Before thinking about taking paid campaigns abroad, it’s imperative you thoroughly research your new target territories to prevent any localised factors seriously affecting your planned activity. With cultural and language differences being the biggest issues, what might be OK in one market may not be in another.

For a start, it’s important to understand what the competition is up to in your chosen country, and then to look at the specific audience behaviour; the way these customers search for products/services, their typical online purchasing habits as well as important supply issues such as shipping costs. It’s also beneficial to dig into likely traffic volumes, CPCs and any search term variations – especially given translation and language differences.

More importantly however, its key you put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to think how they would search for products as well as the creative messaging that would work hardest to appeal to them.

Here’s a few tips to get you started:

Search Engines

Before anything else, find out which is the most prevalent search engine in your target market.

AdWords is the number one paid ad platform for most countries, and on the whole this is pretty simple. However, there are some notable exceptions – see below.

  • Russia (Yandex)
  • China (Baidu)
  • Japan (Yahoo)
  • Korea (Naver)
  • Taiwan (Bing Ads/Yahoo)
In the majority of these countries, AdWords does have a presence, but in countries such as Russia and China, local search engines are your best route if you want to make any kind of impact.

In China, Baidu boasts 80% market share, while in Russia, Yandex commands about 60%. These ad platforms have different targeting options, sophistication and reach, so it’s important to fully understand them too before you start.

Advertising Tools

Assuming that AdWords is your most suitable platform, the next step is to consider what paid tools will be available in all countries.

For example, Google Shopping and Gmail ads still have restrictions on which countries these can target. Simply replicating accounts and setting them live will therefore not always be an option. Ensure you research this thoroughly before you begin your international expansion.

Comprehensive Keyword Research

As well as your initial target country market research, check out the demand for the products/services you plan to offer in that country. Start with searching for variations of keywords in the SERPs, use keyword research tools and note your competitors, their pricing, discounts and the way they are marketing their own products or services.

If you already run campaigns in English, start small and test what you know already works well. This will more likely be brand, brand-generics and a selection of high converting generic terms. Do remember however, competition differs hugely from territory to territory, so whilst you may be used to cheap CPCs, this may not be the case across the world. Be careful about launching activity and then leaving it – this is particularly important when dealing with pure generics.


Ad copy and keyword translations will form the backbone of your new campaigns. However, it’s easy for messages to get confused during the translation stage so don’t be fooled into thinking online translation will work. Always use an expert.

Also make sure that the language on your ads match your landing page. There’s no point serving English ads that go through to a German website or vice-versa. Equally, it may be appropriate to run English ads where it is not the primary language, but just be sure the landing page is in English as well.

Tax and Delivery Options

Know your shipping costs for each territory. They can vary massively and can be a deal breaker in some cases! Look into the impact on conversion rates so you’re clued ready to negotiate better rates if needed.

Import/export regulations can equally be a complex, and once again will vary according to the country and product in question. Customs/tax will equally vary from country to country and import taxes can be sizable (circa 20-30%). Factor this into your forecasting.


Credentials and trust signals are crucial for breaking into a new market, especially one abroad. Implementing on-site credentials, such as Google Trusted Stores, reviews and security protocols will be the best first step. Without an established brand name, building trust is key in delivering any kind of conversion rate as it’s highly unlikely that a customer will trust a brand they’ve never heard of before. Let alone pay increased shipping costs and then wait for a delivery from a company on the other side of the world!

Specific AdWords Accounts

It’s advisable to set up different AdWords accounts for each new territory you want to expand into. This will assist your budget management, optimisation and reporting/analysis. It will also make currency management simpler.

Ideally, dedicate your campaigns to your target local language, ie create every bit of your campaigns using local language only. If possible, get your translations done by a native speaker too, and preferable someone who has knowledge of your products or services. Then get your ad text changes or updates approved in terms of grammar, use of language and relevancy before going live.

Time Zone/Currency/Holidays

Get your head round the differing time zones and currencies. Remember, these are options you can only set at the account level and once selected they can’t be changed. Your AdWords account will also operate based on the time zone you select so be careful when using ad scheduling. Equally be mindful of national holidays, off peak/peak periods as this will significantly impact performance.

By Tina Judic, Managing Director, Found