The larger the internet grows, the smaller the world becomes—communicating, exchanging, and simply participating in society have never been easier (and, at the rate things are going, will only become easier). But taking advantage of the internet’s breadth and scope can still be a challenge.
Yes, you can easily chat with people from all four corners of the world; you can drive traffic to your website from any country you target; and you can even translate your website to accommodate all this traffic, with a tool like Weglot.
But increasing your returning visitors, your subscribers, or your customers—basically, building your loyalty base—is about more than just driving traffic.
It is about creating value for your new targeted audience. And to do so, you’re going to have to cater to all of their potential wants and needs—including linguistic ones.
Who are you?
Internationalizing your website will be different if you are an ecommerce, a SaaS, a blog…the list goes on.
The key factor to take into account here is the breadth of your potential audience. You may be selling, publishing, or pushing something that could potentially interest the entire Internet; in which case, by all means, target the entire Internet. But you also may be trying to appeal to a niche or sector of society—and this is the more likely scenario—in which case you’ll want to define your target audience.
If you are…
A Blog: Cater to your audience
In this case, it is pretty easy to internationalize your website, since you only have to deal with online content: virtual stuff, like text, images, and digital media. If you are an English-speaker, you know the language of your foreign target audience, or are willing to invest in professional translation, this whole process will be even easier.
The two primary challenges you’ll face are translating your website and adapting your content to your foreign audience. Translating your website could be a challenge because if you don’t speak the language, you will have to pay for professional translation: machine translation might not be enough to get a good translated website, especially when focusing on content.
And adapting your content to your foreign audience is also a challenge because of the cultural differences, but it depends on what type of content you are publishing. You will definitely have to take into account the design and imagery of your site, as these are key parts of its identity—that also may carry different cultural connotations depending on who’s looking at them.
An ecommerce store: Increase your customer value
Internationalizing your ecommerce is more difficult. Culture and language are now not the only barriers: you have to think about the real-life, physical challenges of shipping and fulfillment, as well. Will your foreign customers be willing to pay high shipping costs to get your products? How will you manage your logistics—stock, transport, and delivery—in each of your foreign target markets?
If you have answers to these questions, you can think about internationalizing your website. But if you don’t, it may be too early to do it.
(Of course, if you are a dropshipping ecommerce, this third barrier doesn’t exist, and you definitely should internationalize.)
A digital product merchant: Go the extra mile
This one goes out to our fellow SaaSes and tech startups. You’ve probably heard it before, but there’s one golden rule: English First.
As a digital product merchant, you don’t have too many big physical logistics issues when it comes to selling internationally—as long as you can process payments from clients in different countries, you should be pretty much set to sell.
For the most part, your product can be internationalized from day 1 by simply putting your product online in English: at this point, most of your buyers, regardless of what country they’re in or from, will likely already be used to communicating and working in the Global English of the web.
Your challenge will be to provide quality customer support in English—and, if possible, in other languages, as well.
Overall, know that if you’ve got your product and support functioning like a well-oiled machine in English, you’re on the right track to go international. From there on out, adding more languages to your site and service offerings will only improve your sales and customer success.
How to find your most lucrative languages
The answer to this question, as it so often is: understanding your audience/market.
Fortunately, you don’t have to undertake this process alone. The web has a ton of accessible tools for analyzing and predicting your reach, sales, and other relevant metrics in different locations of the world—so you can figure out where your customers are located, and what language(s) they’re (probably) most comfortable browsing in.
We probably don’t need to tell you this, but the most common of these tools is Google Analytics. If you’re not already using it on your website, you might want to take a detour here and check it out for yourself.
Once you’re all set up on Google Analytics, here’s what you should dig for in order to find out more about the languages you should translate your website to:
Go on your Google Analytics Dashboard > Audience > Geographical Data > Language
And here we are: you can now make a more informed choice. Naturally, translating your site into the foreign language that appears highest on the list is bound to be a boon; but your choice will also depend on your goals and your resources (do you know the language? will you pay for a professional translator? etc…).
Adapt your content to your target
Adapting your content to your new audience is crucial. Translating your website isn’t always enough; you’ll want to be sure that, where possible, your content—be it images, articles, videos, or products for sale—is localized for each audience you’re trying to reach.Lost on localization?
We’ve got you covered in terms of localization advice. We’ve also got your covered in terms of media localization, one of the features that sets Weglot apart: when you translate your website with Weglot, you can replace any media element—image, PDF, video, or whatever other format you might have—for each language you translate your site into.
This is pretty much only applicable to you if you’re an e-commerce store. That said, it’s one of the most important factors to take into account when internationalizing a store.
If you’re using WordPress—and particularly WooCommerce—to manage your e-commerce transactions, your safest bet for ensuring that your buyers have access to prices in their own currency is to install a currency-conversion plugin. You can find a bunch of these on the WordPress directory.
When launching your content into new markets, you need to remember that culture is key.
Consider the context. Does the name of your website or product mean something different in the local language(s) of your new regions, for example?
It’s all in a name.
Neglecting to verify the transferability, between languages and cultures, of a name or catchphrase has been at the root of some of history’s biggest internationalization gaffes.
Take the Nokia Lumia cell phone family, for instance; “lumia” means “prostitute” in Spanish. Needless to say, the Lumia product family release was cause for some skepticism (and laughs) in the online community; fortunately, Nokia didn’t go into this completely uninformed: their blog post that immediately followed the release actually provides some fascinating research into the history of the Spanish word, lumia—and why its aesthetic consonance in other languages outweighed the concerns about misinterpretation or mockery in Spanish markets. In the end, what could have been a marketing flop ended up being an opportunity to show off that doing one’s homework about culture pays off.
Colors and imagery are two more factors of communication that purvey cultural connotations: colors, in particular, are not perceived the same way in Western and Eastern countries. In Western countries, white tends to signify purity and peace; whereas in the East, it is associated with misfortune and mourning.
Translating your text—with tact
And now we come to what most likely constitutes the bulk of your content: text. Overall, you need to get the translation that fits your needs.
If you’re an ecommerce store, machine translation might do the trick for your most basic product pages and checkout. Eventually, you might want to refine most visited/clicked pages and products to better reflect their individual nuances.
But if your site is content-focused, such as a blog or online magazine, you’re better off getting a native speaker involved in the translation process (you can do this via Weglot, with professional translators selected by TextMaster).
To conclude, to create value to your audience by Internationalizing, you need to:
- Know yourself and identify the challenges you will have to overcome to internationalize your website (investing in professional translation, international shipping etc..)
- Use analytics tools like Google Analytics to identify in which languages you should translate your website
- Adapt your content by knowing the cultural differences between you and your audience, and get a professional translator to avoid cultural misunderstandings