Nowadays, it is hard to imagine any business — of any kind — without Internet presence, regardless of what they do and who their customers are.
Coming in all sizes and flavours, websites provide companies with a unique opportunity to dramatically expand their reach and make their products and services available to virtually anybody around the world.
Once you have defined the layout and the type of information your website will feature, there is an important decision to be taken: which language will be your first choice to provide such content?
Depending on your core business, the natural decision can be either your business mother tongue (if you have traditionally addressed your local market only) or English (careful with that, though, if you are not a native speaker). However, once you have defined your content and feel comfortable with it, you will probably feel the need to add new languages to reach international customers and engage in communication: you GO GLOBAL.
This is a turning point: even if we have thousands of successful examples where businesses have applied the right strategy to port their website into foreign languages, there are even more cases showing how an unprepared setup or a naïve strategy can lead to embarrassing results, damaged reputation and, ultimately, market oblivion.
Therefore, whether you plan to translate your website to one additional language or create a massive multilingual portal featuring 15 languages, you do need to set up a linguistic strategy before you commission the translation of your website. Here are some practical considerations you should take into account to ensure that the translated (also known as localized) versions of your website will work as intended and attract the right type of visitors just like its original version.
1) Customer Perception of Service is the Key to Strive
Having a loyal customer base largely depends on how much you care for them, take care of their needs, and show your willingness to help.
Easier said than done. How can a business achieve this?
Customer focus is not only a fancy marketing term: businesses that carry out significant efforts to understand what their customers need and speak their language (literally and figuratively) are much better performers, in financial and reputation terms, than companies simply focusing on their own agenda and barely listening to what consumers have to say about their products.
Today, the relationship between companies and customers is no longer a one-way monologue where buyers are just passive listeners, but an ongoing exchange of information and feedback that result in portfolio updates and strategy changes to better serve customer needs.
This approach must be implemented at all levels, and your website plays a key role with a dual purpose: showcasing your products and acting as a contact point for inquiries. Once you have developed an effective website with functional and useful content (portfolio, contact section and a company description at the very least), it is time to make yourself available to international customers and think about translating your website.
- Where should you start from?
- Which content should be translated?
- Into which languages?
All these are legit questions.
2) Choose and Prioritize Your Languages by Looking at Your Customer Base
We are not here to tell you how you should drive your business, of course.
Still, there are several aspects in connection with your portfolio, your customers and the internationalization strategy that you should ponder if you want to make the most out of the budget you set aside for translation.
Think about the following questions as a mental checklist you can use to help you drive your decisions.
- Which are they key elements of your business that your customers must be aware of? Portfolio usually comes first, but what about your mission, your contact channels or your support section? In other words: which are the single pieces of information they MUST understand in order to complete the buying process and enjoy the product experience?
- All or nothing (or just part of it): Do you need to translate the whole content of your portfolio, or only the basic description of your products?
- Should you consider full translation of your best selling products and provide a more basic (keyword-based) translation of your less popular items? Or do you feel committed to provide the full experience to your customers across all products?
- Are your international customers comfortable with your main language? Should you choose only a few specific languages for your website, which ones are emotionally closer to your target audience? This is particularly important when setting up an eCommerce site.
- If your website features a blog or a news section that requires regular updating, will it be part of your internationalization strategy and be marked for translation? Again, explore your customer habits: perhaps you run a English website featuring a blog and a news section, but only the blog content is relevant to your French customers while the Spanish-speaking customers will be more interested in the news section and be more likely to skip the blogging part.
As you can see, analysing the type of information that each group of international customers consume can help you decide on such important matters.
3) More Languages Mean More Customers. Always.
FACT: Netflix and Amazon Video profit and reach increased dramatically as the amount of content available in multiple languages increased by 10x.
There is no way to find out the overall weight that a multilanguage strategy alone has played in the dramatic raise of income and popularity of the bigger names in the on-demand streaming media services. However, it seems reasonable to think that addressing customers in their own language and creating specific content for different countries has worked out like a charm.
Netflix Streaming subscriptions:
These two companies are just an example that can be also observed in many other industries and markets, where businesses that have played wisely the language game -starting from their website content- have witnessed a consistent expansion of their customer base.
Another benefit that comes with translating your website: conversion rates will also be higher. This is particularly important when it comes to translating your landing pages, that is, the very first experience your potential client has with your business as they reach your website. The original text has most likely been crafted with the utmost care in order to give a disarming first impression, so the translated versions of such key content must be equally catchy.
Warning: consider that a landing technique that is effective in your original version does not necessarily have the same effect in all languages. Local marketing experts and localizers can help you on this matter.
4) SEO Results Are Vastly Improved
Running a website implies that your company wants potential and existing customers to visit and spend time checking the products and services they are likely to buy.
How can they possibly check your website if it is hidden in page 54 of Google Search results?
- Having good products is not enough.
- Having good content on your website is not enough.
To attract visitors/customers, you need to devise a web communication strategy where Search Engine Optimization plays a central role. If you are not familiar at all with SEO, you can find plenty of good tips on the web to help you create a basic strategy that works, or tune your current strategy by applying more advanced tactics.
Well done! Now you have a great SEO strategy in place… for one language. If you plan to reach international customers, you will also need to redefine your SEO strategy for each language featured in your website and possibly go beyond using mere translations of those key terms that worked in your first language.
You will need local experts to redefine the SEO strategy for each language when required and spice up your web content with the search terms that locals actually use when looking for the products or services you sell, which might differ from the original SEO keywords to a great extent.
5) Impact on Your Business Reputation
A company that cares about its content and its customers usually performs better than competitors which do not, but above all, it sets an example.
In short, the more translated content you provide to your local customers, the more they perceive that your company cares about them: this creates a lot of positive buzz around you, as customers publicly talk about your products (in their own language!) and discuss them on social media sites.
All this buzz will eventually arrive at your competitors and other industry players, so your overall presence will be greatly enhanced and -provided that you offer quality products and support- your reputation will improve significantly in local circles and globally.
Again, we are not here to tell you how you should define your internationalization strategy: you can find plenty of useful information on the Internet about successful business models in nearly every industry; however, all of them have something in common: they offer relevant content to their international customers in their own language and always keep an eye on local trends in order to connect with them.
6) Business Keeps Running Beyond Your Website
Consider the implications of running a multilingual website.
Besides and beyond this post, we could not possibly list all the benefits that come with the decision to produce multilingual content to expand their reach. However, there is one important consideration that is often overlooked:
If you create content in a specific language, sooner than later your potential customers will have questions about your product or services, and you will need to fulfill their requests in the same language you used to approach them. Creating a multilingual catalogue for your international buyers can be pointless if their buying experience is abruptly severed as soon as they make a decision and try to move forward with the purchase process, let alone if they have questions about the browsed items.
In this research carried out by Stripe —the Internet eCommerce payment platform—, it was found out that the most common error in online shopping processes turning down customers was that 74% of checkouts did not have local language translations (particularly, Spanish checkouts were the least likely to be localized for other European markets).
Your business might not need to set up a 24/7 multilingual Customer Care Centre, but it is always a good idea to walk in your customers’ shoes and follow through the standard buying process —from item pickup through payment confirmation and sales support— in order to identify all the elements of your online content that should be translated.
7) Consider Your Long-Term Strategy
Does your website contain some static content you need to showcase for potential customers and make available to users?
Or does it feature dynamic information that changes and needs to be updated on a regular basis, such as product catalogues, blogs and news?
Depending on the type of content featured, you will need to devise a tailored collaboration strategy with your translation service provider.
Believe us: even if you think that your website content is straight forward, there is nearly always much more to it. Analysing your content and strategy before you embark on a translation project will ensure that the results are satisfying and everything that should be in scope for translation, well, actually is, both in its current state and looking ahead into the future.
8) Added Value Means Everything to Your Customer
We started the list talking about customer perception, and it is only natural that we close the circle getting back to such an important aspect of your relationship with your customer base.
The real value you provide to your customers by bringing translated content will eventually get back to you in a virtuous loop that could be summarized as follows:
Therefore, you should not simply consider translating your website contents just as a means to selling more (which will be among the desired consequences, of course), but as a thorough long-term tactic to better communicate with your customers, understand their needs and fine tune your actions in the long term to serve them properly and —yes— ultimately improve your performance globally.