by Huiping Iler
Is there a demand for your products or services outside of your domestic market? If so, how are you marketing to this group of potential customers? How do you overcome language and cultural barriers? Web Localization, which is the process of translating your web site into your customers’ languages and adapting to local markets, is an essential step toward establishing a market presence.
When used correctly, it can be a highly cost effective marketing tool for companies, especially for reaching out to a global audience. However, it takes careful planning and an understanding of your customers’ needs to be truly successful with your web localization efforts.
I have seen companies investing tens of thousands of dollars on a multilingual web site, only to discover later that it will cost them so much more to update the content on a regular basis. In turn, they are left with the site as is, without being able to update it, or having a real way of measuring the effectiveness of their expensive experiment. They eventually just feel frustrated and disappointed.
How do you avoid that? How do you turn global web sites into a success from day one, and have proof to show your boss (or, if you are the boss, show it to your self)?
Here are some tips:
Carefully examine your business needs.
Have a real understanding of where the demand for your product and services are coming from. Make a list of the countries that you wish to sell to. It will be much better if you base your list on real data rather than guessing. Read your web log to see where your visitors are coming from. Inform yourself by reading industry publications, and by talking to analysts to see where the opportunities are.
Do keyword research on what phrases people are using to find you on the Internet. You will be surprised by what you find. Often times, what keywords people use in reality, are very different from what we THINK they use. For example, multilingual desktop publishing is one of our company’s specialties. Yet, we were not getting very many hits from the Internet regarding this specialty. Through keyword research, we found out that customers are actually using the term “foreign language typesetting” to search. Since we have updated our web site based on these findings, customer inquires have more than tripled. A good place to start is by using Overture’s keyword suggestion tool. Once you know what your targeted keywords are in the English language, you can then proceed to make another list for keywords in the languages that you are localizing into. You can do that through your in-house resources, or you can consult a company that is familiar with global search engine strategies, such as wintranslation.
Apply page optimization techniques to your localized web text in order to maximize your high ranking potential on search engines.
Make sure that all of your pages have titles. Meta descriptions and Meta keywords are all very important. Your targeted keywords should appear in the titles and Meta tags of your pages.
Submit to major local search engines manually.
Most search engines require that you have localized content to be included in their local search results. Prepare a well thought-out description of your company and manually submit your site to various engines and directories. You should avoid automatic submittal software as your site may be labeled spam, and therefore banned from search engines for using such software.
Maximize online referrals.
Referrals from related sites and portals greatly enhance your company’s credibility. It also increases the chances for potential customers to find out about your company. Therefore, it can be a great investment to set aside time and money to locate online opportunities for referrals. It is also a good practice to write up a description in the local language about your company to be used for such referrals. You have much more control as to how your company is described when you write up your own description, rather than leaving it to other webmasters.
Take baby steps before you make any major investments.
Web localization can be an expensive venture and it is perfectly OK to take small steps before diving into it full-force. You can start with one language, or several pages of your site as a test. Measure the popularity of the localized pages by carefully examining your web log. By varying the languages and the text, and watching to see how it changes your log data, you will have a much better understanding of where best to put your localization dollar.
Keep track of your efforts and measure success on a continual basis.
Being data-driven is a critical part of making smart business decisions. Keep a good record of your efforts by documenting every step; monitor your web log on a weekly, or bi-weekly basis and measure conversion rates to see how many sales inquiries turn into actual sales. Write up a monthly report detailing what is working and what is not. If you can prove how web localization is helping your organization to increase sales leads, and make a difference on the bottom line; before you know it, your boss will be knocking on your door to give you a bigger budget and more resources!