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Could multilingual SEO drive your ecommerce success?

Image: Rawpixel via iStock
in Retail and Ecommerce

It's no secret that ecommerce is big business these days. The number of retail sales completed over the internet has been on an upward trend for years, rising from a value of nearly US$1.86 trillion (£1.33 trillion) in 2016 to US$2.29 trillion last year, according to statistics aggregator Statista. That figure is expected to continue increasing, soaring to nearly US$4.48 trillion by 2021.

This rate of growth won't come as a surprise to many businesses, but what might be less obvious is just how important it is to use language properly if you want to take full advantage of the ongoing ecommerce boom. The internet provides access to markets and consumers all over the world, but it's extremely difficult to make the most of this opportunity without effective use of multiple languages.

Seeing the global picture

With English recognised as a 'global language' and US tech giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft taking on such a dominant role in the online space (in the western world, at least), it's easy for businesses to fall into the trap of becoming overly reliant on English in their web content and ecommerce promotions.

Looking at the global picture as far as internet usage and potential for ecommerce growth is concerned, there is a lot to be gained from going beyond English-speaking markets.

According to Internet World Stats, as of December 31st 2017 there were nearly two billion internet users in Asia. That's nearly half (49 per cent) of the global total and almost double the numbers for Europe (700.2 million) and North America (345.7 million) combined. China alone is home to some 772 million internet users, and some of the country's leading ecommerce brands have plans to expand worldwide, taking on the likes of Amazon in western markets.

Global ecommerce is hugely diverse and many industry sectors now reliant on the web are highly competitive, meaning companies that hope to stand out must ensure they communicate and promote themselves effectively.

Getting your language right

There are various ways in which the accurate and effective use of language can help to boost your company's presence online and get your brand noticed in various markets that speak different languages.

Consider search engine optimisation (SEO), which many businesses see as fundamental to establishing their online presence and increasing the amount of traffic that flows to their webpages from search engines, particularly Google. It's a fairly complex business, with ever-changing algorithms used to analyse webpages and rank them in search results, but one of the basics of SEO strategy is ensuring that you have relevant key terms and optimised metadata on your website for the search engine to find.

This is where effective use of language and translation services is crucial, as you need to be sure that your online content features terms that are searchable in different languages. This involves not only doing your SEO research, but working with professionals who have intimate knowledge of the relevant language (ideally a native speaker) and can tell you exactly what sort of key terms to use to maximise search engine traffic.

One particularly important point to bear in mind during this process is that developing a global SEO strategy is not simply a case of completing a word-for-word translation of your English keywords. Languages are complex, nuanced things full of multiple meanings and potential ambiguities. A native speaker of the language you are targeting will be able to tell you the precise terms people are most likely to search for, which is much more useful than a literal translation of your original keywords.

This is even more significant if there is a lot of unique jargon or terms that have very specific meanings in your industry sector. Certain English words might not even have a direct counterpart in other languages, so you need an expert linguist to ensure your web content and metadata accurately describe your products or services, and your message doesn't get lost in translation.

Going beyond SEO, once potential customers actually click onto your website you want the user experience to feel as comfortable and natural as possible. There is no substitute for having your site's written content checked and tweaked by a native speaker, to ensure there are no errors, inappropriate references or uses of language that simply won't make sense to a foreign reader.

Getting your brand noticed online in various markets is a big challenge and it can take a long time to see results. Ensuring your webpages are properly researched, translated and SEO-optimised for local search is a vital first step towards long-term success.


Image: Rawpixel via iStock

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