Time was, language targeting in Google Ads was relatively simple.
If you wanted to reach English speakers you chose English as your target language.
If you wanted to reach Spanish speakers, you selected Spanish, and so on.
Simple, right? Well, yes… it was.
And it worked. Because Google determined a users language by seeing which language was selected in their browser preference.
Seems logical. After all, if I speak English the chances are I will have my browser language preference set to English.
Of course, there was always a little “leakage” and you would get the odd German speaker, or Chinese in the mix, but it was at a volume that didn’t really impact on your results or budgets in any significant way.
Fast forward a few years. Google have changed the way in which they identify a users … let’s call it, use of language.
Now, rather than use the browser language preference as a guide, they use a combination of signals to determine which language(s) a user understands.
But these signals are not reliable. Just because a user has visited web pages in English does not mean that they understand English. Over 60% of pages on the internet are in English… so it’s inevitable that non-English speakers will visit pages in English… but this does not mean they speak English.
It is likely that this is another skewed interpretation that affects Google and their US-centric vision of the world. In the US there is a large Spanish speaking community. And they practically all also speak English. So their approach to language targeting makes sense… in the US.
Come to Spain. It’s not the same. Why would it be?
In Spain, just because people might visit websites in English does not equate to them being able to speak English.
So showing them ads designed to be shown only to English speakers is, frankly, a waste of budget… but it is something we are having to try and workaround because when you select English as your target language for Google Ads, Google will include anyone.