that your visitors land on, are likely to all be in English. For many of the countries you target, this is going to limit your reach and opportunity.


When you want to build out from this you could do so in a managed way according to the diagram above. For example, part of your audience may search using their local language but they can actually speak and read English.

When adding local language keywords, bear in mind that simply translating from English to the native language is not going to be enough as there is often more than one local language translation and meaning of the English keyword.

However, if you introduce the right native keywords, you can expect to expand the reach of your PPC activity. On the flipside, when introducing these keywords much of the audience searching may not read English and so the CTR is likely to be low.

If adding native keywords had an overall positive effect, the next stage would be to introduce and test native ad copy. This would improve CTR but the expectation would be that the landing page would be in the native language and so CVR would be very low.

Adding native language landing pages would improve CVR but then if you are offering English based product or service then CVR would be constrained.

Beyond language

Localisation does not stop at language; to increase value and size of opportunity further you need to look at the whole customer journey. For example, you will find that people in different countries will respond differently to the layout or colour scheme of landing pages etc.

When going global, testing is more important than ever and testing all aspects become key in getting the most from your local markets.

Managing performance

When you are managing a global campaign, you need to take into account time differences. When Europe is going to sleep, the Americas could still be at work and people in Asia might be having their breakfast. Managing the campaigns therefore becomes a 24-hour operation and to maximise the PPC potential you need to ensure that you have got resource across the globe to be able to ensure the campaigns are being managed effectively continually.

Currency is a key consideration also. If you want to compare performance across regions then it is important that you are comparing like for like, according to a single currency.

Initially you may just be using the Google network and be able to monitor and manage performance from within the Google interface. If you are running PPC activity outside of Google you will want to create performance dashboards that enable you to compare the performance of accounts at different levels and along different dimensions, across networks in a single view without extraneous clutter.

Beyond the PPC activity itself, site analytics tools such as Google Analytics are going to be key to give you further insight into audience demographics and on site behaviour so that you can feed those learning’s back into the management of the campaigns to improve performance further.

Beyond Google and Bing

For the majority of countries across the globe, Google is not only the massively dominant search engine but it is also the highest traffic website as well. Bing has reasonable market share in the USA and Europe and is worth testing as it may deliver you volume at a lower CPL. In some countries though, Google is not the dominant force and therefore to expand reach into those regions it would be necessary to leverage the incumbent engines (e.g. Yandex in Russia and Baidu in China). In addition, if you want to reach an audience in North Africa for example, using Facebook PPC ads would make a sensible additional channel.



PPC offers many companies an exciting opportunity to break out of their domestic markets and address the huge opportunity that the global market holds. As highlighted in this article though, there are many issues that need to be addressed in order for this activity to be successful.

  • Planning
  • Structure
  • Devices
  • Budgets
  • Localisation
  • Managing performance
  • Beyond Google and Bing

Above all, an awareness of what those issues are, a well thought out methodical plan, the right people and appropriate supporting processes, tools and systems, are going to ensure that your company realises its potential on the global stage.

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