Three of the four countries with the highest number of Internet users are located in Asia. China alone boasts more than 500 million users – more than twice the number active in the United States. India and Japan are both ahead of other vast potential markets such as Brazil in terms of web use. Even less populous countries like South Korea figure highly thanks to high penetration rates.
Asia is clearly an important region for anyone involved in e-commerce. The world-wide nature of the web offers unparalleled opportunities to break into new markets.. Whether this involves a Pan-Asian or a truly global approach, PPC or pay-per-click campaigns can provide a low-risk, cost-effective way to get started. Localization and organic SEO techniques are important parts of most long term strategies but they can take time to deliver results. A well-researched PPC campaign can offer a boost to sales and an increase in brand awareness. But there are a number of issues to bear in mind when reaching out to foreign markets.
Target your markets
Even if you consider your products or services to have a truly Pan-Asian or global appeal it can help to focus on one or two test markets first. As with any other venture, thorough market research should reveal whether your product is likely to appeal to consumers within the market, as well as the extent of competition and typical prices.
You should also ensure that you’re up to speed with the logistics and rules involved with shipping goods to that market. This may involve researching tax and customs regulations and ensuring that shipping costs are not prohibitive. If you’re going to be dealing with different languages it can also be helpful to have multilingual support staff who are able to deal with orders, queries and problems.
Consider your search engine
Google is, of course, the single most widely used search engine in the world. Karmasnack reported that, as of August 2012, Google had a massive 87.6 percent market share worldwide. But this is only part of the story. Within certain markets other local competitors can be every bit as important.
China, for example, represents a rather large stumbling block in Google’s quest for complete world domination. Baidu is the most widely used search engine in the country. According to Alexa’s rankings it is the fifth most visited site in the world, with substantial market shares in Hong Kong, South Korea and to a lesser extent Japan. Alexa currently lists Soso as the most popular search engine in South Korea while Yahoo! Japan sees the most traffic within Japan. Your target market will to a large extent determine your most effective search engine, although other factors such as the price for hosting your ads may also come into play.
Choose the right keywords
Keywords are crucial for any PPC campaign, since users will actually see your ads when they search for these words. If you’ve already researched keywords for a native language campaign, this can provide a great starting point. You certainly don’t need to ditch previous efforts entirely but remember that a straight dictionary or machine translation of keywords may not yield the best results.
Working with a native-speaking translator you should be able to brainstorm culturally relevant keywords that may include abbreviations, slang and other alternative terms. There are also various tracking systems and web analytic platforms that can capture the actual search terms used by native speakers. Potential keywords can then be run through Google’s keyword tools (or the equivalent on whichever search engine you’re using) to check for both effectiveness and levels of competition.
Transcreate your copy
Creating copy that can grab and hold the attention in such a limited space is an art form in itself. As with keywords however, a literal translation is unlikely to produce the best results. Few people would be prepared to click on an ad, much less part with money, if that ad seems unprofessional, stilted or grammatically incorrect.
Transcreation combines translation with an original creative process in order to produce copy that retains the original ad’s message and values while tailoring it to meet the target market’s cultural and linguistic expectations.
Monitor your results
Even with the most thorough of research and preparation it can take time and a little bit of tinkering to get a PPC campaign right, especially when dealing with international markets. Even something relatively minor such as altering a single keyword or the timing of your campaign to take regional time differences into account can have a significant effect. Checking click-through rates and visitor behaviour will give you invaluable information about the effectiveness of your campaign and allow you to refine your approach as required.
There’s a lot to think about when planning an international PPC campaign but, done well, it can provide an effective first step into new and potentially lucrative markets.