These are analog versions of an important phenomenon – multilingual marketing.
The Power of Babel
The Internet launched in English, but the online scene is changing fast. In 2015, estimates had 55% of all web content posted in English – estimates because worldwide Internet content and user demographics are changing so fast that data is difficult to pin down. There is broad consensus regarding the top 3 spoken languages represented among Internet users – English, Chinese, Spanish, but consensus on exact numbers for site content languages does not exist.
W3Techs identifies English, Russian, and German as the top 3 content languages, while the Observatory of Languages and Cultures in the Internet lists English, Chinese, and Spanish in the top 3 spots. The two sources disagree on proportions, assigning English to 55% and 32% of content respectively. The rapidly obsolescing focus on English as the language of the Internet represents a huge opportunity for marketers.
For example, consider Chinese language content. It has expanded rapidly as people from China now make up the largest population of Internet users worldwide, but Chinese is still represented in only about 18% of total online content. Around 5% of the world population speaks English as a native language. Couple that with the fact that research indicates that people strongly prefer to read in their own language, and you have a huge open marketing gap.
Do You Speak the Language?
Once you accept the need for a multilingual online marketing strategy, start thinking about what one should look like. The first place to turn is to Google, the dominant search engine and the one that any website hoping to pick up meaningful traffic has to play to. Google is multilingual, with a search interface presented in more than 130 languages.
More importantly, Google users can restrict results to content provided in their own language. Does this mean you need to run your online marketing and SEO strategies in 130 languages? No, but something like that – maybe 4 or 5 for a good start. Using Chinese alone would expand your market by around 800 million. We won’t go into multilingual social media here, but you get the idea.
A 2011 Gallup survey of Internet user language preferences in the largely multilingual European Union indicated that 9/10 users always visit sites presented in their own language when given a choice, and only 53% would accept an English website even if there were no choice in their native language. The fact that 42% of Europeans never search for or buy products in a language other than their own says a lot about the potential for English-only online marketing success.
The same trends run true worldwide, where 2006 research indicates that 72% of potential buyers spend most of their time on websites that offer content in their own language. All of this data is ancient in Internet time, and predates the smart phone boom. Although more people than ever are learning English, it is safe to assume that potential audiences for your products have grown while their online shopping preferences have not changed.
Design Locally, Market Globally
The bottom line here is that your bottom line depends on leveraging the full power of the Internet to get your message out to millions of customers in the languages that they prefer. The great news is that you can expand your potential market by hundreds of millions of consumers in a matter of a few days and for very little investment.
But note that, in order to rank well in organic search results, content needs to be presented in a fluent, conversational, idiomatic form and your website should be optimized according to international SEO best practices. Take care of that and you are on your way to success in the new world of multilingual marketing.
Image Credit: Pixabay
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- No Starch Press
- Peter Gasston
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Last update on 2020-03-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API