How to make cash on the multilingual web.
The internet offers a myriad of money-making opportunities for those with the guile and grit to make things happen. But in an increasingly competitive market, with literally billions of web-pages flooding the so-called cyber-highway, how can budding businesses and entrepreneurs get one-up and put themselves at a competitive advantage?
English and the Global Web
Well, the Web by its very definition is global. And that means anyone from Alabama to Albania can tap in and follow your every word online, but only if they can understand what you’re saying.
Language is one of the last remaining barriers in creating a truly global web. Many people may be deterred from looking beyond an English-speaking audience, by the simple fact that they don’t speak another tongue.
But even if you genuinely only want to target English-speaking audiences, there are measures you can put in place to ensure your website is as accessible as possible to English-speakers across the world.
For example, an internet user in London may not understand many colloquialisms and culture-specific references of a website in Louisiana. The point is, to ensure your website appeals to as broad a global demographic as possible, there are simple steps you can take to ensure the millions of internet users in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are all engaged by your online offering.
Simply put, you need to write with the world in mind.
And English, of course, is also one of the many official languages of India, spoken by a large proportion of the population.
With internet penetration in India at less than 10% of the population, it may seem foolish to even begin thinking about Indian audiences on the Web. But there is more than a billion people living in India, so even 8% amounts to about a hundred million people roughly the same as Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands collectively.
But English will only get you so far on the Web. Only a quarter of the Earth’s population speak English perfectly the vast majority of whom do so as a second language Asia alone accounts for 40% of the world’s internet users. So by tapping into international markets online, you open yourself to over a billion more people.
How machines can help
If you happen to speak Spanish because your grandmother used to babysit you when you were a kid, then you should be in a pretty good position to offer bilingual versions of your blog/website. However, do you really have the time to translate all your text into another language? It can be time-consuming enough to write it in English in the first instance, without having to write it again.
Free translation tools such as Google Translate can actually be quite good for general translations, and if you’re not too bothered about offering 100% grammatically correct text across multiple languages, this isn’t all that bad an option.
For this, you have two options. You can either pre-machine translate your text so that the text is good to go for anyone who happens upon your website from outside the English-speaking world; you can even set your site up so that it automatically detects the country of origin of the user, so your site defaults to the language of that country.
Or, you can install a widget on your site which enables users to translate the text with the click of a button, this gives added flexibility, given that many international visitors may speak English perfectly well and they may prefer to read your text in its original form.
To improve the likelihood of hitting a good machine translation, you need to think about how you write the English text. Machine translation tools such as Google Translate aren’t smart enough to understand jargon or colloquialisms, so you may want to avoid having a “swell” time and perhaps consider having a “good” time instead.
Also, English has a tendency to use many different words to depict the same notion. For example, “hound”, “mutt” and “dog” all mean the same thing, so you’re best sticking with the most obvious option if you want to hit a good machine translation. And verbs can often be used as nouns even in the same sentence: I’m going to race in a race.
You can construct your English text in such a way that it’s less likely to hit a bad machine translation: so a ‘ne word, one meaning” approach can definitely help you on your way to a new found wealth on the web, whilst avoiding slang will help too.
However, with machine translations, there is still likely to be some errors creeping in and it may not give you the creative flexibility you crave on your site. So you may want to consider pre-machine translating your text and then use a native translator to simply check/proofread it for accuracy and style. Or, if you happen to speak the target language, you can even do it yourself.
This helps maintain the creativity dexterity of your English-language blog, whilst also ensuring any colloquialisms are suitably localized for your target audience.
Of course, the key to succeeding online lies in being visible. There’s no point having the world’s most attractive website in umpteen different languages, if nobody can find your site.
Multilingual SEO deserves an article to itself, so I’ll keep this brief. The one golden rule when optimizing your site for international markets is NEVER translate your keywords into other languages.
So, if you happen to rank highly for Affiliate Marketing on Google.com, you’ll need to research the keywords from scratch to ensure you rank highly on Google.fr or Google.de for the equivalent term. A correct, dictionary translation may not be what people use to search online with locally, they may use synonyms, abbreviations, colloquialisms any number of variations on what even a professional translator would consider to be an accurate adaption.
Good luck, now go forth and prosper!
About the Guest Author
Christian Arno is founder of international localization company Lingo24. With 130 full-time employees spanning three continents, and clients in over sixty countries, Lingo24 is on course for a turnover of $6m USD in 2010.