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If your website isn’t translated into at least five of the above languages, you could be missing out on at least double your potential sales. This is the new reality of a global economy, said Alison Toon, senior director of new markets at Smartling, one of the hosts for a recent American Marketing Association webinar, “How to Make Google Love Your Global Content.”

She contends that 90 percent of global opportunities can be reached by businesses that have websites in 12 languages other than English. But many businesses seem to be missing out. When checking in with webinar participants via an interactive poll, almost 40 percent stated they currently have no website option for the non-English speaking world.

Don't Get Lost in Translation

"Two languages open every door along the way” — Psycholinguist Frank Smith


With statistics culled from a 2011 Gallup/EU Survey, Toon points out that nine out of 10 Internet users prefer websites in their own language. Not exactly a surprising result, of course. But, according to the survey, one in five Europeans never browse in a foreign language and 42 percent never purchase products or services in other languages.

Wisely, Toon emphasizes that translating a website is about more than just words and phrases, but also about the online experience. She quotes from Maile Ohye, a tech lead at Google, who has noted, “It’s about creating a great experience for your new users. An experience tailored to language, market and culture.”

Co-host of the webinar, Matt Capala, author and founder of SearchDecoder.com, discussed how to scale global content as well as the practicalities of time, budget and other resources. It takes effort to make the leap from a localized to a more world-based web presence – including having staff that can work with foreign language models. He also noted that creating local market partnerships can be more cost-effective for small to mid-sized businesses.

Consider Cultural Nuances

“With languages, you are at home anywhere” — Author and Potter Edmund De Waal

Both hosts made a concerted effort to engage the participants with various polls peppered throughout the webinar, including one that asked whether they used transcreation, localization or translation to create global content. The fourth choice, “What are you talking about?” covered at least a third of respondents. Some of the most helpful suggestions included:

  • Create full translations with visual content, cultural nuances, syntax and colloquialisms that will sell brands to the proper audience
  • Use professional translators for creating marketing content rather than bilingual staff or automated translation
  • Voice the brand specifically for another country/language2014-20-october-use- Full-Translations.jpg

What's Google Got to Do With This?

It’s worth noting that although the name Google figures prominently in the title of the webinar, the first actual mention of that brand by either host only occurs nearly half an hour in. In fact, Google doesn’t figure prominently until almost the end of the webinar.

Beyond using Google’s Keyword Planner, Trends, Ad Preview and Diagnosis Tool for a few minutes and mentioning it in a few slides during the entire presentation, it seems as though the name was more for drawing an audience than anything. An alternate name for the webinar with less emphasis on using Google as a buzzword might have been more accurate.

However, the content was compelling and certainly useful for any organization seeking to increase its global footprint and return-on-investment by tapping into a much larger consumer market.

Title image by John Ragai  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.