Ad Technology

Considerations for Global Paid Search: One Size Does NOT Fit All!

By: Oliver Nelson

unnamed-18Everyone knows Europeans use search engines the same way Americans do, right? Perhaps surprisingly, that is not the truth! While cookie cutters may mystify (some say make) the baker, they fail miserably when it comes to successful digital marketing.

Paid search is a great example of this: too often advertisers try and apply experience from a search campaign that has targeted the United States to a global search campaign, only to be surprised when conversion objectives and campaign key performance indicators (KPIs) are not met. Let’s take a look at three critical market dynamics to consider when launching an international search campaign – we’ll use search statistics for Europe to help illustrate our points.

Are the engines the same?

While Google may sound familiar to you (I hope), the other common players in the US market may seem conspicuously absent from the world stage. In many cases, local search engines may replace them, such as Baidu in China or Yandex in Russia. In other cases, Google simply dominates the landscape due both to the the ease of use and attention to local market detail that help fuel unprecedented growth in the space.

Continuing with our European example, most searchers prefer Google by a wide margin. That said, that doesn’t mean the other engines should be ignored. Consider the UK, for example – the past two years have seen significant growth by Bing as shown below:

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Contrast this with France and Germany, for example, where Google is dominant and makes up over 93% of all searches in those countries. Suffice to say, while expedient, simply splitting a budget 70/20/10 for Google, Bing, and Gemini respectively because it works for the United States fails the common sense test – instead, budgets should be tailored to suit each individual international market.

What about performance?

Performance differs quite considerably even between countries within the European Union (EU.) Take the following chart, for example, which rolls up average click-through-rate (CTR) and cost-per-click (CPC) for search campaigns, all powered by Kenshoo within the space:

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Interpreting the data from a relativity standpoint, we clearly see that, for the most part, we can expect higher CTRs and lower CPCs in many of the EU countries. This reflects considerable differences in the level of competition and sophistication in many of the search campaigns in operation there. Note how expensive the UK is in contrast – even pricier than the US! Of course, your mileage may vary given which industry your campaign operates toward, which metrics you optimize against.

A different messenger to kill for each market

For many campaigns in the United States, mobile searches approach 50% or more of a given SEM campaign and offer exciting opportunity to scale as adoption continues to grow. From some of the most recent adex data available on mobile search in Europe, we can quickly see differences in usage from one country to another.

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For example, mobile search accounted for 25% of searches in Ireland while accounting for only 9% of search in France and just over 2.4% in Spain. These significant differences underscore the importance of allocating the right bid modifiers across your device set to ensure your ad appears for the right device at the right time.

It’s all about words

Advertisers must think about how their campaigns will translate to the local language of their chosen market and what types of implications this will have on their ad creative. For example, in France, comparable French calls to action or product descriptions run on average 25% longer than their English counterparts. With so few characters to work with the creative translation process takes on an especially critical component of determining success or failure in any given market. Not only do the ads need to make sense and speak natively to the audience, they must fit within the all-to-known confines of 95 characters.

This logic extends to keywords as well. Make sure to run available marketplace tools and confirm that translated keywords actually have volume against them and colloquially make sense to native speakers. While English campaigns will inevitably find a baseline level of performance, good marketers should strive to create that special connection with their customers and cater to their local language preferences.


All too often we review recently transitioned campaigns and are amazed at the effort to force a round peg (success out of a campaign designed to target the US) into a square whole (intersect hand-raisers searching in international markets in foreign languages.) What should hopefully be clear to advertisers is the need to create campaigns geared specifically for each market and optimized to take advantage of user search behavior and local marketplace dynamics.