We live in an international world. Even small online businesses find they will naturally acquire customers and enquiries from other parts of the globe. The potential for your online business to succeed in foreign markets is definitely there – but how do you access them? While English is spoken in many places in the world, to truly target a new international market, you need to speak their language.

I don’t just mean this figuratively either. A lot of site owners have become concerned about their site’s lack of language skills, and are exploring their options. For many, the quick fix of automated translation software proves too much of a temptation, crippling their first efforts. For those who take the time and invest in a good translation however, there are still obstacles to be faced.

Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of translating your website

First of all, the good part: the pros

  1. It serves your customers. This is a great primary focus. Not everyone speaks English, and offering multiple languages enhances your relationship with your customers.
  2. It extends your reach. This is an even better business focus. A translated site means access to more markets, more opportunities and more profits.
  3. International keywords can work well in global search engines like Google. Most English-speaking countries have non-English speaking minorities, and those groups sometimes search using their first language and will have the search engine settings set to prioritise their own language in the results. This means there are foreign keywords in English-based Google, but little competition for them. This is a little extra boost for multinational search engine optimisation.

…next, we come to the bad part: the cons

  1. International markets require many frames of mind. Every culture has its own little quirks, which need to be mastered if you’re going to convince your market that you’re the right option for them
  2. A translated page gives a promise of language. In other words, if you’ve translated your page into Spanish, your Spanish customers are likely to expect customer service in Spanish or at least access to FAQs on your site in their language
  3. Any mistakes on an international site will be pounced upon. The key is to have your text professionally translated

If you are going to translate your website, there are some things you really have to keep in mind:

  • Do the translation manually and invest in what you’re doing. Automated translation can create some truly hilarious pieces of text, but this is not something you want for your website. Without a skilled professional translator, you cannot be sure that you’re saying what you really want to be saying. Know what I’m saying?
  • Consider taking it slow. It can be difficult to gauge the right tone for a market in another language and a cheap, easy way to do so is to translate a few pages and test with PPC. This way, you can test out your approaches in a fairly cost-effective manner
  • Don’t get stuck in your own market mind space. The markets in different countries operate differently. What might appeal on the page or in the search engines in the UK might not work in the US, and is unlikely to work in France or Spain. Consider hiring a marketing consultant from your new target market, even just for a few hours’ work

If you’re unsure about translation, think about meeting your market half way. The simple gesture of a section of translated welcome text and an on-page translation widget goes a long way to winning them over.

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