We start this inbound marketing series with a look at how inbound marketers can prepare a website for expanding into a foreign speaking market. Whether you want to target Spanish speaking communities, expand across Central and South America or tap into a new audience on the other side of the world, there are some fundamental changes and considerations required.
There is a lot more to crossing borders than a language barrier and you need to include a number of cultural factors in web design, as well as technical aspects to site structure and code - which is precisely what we are looking at today, before we move on to international marketing with SEO and social media.
Step 1: Design is a cultural concept
You know of the great potential that global markets offer, but multilingual websites succeed best when they're planned out properly. Before you can expand any website to a new culture you have to go back to the drawing board and reassess the design. Colors and symbols are at the core of web design, but their contextual meanings can vary across different cultures. Green, for example, is a forbidden color in much of Indonesia, while a thumbs-up icon is offensive in a number of countries.
Layout and design philosophies also vary across different cultures. You will see less whitespace and a greater emphasis on banner ads and sidebars in China, Japan and Korea, while Scandinavian countries have developed a more minimalist taste for website design. This not only creates two very distinct design philosophies, but different conversion rate environments too. Inbound marketing professionals know that inbound is very effective, but not always in the same way everywhere.
Step 2: Translation is just the beginning
When it comes to preparing your content for a foreign market, translation is at the core of communicating a brand message. Machine translation (MT) has made incredible progress in recent years, which can make the translation process much quicker. However, you can't rely on MT as your main translation tool because idiomatic differences mean direct translations never work, particularly for marketing content.
As the web becomes increasingly visual, text may not be the bulk of your page content and you need to think about images, videos and other graphics as well. Pretty models might help you sell products in certain countries, but you could upset your target audience in another. The last thing you want to do is cause offense, but you also need to go beyond playing safe and use visuals that truly represent each audience and their culture.
Step 3: Digging behind the code
After the design and content stage there are a number of technical aspects to address and you should start by thoroughly testing your website - because any bugs will multiply with every version you add. Next you need to weigh up domain names for multiple languages and possibly regions. There are a number of options with different pros and cons, so taking a look at Google’s take on Working with Multi-Regional Websites is always a good idea.
When it comes to programming everything should start with unicode, which offers the widest support for languages and scripts - so follow W3 recommendation and go with UTF-8. As you change languages you will also find content varies in size and English generally uses more text to convey an idea than Japanese or Chinese, for example. So stay away from fixed heights or widths in CSS and create a fluid layout to accommodate different languages - as well as devices.
Step 4: Mobile Devices
Next up for our Inbound Marketing Series
Our inbound marketing series continues with Part 2: The Advantages of Content Optimization where we take a look at multilingual SEO and content strategies for other languages.
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