Enterprise PPC in Asia Pacific – A Client-side Perspective

I started my foray into the world of PPC in a Singapore based search agency in 2008. Search marketing was still in its infancy in Singapore back then and was treated with much apprehension versus traditional forms of media.

Due to the technical nature, it was sometimes difficult to impress on traditional marketers the intricacies of PPC and how to effectively utilize it. Therefore, initial deployments were usually very small scale, never more than a few hundred keywords in one or two geographical locations. And usually using plain vanilla metrics for reporting like CPC (cost-per-click), clicks, impressions and CTR (click-through-rates).

My agency stint provided the foundation to take on the current client-side role as regional PPC manager for RS Components.

For those who may not be aware, RS Components is a UK-headquartered, multi-national company that distributes over 550,000 electronics and maintenance products with operations in 32 countries and 17 warehouses worldwide. I have the privilege of handling their Asia Pacific PPC campaign, which spans 10 geographical locations, in 5 languages.

Drawing on my experience from the past 3 years, I’ll give some insights on how to deploy multi-geographical and multi-language PPC in Asia Pacific.

Asia Pacific PPC Landscape

If you ask anyone in the European or U.S. markets what are the main search engines you need to advertise on, the answer is clear. Google. With a 90 percent domination of the search market in the West, you’ll get the biggest bang for the buck just by optimizing campaigns for Google and Google alone.

However, in APAC, the search landscape is very different. With Baidu dominating China, Naver dominating Korea and Yahoo going toe-to-toe with Google in Japan, it makes any serious search marketing efforts in APAC that much more complex, as you need to basically buy into all platforms for your PPC efforts to have sufficient reach and effectiveness.

If you have outsourced all bid management and operations to an agency, then all you’ll really need to do is just issue instructions for accounts with all the major search engines to be created by the agency, and for your PPC campaigns to be deployed across all of them.

However, if you have in-sourced your PPC operations/bid management, then this is where a bid management tool will come in very useful as it will save you hours in terms of administrative time in getting things set-up or making changes across your campaigns.

Different strokes for different engines

The mechanics of paid search across Google/Baidu/Yahoo/Bing are largely similar, but the targeting algorithms are very different because of differing technology advancements across the four.

By far, Google is the most accurate in terms of keyword matching algorithm, and this allows you more latitude in how you build your campaigns. However, in engines with a much less sophisticated matching algorithm like Baidu or Yahoo, you could end up spending a lot of money but end up none the wiser if you were to use bid strategies/ad structure that you imported from Google.

It is therefore essential to adopt different strategies for each search engine, looking closely to the data and then optimizing as you go along. Don’t be afraid to start small, and then build up your campaigns slowly.

Building an internal support team around PPC

As the PPC go-to person within the organization, your function should not be confined to just managing the organization’s PPC campaigns but also act as an evangelist for PPC to the rest of the organization.

Why is this important? First take a look at the typical process of running a PPC campaign.

Chances are your organization is going to have quite a lot of product groups with its own functional teams handling product marketing, branding, sales, etc. And although you have the PPC knowledge, you’re not going to be able to be the product expert for all the product groups within your organization’s purview.

At every step of the PPC process, whether it is keyword expansion, ad copy or going through search query reports, you’ll need help from other functions of the organization. Getting their buy-in to what you’re trying to achieve with PPC and also training them with the necessary skill-sets to value-add to PPC brings a lot of benefits to the table.

Keyword expansion

The heart of any PPC campaign are keywords, be it positive or negative keywords. The former will help bring relevant traffic to your website and the latter will help to streamline the traffic your campaign is bringing to your website.

As mentioned earlier, being the PPC person doesn’t make you a product expert and you’ll need product expertise to understand the kind of keywords to add from a keyword recommendation tool, or what kind of keywords to add into your negative list when looking at a search query report.

However, as the search marketing expert within the organization, you’ll have to provide guidance and sufficient training of how search works, match types and the role of negative keywords to the product managers.

If the process is set up well, what you’ll get is a well-tuned keyword expansion virtual team that is well equipped to ensure that the keywords you are putting into your campaign are relevant and ensure irrelevant traffic is kept at bay by building negative keywords from your search query reports.

Creative ad copy writing

Should your organization have a branding team responsible for the brand positioning of your organization, then it will be hard pressed for you to take ownership of the creative ad copy writing process for your PPC ads without ruffling a few feathers.

However, search should not be used as a major branding tool as well and the branding team will need to be enlightened on the pros and cons of PPC.

First, you can only express your brand message in text, and there’s only 70 characters for you to do that, excluding your 25 character headline. Therefore, expectations must be managed as to the extent of messaging for brand positioning.

Second, PPC is a passive media, meaning, you only reach people when they’re searching for keywords related to your products on the major search engines and your ads show up. This could be a bit converse to a big bang kind of brand positioning that your brand team might have in mind.

When treading the line with the brand team for ad copy writing, it’s usually best to strike a balance between writing ad copies that work for acquisition and balancing it with brand messages. After all, you can have a few ad copies for any ad group, therefore, you don’t have to stop at one.

Measurement and tracking

Last but not least, it’s essential to have some form of tracking for your PPC campaigns so that you’ll be able to have some measurable achievements at the end of the day.

For tracking, it’s always important to measure as granular as possible so that you’ll be able to have a breadth of data upon which to draw actionable insights. What you ultimately want is information and knowledge, not just data.

With that in mind, it’s always important to identify what are the correct data that you’ll want to measure, and this is very much in line with your campaign objectives from the start.

With this data, regardless of whether it is positive or negative, it will be good feedback to the organization on the results of your PPC campaign and will also give recognition to the efforts put in by your virtual teams. This will be crucial to getting support from them in the future for PPC activities.


The APAC region is probably the most challenging of geographies to launch a serious PPC campaign. However, with preparation, foresight, and the support from other functional lines in the organization, it is not altogether an impossible task.

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