The World Wide Web is a global multilingual multinational market, and it will keep expanding that way. Yet if you run a marketing campaign in one language, you’re suppressing potential business growth and chaining the reach of your brand.English-only Web Pages are currently missing on at least 65% of internet traffic. So the obvious thing to do, if you wish to increase your sales and watch your traffic skyrocket, is to translate your online content into more languages … But what does “translate” really mean?
Translation alone means little when used as a marketing tactic unless your content is properly localized as it is being translated. Localization gives a true local meaning and wider understanding of the use of translated content, and the following five elements must be fully understood before you localizing any part of your online business.
First: Understand the Region
The line between region and language can become a gray area, but if should have a sense of the geographic region you’re marketing for by zeroing down on the regional target and focusing on the most spoken languages within that region. I suggest searching real statistical metrics on people and what languages they speak; you might be surprised by the discrepancy with the official data. In some provinces in Canada, for example, marketing materials in Spanish and Hindi are boosting sales more than doing the same in French, even though French is an official language of the country.
Second: Localize (or localise)
While Localization and Translation might sound the same, they really are not. Word-by-Word translation is very stilted and not the same as localization. A translator might be able to convert your marketing materials from one language to another, but he or she might not be the best person to localize it. Localizing is about keeping the same level of energy that was put in the original text; that includes the pun, mottos and any other catchy phrases you crafted in the original language. To keep that energy, you might want to use more local slang and/or phrases, or refer to local proverbs, trends and events that are closer to the local audience/language you are targeting.
I once suggested to an owner of an e-store selling beauty products with a sizable overseas customers -mainly from India- to at least translate products’ titles into Hindi, and offer more “Sales” to match what’s trending in the region she’s serving. That year she issued a 10% coupon code “Diwali” before releasing the same 10% code “Santa” – both within a week's’ span. The results were astonishing: 35% more sales for the same face-valued coupons within a different cultural envelope! Links to her store were shared among many online platforms –previously unknown to her- resulting in promoting her store 30+ levels on Google search.
Culture-sensitive content will have a great impact on your SEO – more than keywords sometimes. Now you want to tap into foreign markets, with the hope of increasing traffic and revenue. Traffic is driven by Search Engines ranking your pages in relevance to shared links, Social Media tags, and other websites referrals. By making a multilingual version of your website, you will begin to access a new market with millions of new people willing to copy your URL over and over, but only if your message is 1) accurate and 2) appealing to that language and/or region.
Culture might also force you to calibrate your marketing approach VS geographical targeting. If you are in the business of selling smoked bacon, then translating your website into Arabic or Hebrew might not give you the best return on investment, regardless of the location!
Fourth: Don’t short-change a language
There is no such thing as “good enough” when it comes to a language. If you took every precise measure in crafting your marketing materials or email newsletters in English, then you must do the same for any other language. Every customer is worthy of the same amount of attention no matter what language he or she speaks. If your business can’t make peace with this simple fact, I suggest you stay away from the international market. The last thing you want to put is a message that is linguistically embarrassing, but one that you consider “good enough”. The amount of negative reputation will hurt your organization, and your business might not recover from it, as online content rarely get lost.
Fifth: Social Media
I conclude with this, however, you might want to start here.
Social Media is the best tool to build a market in a different region or language, but only if you learn how to use it. The new-media and microblogging platforms are the current “word of mouth” marketing. You can maintain social media profiles in multiple languages even while not having a multilingual website. This will broadcast your brand and gauge your user engagement. However, you have to be mindful of the limitations social media have in different languages and how it might impact your communications with fans; like allocated text size that will be challenging in some language, posting your messages to followers in different time-zones, using platforms that are unfamiliar to you, and crafting localized messages with localized hashtags … among many other factors. Your social media message can go viral quickly, so be careful with what to write and how it's being translated; Social Media marketing is where you really need to cut ties with Machine Translation.
A good localized social media campaign will bring in millions of new users and cost you far less in translation fees than flipping your entire website in another language. If carried correctly, a new wave of social media followers will turn to be your foreign marketing agents from that point onward. Just make sure you give the message in a localized language, and let the people do the magic for you.