Localization and Translation Best Practices: Successfully Marketing Your Brand to a Global Audience
As Marketing Manager at an innovative, mid-sized localization company, I always look for opportunities to provide our existing and prospective customers with useful information about the sometimes-mysterious world of translation and localization. To de-mystify this perplexing world, ENLASO conducts complimentary Webinars on a bi-monthly basis. I recently held a Webinar titled “Localization and Translation Best Practices: Successfully Marketing Your Brand to a Global Audience” and was flattered that ClientSide News asked me to write an article on this topic. Click here [PDF / 4 MB] to read the original article in the December 2007 issue of ClientSide News magazine.
The Internet is the gateway to the global market place. Your Web site’s content is accessible to a global audience of English and non-English speakers, whether you have localized it or not! With the right marketing tools and tactics, even a small company can make its products and services available to millions of potential consumers around the world. For those companies not yet ready to sell overseas, this article sheds light on many emerging domestic markets such as the rapidly growing Hispanic and Asian markets in the US.
Today many large US corporations already generate over 50% of their revenue from international markets. Expanding the pool of markets helps to improve the overall Return on Investment for product development and distribution. While localization is a key cost for reaching these markets, members of LISA (Localization Institute Standards Association) reported in 2001 that, on average, they achieved $10 of additional revenue for every dollar spent on localization. By 2007, the ratio had increased to $25 of additional revenue for every dollar spent on localization. Today, the weakening dollar against foreign currencies is driving that ratio even higher – now is a great time to localize and reap the benefits.
In the US alone, over 100 languages are spoken. Spanish is by far the most common language amongst non-native English speakers in the US. Of these 100 languages, there are 11 languages that correspond to populations greater that 500,000 people in the US. Communicating with the US Hispanic market in Spanish is not a courtesy; much of the Spanish speaking population in the US is not fluent in English. In fact, almost 50% of this population identifies itself as having limited English skills. This means that nearly 14 million people may not fully understand a marketed message if it is not also provided in Spanish.
From a marketing perspective, these are the 11 most significant population segments in the US:
Data: US Census Bureau, 2000
Reaching these markets in the US is of key interest to many industries. For example, HP markets specifically to the US Hispanic small business owners, in Spanish, through the Internet and mail (v. www.hp.com/go/hispanic). McDonald’s Corporation has a robust customer outreach program that includes the US Hispanic market (v. http://www.mcdonalds.com/es/usa/eat.html).
Internationally, the Internet has had a tremendous effect on the localization industry. Today, 50% of Internet users worldwide do not speak English as their first language. In the next two years, this number will increase to 66% and keep growing. The US dominated the Web for a long time but now ranks only sixteenth among countries worldwide in terms of its residents having broadband access to the Internet.
With this explosion in Internet access around the world, more of the world is purchasing products online, even via mobile phones in regions with a limited infrastructure. Access to US products steadily increases, especially as the US Dollar continues to hit new lows; the Canadian Dollar passed the US Dollar in September of 2007 for the first time in 30 years and the Euro stands at a record high. A favorable exchange rate for overseas consumers of US products creates incredible opportunities for online marketing by domestic companies. To capture maximum customer growth and increased revenues, you must move beyond English-only Web sites.
The 12 largest global markets, in terms of GDP, consist of the US, Japan, Germany, China, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Russia, and South Korea. While individual consumers in China, Russia, and Korea may not be the top target groups for many companies in the US, localizing a Web site into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese enables nearly 220 million Internet users from these countries to access that site in their preferred language.According to a recently published Common Sense Advisory survey, nearly three out of four participants surveyed agreed that they were more likely to buy from sites in their own language. Global consumers also indicated that they are willing to pay more for products with information in their own language. Nearly three out of four participants surveyed agreed they are more likely to buy products if after sale support is in their own language.
To localize or not to localize, that is the question.
Deciding what to localize is a daunting decision that depends on the long term global marketing strategy, available budget and resources, and other factors that can impact the decision (such as regulatory requirements in a particular market). In general, it is a sound strategy to localize content that is customer-facing (Web sites, product and service brochures, instructions and directions for use, product packaging, software user interfaces, online support and help files, etc.). Of course, localized key marketing materials such as advertisements, newsletters and e-newsletters, press releases, and annual reports, are also integral to the success of an international marketing strategy.
Certain industries do not have a choice as to whether to localize and what needs to be localized. The In Vitro Diagnostic (IVD) device and pharmaceutical industries are used to country-specific regulations of their products. These regulations include requirements for proper labeling, documentation, and quality assurance of their products for each market. The role players in the multi-billion dollar life sciences industry have come to realize that investing in localization can be a highly rewarding effort: Europe alone represents approximately 30% of the sales potential for medical products worldwide.In many cases, translation or localization of marketing materials is not required by law, but rather demanded by the reseller of a product or service. Lowe’s, the home improvement company, launched a major initiative and made it mandatory for all Lowe’s vendors to include Spanish translations on packaging distributed in Lowe’s US stores as well as French Canadian for packaging distributed in Lowe’s Canadian stores. All their vendors had to comply by September 1st 2005. It is surprising the number of small vendors who never tackled localization before but were led into it by such policy changes by large retailers.
Getting it done right
Planning a multilingual project can challenge even the most experienced companies. Finding qualified subject matter linguists, available engineers to deal with potential internationalization and localization issues, and the right talent to publish multilingual content are all crucial to the success of a localization project. Essentially, the work needs to get done cost effectively, on time, and meet quality requirements. Smaller translation projects can certainly be handled in-house, but there are many benefits to outsourcing larger multi-language projects to a language service provider.
Key benefits include:
The importance of finding and selecting the right localization and translation vendor can not be overemphasized. This vendor has the responsibility for the overall success of the multi-lingual product rollout, its credibility in-country, and the ultimate product reputation to be gained or lost through the translated content.
In order to succeed, companies should thoroughly investigate potential vendor’s services, methodologies, and best-practices and compare them against other vendors. Creating and distributing a Request for Information (RFI) or Request for Proposal (RFP) template that includes questions that leave no room for misinterpretation is crucial to this process. Once the participating vendors return the completed templates, answers are easily compared and rated to determine the best value-added solution. Participating vendors should also receive sample files for translation and provide a price quote so that cost can be compared fairly and accurately. There is truth to the motto that you get what you pay for in professional services.
Some of the criteria to consider during the selection process include:
Multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and best practices
Having localized content for your Web site does not guarantee that your market will find the information. It is important to explore Search Engine Optimization to help your market find your content.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) means that a Web site is optimized in such a way that search engines, like Google or Yahoo, consider its content more relevant, in regards to specific keywords or phrases submitted by a user, than the content of competitor’s Web site. In June of 2007 the largest search engine networks (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask.com and AOL/Time Warner) reported a combined 20 billion searches. Optimized searchability means more Web traffic finds your content, resulting in more opportunities to convert those visitors into paying customers.
Multilingual SEO can be a very cost efficient marketing strategy, if done correctly. Compared to launching multilingual print ad, TV ad, or radio ad campaigns, multilingual SEO is a very economical way to capture new customers. Also, multilingual SEO may achieve a much higher return on investment.
Depending on the budget and overall localization strategy, companies may “get by” with only localizing key Web pages to start with. If the strategy works, additional localized pages can be added to increase the Web sites multilingual content and searchability.
Create good content
Conduct keywords and key phrases research
Maintain a multilingual project glossary
Stay away from machine translation
Analyze Web traffic
Keep building multilingual content…and your reputation
Another great way to feed a Web site with updated and relevant localized content is to publish a multilingual e-newsletter on a regular basis. Make sure that the search engine spiders are able to find the link to the e-newsletter on your site.
Whenever possible try to exchange links with Web sites that compliment your own. Overseas product resellers may be happy to exchange links since they would benefit from increased traffic. The localized Web site should also be listed on foreign Internet directories and posting quality content to foreign blogs can also direct more traffic to localized sites or specific pages.
Also, consider implementing multilingual Search Engine Marketing. While organic search results are often preferable, Search Engine Marketing or pay-per-click advertising, if done right, can add tremendous value to an online marketing campaign. Your localization vendor can also help to ensure that your translated content is optimized for these techniques.
The bottom line is to use common sense with logical steps to improve traffic. Create content for users and not for search engine spiders. After all, it is the users that do the buying! Keep in mind that these are just a few of the best practices for multilingual Search Engine Optimization.
About the author of this article
Chris Raulf, a native of Switzerland, is a seven year veteran of the localization industry. Prior to his work in the localization industry, he worked as a Marketing Specialist for a financial corporation in Zurich, Switzerland, overseeing the company’s localization and translation projects. As a Product Manager for the Swiss Rail Ways, one of Switzerland’s trademark companies, Chris frequently handled the localization of marketing collateral into a wide variety of languages. Chris earned a Swiss Federal Diploma in Business and Marketing and traveled all over the world before settling in the US.
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Published - September 2008
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