Traditional “outbound” marketing techniques, such as advertising and telemarketing, involve reaching out to potential customers and grabbing their attention. Inbound marketing involves creating quality content that will bring your customers to you. This can be challenging enough in your own native language. When dealing with multiple languages online, there are even more things to consider.
Do Your Research
The globe-spanning nature of the Internet has opened up a host of opportunities for businesses of all sizes. In theory, it has never been easier to reach new markets, but actually doing so takes a little more effort than simply setting up in your own little corner of cyberspace and hoping for the best.
According to the latest figures from Internet World Stats, English remains the single, most widely used language online, but it still only accounts for around a quarter of total usage. Studies have shown that users place more trust in sites in their own native language, especially when it comes to making a purchase online. Clearly, a multilingual approach is necessary for anyone wishing to fully exploit the world wide nature of the web.
Localization can take a lot of planning and effort, however. Even if you have a product or service you consider to have worldwide appeal, it usually makes sense to concentrate on one or two new markets first. A bit of market research should help you identify the best potential markets, and Google’s analytic tools can also tell you if your primary website is already attracting visitors from other, specific countries.
Foreign language microsites can be useful for testing the waters. If they generate enough interest, you can follow up with fully localized websites.
Translate Your Content
Translation is perhaps the single most important aspect of the localization process. There are a number of free translation programs available, but even the best automatic translation can be prone to mistakes. This can lead to a stilted, amateur-looking site, which is hardly ideal when it comes to engendering a sense of trust. Working with native speaking translators will help avoid contextual errors and help you achieve a fluent and more natural style.
Pay Particular Attention to Keywords
Keywords are the words or phrases that users type into a search engine’s search box when looking for content online. Even if you’ve done extensive research on the keywords for your native language website, it’s important not to rely on straight dictionary translations, as colloquialisms, abbreviations, or other alternative terms may all be more effective. That doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch, however. Your English language keywords can serve as a starting point, and a translator can help you brainstorm alternative terms. These can then be tested using the keyword tools on a local version of Google or other major search engines.
Have a Plan for SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your website’s visibility in the search results of major search engines like Google. Even the most well-known brands can benefit from the extra traffic that search engines can direct their way. For a smaller business attempting to break into a new market, search engines can be invaluable.
Keywords, as already mentioned, play a large part in SEO, but your localized website’s URL can also help boost your rankings. Using a country code Top Level Domain, such as .fr for France or .de for Germany, will help improve your results in local searches. Even if you use a generic Top Level Domain such as .com, you can use Google’s geographic targeting tool to specify a location.
Back links are also important in SEO. It generally helps to ensure that these links are from sites that are both located in your target market and relevant to your content.
Make Use of Social Media
Social media sites offer an ideal platform for getting your brand name out there and for interacting directly with customers. The major sites like Facebook and Twitter already have a worldwide audience and should not be overlooked, but in certain markets, other local competitors rule the roost. In China, for example (where both Facebook and Twitter are banned), Qzone is the most visited site. Russia, meanwhile, is dominated by Vkontakte (commonly known as VK) and Odnoklassniki, sites that are also rapidly expanding into other eastern European countries. Depending on your target markets, it can be worth maintaining a number of profiles on different sites and linking them together.
Inbound marketing is an ongoing process. Besides using social media, you can spread the word through blogs, while also updating your sites with news and other fresh content that will help your SEO and keep things interesting for returning customers. It’s also important to interact with your customers. Responding to feedback and queries in a customer’s own language can help foster a stronger relationship.
Marketing across foreign languages can take a lot of forward planning. With a little extra effort and local knowledge, however, it can be an effective way to tap into brand new markets.