Multilingual websites: a recipe for success
Why every business should have one and what to keep in mind
Have you ever ventured into an Asian supermarket – and then turned on your heels and left at the sight of all the products with mysterious signs on them? Don't worry, you're not alone! Many people who end up on a foreign-language website feel the same way. It’s no wonder if your potential customers fail to understand your site because of its language and then instantly click away. If your competition provides similar content in the "right" language, you’re out of luck.
English, German, and that’s it?
If you think that English will be enough for your website – think again. Maybe you’ve had your site translated into German? Great! Then you’ve already positioned yourself much better. But unfortunately – or rather, fortunately (because otherwise the world would be boring) – there are many people whose mother tongue isn’t German or English.
The problem for you and your company website: It’s highly unlikely that users look for something in a language that is not their preferred one. Even if – for instance – a German native speaks English relatively fluently, he will probably rather click on a German-language site when looking for information. The same is true for the search queries he types into Google. It also gets interesting when it comes to purchase decisions: Because the probability that users will buy something from a site is much higher if it’s in their own language.
As you can see: There is a lot of untapped potential in a multilingual website. Find out exactly what the advantages are and what to pay attention to when translating!
What are the benefits of having your website translated into multiple languages?
Having a website translated into several languages sounds like a lot of work. But is it worth it? The answer is as usual: It depends … Namely on what you want to achieve with your website. Where do you see your (potential) market? Who does your target group consist of? How do you want to position yourself with your brand?
Good reasons for a multi-language website:
- More traffic: More customers in whose search results you appear and who click on your site – sounds good? We think so, too! Because increased visibility and reach equal more traffic to your website. An experiment of online marketing specialist Neil Patel proves exactly that: He had his website translated into 82 different languages and achieved a massive 47 percent increase in traffic!
- Access to foreign-language markets: This one’s obvious. The more potential customers understand your website, the higher the chance that you can access entirely new markets.
- Improved brand image: This advantage is perhaps not quite as obvious. But well-implemented translations into several languages make your company look more professional and "bigger". Because it signals – albeit rather subtly – that you’re a "global player" with customers from around the world. By providing a translation for your international clientele, you also show them that they’re important to you.
- Building trust: When customers understand the information you provide, many doubts can be eradicated from the outset. They understand your brand, your product or your service better – and that creates trust! More trust leads to long-term customer loyalty and to ...
- More conversions: Actually, it’s a very simple equation. More traffic, a bigger target market, more trust and understanding of your products – results in: more conversions and more sales! Cha-ching!
Listen up, tourism experts! Speaking of more conversions: According to VICE's Future of Travel report, 73 percent of young travellers are more likely to book if localised content has been made available. That is, if the site exists in their native language and was adapted to their target market.
How to get your site translated
One thing right off the bat: Please don’t use Google Translate for your website! It's no secret that a lot of embarrassing blunders can happen if you do that. You can read more on this in our article "Google Translate: friend or foe?”.
The use of automatically generated translations not only negatively impacts your SEO ranking. Automatically translated sites are also often perceived as dubious and unprofessional by customers. Google itself admits that their translation service “cannot replace human translators".
This means: If you want to win customers and make sales, you should invest beforehand – in a high-quality translation. But what does such a translation actually look like? And what does it need to accomplish?
What a translator needs to keep in mind …
A translation must be able to do everything that a good piece of web copy can do. It has to inspire and convince users as well as provide added value. This requires empathy and a keen feel for language. After all, readers shouldn’t notice that they’re reading a translated text. An idiomatic, appealing writing style is essential, too.
What’s more, the text must take into account the linguistic and cultural circumstances of the "target country". If necessary, units of measurement, dates, currencies, etc. must be adapted. Certain spellings, conventions or culturally differing associations (in Asia, the colour white is considered the colour of mourning, for example) should be taken into consideration as well. In short, readers must have the feeling that the text was written in – and specifically for – their country. The technical term for this process is “localisation”.
A good web copy translation should also be adapted to the target market and the target group there. Do your personas differ based on their nationality? Then this should be taken into account for the translation! There might be topics that aren’t relevant at all for users from a certain country. If that’s the case, the editor/translator must adapt the content or perhaps even create entirely new content for the foreign-language target market.
If you want to rank at the top of Google’s search results, don't forget to use the right keywords. The creation of SEO-compliant web copy is content marketing 101. And of course, the same applies to translations. Conducting keyword research specifically for the respective target market is definitely worthwhile – and it pays!
Good to know: We tend to forget this, but in some countries, Google hardly plays any role at all as a search engine. In China, most people use Baidu or Sogou instead. In Russia, the majority "googles" on Yandex. And the Czechs prefer Seznam.
Most companies think very carefully about how they want to present themselves on their website. They use fixed terminology, special wording, technical vocabulary, and specific claims. Some words might even be on a no-no list. So why should that be any different in a foreign language? A translation program doesn’t take this into account – a good translator will!
Side note: Think about whether it makes sense to translate infographics or provide subtitles for your videos. Some companies even have social media pages in different languages. Whether the time and financial effort involved in this are worth it depends on your target group(s) and personas!