Region/Countries: All Countries Industry: Multiple Sectors, Other Date: May 2017

Export Q&A: How to launch a multilingual website for success

Q: Does an exporter need a different website for markets outside the United States? 

A: The internet provides a platform to deliver messages around the globe—but businesses should keep in mind that it is just that, a platform. Messages that work in the U.S. may not work as well in other areas of the world. A good global marketing strategy will adjust the message to appeal to different market segments while maintaining overall brand integrity. Localized websites tell customers you are committed to their country and to servicing that area of the world. In addition, translated sites make the customer feel more comfortable.

Q: What’s the difference between globalization and localization?

A: Some products or services may be very similar from country to country, while others can be very distinct. Globalization emphasizes the similarities across multiple cultures, while localization takes advantage of the distinctions. Globalization makes the same product multilingual and accessible in multiple countries. Localization takes into account local practices and culture, providing a product that is tailored to the specifics of the target country.

Geolocation is a common practice of pairing of IP addresses to a geographic location, and it has become an important element of doing global business online. Once a customer’s location is known, they can be targeted with location-based services.

Q: What should an exporter ask when trying to decide which translator to use?

A: Translations involve both technical expertise and a degree of artistry. Many service providers will have a network of subcontractors in different countries who specialize in different industries. Some of the best translations are completed by native speakers in the target language, but they need to be fluent in the technical jargon of the industry as well. Always ask about translators’ location and their areas of special expertise. You may need to pay more for a translator who specializes in medical terminology as opposed to one who can handle consumer goods. Also, ask what steps will be taken to proofread the work. A second set of eyes can spot errors and typos that someone unfamiliar with the language would miss.

Q: What services do web development agencies provide?

A: When shopping for a web development agency, consider whether they offer these key services, and the quality of service offered:

  • Recommendations for local requirements and customer behavior (e.g., preferred payment methods)
  • Setup and optimization of CMS (content management system, the platform on which the website is built) with capability to manage multilingual sites (e.g., unique URLs, unique navigation menus, country code subdirectories/subdomains, unique meta-titles and meta-descriptions)
  • Localization, translation and optimization of text for your target market and local search engines (e.g., conversion of units, locally used terminology and keywords)
  • Selection of visuals appropriate for each export market (e.g., images depicting relevant locations)
  • Review to ensure that content has been uploaded to the correct location
  • Compliance with local regulatory requirements (e.g., Germany requires an Impressum page)
  • Ongoing multilingual support related to online marketing (e.g., search engine optimization, social media, content creation)

Q: Can I just use Google Translate for my website?

A: Google Translate is a good tool. However, it is not always accurate, and it can be too literal. Usually translating the overall idea is more effective than translating word-for-word. Colloquialisms and synonyms can often be mistranslated if the expression in the original language was a figure of speech or has more than one meaning. Also, context matters. It is important to have a professional translator review the output to ensure that the proper intent is relayed instead of just the “correct” words.

INterconnect: May 2017>