The ultimate guide to doing an international SEM campaign

guide to international SEM

If you want to get immediate visibility in international markets, there is a curious (and almost magical) formula to increase your returns instantly. Introducing international SEM campaigns.

So you can get a better idea of what it's all about, here is a guide to help you create this magic formula that will help you to internationalise your business. We're going to put this all into context. Do you want to take the next step?

What exactly is SEM?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy intended to promote websites, products or services through paid adverts on search engines like Google. The ads appear in the search engines when we search for a specific topic. The purpose of these ads is to increase visibility and website traffic. The most significant advantage of search engines like Google, for example, is that the adverts can be targeted to a super-segmented audience.

Essentially, what we are aiming to achieve with SEM is to appear more frequently and higher up in the search results on Google and other similar sites when a user searches for keywords related to our brand. SEM allows us to measure the results and adjust our campaigns in real time in order to optimise the performance of the ads.

When buying keywords, we will enter into a bidding system in which each company will decide what it will pay for each user who clicks on its link (PPC).

Difference between SEO and SEM

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), also known as web positioning, consists of creating quality content and experiences on a website. That work is reflected and rewarded with a higher position in search engine results, as well as better organic traffic. This is a long-term tactic, because it can take time to build, and shortcuts will rarely work in your favour. A good SEO strategy requires dedication, time, effort and persistence.

SEM, as we have seen, also involves improving search engine positioning, although in this case, payment will only be required if we want to appear in the top positions.

Both SEO and SEM are important for any business to grow and enhance its visibility, but they can be beneficial at different times and for different goals. As a general rule, and regardless of which tactic you are focusing on at the time, these two strategies should go hand in hand to achieve short- and medium-term results.

Which search engines should I use to advertise online?

It goes without saying that the pre-eminent search engine is Google, but there are others that can help us with our international SEM campaigns, such as Yahoo! and Bing. If your intention to internationalise in China, you should be listed on Baidu. So, depending on where you want to sell your products or services, you will have to go to one search engine or another. Just as Google has its AdWords service for posting pay-per-click ads, Yahoo! also has its own service, called Gemini Yahoo!. In addition, Bing (the second most popular search engine in the world) has Bing Ads, and Baidu, the Chinese search engine, has Baidu Advertising.

There are these 4 search engine alternatives that have their own tools for international SEM strategies. You need to consider which one suits you best according to the region where you want to sell your products or services.

Why is SEM important for internationalising your business?

Search engine ads will enable you to reach your target audience in a segmented way and at a relatively low cost. A win-win all round. It will help you to expand quickly and make yourself known to new potential customers in different countries and regions. Plus, since SEM is totally customisable and adjustable, it will let you monitor all your campaigns and improve performance to optimise ROI.

International SEM will give you extensive global reach: by boosting the online projection of your business, it will help you to improve your targeting, segmenting all your potential customers by location, language, device, interests, etc. And don't forget that you will have greater control and flexibility over the strategy used in advertising.

How to create an international SEM campaign on Google Ads

If you expand your business to other countries, you will probably need to create Google Ads campaigns for markets where a different language is spoken. The aim is clear: maximise your company's online visibility in new international markets, optimise sales and encourage users to buy. You can also use Google Ads to reach potential customers from other countries when they are thinking about buying a product or service. You can find out how many people see your ads or visit your website, and you can even use it to reach certain subgroups of people.

Plus, you will only pay if the potential customers click on the ad. Signing up for Google Ads is free. You choose the budget you wish to invest, so the cost will depend on what you want to achieve with your ads.

Creating an impactful international Google Ads campaign

But there are still other aspects we need to consider when creating a truly impactful Google Ads campaign:

  1. Preliminary market research: you cannot start an international advertising campaign without having previously studied the market and the audience you want to target in order to understand their needs. This involves keyword research and the identification of relevant trends in the target market.
  2. Translation and localisation: you should address users in their native language, as doing so will increase the interest of readers and they will feel more trusting. We recommend that you invest in professional translation services to adapt your campaigns to the local market, but remember that it is not enough to just translate the language. The customer journey varies from market to market, so your Google Ads should adapt to these differences. Design your strategies based on the search behaviour of potential customers. This behaviour will determine how they connect with your brand, and it is important that you show them the right content to achieve maximum strategy performance.
  3. Cultural nuances: closely linked to the previous point, you may need to modify some symbols, colours and images of your website depending on the market you are targeting. Think about calls to action. For example, in countries where politeness is highly valued, you should be very courteous. The market can even condition the medium you use to connect with users. The most widely used web browser in a market can affect the way landing pages are processed.
  4. Audience segmentation: if you segment your audience, you can narrow down which ads you want to show and to whom, based on their geographic location, interests, purchasing behaviour and so on. This way, you will improve the effectiveness of your campaign and maximise the return on your advertising investment.
  5. Analysis and optimisation: these campaigns should be monitored regularly (it is the only way to optimise the ad copy, keywords and audience segmentation) depending on the results we are getting.

The benefits of advertising campaigns on Google Ads

Advertising on Google Ads offers several interesting advantages. Take note:

  1. Much wider global reach and greater visibility for your brand.
  2. Audience segmentation: Google Ads allows advertisers to choose precisely who their ads are intended for, based on factors such as location, interests and online behaviour.
  3. Control and flexibility: as we have already mentioned, Google Ads gives you the control and flexibility to create, execute and perfect all your advertising campaigns depending on the results you are getting.
  4. Evaluation and analysis: the Google Ads tool itself offers you tips for optimising the performance of your campaigns.
  5. Affordable cost: you can set a daily budget and cost per click, allowing you to control how much you invest per day in your advertising campaigns.
  6. It can help you improve international SEO: with Google Ads, you can complement and significantly improve your SEO by appearing in the top positions on Google and getting more visitors and people interested in what you offer.
  7. You will generate more leads, and therefore more sales: by using precise targeting and account optimisation, the ads can reach users who are interested in the products or services you offer, which exponentially increases the likelihood of generation conversions.
  8. Branding: it will help you accelerate your growth and brand recognition and to successfully expand into the market where you want to sell your products or services.
  9. Competitive edge: you will stand out from the competition, so users will buy from you.  
benefits of international SEM

There are no downsides, it's win-win!

Types of international digital advertising on Google

The first thing we need to consider is: where do we want to advertise and what type of SEM campaign is best suited to my business? Google Ads offers us a very extensive network with many possibilities. Google's network is split into two: the search network and the display network. On the search network, we can publish text-only ads, which will be displayed when someone performs a search on Google or its search partners. On the other hand, the display network is made up of more than one million sites associated with Google, where we can publish our SEM campaign ads in different formats: text ads, banners and videos. What are the advantages of each network? Let's take a look.

Display advertising

It is a type of advertising that reaches the audience in the form of graphic ads on a website and third-party applications through an advertising network, such as Google Ads. Display ads can be of different sizes and formats, such as banners, pop-ups, etc., and can appear in different parts of a web page, such as in the sidebar, header or footer. This type of ads is an effective way to reach a specific audience, as advertisers can choose the audience they wish to target based on factors such as their location, interests and online behaviour. Campaigns of this kind are ideal for remarketing: for users who have already visited your website but have left it without buying. Display remarketing campaigns allow you to reach these contacts with customised messages to encourage them to return.

Search advertising

This is the most widely used type of advertising. Google search ads are short texts with a link to the advertiser's landing page.

These ads are displayed at the top and bottom of Google search results and are clearly identified as "Sponsored".

Google search advertising is an effective way to reach users when they are searching for products or services similar to yours, which increases the likelihood of generating conversations and sales. Sounds great, right?

YouTube Google Ads

YouTube is the largest social network on the planet, with more than 2 billion active users worldwide. In fact, it is estimated that around 79% of internet users have a YouTube account.

Since YouTube was born, its goal has been to allow its users to consume video easily and quickly.

More than 100 million hours of video are consumed on YouTube every day. That is more than 8 minutes a day for every person on the planet. Pretty good figures for targeting your advertising, don't you think?

Four types of video ads can be posted through Google Ads:

  1. TrueView In-Stream: the typical video that appears before, during and after the audiovisual content you are watching. You can close the ad by pressing "Skip ad". This requires you to be brief and creative.
  2. Out-Stream: this type of video advertising is displayed on YouTube partner websites. It is also only available on mobile phones and tablets.
  3. TrueView Video Discovery: this type of advertising is only displayed on YouTube. The characteristics vary depending on the size or format of the ad. When the user selects one of these videos, it will automatically play on the corresponding YouTube channel.
  4. Bumper: this type of ads cannot be "skipped". They are also shorter than all the other formats, lasting six seconds, and their aim is to make an impact on the audience.

Maps Google Ads

Google Maps also has advertising options. If you have a local business, it is essential that you have Google Maps to make yourself known. The aim of these campaigns is to attract as many users as possible. Through the ads, your customers can contact you, arrive at your establishment or call you.

Google Discovery Ads

Discovery campaigns highlight the ways in which Google is leveraging its multiple properties and wealth of audience data to automate the targeting and publication of ads throughout its ecosystem. Google Discovery Ads are ads that appear in various Google feed environments and are targeted to audiences, not keyword-based search intent.

As we have said, Discovery Ads campaigns leverage Google feeds, so they cover the homepage of YouTube, Google Discover and the promotions and social tabs of Gmail.

Google Shopping

Google Shopping is simply a virtual display case of products from registered stores. It's like an online shopping centre. Shopping campaigns are ad campaigns with the products of your online store. In these ads you can find an image of the product, the price and the stock availability. They can appear in the search results and in the Google Images search. The main advantages offered by these ads are:

  • The visibility of your products. 
  • They give a general idea of what you are selling, before users have even clicked on the ad, with attention-grabbing product cards.
  • They promote international sales. What you thought would have been impossible years ago, can now be sold with shopping campaigns to both local and international customers, depending on the geographic segmentation set up.

Shopping campaigns work for retailers and SMEs, as well as for companies with international distribution. You set the limit, we'll take care of the rest.

How to create an impactful international Google Ads campaign that generates more sales

Now you have all the elements needed to run an international Google Ads campaign, but for it to be successful and really increase your sales as much as you hope, you need to invest a lot of time in designing and maintaining it, unless you hire an experienced international digital marketing agency. This way, you only focus on what's important for your business and we will take care of your international SEM campaigns.

We are willing and able to help you to expand your business internationally. Shall we talk?.

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Gemma Marcé

Gemma Marcé Montaner

ATLS CMO. See profile on LinkedIn