“One thing’s for sure — an English-only web site won’t deliver the results your international brand deserves,” says Ora Solomon, vice president of sales and operations at Acclaro. She offers the following tips to get you speaking the language of global e-commerce translation:
Look (and sound) like a local: More and more search engines are taking the domain location of a search into consideration, notes Solomon. “A search made in Brazil favors .br sites over other possibilities, for example, so U.S.-based pages are less likely to rank highly in search results,” she says. The solution is finding the right domain extension for each locale you’re targeting, such as .nl, .br, .au, .de, .it, .eu, .jp, or .uk. “If possible, find a local hosting solution to supply your site with a local IP address as well,” she recommends. “This way, you’ll be instantly friendlier to international search bots’ local bias.”
Use a global-ready content management system (CMS): As you add languages to your site content maintenance becomes more complex, Solomon notes. A global-ready CMS streamlines updates for a frequently changing site, offering support for all targeted languages, smooth workflows, and the ability to easily export and import XML content. “A CMS that is fully compatible with Unicode support enables your site to handle all characters in all languages with no glitches,” she says.
Adapt your site design to fit your market: “Researching the design norms of your target markets is a key component of successful localization,” says Solomon. “For example, Japanese users are more attracted to sites with lots of graphics and banners that give multiple entry points, while Western standards tend to favor simpler layouts.”
Have a customer-controlled language selector: Automatic selectors based on IP addresses can often backfire in a country with multiple languages like Switzerland or India, Solomon cautions. “By letting customers select their own language and country from a list, you put them in control of their shopping experience right from the beginning, making them more comfortable with buying your products,” she explains.
Give your content plenty of breathing room: When translated from English, many languages tend to expand, making content anywhere from 20% to 50% longer, notes Solomon. “For Mandarin and Arabic, the reverse is true, so your text will take up less room, often becoming illegible if sizes aren’t bumped up a few points,” she adds.
Say hello to your customers in a way that sets them at ease: “User name display makes an important first impression, so don’t get it wrong,” says Solomon. “Germans don’t use first names with strangers, preferring a more formal address. Also be aware of name order (Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese all write the family name first) and how many names your customers might have (as few as one or as many as five in some countries).”
Localize product descriptions in a culturally sensitive way: It’s not enough to translate your existing product description copy to go with your existing brand assets, says Solomon. Consider market-specific norms such as sizing and measurements. “Naturally, inches won’t help someone used to centimeters, and that oversight might be enough for your customer to click away,” she warns.
Change up your SEM/SEO strategy: “In global search, keywords are unique in each market, so translation needs to be paired with keyword research,” Solomon shares. “Investing in localized SEO for your new markets from the start is one of the best ways to position your Web sites for success. And don’t forget that the whole world doesn’t rely on Google. Your target countries might have local search engines like China’s Baidu, which represent better avenues for investing in SEM.”
Think about outreach and social media outlets: How you’ll engage your customers to build your brand also varies depending on region and country, says Solomon. “Social media is more than just Facebook and Twitter, so find the sites your potential customers use and go from there,” she advises. “With Facebook currently blocked officially in China, target a Chinese social media site like Renren or QQ (currently with over 700 million Chinese accounts).”
Don’t leave customer service behind: “Being reachable when your customers need you is another crucial component of success,” says Solomon. “Hiring someone in-country to handle support is your best bet, whether it’s live chat, phone, or e-mail.”
Posted April 24th, 2012 under Intellectual Property Marketing