When search engine marketing expert Neil Patel began doing business in Brazil, he made $1 million revenue the first year.
How was he able to have such a smashing success?
By localizing his website into a number of different languages, he was able to get enormous amounts of search traffic.
This opportunity to rank on Google search with website translation is made possible by one important factor. As Neil Patel says, “Google has tons of content to choose from when it comes to ranking sites in English but they lack a lot of high-quality content in other regions.”
That means that in other languages and other regions you have less search competition on Google.
- With less competition, your pages will rank higher on Google more easily.
- When your page ranks higher on Google, you will get more clicks.
- With more clicks, you’ll have more opportunities to make a sale.
All of this starts with the first step—translating your online content.
But what kind of opportunity are we really talking about? Are there really enough target customers out there that speak other languages to make it worth your time?
From below, you can see that the answer is a resounding, “Yes.”
75% of the Internet Are Non-English Speakers
English speakers make up only 25% of Internet users. That means that 75% percent of Internet users do not use English as their main language.
Some of the top groups of foreign language speakers on the Internet include those who speak Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic at 19%, 8%, and 5% respectively.
Don’t assume that all of these people can also speak English. Don’t be like my friends’ dad who, when confronted with someone who doesn’t understand English, would just talk louder and slower.
If you’ve never stepped foot outside of your country except to visit resorts on sandy beaches, it may be hard for you to appreciate the lack of English proficiency of the general population in most countries.
For those who lack high proficiency in English, it’s a chore for them to navigate English websites—even if they DO understand them with effort. That’s why trying to promote English language content to foreign language speakers is usually a lost cause. They open the page, but reading it is too much work. They close it immediately. There’s no way to monetize on that.
What about you? Imagine if you try to purchase goods on a Spanish or Japanese website. Even if you took the language in high school, you’ll have a hard time finding what you need. Then when you get to checkout, you’ll be afraid of making an error that costs you money. You will probably just leave without making a purchase.
Research backs up this conclusion. According to a study of online shoppers in 10 countries by CSA Research, 60% said they rarely or never buy from English-only websites. What’s more, 72% said they were more likely to buy products from a website that was in their native language.
True, many browsers, such as Chrome, have a built in translation function, but…
- Not many people will use it because it’s extra work for your customers.
- You can’t control the way your content is presented.
- It will probably be inaccurate and messy looking (just like the disaster in the photo below).
So there are billions of non-English speaking customers for you to reach, and they need to see sites in their own language.
Do you have a chance at reaching them?
How One Company Increased Conversion Rate 2x
Vinicius Britto of Bose said, “Some groups will think that translation is a cost rather than an opportunity; so we always have to convince people of the importance of localization for a global company in the B2C market.”
So is translation a cost? or an opportunity?
Well, after localizing its e-commerce website, Under.me doubled its conversion rate for Germany. And its conversion rate in France likewise increased from 0.67% to 1%.
Sri Sharma of Increasingly.com said that he saw businesses’ conversions improve 20% on average when they translated landing pages and ads into other languages. Further, companies that translated all of their web content saw an improvement of 70%.
In Neil Patel’s case, after he translated his content, he saw his overall traffic rise by 47% with new users up by 60%. And this change was over a period of three weeks!
(Note: The above link is from an older article written by Neil Patel. In that article he suggested using Google Translate. But in newer articles he has disavowed the use of Google Translate for website localization.)
He’s so confident about the opportunity of foreign language websites that he said:
“If I were starting all over again, I wouldn’t create a website in English. Instead, I would pick a region in Europe, like France or Germany, where it isn’t as competitive and where their currency is worth more than the dollar.”
Patel has gone all in on website localization recently. In multiple podcast interviews and blog articles on his own website, he has listed “localize your website” as one of his top pieces of SEO advice for 2020.
Clearly, website localization has a strong potential to increase your traffic. How can you do it successfully?
Glad you asked!
Do It Right
Significant increases in conversion rates and acquiring customers in new markets may seem like a miracle, so maybe you want to get started localizing right away.
But wait just a minute!
Remember what Miracle Max said in Princess Bride, “You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”
Using Google Translate or an unqualified translator for your website localization project might be worse than a rotten miracle—It might just become an evil spell.
In another article we have detailed the dangers of using “free” or other low quality translations on your website, but suffice it to say, bad translations can come back to bite you—not only from an search engine ranking perspective but also from a legal perspective.
Successfully reaching foreign language markets takes:
- Careful research
- Quality translation
Next we’ll look briefly at the research needed for website localization success.
You want the most bang for your buck, right?
So before you begin your website localization, you need to choose the right languages that will bring you ROI, and you need to choose the content that will appeal to those readers.
Therefore, you need to research:
- What languages to localize into
- What content to localize
How to Choose Languages
Targeting the wrong languages can be a waste of time, effort, and money, and “the right languages” are not the same for every company. There are a couple ways to find out what languages will be best for your company.
Read the News and Research the Market
Read the news. Watch for trends and purchasing patterns in foreign countries that involve your product.
For example, if you sell bunk beds like this company and your target markets include companies with staff living on the work site, then mining as well as oil and gas would be good industries to keep tabs on. The natural resources are usually far away from civilization, so employees frequently live on site for months at a time.
Therefore, if you hear that massive oil or mineral deposits have been discovered in Argentina and/or Quebec, then localizing your website into Spanish and/or Canadian French is a no-brainer. You are likely to get search traffic from those regions as they make plans to build worker housing.
Besides reading the news, you can also read information about the culture, the economy, and the purchasing patterns of the countries you are considering.
So let’s say you sell frozen fish, and you’re thinking of localizing your website to Chinese. You do some research and discover that Chinese people much prefer to buy their fish live from the supermarket rather than to buy sealed bags of frozen fish fillets. Based on this knowledge, you may decide to translate into another language, such as Spanish, instead.
You probably don’t want to attempt to change an entire culture to buy your product. Advertising legend Claude Hopkins said in a chapter titled “Things too Costly:”
Changing people’s habits is very expensive. A project which involves that must be seriously considered [i.e. considered critically]. To sell shaving soap to the peasants of Russia one would first need to change their beard wearing habits. The cost would be excessive. Yet countless advertisers try to do things almost as impossible.
Instead, Hopkins said, you should follow demand with your advertising.
It is a very shrewd thing to watch the development of a popular trend, the creation of new desires. Then at the right time offer to satisfy those desires.
So, study the market carefully, and be like a surfer. Surfers don’t surf where there’s no wave.
Look at Your Current Website Visitors
Another way to determine what languages to localize into is to look at your current website visitors.
See who is currently visiting your website and then translate for them.
This approach has rightly been criticized by some writers. The fact is that oftentimes you have foreign-language-speaking visitors on your website that do not and will not make purchases from you.
On our website for example, we have a large number of visitors from India and China. Although these visitors are very welcome—we are glad to have them on our site—a large number of them are coming to offer their services on our contact page or careers page. Very few of them convert into sales leads.
Our human resources and purchasing departments might be interested in this traffic, but not our sales department.
So don’t just look at who is on your site. Dig a little bit deeper into your website analytics to find out why the visitors are there and what they are doing.
Don’t ignore your analytics and merely ask your sales department where they have seen closed deals. There may be traffic which indicates an unmet need, but visitors are not currently converting into sales leads for some reason—probably language.
If we look at our site, we can see that most of our traffic is from the USA. The United Kingdom, Canada, India, Germany, and China come next. We don’t seem to be doing well with North Korea, but perhaps if we infuse our site with a little more Juche spirit, the comrades will come.
Now, let’s ask ourselves: out of these top 6 countries, which countries are most likely to purchase from us? To answer this, we can filter for only those users who have converted on our Request a Quote goal. Or we could filter for users that visited articles that would seem to indicate they have an interest in buying.
Or we can go to the AI search bar at the top of Google Analytics and ask it a question using normal language. I asked it, “What are the most popular pages for visitors from India for the last 3 months?” Then I asked the same about China.
From below I can see that they visited the homepage, some blog articles, Contact Us, and the Careers page, NOT the Request a Quote page. Many Indian visitors came to the Contact Us page, but our sales team told me that those visitors are usually offering translation or technical services.
The one thing that may be worth digging into a little more is the number of Indian users looking into translating driver’s licenses for the DMV. Maybe they are relocating to the USA?
But based on this research I don’t think we’ll translate to Indian languages or Chinese as a first priority.
However, German and Canadian French might be a possibility. Are they good potential clients? What content do they find interesting? In the next section, let’s examine those markets.
How to Choose Pages to Translate
If you are anything like a typical company, you have a ton of content on your website, and the amount increases day by day.
Not only do most companies not have the budget to translate all of their content, it would also be useless to translate it all. It’s best to translate only the content that’s relevant for the target market.
The method for how to choose what content to translate is similar to the method of how to choose what languages to translate into.
Read the News and Research the Market
First, read the news and understand the target market.
Translate key pages that are most important for you to drive revenue, but do it in light of what your market research has discovered. Just because a page drives revenue in the USA doesn’t mean it will drive revenue in the UAE.
Look at Your Current Website Visitors
Second, evaluate which pages those visitors are visiting most often. If there are a few articles that are getting traction with foreign readership, try translating those first. Then try translating articles that are related to the same topic.
As mentioned above, we are seeing some traffic from Germany and Canada on our site. If we look at what pages those visitors are viewing, we see some intriguing things.
As for German visitors, our articles about relocation to South Carolina and translating a license for the DMV are quite popular. There are quite a few German automotive companies in the Southeast, including BMW, so Germans on our site mostly seem interested in how to relocate to the US. They also have some interest in localization as well.
As for visitors from French-speaking Quebec, Canada, there seems to be quite a strong interest in software and website localization. Now, if I decide to translate these languages, I have clear path of what to translate first:
- German: Content on localization and on how to move to the USA
- Canadian French: Content on software and website localization
Now that you know what languages and content to translate, it’s time to make a plan to do do so profitably.
How to Succeed With Website Localization
If you want to make a profit in foreign markets, the same rules apply as for getting customers back home.
Understand your customers and treat them with respect. Treating customers with respect involves a few things.
- Using high quality translations
- Possibly adding unique content
- Paying attention to the details
First, as we’ve written elsewhere, low quality translations turn off your potential customers. What’s more, machine translations—e.g. Google Translate—could even get your entire site penalized by search engines.
Show respect to your prospects by providing high quality translations. Quality inspires confidence.
Second, think about adding unique content.
You already put in some research to know what content to translate. Now think about expanding on those topics that are popular in those languages. You can bypass English altogether and have someone write unique articles in foreign languages.
For example, since so many Germans seem interested in relocation, maybe we can write unique articles in German about relocation, such as how German automotive employees can relocate to work at a US subsidiary.
Check out our article Moving To South Carolina—Tips For International Relocation
As you start to get more and more traffic onto your translated pages, you can begin doing international SEO in order to evaluate what other unique content and keywords in that language might be valuable for you.
Finally, pay attention to all the details that will make the sale more convenient. There are a number of points that you might consider.
- Will you offer prices in local currencies?
- Will you offer payment methods that are most popular in the target market?
- Will you offer packages in local units of measure?
- Will you offer packages in the sizes that are most popular locally?
- Are you following local regulations such as GDPR?
These are important technical details. Ignoring them will leave roadblocks in the way of your customer, making you lose sales.
Want to know more about the technical details of translating a website?
Check out our article How To Build A Multilingual Website? Here Are The First Steps [Complete Guide]
Go Forth and Conquer
Don’t assume that it will be impossible to break into a new market.
Remember the power of having less competition on Google.
There are huge opportunities for companies that want to improve their Google search traffic and ultimately their revenue by translating their content. And now is the time to make this happen — Don’t wait until everyone else is already doing it.
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Read Other Posts on Website Localization
- 5 Steps of Website Localization
- How to Build a Multilingual Website? Here Are the First Steps [Complete Guide]
- Can This Translation Mistake Torpedo Your Search Engine Rankings?
Darren Jansen, business development and content manager for IVANNOVATION, has a lifetime love for tech and languages. At IVANNOVATION he helps software developers get professional localization for their apps, software, and websites. On his time away from the office, he can be found hiking the Carolina wilderness or reading Chinese literature.