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Nobody said advertising in other countries was easy

‘Localising’ your advertisements should be a no-brainer. At the top level, that means advertising in your market’s native language; but even within the same language, you may want to consider spellings, phraseology and even tone of voice.

This might seem obvious, but if you ever get a chance to see the Google ads showing in another country, you’ll realise that many businesses are clearly specifying their target keywords in the local language but not translating their adverts too. An English language advert on a search page where everything else is in, say, French, is conspicuous, but probably not in a good way. And I’m sure we’ve all seen adverts in print that were clearly written by non-native speakers oblivious to the nuances of advertising-speak in English (the most common being those written by Germans). This is one activity where you don’t get points for effort – if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all.

Many of our clients ask us to run search advertising campaigns overseas, and we always try to get the involvement of their local offices or representatives, if they have them. Specifying the keywords is a data-driven exercise, and is easy, even for non-native speakers, but translating adverts needs to be done by a ‘local’. And I’d go as far as to suggest that applies to English-language adverts running in other parts of the English-speaking world too. Advertising has its own language; most of us can spot an advert from the US a mile off. It can be a long process to get things right, but it’s worth the effort.

And that’s not all we need to do.

Advertising is a two-part process: getting prospects to read our advert, and following up with relevant content. The second part of the exercise is also often neglected.

In search advertising, this can lead to all sorts of confusion. In a way, running an English language advert in France for ‘blue widgets’, against searches on les widgettes bleus, isn’t the wrong thing to do if your landing page is in English. You might get a very low clickthrough rate, but at least the French prospects clicking on the English-language advert can presumably read English and probably will be happy with your English-language landing page. What happens if you advertise against a French keyword, run an advert in French, then unexpectedly deliver a landing page in English? In most cases, you waste your money.

Landing page content, data sheets and other fulfilment pieces for the rest of the world can require all sorts of localisation, not just translations. Units of measurement, document sizes and presentation style all need consideration. Nobody said it was easy.