Q: What are the best languages to localize my websites and products into?

A: If you are just starting out with localizing your products and websites I recommend starting with either all or an individual selection of French, Italian, German and Spanish (this combination is known as FIGS in the translation industry). This is because these languages have the widest number of translators available and are the easiest to manage and, in general, the cheapest to translate into. Swedish is also a good choice for a UK company. The natural progression on from FIGS is to using Chinese, Japanese and Korean (known as CJK). If you were to combine all these languages with Russian and Portuguese you would have almost 90% coverage of the web’s most-used languages.

Q: How long does it take to localize a website?

A: For a typical, average-sized company website the turn around is normally very quick and the page translations can be completed in just a few days. Most translators are available for urgent jobs but, of course, have to charge extra for this. If the chosen languages are less straightforward or the subject matter is complex this, too, will add a small amount to the time spent on translation and verification.

Q: I can’t speak any other languages! How will I communicate with my new customers, affiliates and suppliers?

A: Normally, by translated email. You will often find that many people that contact you do speak English but naturally prefer to buy in their own language if possible. To gain the gist of an email you can certainly use web-based or machine translation software but for the best quality and seamless integration into your online business a professional translation service is essential. A specialized translator can help you set up a secure and confidential redirect between your and their mail servers – and then deliver to you the translated emails. You write back using the same system in reverse. The result is that you never see an email that is not in English.

Q:  How many websites are available in languages other than English?

A: Amazingly, the current figure is still less than 5%, yet there is a constantly growing demand in other countries for the information and products on offer. Non-English online markets are growing at a much faster rate than English speaking ones as the internet continues to penetrate the world at an astonishing speed. The world total of internet users has now passed the one billion mark yet only 30% are English speakers. Let’s take a little closer look at the current most popular languages after English. Chinese comes in second with 132 million users, then Japanese with 86 million, Spanish 80 million, German 56 million, French 40 million, Korean 34 million, Portuguese 32 million, Italian 29 million and Russian with 24 million users.

Q: What other advantages are there in having a multilingual website?

A: With a translated website you also have some major marketing advantages which I have not yet covered. Advantage number 1 is that your search engine listings will multiply by the number of languages that you have your site translated into, you will get more search engine listings as your multilingual web pages will be crawled more often by Google, which can detect that the pages are written in a different language. The multilingual web pages will be shown in different language versions of Google. Google also feeds/supports large local search engines, e.g. Sina.com.cn (The No.4 of Global Top 500 of Alexa Traffic Rank). The biggest search engine of Germany, t-online.de, is also powered by Google. This means that the exposure of your website will be at least double what it was in English. Other important local search engines will also identify and crawl your new web pages for local use.

Advantage number 2, is that having a multilingual website makes it much easier to rank well in Google and generate more traffic. Most English websites are now fully optimized and the competition is very high. You cannot obtain the Top 10 ranking in Google if the page rank (PR) of your web page is not high. However, nearly 75% of foreign language web pages are not optimized. Their PRs are very low. Your website could therefore reach a high ranking even if it does not have an effective page rank in English. You would have more web page listings and each of them would have a higher ranking in the search engines, which in turn would generate more traffic. Additionally, Google’s filters are currently less sensitive, strict and intelligent when dealing with non-English language pages.

If you would like any more information please contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions.

David Boniface

Author David Boniface

I am a Digital Globalization Consultant. I help companies develop an international web presence and aim their products and services at a global market - not just a local one.

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