Increasing competition for international markets has already transformed global marketing initiatives in print and online. Unsurprisingly, consumers in foreign markets will continue to expect and demand purchasing information, online help, and user documentation in their own languages.
So why do business leaders continue to resist multilingual website development? More importantly, what can we do about it?
“We can’t afford that!”
While there are several reasons why even the best global businesses dillydally when it comes to multilingual website development, it’s the anticipation of high investment costs that ranks high among them. We’re not going to lie to you: Of course it costs money to translate content. But it may not be as high as you fear.
Byte Level Research, a web globalization research firm, publishes an annual report on the best practices of the world’s top performing websites, from Amazon to Yelp. Successful websites are spending less than 1% of their total revenue on web globalization efforts.
Yes, even 0.5% of budget is significant, especially when you’re talking both text and image materials. Add to the initial investment concerns the demands of the social media landscape with its blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and multimedia channels and of course those worries multiply.
Nevertheless, if your company wants to gain revenue and market share in foreign markets there’s no sidestepping the responsibility or its costs. As we often remind our clients, industry statistics consistently show that consumers, whether professional or laypeople, purchase products and services first and foremost in their own languages.
That means that the tips that we provide below begin with understanding that, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. That said, these tips will help you mitigate the impact of this investment on your bottom line.
Bring translation forward.
We recently wrote about what we call the Agile Localization Diet—how companies that are speeding production for foreign locales can create equally speedy mean-and-lean localization processes. One of the action items in the diet’s how-to apply here as well: That is, translation accuracy and performance improve when translation and localization providers are included at the start of the process rather than as an afterthought. Bringing professionals in at the end is likely to result in an inconsistent experience for your consumers and raise questions about the extent of your commitment to the target locale.
Content is king, for sure, but not all content is destined to rule all lands. Here is where website analytics can prove invaluable to companies on a tight budget. When you understand how your foreign buyers search for and through your website, you can prioritize for translation those pages and materials that are most relevant to them — enhancing content rather than sacrificing your revenue.
Related to content prioritization are the tools by which you manage all of your corporate site’s content. Part of that is, of course, the web content management system itself and how information flows into and out of that system. The other and more valuable pieces, however, are those components on both your side and on the translation vendor’s side that make use of that content for multilingual deployment. Translation management systems, machine translation tools, translation memory and terminology assets — the investment in automation can be readily recouped by reducing otherwise precious staff time on mundane, repeatable, and manual tasks.
Don’t neglect the search engines.
As Search Engine Land reconfirmed earlier this year, Google continues to far outpace its competitors globally in the search industry in both unique searches (65.2% share) and unique searchers (76.6% share). When this is how the world’s consumers are discovering more about your business, can you really afford to ignore search engine optimization?
We think, of course, that the answer to that is a resounding NO. We’ve already talked extensively about the value of search engine optimization (SEO) for multilingual websites (Multilingual SEO on a Shoestring: 3 Tips That Are Budget Smart), so follow the link for the details. In summary: treat your page titles, keywords, descriptions, and alt tags with the value they deserve in all of the languages of your site.
Remember, you do not have to be a specialist in multilingual website development yourself. A reputable localization service provider with a track record in multilingual marketing for the online space will provide the right guidance, resources and tools, and performance evaluators to make this a successful investment for your company’s leaders, partners, and consumers.
Of course, we’d love to hear from you when you need the help!