Are You Using Google AdWords Language Targeting Correctly?

Google has many targeting options available to help advertisers reach the correct audience. One of the settings you need to select for each campaign you create is Language. This may seem pretty straight-forward, but as with most things in Google, there are some nuances to this targeting option you’ll want to understand as an advertiser.

First, it’s important to know that Google will not translate ads or keywords for you. If you write ads in English, and select “Spanish” as your target language, your ads and keywords will still be in English. If you want ads to show in a particular language, it’s up to you to translate them.

Let’s take a look at how language targeting works in Google in Search and Display campaigns.

How Language Targeting Works in Search Campaigns

Depending on the Google domain a person is using to search, there will be a default language associated with that domain. For example, defaults to English and defaults to French. Google will use this default language to decide the language of the ads it will display.

However, a person can choose to change their default language via the Settings link on the Google homepage. Below is how you go about finding that setting.

If you change the default language, that is what will determine the language of the ads Google displays. For example, a Spanish-speaker living in the United States may want to perform searches on the U.S. domain,, but could change the interface language setting to Spanish. In that case, they would see ads targeting Spanish instead of English.

How Language Targeting Works in Display Campaigns

On the Google Display Network, Google may look at the language of the pages that someone is viewing or has recently viewed to determine which ads to show.

Since you can only have one language default setting per account, it’s important to understand how this may influence the number of languages you decide to target with your campaigns, especially if you are targeting places where people may be bilingual.

For example, in Canada many people speak both English and French. If someone sets their Google interface language setting to French, but searches in English, they will only see ads targeting “French” in the campaign settings. In this case, advertisers should target both French and English, even if keywords and ads are only written in English.

How to Effectively Apply Language Targeting

To ensure full coverage, you could target all languages and reach people who might speak more than one language but search in several languages. Their search still must match the keywords in your account. So, if you are targeting all languages and have the keyword “womens shoes” in your campaign, this keyword won’t match to a search for “zapatos de mujer.”

Targeting all languages might not always be the best approach however. If you are bidding on keywords that are the same across languages, but are only writing ads in English, you might not want to target all languages. That way, a person won’t see an ad in a language they don’t understand.

If you do want to target multiple languages, I recommend creating a separate campaign for each. Even if you aren’t translating keywords and ads to other languages, having separate campaigns allows you to easily evaluate performance differences between language targets.

Have you handled accounts with multiple languages? How did you handle the language targeting? We’d love to hear your tips and experiences in the comments!