May 17, 2016 | Sarah Danks


This one time, on a Search Engine Land article about lessons learned at SMX, I read something that made me cringe. The take-away was that if you “target all the languages” with your PPC display campaign, you can tap into a much wider market by reaching this large percentage of Americans who don’t speak English as their primary language (21%, according to the data from 2010).

So if you target other languages in AdWords you can reach a much broader audience than when you’ve got your language set at English-only. Great!

Well, wait a minute. What does that mean, that you’re marketing to other languages? Why are you targeting them at all — just because you can?

And, more importantly, what kind of web experience are you offering these non-English-speaking visitors?

Set Your Language Preference in AdWords…

Sure, in AdWords you have the option of choosing your language preference — for ads on the Display Network — but then when you get to the area where you choose said languages, you’re encouraged to write your ad copy IN THOSE SPECIFIC languages. AdWords doesn’t translate your ads; just shows them on relevant sites in the foreign language of your choice.

adwords set language preference

Well, you can’t just let your English ads run on foreign language sites, so it’s time to either learn a new language to write custom copy or hire a translator.

That seems like a lot of work so instead let’s say you plug your existing English ad copy into Google Translate and voilà, you’ve got foreign language ads (PS: I do NOT recommend doing this. You’ve no idea how horribly your copy will be translated doing it this way).

You’ve set your language preferences so your ads will show up on specific language sites, and you’re ready to launch your new efforts out into the WWW and start reaping the benefits of this new audience.

Everything’s ready to go, right?

But wait…

…you’ve got ads that’re written — ahem, sorry, translated (again, poorly) — in a foreign language. But what about your landing pages? Every ad clicks through to SOMEWHERE. Have you written — sorry, translated — your landing page copy, too?

…But About Your Web Experience?

Sure, you can just click a button to change language settings in AdWords. But is your entire web experience AFTER the PPC click set up to handle foreign language traffic properly?

No? Oh. Well, how do you think your foreign language visitors will feel when they click on an ad in their language, but land on a web page written in English?

Maybe you’re selling products, and you not only have a landing page, but an entire e-commerce sales process said visitor needs to go through. Is all THAT translated, too? Or just the ad copy and landing page?

What happens when this non-English speaker tries to purchase a product, but the entire process beyond the landing page is now suddenly in English? What’re the odds that person will continue through the checkout process?

And what if you’re marketing professional services? For example, if you’re a law firm and you want to tap into the Spanish-language clientele you know are out there: your ads are translated, maybe even your landing page is translated…

…but ultimately you need people to either come into the office or call you to set up an appointment. Whether by a form on your landing page or via phone, these people will reach out to you.

…And, More Importantly, Do You Speak the Language?

And when these visitors do contact you, do you have someone on your staff that speaks that language FLUENTLY??? Will you be able to answer their questions? Write/call them back?

No??? What’re the odds that person will become your client?

This person who speaks another language searched in their foreign tongue and found what they needed on your website, but all the trust you built up online will crumble instantly when this person who needs your help calls you — and you don’t speak the correct language.

So why on the Internet would you target this audience? Just because you CAN target multiple languages with your PPC efforts doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Unless, of course, you or someone on your staff is proficient in each of the foreign languages you’re targeting (for service-based businesses).

If that’s not the case, and you’re marketing just to market, with no regard for the user experience, then ultimately you’re just marketing yourself as a liar. Ultimately you’re more likely to piss people off than gain new clients.

And for e-commerce sites, you need to be sure that the entire sales funnel — all the way through to the confirmation page — is written in the language you’re targeting. It needs to be a seamless experience from keyword query to ad copy to landing page, all the way to the end of the funnel.

If you can’t offer a great user experience in a foreign language, then my recommendation is don’t market to that audience at all. If you don’t speak the language, don’t MARKET in it.


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