Most of the world is online. This is a fact. The International Telecommunications Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), estimated that 53.6% of the world’s population, or about 4.1 billion people, would be online by the end of 2021. That number took a big leap as the world came online forced to stay indoors by the ongoing pandemic. Current estimates in July 2020 range from 4.5 to 4.8 billion people actively using the Internet.
In an effort to mitigate physical and mobility limitations caused by unexpected events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, people are increasingly migrating aspects of their daily lives to the digital realm, such as communication, work and shopping.
Website Translation: A Digital Marketing Opportunity
Despite the growing volume of Internet users around the world, language accessibility remains an issue, and most web content is still written exclusively in English.
According to the Global State of Digital 2020 report from the social media management and analytics platform Hootsuite, an impressive 56.8% of web content posted by the world’s 10 million most popular sites is written in English. This is a huge disproportion, given that more than 6,500 languages are spoken in the world today and native English speakers represent only 4.9 percent of the total population. Chinese, which is spoken natively by 16.5% of the world’s population, accounts for only 1.4% of the volume of web content.
This represents a wonderful opportunity for digital marketers to expand their reach with the help of website translation services to millions of new audiences, appropriating and optimizing their content for different languages.
Yes, English is considered by many to be the universal language and is widely used in international trade, research, and diplomacy. That said, most of the world is still not fluent in or understanding English and prefers to communicate using their own mother tongue. By translating content into multiple languages and creating a multilingual presence, you not only increase visibility and traffic potential, but you also help make the Internet more accessible to everyone.
Content in another language is the last frontier of the Internet for marketers, promising millions in website traffic and, in turn, considerable growth for businesses. The demand is certainly there, and so far hardly anyone has seized the opportunity other than established brands.
Why Is Website Translation Beneficial to Your SEO Strategy?
One of the main benefits of website translation is that multilingual sites tend to rank better in search engine optimization (SEO). Depending on your business strategy, your website will benefit from using a multiregional or multilingual content strategy.
The Google Help Center defines a multilingual website as one that offers content in one language, but generally uses subdomains or subdirectories to specify which language is displayed. A multi-regional website, on the other hand, is one that targets specific countries. This is usually done by companies that already have an international presence or companies that want to expand theirs. For this, it is best to use country-specific domains that will be optimized for the geographic location of the target audience.
Having a multilingual or multiregional website maximizes your visibility, allowing you to reach relevant people more efficiently. Since country-specific domains and subdomains are considered by search engines to be part of the same website, the traffic you receive from any of them will be attributed to your overall SEO ranking. Also, if you look at Hootsuite’s stats, you’ll see a huge discrepancy in terms of volume when it comes to non-English web content. This means that your multilingual content is more likely to appear in search results for regions outside of English-speaking countries, such as the US and the UK.
Better SEO Visibility Means Increased Revenue Potential
By increasing the overall visibility of your website, making it multilingual also has the potential to increase your income.
In a 2014 survey by CSA Research, of 3,000 respondents from 10 non-English speaking countries, 75% said they preferred to purchase products in their native language, while 60% said they rarely or never shop from sites only in English. And that reality is very true even today.
As mentioned above, 56.8% of the top sites are written in English. Compare that to 1.1 billion English speakers among the 7.8 billion people in the world. And out of 1.1 billion, only 33 percent consider themselves native speakers – that’s just around 363 million people, a mere fraction of the total population online.
This means that hiring an online translation provider to translate your website makes as much sense as investing in marketing – it can directly influence conversions and increase your business revenue.
The Basics of Website Translation
Ultimately, your website translation strategy depends on your particular business and should take into account factors such as:
- The type of business, either business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C)
- The products and services you offer
- Your business model
- Your target market
It is also important that you already have a plan for your international expansion to ensure that once your multilingual website is ready, you are ready to offer your products and services to the countries to which you plan to expand.
Because you have a clear set of operational goals and limitations, you can choose to configure country-specific domains, subdomains, or subdirectories.
As mentioned above, a country-specific domain is a separate domain from your existing website that is specifically configured for a particular location. This would have a clear geographic segmentation (eg website.co.uk; website.de) and a clear separation between other domains. The downside to this is that it is expensive – it requires the building and hosting of a separate website.
Subdomains, on the other hand, would look like this: de.website.com. They are easier to set up as they still use the primary domain and cost less than creating new sites for each of the locations you plan to expand to. Subdomains also appear in specific geographic searches.
Subdirectories (for example, website.com/en; website.com/de) are also easy to configure and inexpensive to maintain, but suffer from the limitations of a single server location and separate subdirectories. Linking the country-specific pages of your site to each of them would be much more difficult than creating separate subdomains or domains.
In addition to cost and maintenance considerations, you also need to think about how you plan to use your multilingual website and how your content will fit into your strategy. Would your company benefit from the appropriation of content to suit the popular culture of the country or region, aesthetic preferences, and other considerations?
Brands that sell directly to the consumer benefit the most from this strategy, as it allows them to better connect with their target audience. From established brands like Adidas, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola to disruptors like Netflix and Airbnb, many large companies have incorporated country- and region-specific content strategies into their digital presence.
Lifestyle brands and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) can also benefit from incorporating local keywords into their SEO strategy. These keywords can help companies stay ahead of brand-relevant fads and trending topics.
However, if you are a B2B company, a single content strategy translated into multiple languages may work more to your advantage as it makes your message consistent and professional. And since the technical terminology and business language would be practically the same in all countries, there is hardly any advantage in changing the content.