Drawing of a globe with many country flags

Want to Reach Out To Foreign Markets in 2020?

The benefits of translating your website

When running a successful business, there comes the point where you have to decide whether to expand across your national border and reach out for foreign customers or stay at home.

In fact, embracing the global market is an essential part of growing a business. And today you can easily expand via the internet. A multilingual website is a powerful marketing strategy for finding new customers abroad – or for them to find you.

Through your website, you can strengthen your brand, interact with your customers and, most importantly, SELL YOUR PRODUCT. Anywhere in the world.

For that reason, I have listed some facts, benefits and risks worth considering before going INTERNATIONAL.

Is an English website not sufficient to reach foreign customers?

It depends.

If you are selling software for programmers, you are probably okay with a monolingual website in English. Not so, if you want to find customers for your Bunion Corrector Pads. In this case, a translated and localised website will attract more clients to your e-commerce site.

A European survey from 2011 looked at attitudes and opinions of web users towards the use of different languages on the Internet. The case study revealed that 9 in 10 Internet users in the EU would always visit a website in their language when given a choice of languages. Still, a slim majority of 53% would accept using an English version of a website if it was not available in their own language (1).

English is the most used language on the World Wide Web (54%). Compared with the global population, this is a non-proportional representation and likely to change as the Internet is becoming more accessible worldwide :

Languages on the Internet
Chart from: https://www.statista.com/chart/14900/two-worlds_-languages-irl-and-online/

What are the benefits of a multi-lingual website?

New Customers
According to figures from Dec 2017, the Internet penetration in the German-speaking countries is a whopping 95.1%. In real terms, this amounts to 92,099,951 internet users. Taking into account the nifty disposable income of the average German, Swiss or Austrian household – it would be foolish not to target this market.

Stronger Brand
A business that is adopting a multi-lingual approach is regarded as a global player. Clearly, this will increase the esteem of a company and strengthen the brand, even in the local market.

Increased Traffic, better Ranking
Above all, adding a new language to a business website will generate more traffic. Users will bookmark, share and link the content in their native channels, which ultimately will improve your search engine ranking.

the world in your hands

Are website translation apps worth considering?

In recent years, advances in machine translation using artificial intelligence have shown some encouraging results. There are also powerful multilanguage plugins available for WordPress. And I’m sure that this method will play an important role in the future. Nevertheless, don’t rely on a machine alone to handle text concerning your brand.

If your search engine ranking is important to you, stay clear of anything that is produced by a machine.

As Google states in its Webmaster guidelines, it does not like automatically generated content. This includes machine-translated text. In the past, updates to Google’s ranking algorithm like Penguin and Hummingbird have shown what automated content could do to your ranking.

I suggest getting at the least a native speaker to proofread or post-edited your website. Even better – use a professional linguist/content writer.

Chose a Specialist Translator

Depending on the website’s subject matter such as:


it is advisable to use a translator who is specialised in that particular field.

* Extra care should be taken when translating websites that concern the financial and physical well-being of users. The “Medic” update to Google’s ranking algorithm in August 2018 is a stark reminder that businesses dealing with “Your Money or Your Life” have a duty to follow a responsible strategy. I am convinced that we have not seen the last from Google with regards to the YMYL sector. Search engines need to get tougher against dangerous websites who are abusing vulnerable users.

Laptop screen with coins representing websites dealing with financial content

Don’t just translate the copy – localise it

Simply translating the content of a webpage does only half the job. Units, currency and logistics relating to the sale of your product have to be adjusted to the target country, as do regulations. Embrace the local language style. Switzerland, for instance, has stricter rules regarding gender-neutral language than Germany or Austria. An experienced translator, native to the target region, should know how to handle such issues.
Omit content that does not relate to the target country. There is nothing worse than translations of client testimonials. They feel out to touch and artificial. Use local testimonials, as soon as they are available.

Optimally translating your website for search engines

Selecting a translator with a good understanding of SEO will make the whole process easier from the start. Just like the visible content of a website, invisible parts such as meta descriptions, alt tags and slugs need to be translated and localised too. A translator should be versed in using or researching keywords and be familiar with Latent Semantic Indexing.

Your task doesn’t end with the publishing of the translated website.

When doing some research for this article, I came across the following statement of a Canadian translation agency: “A translated website makes communicating with foreign customers quite easy.

I find this claim a bit simplistic, if not misleading. It neglects the fact that communication should also seek out feedback from the receiver(s). Assessing how the message is understood and attempting to correct any misunderstanding or confusion should be part of every strategy – when setting up a multilingual website.

In other words, once your website is up and running in a new language (or multi-language) you need to make provisions for any unforeseen events including “not frequently asked questions” or complaints.
You have a duty to provide product support in the same language as you are selling it.
Therefore make a deal with your translator/proofreader, or have a freelancer on call – to solve any issues before they get out of hand and damage your reputation.

(1) Analytical Report Flash EB No 313 – User language preferences online