There’s a limited number of potential customers online for each language. And by some accounts, up to 85 percent of consumers won’t buy from a site if they can’t read about the product in their native language. One solution is to go multilingual with your online reach and expand into other language markets. According to Ethnologue, a reference book that tracks the world’s languages, the top languages in terms of the number of speakers are Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi/Urdu and Arabic. Considering that each of the most widely-spoken languages in the world comes from a different language family, designing keyword campaigns can be daunting for merchants who want to market globally.
Fortunately, there are professional translators who can provide accurate information for tailored keyword campaigns.
Christian Arno is the founder and managing director of a global translation and localization company, Lingo24.com. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 works with some 4,000 professional freelance translators, covering a hundred different language combinations. We asked him to offer some tips on how merchants can do their own research for translating their sites, and implementing marketing campaigns in different languages.
- Mimic Other Localized Sites. Tailor your marketing campaigns in each language to the target market, and that starts with creating localized Top Level Domains (TLDs) for each country/language, so one for the U.K., one for China, one for France, and so forth.
If you’re planning a website framework that’s going to be transferred across multiple localized sites for a wide range of viewers from different cultural backgrounds, then it’s a good idea to base your design upon sites that are already optimized for multicultural audiences, such as Amazon, Facebook or the BBC. With global audiences and significant experience crossing cultural barriers, these sorts of sites can provide a good basis for a design framework that is consistent in its branding across sites, but also accessible to the greatest number of people.
- Use Human Translators. It’s also essential to have your content translated or checked by a professional translator. Automated online translation services like Google Translate will help you get the basic gist of a website, but if you’re trying to convince people to buy from you, awkward grammar and misplaced phrasing is not the way to instill confidence.
- Choose Keywords Carefully. Make sure the search-engine-optimization keywords you use in your copy and tags, and for your pay-per-click campaigns, are properly researched for each target market. While there is often overlap in popular search terms between languages, the direct dictionary translation may not be a key search term in your target country or language, and using the wrong keywords will wreak havoc on your search engine rankings.
Say, for instance, you’re marketing “weekend holidays” online. You would probably use “weekend vacation” to target an American market, but what about in French? The direct translation from Google Translate, “week-end de vacance,” doesn’t show up on a keyword search in Google Keywords. “Holiday rental,” on the other hand (translated “location vacance”), gets 4,090,000 hits.
You can also research your keywords by typing a variety of phrases into the most popular local search engine and seeing how many results you get, and by checking out the top local competition to see what keywords they’re using successfully.
Try to break through the masses by using more specific localized keywords in combination with generic ones. For instance, in our previous “weekend holiday” example, “maison vacance,” “séjour,” “sejour,” (without the accent) and “vacance piscine” also rank highly as keywords.
One way to find unusual local keyword phrases is to visit online dictionary forums for word nerds and ask for feedback on popular alternative phrasings for terms such as “weekend holiday.” If you were targeting the English market, two very popular terms would be “city-break” and “weekend getaway.”
- Test Your Keyword Selection. Test your selected keywords by using them in pay-per-click advertising campaigns. You can set a nominal monthly budget for your PPC and then review the results at the end of each month to see which keywords brought you the most click-through traffic and should be used more prominently in your SEO copy.
By thinking carefully about the nuances of culture and language in each of your chosen target markets, you can tailor your web presence and online marketing campaigns for each market to be both search engine optimized and appealing for the audience.