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AdWords in the UK: A U.S. Advertisers’ Survival Guide

Published: December 27, 2012

Author: Katie Walton

Today’s post is by Katie Saxon, a UK-based PPC pro working for Boom Online Marketing
us vs. ukWith the economy facing tough times, smart businesses may be looking to overseas markets like the UK to bolster trade. AdWords is an obvious route to market, yet there are subtle differences in both the clientele and AdWords itself that you have to appreciate to succeed in the UK.
Are you using the new Google Shopping? Great, but the roll-out in the UK doesn’t start until February 2013. It may not be a disaster in this case, but generally the UK is behind on new features and innovations.
On the plus side, when features do come out, you’ll be ahead of the game with what you’ve learned by following top U.S.-based marketing experts. But when a new feature delivers an excellent return, all you can do is sit back and wait.
Takeaway: Learn what you can before the feature hits the UK to be ready to pounce.
As Google states, “advertising should comply with laws and regulations.” If your company offers products or services that are restricted in the U.S., you may find that the rules are completely different in the UK.
Takeaway: If you are at all unclear whether your products may be affected, either refer to the policies page or speak to Google support.
“England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” – George Bernard Shaw
It may sound obvious, but people in the UK talk differently than our American cousins. Not only that, but people in the northern UK use different terminology than people in the south. It’s a potential minefield for a foreigner coming in.
Here are some major differences that you need to be aware of:

Dollar ($)Pound (£)
Overnight shippingNext-day delivery

Takeaway: Make sure that when you’re promoting benefits and features, your UK audience understands what you mean.
That last point leads me on nicely to another key issue – it’s not just the way we talk that’s different. People in the UK have totally different cultural references than U.S. folk.
Worried about your Black Friday campaigns? Forget about it in the UK; we don’t do Thanksgiving. Everyone loves Hershey’s Kisses, right? Nope, most UK inhabitants think they’re gross. Oh, and our football is played with a round ball and no padding.
Takeaway 1: Focus on your benefits, features, and calls to action rather than trying to write clever ad copy, and you’ll be fine.
Takeaway 2: Ensure that you have separate seasonal strategies for the U.S. and the UK – one size will not fit all.
Selling any form of clothing? Make sure that you’ve got your sizing right. Shoe sizes in the UK are smaller than U.S. sizing – conversely, clothes sizes are bigger.
Takeaway: Put together a plan of action for how to handle this, particularly if you want to use product listing ads. Will you have a separate UK merchant feed? Or will you simply include clear sizing charts on your site?
This is the biggie: if you are going to advertise from your existing AdWords account, remember that your time settings are wrong for the UK. Not only are we generally ahead of you, but the UK switch to and from daylight savings time comes on different days than the US.
Takeaway: If you are using any form of day-parting or automation, check and double-check that you have your timings right.
Google offers different geo-targeting options in the UK and the US. Generally speaking, these changes are all due to the differences in the countries themselves – a U.S. state is roughly equivalent to a UK county (although a county is much physically smaller than a state).
The one exception is that AdWords doesn’t allow postal code targeting in the UK – although as some say zip code targeting sucks, you might not feel the loss.
Takeaway: Consider whether you need to adapt your geo-targeting strategy to allow for differences in geography.
The fundamental key to remember is that the UK and the U.S. are not the same. While your AdWords strategy may be basically OK in both countries, to really excel you will need to adapt it to suit the two different markets.
– Katie Saxon, a UK-based PPC pro working for Boom Online Marketing, has managed PPC accounts spanning a wide range of verticals. When she’s not at work, she enjoys eating cake and is busy planning her wedding.

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