Something you may not think about… The global population speaks MORE than English alone. Here’s a great article from our guest blogger, Christian Arno of Lingo24 that explores this very important issue…
If you’re not already doing online marketing campaigns in languages other than English, then now is the time to get started. There’s a simple reason for this – right now, it’s a whole lot easier to get to the top of Google in foreign languages than it is in English. The amount of content online in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, etc, is far less than the quantity of content online in English – and therefore there’s a lot less competition for keywords.
In fact, with just a little bit of SEO work, you could see your foreign language sites climb right up the rankings in Google.fr or Google.es in only a matter of weeks – a task that could take months on Google.com or Google.co.uk.
But wait, I hear you cry, I don’t speak any foreign languages, so how can I possibly optimize a website for Google in a tongue I don’t understand! This is where, depending on your budget, you can either employ the talents of Google Translate, or the skills of an expert in foreign language internet marketing.
Whichever path you take, whether it’s machine translating your content and painstakingly researching your foreign language keywords online, or bringing in an expert to do the heavy lifting, the very first thing you need to decide is whether to target your foreign language websites by language or by country.
If you’re selling products or services online, then we can safely presume that you will have done some research to determine what demand there might be for your goods in foreign countries, before investing in your multilingual web presence. Therefore, you’ll likely have a good idea of which countries or languages you want to target – let’s say, for the sake of this argument, that you want to target French, Spanish and German speaking countries, as you’ve determined that there is demand for your business in Western Europe and Latin America.
Your easiest and most affordable option here would be to simply create three foreign language websites – one for French, one for Spanish and one for German, and theoretically this would allow you to sell to French speakers in France, Canada, Switzerland and Africa, Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America and German speakers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
This, however, would be a mistake for three simple reasons. The first reason is differences in dialect. The French spoken in France is very different to the Quebecois spoken in Canada, and there are even very specific differences with the French spoken in tri-lingual Switzerland.
Again, every Spanish-speaking country in Latin America uses a slightly different local dialect, all of which differ greatly from the Spanish spoken in Spain. To give you but one example, in Spain the word ‘coche’ refers to an automobile, while in most of Latin America it refers to a baby stroller. If you use just one version of a language to target speakers of different dialects from different countries, then you risk alienating a huge proportion of your audience.
The second reason is to do with more intensive localization than just differences in dialect, including such elements as currency differences and payment methods. For instance, Spanish speakers in Latin America will not feel very well catered for if your site only gives prices in Euros. And different countries prefer different payment methods - while credit cards remain the most popular online payment method in the United States, in Italy they prefer online payment companies such as Sella, Cartasi and PayPal, the Dutch use iDeal and the Chinese prefer direct money transfers (for the meantime, until PayPal’s move into China becomes more firmly established).
The third and final reason why it’s important to target by country is geolocation. Google likes search results to be relevant to their local area, so your French domain or subdomain should be geotargeted to France – that way when searchers enter your targeted keywords in Paris, they’ll be more likely to come up with your website. If you just have one main site trying to reach searchers in half a dozen different countries, then chances are Google will rule that it’s not relevant to any of them.
The most successful global websites now have, as a base-line, more than 20 localised sites catering to individual countries and every mainstream language within each country. While this goal of global domination may be a way off for you yet, the rule holds true that you will get much better results creating one website for, say, Spain, and optimizing that with Spanish keywords, localizing it for Spanish users and building back-links within the local Spanish internet, than by creating a website in Spanish and trying to use it to sell to Spanish-dialect speaking customers all over the world. Localization is key, and the more local you go, the better you’ll do!
About the author
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company specializing in website localization and optimization. Lingo24 has been helping some of the world’s biggest global brands with their localization campaigns since 2001. Contact Lingo24 for a quote on foreign language internet marketing services.