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If you own or manage a UK-based business with an English-only website, you may be missing out on critical growth opportunities by opting not to offer overseas visitors an online experience in their native language.
Many UK companies assume that being based in an English-speaking country gives them an in-built commercial advantage that negates the need for website translation.
After all, English is the lingua franca of the online world, isn’t it?
“Levels of English proficiency are rising all the time, and most overseas partners and potential customers will have a working knowledge of the language good enough to enable them to navigate the site and gather the information they need….”
Or so the thinking goes.
The reality of online language usage is much more complex.
Adopting an English-only approach to web presence can cost UK businesses dearly in missed revenue opportunity, damage to branding and increased commercial competition.
If you’re the owner or manager of an English-only website, here are 7 key reasons to open your doors to foreign-language customers.
Although English may sometimes seem to be ‘the language of the internet’, and the majority of online content is still written in English, the language ranks just third in terms of total numbers of native speakers worldwide.
When it comes to population sizes, China and India outrank US internet users by almost five times and the UK by twenty-two times.
In addition to there being far more non-English speakers than English speakers using the web, customers have a marked behavioural preference to engage with and buy from sites that are available in their native language.
A study of 3,000 consumers in ten non-English countries demonstrated that 75% prefer to buy in their native language, while two-thirds ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ buy from sites only available in English.
And far from English consolidating its position as the online language of choice, things are headed in the opposite direction with increasing levels of internet access reaching new global communities – an estimated 1m+ new users every day, according to a 2019 report.
Take a look under the bonnet of you Google Analytics console and you’ll find a wealth of information on who’s visiting your company’s website – including where they’re from and what languages they speak.
Google’s “Audience Geo” filter provides an easy-to-read heatmap of where your traffic is coming from across the map, and the language option allows you to drill down based on the language settings your visitors are using to browse the web.
For analytics gurus, it’s also interesting to check out how user behaviour changes across demographic groups – often site visit duration, numbers of pages viewed and bounce rates alter significantly for audiences who are not finding content available in their language.
Based on this data, many businesses detect clear signs that there is a substantial overseas market waiting to be engaged – and website translation is the key step to ensuring that traffic from non-English-speaking regions converts into profitable new customer bases.
If your business has plans to expand internationally and enter overseas markets, then website translation is a critical step to laying down an early marker and building engagement with target audiences.
Whilst domestic growth may satisfy short-term goals, putting off the move to internationalise your web presence could turn out to be a costly error if your competition makes the first move and starts developing brand awareness with your future customers before you get there.
Especially if you are already experiencing traffic from international site visitors, adding native-language content can be a vital stepping-stone to pipping rivals to the post, making sure the grass doesn’t grow under your feet while other businesses develop loyalty and win traction with your target customer base.
Prominent rankings in search engine results are a vital part of any online strategy, and connecting with a global audience requires an international approach to SEO.
Naturally, non-English speakers run non-English searches when looking for products and services.
And whilst search engines like Google do still ‘read’ your website content to determine where you should rank in search results listings, there is a lot more involved in their complex algorithms.
Some key aspects of this include ‘metadata’ (such as descriptions of images, URLs and other bits of site information), as well as factoring in how users interact with your site and which other sites link to it.
Website translation optimises all of these factors for non-English speaking audiences, helping you to rank for a wider selection of keywords and search queries.
As your SEO improves, your global visibility climbs with it, resulting in more traffic and a growing customer base.
Even when overseas website visitors do speak English well enough to understand your website, it’s requiring a mental effort from them to actively translate your content as part of their purchasing process.
With an ever-increasing focus on optimising and personalising the customer experience, do you really want to make your visitors jump through this additional hoop to buy from you?
A well-translated web presence not only communicates effectively to foreign-language customers, helping them navigate quickly and easily without the mental gymnastics of translating on the fly, it also works to make international visitors feel comfortable and engaged by your site.
Accelerating the pace of your international commerce is about removing barriers to customer engagement, not creating them – and language obstacles should be the first to be moved aside.
Branding is a central part of any marketing mix, and often corporate identity is built around a combination of references and associations which may not resonate as strongly in other cultures.
To truly capture the potential of overseas markets, website translation should incorporate international brand strategy.
This makes sure that the colours, images, content tone, endorsements and taglines used to build your brand are carefully adapted for each target market, creating the same user experience for all regions.
Failure to invest in adjusting your brand to new international audiences can lead to lack of engagement, and ultimately drive valuable potential customers to an alternative brand where they feel a stronger sense of cultural identification.
As well as helping attract visitors to the site in the first place, an engaging, native-language experience is vitally important when it comes to the purchasing process.
With e-commerce businesses reporting ‘cart abandonment’ rates as high as 70%+ within the English-speaking field alone, the problem intensifies when users have to factor in a buying workflow that isn’t available to them in their native tongue.
And it’s not only clicking off the site without completing a purchase that’s the problem.
Non-English-speaking users are far less likely to reach out to customer support teams if they have a purchasing issue that could be resolved, or an inquiry about a company’s product or service.
Businesses who fail to optimise their sites for overseas buyers can leave major sales volumes unclosed directly through lack of language support.
Looking for support translating your UK website?
Rosetta Translation are specialists in helping businesses reach international audiences through translation and localization of websites and marketing materials.
For more information or to request a quote, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taylor Wessing LLP
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