Company websites are a must have today and there is no indication they will go away anytime soon. They are your online presence and often a point of sale for customers. If you are expanding into new language markets, how do you handle translating your web content to target these new markets? Where should you focus your time and energy on your website to maximize your ROI?

While English is a major language in the world, it does not cover all markets nor is it the most used language. Even for your customers who speak English as a second or third language, it is not best to rely on your English website to sell to these customers. Customers prefer and are comfortable reading and navigating a website localized into their native language. Today, you can reach 80% of the online population by translating into only 12 languages. English covers only 22% of the web users. To really start expanding your reach, you are going to need to address the issue.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula to apply to every company website to determine which pages should be translated. The best method is a combination of working with your web and sales teams to determine where to focus your efforts. Your web team can give you the analytics for your website to break down where your users are accessing your web pages from. You will also see which pages or products are popular in specific locales. Additionally, your sales team can give you an indication of which markets the company is ready to start moving more product in. It is a collaborative effort which will take time to do it properly but once it is done right, it can pay off quite well for your company.

While deciding what to translate isn’t always the easiest thing, there are some guidelines for things you can generally exclude from your translation. News sections, especially if you update them often as this can be time-consuming to manage, should be considered whether they’re necessary. If you are using your news sections to update your clients about advances in your product, or new products, then by all means translate. However, if the news updates are more about the internals of your staff and company, then you might want to start picking and choosing the ones to translate. If you do have a technological breakthrough you want to highlight, you could consider translating a press release and linking to it on the appropriate page. Career and job sections can be avoided as well, unless you are hiring in those specific markets. And again, focus on the products you intend to sell in the new markets.

As mentioned earlier, there are 12 languages you can translate into to cover 80% of the online population. These languages, in order of popularity, are Chinese, English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic, German, Russian, French, Indonesian, Korean, and Italian. If your company is not targeting the Chinese market, you do not need to focus on translating into Chinese. Try to avoid “because we can” reasons to translate as this is money spent without a guarantee of a return on your investment. Again, your goal in translating is to grow in the markets that are important to you.

There are a few more things to consider while translating your website. Does your website have a customer portal? If so, you will want to have this translated along with the rest of your website to provide a complete experience for your customers. Images should also be considered. Is there a lot of information in your images which is important to the customer? If so, you have to make sure you have a localized version of the images or make sure the content is available elsewhere on the page (e.g. you could add the translated content as a caption for the image). Phone numbers also can be a matter of concern. 1-800 numbers do not work for your customers abroad. Have an alternate number ready for these customers or consider providing means for your customers to get in touch with you. Don’t forget about meta descriptions and keywords either. These will help search engines better index your website in the languages your website is translated into. Translating these will help your search engine appearance for native language searches. And remember, your translation agency should know how to handle these things as well so if you are unsure on how to proceed, consult them.

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