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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : June 09, 2009

English-only websites stunt global reach

The Internet has opened up the world. Online retailers can sell to anyone, anywhere. But can folk in far-flung corners of the globe easily find your website, and even if they could, would they be able to understand it?

by Helen Leggatt

Consider this. Over 70% of Internet users do not have English as their first language. That's around 900 million people who not only use a different language, but also search and shop differently. Yet many websites do not make provision for this and are restricting their global reach.

Such are the findings of Greig Holbrook, managing director of Oban Multilingual, which were outlined in an article for eConsultancy. In it he illustrates various ways in which different nationalities search the Internet and their preference for native search engines.

For instance, German searchers search using key-phrases in their native language but also use a mixture of German and English, often with misspellings. The French, it seems, prefer content written specifically for them rather than a straight translation which often lacks the cultural references they appreciate.

Holbrook also believes many are concentrating their SEO efforts on Google and Yahoo whereas some countries have their own search engines that far outstrip Google in use.

"Businesses should, therefore, be looking not just to rank well on Google, but on a multitude of international search engines," writes Holbrook. "And the best part is, there is often less competition on these lesser-known portals, making international SEO a more budget-friendly process."

It's advisable to use a company specializing in website translations, rather than running it through a translator or attempting it yourself. Regional nuances and cultural references need to be woven into the site as well as consideration given to the different ways navigation is used and creative perceived.

Domain selection is also important and ideally a top-level domain should be used for each country being targeted. However, as Mark Jackson over at Search Engine Watch points out, that's sometimes easier said than done.

Tags: culture, language, multi-lingual, translation, website design

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