Editor’s Note: We welcome Christian Arno as our new language-translation contributor. Arno is a professional linguist, and the founder of Lingo24, a translation and localization firm with translators located worldwide.
With the advent of the digital age, borders have become blurred. Whether it’s websites, videos, social media pages or most any online asset, consumers from Calcutta to California can all access the same information at the same time.
This means you need to be thinking global from the start. So how can you harness the power of the web to market your wares to the global masses, without breaking the bank?
Online marketers are typically well versed in all the “hows” and “whys” of optimizing text for Google and other key search engines. And they may even have local websites already set up for their key target markets. But what else can businesses do to ensure they’re getting full value from the foreign language Internet?
The answer may well lie somewhere in the realm of social media. You’re probably thinking Facebook and Twitter. And yes, you should be using these to target your domestic market, at the very least.
But tapping into non-English markets with social networking can be tricky if you don’t have the linguistic skills in-house and you don’t have the resources to outsource this elsewhere. And given that the return on investment on social media isn’t crystal clear, paying someone to tweet in French or German for your business may not be all that prudent.
YouTube may not fall into many people’s definition of social networking, but it is. You can “follow” other users, send messages, post comments, rate videos and generally interact with millions of users across the globe. Ecommerce-related “social video” offers many benefits over other social media platforms.
YouTube Is a Search Engine
YouTube is more than a video-sharing website and a social network. It’s also a search engine. It’s the second largest after Google in many countries. And even if someone is searching for content on Google itself, YouTube videos often feature highly in the search engine’s results if it’s deemed relevant to the search. And this is true across Brazil, Russia, India And China (the “BRIC” countries), where digital video is said to be growing fastest.
In Brazil, Russia and China, YouTube ranks in the top 6 most popular websites. In China, where YouTube is banned, local video-sharing websites such as Youku fill the void left by YouTube.
As with any online content, you need to optimize your online videos, which involves roughly the same techniques as standard text, but of course you can’t optimize the content of the video itself. Your video title, tags and descriptive keywords are vital when uploading any video to YouTube or other video-sharing websites.
For international markets, you’ll need to set-up separate YouTube channels dedicated to different languages. And whatever you do, don’t translate your video titles or descriptive keywords directly into other languages. Even a professional translator won’t know what search terms people use locally; hence a direct (and, correct) dictionary translation isn’t enough.
You can get a roughly accurate translation of your keywords using Google Translate, and then use Google AdWords’ Keyword Tool for each of your target markets, which will show you the most popular search terms. They may be acronyms, synonyms, abbreviations or any variation.
No Speech? No Problem
The beauty of video is it doesn’t have to rely on text or speech. This is why, for example, Mr. Bean, the comedian, proved so popular in countless non-English speaking countries.
Your service offering will dictate how easy this is for you to achieve. If you operate an online outdoor-equipment retailer, for example, you can upload instructional videos on how to erect a tent, or how to build a fire. All you need for this is an Internet-enabled computer, a video camera and just a little artistic skills.
If you can get your message across visually, this will help your international efforts tremendously. You can use the same video for any country.
Subtitles: Easy as A-B-C
However, you may need to have speech in your video. But don’t worry, there’s no need for dubbing.
With YouTube, you have an in-built “auto-translate” feature for subtitles and captions. You simply create your English captions and subtitles to correspond with any speech on the screen; YouTube magically does the rest. Users can choose to have machine-translated versions of the on-screen text in multiple languages. Here’s a tutorial, by YouTube, on the importance of captions and translations. (If the captions are not showing, click on the “CC” button at the lower right.)
Of course, it won’t always be perfect, but machine translation has come on a great deal in recent years and you’ll have a passable rendition of what’s being said.
You may have fast broadband Internet access, but not everyone on Earth has that luxury. Many developing countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia still suffer from low-bandwidth. It’s worth creating low-resolution versions of your videos if you’re targeting a developing country. This ensures if someone does stumble upon your carefully crafted clips, they can actually watch it without having to watch it buffer for a long time.
Sharing your ecommerce-related videos across countries and languages can bring new customers to your business. Remember to focus on video portals that are popular in your target countries, and then search-optimize your videos for the local language. Many how-to or demonstration videos are self-explanatory, without speech, but if speech or text is important, you can use auto-translate features and subtitles.