All company country websites need a critical mass of translated and localized content to be successful. The question is: how much content do you need to translate for your international websites?
For some companies, the answer is pretty simple. A consumer goods company trying to win hearts and market share in key countries will find they need a fully translated and localized site to resonate with their users on an emotional level. A company in the life sciences sector will need to translate its entire site content in countries that make it an legal obligation – France, for example.
But everyone speaks English!
But many B2B companies operate under a slightly different set of rules. Sales cycles are long; deals are won based on many criteria, but emotional appeal generally isn’t one of them. Plus, many industries are global in nature, where English is not only widely spoken and understood, it’s the de facto working language for everyone.
Company Ciena stopped translating its Middle East site into Arabic when it realized that virtually all of its clients had been educated in the US or in the UK, and English was their preferred language of business. I once worked with a customer whose Dutch team was adamant it wanted a Netherlands site, but insisted it on it being in English because that was the language all client meetings were held in. And here in France, where I live, I can think of a few companies who work primarily with global customers, and whose websites are exclusively in English, and not even in French.
Ability is not preference
However, the opposite can also be true. I worked with another client whose Norwegian team had to fight to have their site in Norwegian, so strong was the perception among management that all Nordics master English so well that translation was a waste of money. While it’s true that the barrier to English in Nordic countries is extremely low, this particular client’s Norwegian team communicated with their clients in Norwegian, and their main competitors communicated extensively in that language too. An English-only site would have put them at a disadvantage.
After all, just because people can read and understand in English doesn’t mean they prefer to. The point is, you have to do what’s best for your company and customers. That means you have to talk to your local teams and understand your customers’ preferences and comfort levels. Using analytics can also help: by comparing the overall performance of your different country sites, you can get a good idea of which countries would benefit from having a greater volume of translated content.
Analytics to the rescue
Look at the top pages of all your sites, including the global one. Depending on the size of the site, you can decide to look at 25, 50 or 100 pages. Look at the basic analytics like entry pages, page views, time on page, and bounce rates, for each of your sites. Compare top pages between sites, and see how concentrated the traffic is. Include some conversion metrics like campaign sign-ups, email registrations, contact forms completed, etc. In parallel, look at how the sites are translated and what is being translated. Together, these elements should give you a good indication of which countries are your star performers, and which ones are lagging behind. That way, you’ll have data to support your decisions about where to boost your translation investment.