If you want your web marketing efforts to be as successful as possible in overseas markets, you need to think about properly localising your websites for the regions you are targeting. There are several issues to consider, including translation, country-specific domains and hosting, geolocation and SEO.
Overcoming the language barrier
Probably the most significant challenge you will face when breaking into foreign markets is language. 78% of web users do not speak English as their native language. This statistic, coupled with research by the Common Sense Advisory that suggests people not proficient in English are six times less likely to purchase from English-only websites, provides a compelling case for translating your content into other languages.
Employing a professional translator will give you the best results. Having a professional work on your translation means that any idiosyncrasies in your copy – like slang, metaphor and abbreviations – will be accurately translated. It will ensure that your translated content reads as naturally as possible. However, if your budget is tight, you may consider using an automatic translation tool, like Google Translate. These services are getting better all the time, but they will never be as accurate as human translation. One benefit they do offer is the ability to integrate ‘inline translation’ into your website. This involves building code into your web page to give your visitors an instantly localised browsing experience in their own language.
On that subject, though, you should not rely on machine translation, or even a dictionary, for your keyword translation. You know how important your keywords are to your SEO and PPC campaigns, so you need to be sure that your foreign language keywords are accurate and relevant. The only way to be sure is to work with a professional translator to develop a list of keywords in other languages. Don’t be tempted to use direct dictionary translations, as you could end up targeting the wrong keywords, meaning your website would languish in the outer reaches of the internet, rather than at the top of the page results – the most popular local keyword may be a term in the local language, a colloquialism, or an appropriation from English or another language.
Having gone to the trouble of translating your content into different languages, you want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to find the version of the site in their own language. The best way to achieve this is to automatically channel your visitors to the page which is localised for their language. Geolocation is the process of identifying a user’s location based on their IP address. There are a number of companies that provide IP address databases (e.g. IP2Location and Digital Envoy), which enable you to add the geolocation functionality to your website. Using one of these services combined with some fairly straightforward scripting will allow your visitors to be seamlessly redirected to the correct language.
Gelocation works well for most visitors, but some may be accessing the internet via a proxy server which is not located in their own country, so you also need to provide a manual method for users to access their language of choice. This simply involves adding links pointing to the various language versions of your pages. Try to avoid using country flag icons for the links because many languages are spoken in more than one country. It’s best just to have text links, which could be in a drop-down menu in the website header.
To achieve high rankings in local search engines, you need to register a domain name for each country you are targeting. For example, registering www.yourcompany.de will help you to get ranked in the German version of Google. You also need to host your country-specific domains on servers within the target country. Google operates localised versions in many countries around the world, so it’s important to do all you can to achieve good rankings.
You should also work on building links from sites within your target country. For example, if you have a .de domain, your rankings in local search engines will be improved by getting backlinks from other .de domains. The methods for building backlinks in foreign markets are the same as the ones you use on your English websites, but you may need the services of a translator for things like article marketing and guest posting on blogs. There may also be local directories which it might be worth submitting your website to. As with any web directory you are considering submitting to, do some research and make sure it is well-established and has a reasonable amount of traffic.