Posted by: sbilingual | December 29, 2011

How to market to foreign language speakers

You’re missing an opportunity by not marketing to foreign speakers

Is your digital marketing future multilingual?

If it’s not, it should be. You might be interested to know that over half of all Google searches are made in a language other than English, and the fact is this: English is just not the lingua franca of the web anymore.

And don’t just take my word for it, foreign languages online have experienced a huge surge — between 2000 and 2008, Arabic alone grew a whopping 2,064 percent. In comparison, English usage grew by just 204 percent.

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Despite this massive growth of foreign languages online, there’s much less competition for online content in these foreign languages, which makes it much easier to reach the top of the search engine rankings in a language other than English.

Less competition online in foreign languages also means you pay less for advertising, benefit from lower bids on your pay-per-click campaigns giving you a higher return on your investment with much less effort. In short, it’s a digital marketer’s dream!

But what can savvy marketers do to take advantage of these relatively untapped markets? It’s not quite as easy as just translating your website, but there are a few things you can do to help you along.

Know your market
Which countries need your service? Researching this is vital. Check out what your competitors are doing and see if there’s a gap in the market you can fill. Once you’ve identified your target countries, buy a local domain with that country code (e.g., in France and in Germany.) It’ll be more successful on local search engines and encourage foreign readers to trust in you. If your budget won’t stretch to this, then consider a subdomain (e.g., It has less clout with Google than a local domain, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Keep it simple
Ahhh, the old “keep it simple” adage. However, in this case it’s true. One of the keys to success on the foreign language internet is writing simple content that is easily translated. Avoid idioms, abbreviations, or metaphors and try not to reference country-specific events or things like celebrities — while they may be the flavor of the month on home turf, they could be an unknown entity across the Pacific. Be sure to localize for each specific audience — very rarely is website content a one-size-fits-all affair. You might find that there are elements you need to change for each of your target countries or languages, whether that happens to be currency, the ways in which dates and times are displayed, or where their local office is (with a corresponding local phone number.)

Hire a professional translator
If you’re going to the trouble of localizing your content, then it pays to hire a translator to do the job properly. Content that is difficult to understand or is grammatically incorrect looks unprofessional and will drive people away. A professional translator has the advantage of being able to interpret and localize technical jargon, slang, or turns of phrase, as getting this wrong can get you remembered for all the wrong reasons. Indeed, Swedish vacuum manufacturer Electrolux had an unfortunate translation mishap when they hit the U.S., claiming that “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” Not quite the message they were going for.

Embrace social media
If you haven’t jumped on the multilingual social media bandwagon yet, why on earth not? Social media is becoming increasingly important to search engine positions, but don’t just leap in there with a dozen translated tweets. Find out which social media platforms are popular in your target countries (QZone is all the rage in China, while Facebook reigns in the U.S.), set up separate accounts for each language on your desired social networks, interact with your market, and watch interest go through the roof. Don’t forget to chat back to those who take the time out to be social with you!

Say hello to multilingual SEO
You know as well as anyone else how important SEO is, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that as people speak in different languages, they’re going to search in different languages too. Effectively translating and localizing your keywords is essential if you’re going to succeed. For example, in Italy, one of the top keywords for low cost airlines is actually a mix of English and Italian (“voli low cost”.) It’s this kind of insider knowledge that can make the difference between a multilingual marketing campaign and a successful multilingual marketing campaign.

Think about your home audience
You don’t just have to send your wares over the ocean to try out marketing on the foreign language internet. Have you ever considered the sheer number of foreign language speakers in your domestic market? Recently, the U.S. census placed total 2011 U.S. Hispanic spending power at a whopping $1.2 trillion. If you want to take a slice of that, it’s about time you marketed to the Hispanic online community, which is rapidly growing.

Retail giants such as Best Buy, Walmart, and Netflix have all successfully targeted the Spanish-speaking Hispanic community, with traffic up by a considerable amount. In fact, Best Buy’s Spanish-language version of their website showed that users browsed for twice as long as on the English-language counterpart. More importantly, the spend was double than that on the English site.

Marketing in foreign languages can seem like a daunting prospect indeed, but follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to getting the results you want. And everyone can speak that language!

To find out how Bilingual Resources Group can support your interpretation, translation and bilingual staffing needs, please call 504-253-0364 or visit

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