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True case story: 16 months ago I created a small site for a friend who owns half of an eight room motel in Fort Lauderdale. There is nothing special or fancy about the site, just some reasonably good basic SEO practise - the little I knew in the spring of last year anyway. The only thing slightly unusual is that the site offers three languages, English, German and Swedish.
I have just reviewed the logs for the first seven months of this year and could scarcely believe my eyes. This little site has 72% of all visitors from search engines. It is pulling in substantial traffic from major engines - AltaVista, Lycos, Google, Yahoo and MSN - for such highly competitive keyword phrases as "Fort Lauderdale", "Florida", "Fort Lauderdale hotels", "Fort Lauderdale apartments" and "Fort Lauderdale motels".
Digging deeper, I found that the traffic came from the German and Swedish versions of the major engines, where the site was showing on page one or two for the best keywords. In Lycos Germany they actually made it to the #2 spot for "Fort Lauderdale". In trying to figure out how in God's name this was possible, I noticed a thing easily overlooked:
The local versions of major engines have the default search set to the local country, but will treat dot-coms as local if they are in the local language. So if the surfers do nothing but type the search phrase into the box and click "search", all dot-coms in English will be filtered away and the little guys from page 800 or so, will have their moment of glory in the limelight. Other facts gathered here at WebmasterWorld strongly suggest that two thirds of all Europeans will behave in this manner.
So, suddenly we have a whole new ball game. A 1000-word page in English can be professionally translated into any language for just $55 if the target language is one of the major ones and just $90 if it is more exotic. This is a cheap solution compared to the $199 now charged for inclusion all over the place without guarantees. Plus: The cheap translation approach gives an excellent chance for high placement, due to much smaller competition for the keywords. Example: Fort Lauderdale on a page in English: 350.000+ hits. The same on a page in Swedish: 425 hits, only a few of which will have good title, description, keywords and other items contained within the definition of "Good SEO practice.".
The little site in my case story does not have separate urls for the language versions. Not a recommended solution, but enough in this case. (How much money can an eight room motel spend on its site, anyway?) The three language versions do have their own 100% frameset index pages with plenty of text and links in the noframes areas. These index pages were the ones submitted to and accepted by local directories, Yahoo's regional directories and ODP regional listings (this is an OK practise with ODP as long as you offer the correct language).
So, I think it is time to re-think strategies in Europe. Don't just target the major languages, go for them all and see your traffic explode. It is probably enough to have a good size starting page in the local language with links to the other pages in English - the favoured number 2 or 3 language for most.
Any more case stories out there? Or bright ideas to add?
You and me know the importance of translations and your case surely states this fact.
I've been promoting a company renting out sommerhouses and cottages. I've been targeting primarily German and Scandinavian languages and been doing it with unique country specific TLD's (.dk, .de, .se etc.) It has been a bit of a struggle to register and host these domains, but when it all fell into place the effort was certainly worth it.
Getting the domains listed at the relevant regional Yahoo's and ODP's boosted rankings all over the board.
Dot-com domain -> english keyword -> translate body copy -> Whaam! you're on top regionally
Now, with Rencke's case in mind I start to drift a bit away from my previous belief that you needed local domain extensions to do really well in Europe. There are other benefits of having local domains hosted in each country, but SEO-wise you can do great with just a dot-com with the right translations and site structure.
Ahh.. good SEO practice is enough for Europe - a least for now
Holy cow! At one point it was receiving over 10,000 visitors per day. It was on the first page for the search "Pokemon" when you used "Google español" or "Lycos español." And in 1999, it was hard to get a more competitive search term than that.
I wish I could take all the credit, but I really didn't do anything special. Seems that the Web en Español is still in its infancy.
As to Arabic: See [webmasterworld.com...] where Arabic engines have been discussed this week. The Asia forum may have more discussion on this. If so the site search should show them.
A couple of minor quibbles.
1) You mean, I presume, ODP _WORLD_ listings (the Regional listings are English-only. But there is World/Espan~ol/Paises, which is regional listings in Spanish.)
2) This is not "OK" practice. This is highly recommended and appreciated practice! The editor who handles your English submission may not know enough Spanish or Swedish to puzzle out the proper category to cross-list. But if you have content in three languages, post the URL to each language (including a description in that language, of course -- you may need help from your translator for that also).
[This has been a public service announcement from your local ODP editor. We now return you to your regularly posted topic.]
Thank you for setting me straight on this, Oh Hutcheson! :)
Hey, everybody! Multiple languages will give you multiple links in ODP. That can NEVER be wrong!
The market is there....it's really there. Problem is the consumer spending is not. Beside that point, these areas are WAY overlooked, even ignored, in the global media. A lot of people do not even know about what goes on in the tech industry down here. AOL is having a very hard time down here. Not because of people not being able to signup for their services, but more from the large markets created from other ISPs.
When I have the time, I'll post some really good long info on what is happening down in this part of the woods.
Spanish was probably the best because of the overlap of regions (Europe, USA, Central & S. America). We had great results!
One of our biggest challanges was getting proper translation. Individual keywords were bad enough, let alone actual web site content.
A good translator is worth their weight in gold.
"Currently , We had designed the new prouducts which it is "ZZZZZZ". we are willing to provide you for"
...I'll take 10;)
I think with translation you can take two approaches.
With the first the translator is doing a literal translation of your words. This is a fast approach but many of the fine points of a language can be lost.
The more accurate way of translation is where the translator takes the time to study and understand your industry or company and not only translates the words but also translates the meaning behind the words.
This is a much more accurate way to translate and ensures that what you want to say is understood.
This also can take into account cultural differences in meaning.
This is the way that I like translations done. However, it is more expensive because it takes more time.
But there is one further step, which normal translators cannot provide and that is real copywriting. This goes beyond both literal and idiomatic translations and requires the expensive services of a professional copywriter. Heini touched upon that in this discussion: [webmasterworld.com...]
If the text in the source language was written by a copywriter, then another copywriter in the country of the target language should be asked to rework the transalation into something that truly communicates to the local audience. But of course, now we are talking big bucks.
Culture is complicated, and this is probably the hardest thing to represent on a Web site, requiring a combination of background research, localization, and aesthetic sensibility.
The most popular internationalized Web sites are not simply translated versions of an existing site, but are distinct sites developed and maintained within the country itself.
Not only is locally produced content far more effective than translated copy, but the local site also has an appropriate cultural look and feel—it takes into account idiomatic differences in languages, and political, social, and moral issues, along with religion and history. If you want to compete effectively in a foreign market, you will need a high-quality local site.
This also means that you are going to need the use a good copywriter.
>This also means that you are going to need the use a good copywriter.
Don't forget that you also need to be able to respond to inquiries in these languages. IMO this is something that is often forgotten, and suddenly the mails start comming in but nobody can answer them. It's common sense but not common pratice.
Poorly written dialogue is not effective in any language and has to be taken as seriously as the actual text on the site. You have to service all of the market and not just concentrate on the marketing element.
Ooooooh! That's a tough one, impossible to organize for most. So I recommend this approach, high up on the translated page, border around it, highlighted or whatever:
This page has been translated into your language as a courtesy and convenience to you. We regret that we are unable to communicate with you in other languages than x, y and z. The management.
Or something to that effect.
Having gone through the process I would encourage companies considering this to;
Proceed Cautiously, Only globalize if it makes sense. Globalizing too fast can quickly get your company into hot water.
Make sure you have a sound business strategy. It's important to weigh return on investment against the cost of localizing a Web site and the potential growth.
You should not do anything in business that costs money unless you think you're going to get money out of it.
Make sure that as part of your strategy you include the cost of support and other issues like taxes, legal issues, etc.
If you start to seriously target certain countries you will probably need to ensure your site complies with the laws in that country. If you don't you could get a nasty shock!