Last Updated on May 16, 2022
In theory, it’s pretty easy to scale your Google Shopping campaigns to multiple countries.
All you need to do is provide the feed, specify where you want to advertise and Google does the rest.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Because when you’re dealing with product feeds, the theory doesn’t always equal practice. But like the product feed, getting past any initial hurdles can really pay-off.
For one of my clients, we managed to increase revenue by 35%, just from targeting a new country with their Shopping campaigns.
Here is what we’ll look at in this article:
- Before you go abroad
- Do you need a new Google Merchant Center account?
- The technical details of going abroad
- Getting tax & shipping settings right
- Common problems
- Google Shopping campaign setup
- Managing expectations
- Is going abroad with Google Shopping worth the hassle?
Before you go abroad
There are a couple of reasons to expand your Google Shopping campaigns to different countries.
Perhaps you’ve reached a plateau in your current market. Or you’re looking for the advantages that come with a larger scale. Or you’re not happy with the return in your current market. These are all real reasons from clients we’ve worked with.
But before you make the jump, you want to make sure that you have your campaigns dialed in.
To advertise in new countries, you’ll need to create new campaigns. That means duplicating your existing ones which means your optimization work will go up. Two campaigns to monitor negative keywords in, tweak bids, etc.
So before I expand to a different country, I always try to have the product feed & campaigns in good shape.
- Good technical shape: product feed without errors, account structure, bidding strategy, negative keyword lists, bid adjustments, etc.
- Good financial shape: you’ve got a baseline performance and know what numbers you need to hit to be profitable.
Do you need a new Google Merchant Center account?
Google only allows a domain to be linked to a single Google Merchant Center account. So if you want to use the same domain for a different country, you’ll need to use the same Google Merchant Center account.
If you’re using different domains for different countries, you can use a different Google Merchant Center account.
So why go through the trouble?
It’s a little extra work but reduces your risk.
If for some reason or the other, your account gets suspended or your products get reviews, none of the products linked to that account will show in Shopping Ads.
This is always pretty bad. But for one client, the timing was really horrible. Right in the middle of the Black Friday weekend, Google decided to review all products. There was no warning and no changes had been made for at least a month.
Still, none of her Shopping Ads were showing during the busiest days of the year.
If she was selling in multiple countries with different domains, she could have reduced her risk by using multiple Google Merchant Center accounts. It’s unlikely all of them would trigger a review on the same day.
The technical details of going abroad
If you want to take your Google Shopping campaigns to a different country of sale, there are three important things to consider:
Depending on which one(s) are different from the new target country, you’ll have to do different things to get your products into Google Merchant Center.
Case 1 Different country, same language, same currency
A seller from Germany that wants to sell his products in Austria.
This is probably the easiest expansion. No need to mess around with different feeds or currencies.
The only thing you’ll need to do is add the country to your feed in Google Merchant Center.
That’s unless your feed provider connects to GMC using something called the Content API. This is the case for the default Shopify Google Shopping app or the Sales&Orders app on BigCommerce.
In that case, you’ll need another tool to create this feed. If you’re using the Shopping Content API through Shopify or BigCommerce, you’ll need to use another tool to create this feed.
To create this extra product feed, you have a couple of options.
I use a data feed management tool like Channable. I select the products that need to be imported, make extra customizations and connect the feed to Google Merchant Center.
Case 2 Different country, same language, other currency
A seller from the UK that wants to sell in the US.
This gets a little trickier. The product information is the same, but what about the currency?
One of the Google Shopping policies states that the price in your product feed needs to match the price on the landing page.
But for a UK seller, the prices in the product feed will be in GBP, but when a US visitor clicks on the ad and are sent to the UK site, they will see a price in GBP. Which can be pretty weird.
Here is what that looked like to an English speaking Belgian visitor watching an ad from a UK beef jerky seller:
You can see here the converted price in euro with the original price in pounds in brackets.
This primes the visitors that it actually is a UK site with a different currency.
The only thing you’ll need to do is add the country to your feed in Google Merchant Center.
Case 3 Same country, different language, same currency
A seller from Belgium that is advertising to Dutch-speaking people and wants to reach to French-speaking people.
The main issue here is the language, both in the product feed and on the landing pages.
In comparison with the previous 2 cases, this isn’t a quick switch. To make this work, you’ll need to translate your site and create new pages.
Once you have that in place, my preferred option here is to create a new feed.
As I’ve mentioned before if you’re the Content API (Shopify’s default app or BigCommerce), you’ll need to use another tool to create this feed.
It’s also possible to do this all in Google Merchant Center with Supplemental Feeds and Feed Rules. But it is a real PITA so just create a new feed.
Selecting the right language inside of Google Ads
There is one other special problem you’ll run into when you create products feeds in multiple languages that target the same country. When you’re setting up a Google Shopping campaigns, you can only choose which country you want to target. And you can not select any particular language.
This means that by default, all of your products (no matter the language), are in the same campaign. So you’ll see both languages appear in the search terms report.
To get visibility on how each language performs, and to be able to set different bids or targets, you’ll need to create 2 separate campaigns.
Let’s say you’re a Belgian advertiser that has a French and Dutch product feed that target Belgium.
To be able to create one campaign per language, you can add a custom label to each specific language feed. We could set custom_label_1 to NL for the Dutch product feed, and to FR in the French product feed.
Then you’re able to use the inventory filter to filter on the custom label when you’re creating the actual campaign.
🇨🇳 Bonus: reaching Chinese users in strange places
Besides targeting the native languages of a country, Google often gives you the ability to target other languages.
This is often the language that people use on google.com. That means that in most countries you can target English speaking users.
If you’re targeting Chinese users, there are some interesting opportunities available.
Here are some options available in Google Merchant Center:
- Australia: English & Chinese
- Canada: English, French & Chinese
- China: only Chinese 😎
- Malaysia: English, Malay & Chinese
- Singapore: English & Chinese
- United States: English, Spanish & Chinese
Case 4 Different country, different language, same currency
A seller from Germany that wants to sell in France.
Case 5 Different country, different language, different currency
A seller from the UK that wants to sell in Germany.
Re-using elements from the other cases, here is what you need to do:
- Translate your site
- Create a new feed (see case #3)
- Rely on Google’s currency conversion to display your products in the correct currency
Getting tax & shipping settings right
If you’re done with the feeds, there is one other thing you need to do to get your Shopping ads running in other countries.
You need to define your tax & shipping settings. While the tax part is only required if you’re selling in the US, the shipping settings are required for every country.
For this to work, you need to specify the exact details in every country you’re selling in.
So if you’re an Australian business selling to the United States, you need to specify how long it’s going to take to ship your items to the US, and what costs are associated with it.
If you’re charging in a different currency than the country you’re targeting, just put your original currency here, Google will convert it as described above.
That Shipping price of €9.07 might look weird, but converted to pounds, it equals £7.95.
To verify you’re providing the correct info, Google will perform regular reviews.
This isn’t a simple crawl, they proceed all the way to checkout to see if the tax and shipping costs in Google Merchant Center match those on your website.
Here is a warning one of my clients received because of inaccurate shipping costs:
As you can see, Google does pretty in-depth reviews with different ZIP codes. On the tax-side, that means they using different Zip codes to see how your price changes.
When scaling internationally, new issues keep popping up. Here are a couple of problems I’ve run into.
Restricted products are different per country
Google Shopping policies with regards to which products you can sell change quite a bit in a different country.
If you’re a German business selling adult-oriented products through Shopping, you’ll find that these products aren’t allowed in Shopping Ads in any other country.
For this last category, a product can get disapproved because of a single, non-essential keyword in your product description.
Comparison Shopping Service limit expansion
For European sellers working with a Comparison Shopping Service provider, it is not possible to target countries outside of the EEA and Switzerland.
Google Shopping campaign setup
If you’re done with the feeds and the tax and shipping settings, its time to set up the actual campaigns in Google Shopping.
You can’t copy an existing Google Shopping campaign in the Google Ads interface and change the country (or Merchant ID) afterward.
So you have two options:
Set up the new campaign(s) from scratch. That’s pretty manual work, and there is a good chance you’ll forget something causing the campaigns to underperform.
That’s why I use the Google Ads Editor.
You can copy one or more campaigns and make the changes you need.
First, be sure to change the Merchant identifier (your Google Merchant Center ID) and the country of sale:
Once you’re done, check your campaigns and post them.
A different country often means a different performance. None of these differences are unique to Google Shopping, but they might impact your results.
1. Less marketing power
If you’ve been selling in a specific country for a while, you might have built up brand awareness or other marketing channels that might help your performance.
In a new country, you might not have these yet.
2. Different purchasing habits
Some countries are less prone to buy online.
I have a lot of clients from Belgium and the Netherlands. And while the countries seem pretty similar, the only differences are stark.
I’ve had a client where I was advertising in the same language, with the same products, to the same site with the same ads. And one country converted at HALF the rate of the other. Belgium visitors converted at 1.4%, while Dutch visitors were converting at 2.8%!
That is a huge difference and might impact the long term viability of being in a market like this. With this client, we ended up focusing on the campaigns that were profitable and refraining from others that were working in the other country.
3. Different buying objections
Customers in different countries might have different expectations when it comes to things like payment options.
You need to know about these and offer them.
Cash on delivery is still pretty popular in Germany. So if you’re expanding there, you should learn about it and look for a way to offer it.
4. Conversion killers
Lastly, there are a number of things that are disadvantages as a foreign seller in a new country.
Things like longer shipping times, higher shipping cost, different currencies, a foreign phone number, accurate translations, reviews in different languages etc.
All of these can be overcome, but tackling them will require extra investment and might add overhead.
There are probably also cases where the reverse is true. If you’re an Italian or French fashion brand expanding to the US, you can probably capitalize on some of the trust built by previous brands.
Is going abroad with Google Shopping worth the hassle?
By now you should have a pretty good idea how much work is involved with expanding your Google Shopping campaigns to different countries.
Depending on the country you want to expand to, the technical changes will be different as will your results.
So will it be worth the effort?
It’s hard for me to predict this, but if you stay within the same language Google Shopping offers a pretty solid way to expand internationally without too much hassle.
Found this article helpful? Struggling with different issues?
Let me know in the comments!