Successful companies from all sorts of business fields find that localisation, mainly of their website, is now a critical aspect of their business. For international marketing campaigns, issues can arise around selecting the right country and, of course, the right language.

Even though English is the most widely spoken and understood language in the EU, it doesn’t mean everybody is using it on a daily basis. According to the Special Euro-barometer 386 ‘Europeans and their Languages’ from July 2012, the most widely spoken mother tongue in Europe is German. If we consider the top five most widely spoken mother tongues in the EU and exclude the language of Shakespeare, we realise our continent is truly multi-linguistic. Another finding of this study shows that Europeans are more likely now than they were in 2005 to think that Chinese is an important language. English is just not enough.

For a business to be internationally successful, it needs professional translation and localisation services. If you think Google Translate will do the job for you for free, you’re wrong. Machine translation made real progress lately, but it simply can’t understand the context of the words to be translated. This means the results can be really disastrous.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
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Translation, Localisation and SEO

Translation is the process of transforming a text from one language to another, with the ideal outcome being that your final text reads as if it were written in the second language originally. However, a successful multilingual campaign involves more than just translation.

Localisation takes the translation process a stage further by changing as many characteristics of the text as required to conform to the needs of the target audience for the translation. Localisation means adaptation of your website’s content and all other marketing materials to the various cultures of your target markets.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s organic/natural search results. Usually, the more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine’s users. For SEO of your translated website to be successful, you need to highly consider keyword localisation by professional translators, as only they can thoroughly analyse each keyword.

Sometimes there is no direct relationship between translated keywords. The keyword you think is highly representative for your business in your language may not even exist in the market you’re targeting. Likewise, it may exist, but could have more than one equivalent or could have a completely different meaning.

Let’s take the word “gift” for example

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the English term ‘gift’ means:

  1. a notable capacity, talent, or endowment;
  2. something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation;
  3. the act, right, or power of giving.

When translated into Spanish, this term has twelve equivalent words. Polish and Italian each offer eleven equivalents for it. In German, there are six possible translations of ‘gift’.

The peculiar thing is that German also has the word ‘Gift’ in its vocabulary. Since German and English are related languages, you might be inclined to think that the German ‘Gift’ has the same meaning as the English ‘gift’. Don’t be tricked by these false friends. Gift in German actually means poison. The below graphic illustrations show this complexity:

If you are ready to go multilingual you need to understand that you have to speak the language of your customer. Not all cultures transmit meaning in the same way. Not all of your website’s users type the same keywords into search engines to find you because they simply think and live differently.

The success of each localised website and its visibility on the Internet are closely related to its ability to be adapted to the target cultures and also receive high-rankings in search engines.