There are 2.27 billion internet users worldwide and tens of millions of businesses online. But how can you add them as customers if you don’t speak their language?
Over half of all Google searches are made in a language other than English – that’s a lot of customers to miss out on.
Internet World Stats reveal that the top ten languages used on the internet (to the nearest million) are:
- English (565 million)
- Chinese (510 million)
- Spanish (165 million)
- Japanese (99 million)
- Portuguese (83 million)
- German (75 million)
- Arabic (65 million)
- French (60 million)
- Russian (60 million)
- Korean (39 million)
Other languages from around the world make up another 350 million users.
This means that if your business only has a website in English, it is potentially reaching 565 million users from around the world. This may sound a lot, but in other words you are losing out on reaching an additional 1.5 billion internet users.
How the internet has changed
The growth of non-English languages on the internet is no surprise. Over a period of just a few years, the internet has changed the way we live; the way we communicate; and the way we do business. At one time there was a noticeable ‘digital divide’, with users being disproportionately young, white, university-educated, English-speaking, middle/ upper class and male. Yet thanks to globalization and advances in internet access, gaps of gender, age, location and class have decreased.
International e-commerce growth predicted
Online shopping has become commonplace and is expected to grow rapidly in southern European markets over the next few years. Research by Forrester Research Inc. predicts that e-retail sales will grow at 11% per year in the UK and 12% in Germany to 2016, yet predicts even faster growth in countries where consumers have so far been slower to embrace online shopping – with an annual predicted growth rate of 19% for Spain and 18% for Italy.
Barclay’s Capital predicts that China’s ecommerce market will more than triple over the next three years, with online sales reaching $ 420 billion by 2015. That’s 20% more than what the US’s (English speaking) ecommerce market is predicted to be worth in the same year. With an estimated 193 million online shoppers (more than any other country) Chinese website translation seems well worth considering.
Seize opportunities with website translation and marketing translation
Trading internationally and considering marketing translations is the ONLY way for businesses to benefit from this huge growth in internet usage. Businesses not planning to capture these foreign markets are really in line to miss out on some big opportunities.
Although many British companies are already recognizing the online opportunities available to their businesses by setting up Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Ebay shops, it is simply not enough to supply marketing materials only in English. Businesses that are prepared to take prompt action with website translation and marketing translation are the ones that will really benefit from these technological advances.
Advertising and promoting your business online doesn’t have to be difficult, even in other languages.
Tips for Carrying Out Website Translations
Following are our top ten tips for carrying out website translations and marketing translations for international business success are:
Research your market
Research is the first and probably most important stage in website translation, so it is important that you do it right. Use the internet to check out your online competition and measure demand for your product/ service in other countries. There is no point targeting a country where people don’t need your product or service! Use online tools such as Google analytics to see where your customers are from and use Google Market Finder to see how many people search for your keywords in other languages.
Make use of support
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) provides support to businesses wishing to expand overseas. UKTI has country reports on its website and can also help you to carry out in-depth research into potential markets. Consider the Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) and the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS).
Review your website content
Before even considering translating your website into another language it is important that it is well written to start with. It should be written in simple, short sentences which can be easily translated. Avoid abbreviations, metaphors and terms which might not have an international equivalent and could result in mistranslation.
Conduct a brand check
Check your brand and slogans to make sure there are no negative meanings in other languages. Don’t make the same mistake as Clairol who launched a product called ‘Mist Stick’ in Germany – not realizing that in German the word ‘mist’ is slang for manure!
Translate your website
Research commissioned by the European Commission found that 82% of consumers were less likely to buy goods online if the website was not in their native language. This shows that website translation is vital when targeting customers overseas. Additionally, website visitors stay for twice as long if a website is in their own language (Forrester Research) and customers who buy online will pay more for a product if they can buy it in their own language (Common Sense Advisory).
Consider your domain name
If you are setting up your websites in multiple languages, you will need to think about how to separate the different version of your website. There are a number of options. You can buy the domain name for the specific country, i.e. www.website.de (for Germany). Another option is to use a general top level domain name such as www.website.com and then use a language specific sub-domain www.website.com/de. There are varying opinions on which is the best strategy in terms of SEO. It will depend very much on your objectives for building sales in the target market and overall strategy.
Hire a professional translation company
Website translation and marketing translation requires the skills of a professional. While there might be online gadgets available to carry out instant and automatic website translations, these are unreliable and often produce website content that has incorrect words, grammar and punctuation – guaranteed to put off potential overseas customers.
You might be tempted to use an in-house staff member who has knowledge of the language you wish to translate your website into. However, only a professional– and human – translator possesses the specialist knowledge required to carry out your website translation correctly. Professional translators, who work only into their mother tongue, possess specialist knowledge of the business context involved e.g. engineering, marketing, electronics, finance. The more specialized your sector, the more important it is that the translators have the necessary specialist knowledge to carry out your website translation accurately.
Use social media
Social media has undeniably changed the way we communicate – including the way we communicate with our customers. So when considering communicating with customers overseas and carry out marketing translations, it is crucial to consider social media as part of your international marketing strategy. While Facebook is clearly the favored social network around the world it is important to remember that groups of people in other countries use social networks differently. For example, in countries such as Japan, Iraq and India, less than 1% of the population uses Facebook, compared with around 42% of the UK population (2010 data).
Carry out research into which social media platforms are popular in your target market and set up separate accounts for each language on each of them.
Carry out research into international search engine optimization (SEO)
Don’t underestimate the importance of translating and localizing your keywords. However, it is not as simple as translating your keywords directly into other languages. The most effective keyword for a product or service in another market might not always be a direct translation of the English term; it could be a colloquialism, a ‘nickname’ for a product or a different word altogether.
A professional language translation company which also provides keyword research and localization services can carry out research in your target market to help you select the most effective keywords for use in your website translation.
Respond to overseas enquiries!
You’ve gone to all the trouble of carrying out research into potential overseas markets, comparing website translations services, conducting keyword research and so on. But how do you deal with the enquiries when they come in via your translated website?
It might sound obvious but don’t forget that enquiries coming in via you foreign language website will not be in English! To take advantage of all the leads generated, it’s essential to have a good strategy. This could involve setting up a pre-recorded message in the foreign language or sending out an automated holding email in the correct language which gives you time to respond in more detail. You can then use an in-house translator or use a professional language translation company to translate the enquiries for you.
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