How to Launch PPC Campaigns in a Foreign Language

Increasing the accuracy of your targeting is always a good way to improve your PPC campaign performance.

This adage holds true whether your optimization goal is sales, downloads, subscriptions, or anything else for that matter. And one excellent way to make your campaigns more targeted is to launch them in another language.

True, the most used language on AdWords is English, but, targeting a second language may greatly improve your account’s.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 72% of online buyers are more likely to buy products when these products were advertised in their own language. Moreover, 56% said that obtaining the information in their own language is more important than the price. And, 42% said they never buy products in another language other than their own.

Which means if you sell your products outside traditional English speaking countries, launching your ads in another language could give you a big leg-up on your competition.

But, before you jump head-first into Google Translate, here are a few things you need first:

Enough traffic

The fact that you target bilingual countries, such as Belgium, Switzerland, etc. or countries where there is a large number of bilingual speakers, like the USA (Spanish and English), does not mean you should automatically re-create your campaigns for all languages. First, you should research the amount of traffic that may come from other languages.

Start by checking your users’ browser language in Google Analytics (see chart below regarding one of our clients in the US).

Then, use the Keyword Planner to check the traffic of potential keywords. You can also use search query reports to work out the amount of traffic coming from keywords in different languages. Finally, you can use Google Trends to find out whether you should target the entire country or only specific parts of it.

Have a multilingual website

Imagine seeing an ad in your native language for a traditional restaurant, only to find the menu and all the waiters speak English. Disappointing, right?

It’s the same deal with your website. If you want to advertise in a second language, make sure that the landing page is also available in the same language.

In some cases, you may be able to get away with having a single language website, as long as the vast majority of people speak your website’s language fluently as a second language in the country you are targeting (e.g. English website targeting Scandinavian countries).

Hire a native speaker

There’s nothing more embarrassing on a professional website than poor grammar. And while Google Translate is impressive, it’s not good enough for you to rely on completely.

Having ads in a second language is no excuse for typos or silly grammatical errors. To make sure your ad copy is perfectly written, it’s worth it to get someone in that’s fluent in your chosen language.

Setting up your new ads

Once you’ve made sure you have enough traffic, multilingual sites or landing pages, and a native speaker to write your ads, you are ready to launch your new language campaign.

First and foremost, always separate each language into its own campaign. In other words, create new campaigns only with the second language keywords and leave all other keywords in separate campaigns. Google only allows you to add language and geographic targeting as well as a budget at the campaign level, so dividing campaigns by language gives you way more flexibility.

Language Targeting

It may sound counterintuitive, but when choosing the languages in which your ads will show, try to not be too specific. Google usually recommends – and we agree – that you target all languages. This way you can reach people who speak more than one language and may search in several languages.

For example, say you sell German-English dictionaries, and you only want to target German-speaking people. If you create German-only campaigns with ads and keywords in German, your ads will only appear to people who have their Google interface language settings set to German. That means you’ll miss any German speakers who search in German through another language interface. To avoid missing out important (and relevant) traffic, you should set your campaigns to target all languages.

There are two exceptions to this rule. First, keywords that are spelled the same way but have different meanings in different languages (e.g. “gift” in German means poison). Second, keywords that have the same meaning in different languages (e.g. “hotel”), which could trigger an ad in a foreign language to the user.


Another useful tool to increase the accuracy of your ads is geo-targeting. In combination with language targeting, it’s a very powerful tool to get the maximum out of multi-language accounts. A good starting point is to search the areas where the second language of your account performs better. Then, you can rearrange your strategy by allocating a higher budget to those locations.

Switzerland is a good example to demonstrate how to combine both language and geo-targeting since each canton has a different most-spoken language. In this situation, you could increase the geo-targeting bid modifiers of your German campaigns on the Central and Eastern cantons and increase the French campaign for the remaining parts of the country.

Google once shared a test where an advertiser compared the CPC of both languages in his account (English and Spanish) and concluded that the keywords in the second language had a CPC 70% lower than the English ones. This example highlights perfectly that by targeting the right audience, the performance of your account can increase drastically.


Rui Matos Ribeiro

Rui is a PPC enthusiast, working for one of our leading ecommerce customer within the fashion retail industry. He is mainly experienced on the US and UK markets.