How-to start up an international search marketing campaign

If you’re thinking about taking your search marketing to the international markets, my first word of caution is that what works in the USA does not necessarily translate to success overseas. There are a number of reasons for this – different types of technology (international markets may be more mobile dependent or have lower bandwidth); new competitors in the decision set; varying consumer sentiment; and so on.

So my next piece of advice is to make sure you are really good at local search. If you don’t have that locked down, reconsider going international until you do. International search simply introduces lots of complexity that you shouldn’t try to tackle until you’ve mastered search in your own back yard.

Still ready? Here are five pointers to consider:

  1. Local domains for your search ad copy and landing pages. Dave Lloyd over at Adobe penned a great article for ClickZ on the topic. Simply put, make sure your ads have a local domain extension. So if you are advertising in the UK, make sure you have a UK-familiar URL, such as myLandingPage.co.uk or similar. You can always have the funnel ultimate redirect back to your main .com; even better, to your main .com with a local directory such as myWebSite.com/uk.
  2. Have a dedicated landing page for the specific market. So using the UK example, you should have a special landing page that has the region in the meta data, header tags and body copy so that the machines, search engines and humans interacting with your landing page know without a doubt you are providing an offer to people in the UK. Make sure your headlines and copy are tailored for the market’s culture and language.
  3. Localize your search ads. When you are writing your search ad copy, make sure you use proper language consistent with the market. If you’re speaking to the UK, consider little nuances like “colour” versus “color” or “internationalisation” versus “internationalization”. And be wary of clichés, expressions and humor that might not be understood in the market. Stick to the facts and be very clear/concise in your ad copy. And, certain words have different meanings (even in the same language). Rubber typically means something different on the streets of LA than the streets of London.
  4. Display ads should be similarly tailored. Don’t assume that if it worked as a display ad in the USA, it will work elsewhere. That goes for all elements – animation, the type of people and images featured, how they appear and are positioned and even animals — all influence how different cultures interact with advertisements.
  5. Understand how locals think. My best quick advice is to start searching for your keywords using overseas search engines (google.co.uk) and see what types of ads your competitors are using. Hit their sites so you get remarketed to and then start browsing local websites to review banner ads. You’ll probably see some immediate differences. You need to understand your audience in the target market and what makes them different from your USA market. This will help you zero in on creating personalized and engaging ads (and landing pages).

And of course with any digital campaign remember the basics:

  1. Don’t start until you understand what your objective is.
  2. Don’t start until you understand how to measure the results.
  3. Test, test, test.