Go global, think local

by Peter Young on November 24, 2009 · 0 comments

Localisation, SEO and Multilingual Marketing

This is a guest post by Christian Amo,founder and Managing Director of Lingo24.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is perhaps the most valuable and easy to implement of all modern marketing methods. In short, if a company features highly on Google’s search results for relevant key search terms, then the business is far more likely to succeed than if it ranks lowly.

One of the main benefits of SEO is the measurability – you can easily monitor the effects of your PPC and AdWord campaigns through Google Analytics; indeed, most successful websites will use analytics to drive their web design, structure and usability.

Whilst measurability is certainly a plus point from an online marketing perspective, the internet also opens up a whole new world of opportunity for businesses to tap into new or emerging markets. Globalisation was once the territory of big businesses with big budgets. Now, a bedroom business with nothing more than a networked computer and a touch of entrepreneurial savvy can grow abroad. And the process all starts with a fully optimised and localised website.

The majority of the internet is in English, yet most of the world’s internet users’ first language isn’t English, so there’s a clear gap there to exploit. Indeed, because the saturation is nowhere near what it is in the English-speaking market, it’s actually possible to rise very rapidly in foreign search engine rankings.

So how can a company expand its global internet presence into new territories? Well, the first step is to identify the most appropriate target country/countries – this will vary greatly from industry to industry.

You will have to do a little bit of research and recognise any gaps your business can exploit. However, it’s a good sign if there are other similar businesses in operation already as it reveals a demand for your service/product. Though a saturated market can be difficult to penetrate so be wary of too many companies.

The next stage is to buy a locally hosted domain name in the target country. It can just be your usual business name with a local domain extension, for example ‘.at’ in Austria or ‘.ch’ in Switzerland. You also need to ensure that your webhost uses a server located in your target country – search engines considers the IP address of the server in its ranking algorithms.

Some businesses may be tempted to use a free website translation tool, such as the one Google provide. These can be useful if you need to understand the essence of a foreign language website, but you shouldn’t use such a tool to translate your own website. From a content standpoint, you must use a translation company that uses professionally qualified ‘in-country’ translators that only translate INTO their native tongue. This will ensure your website is fully localised for your target market.

It also pays to be wary of the linguistic nuances between dialects. For example, the French spoken in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Canada is largely the same. However, fin de semaine is ‘weekend’ in Canadian French but it’s simply le weekend in France. And dejeuner is ‘lunch’ in France, but ‘breakfast’ in Belgium and Switzerland. There are many such instances from within the relatively small confines of Europe alone that help to highlight the importance of adopting a fully localised marketing strategy.

Online marketing and SEO should always go hand-in-hand with any campaign. With international markets, however, localisation is an obligatory addition, given the cacophony of cultural and linguistic complexities that come into play. To go global, you must think local.

About the author
Christian Arno is founder and Managing Director of Lingo24, a UK translation company that specializes in website localisation. With operations across four continents and clients in over sixty countries, Lingo24 are on course for a turnover of £3.7m in 2009.

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