Nearly all businesses – whether bricks-and-mortar shops or consulting services – have some type of presence on the internet: website, Facebook page, Yelp page, Twitter account, or Tumblr. For many businesses, having a presence in their home country’s language is enough. But for other businesses and consultants, one language may not be enough.
If you are a restaurant or retail space, how do you expect to attract customers who may be tourists visiting your city from outside of your country?
If you are a service or information provider, are your services or newsletters potentially useful to clients and readers who speak other languages?
If your business website is currently only in your native language, these are questions that may inspire you to consider adding multilingual options. However, if your business website (or part of it) has already been translated into one or more languages, here are some points to keep in mind.
- Decide Which Pages Are Important to Translate
I’ve run across many business websites over the years that feature little flag icons indicating that the website is available in other languages but, when I click on the “English” icon, I see one “About Us” page that gives only a brief overview of the company and excludes details about services or prices. If you are trying to attract clients and customers from outside of your home country, figure out which services/products you want to offer to them, and be sure those informational pages are also translated. If you are the best widget-maker in the world, but your website is only in Polish, how many potential customers are you missing?
- Make Sure Details Are Consistent
I recently visited an event website on which the English-language page stated there was no entrance fee to the event, while the German-language page noted that there was an entrance fee. Which is it? As someone with a basic understanding of German, I could be prepared for the entrance fee, but imagine an English-speaking tourist who shows up with his family and is surprised and disappointed by the entrance fee.
- For Event Venues, Dates and Ticketing Are Crucial
If you run an event venue and your website supposedly offers multilingual options, you need to make sure that event listings, dates, times, and ticketing information is also translated. In this global market where even small indie bands can gain international followings and go on global tours, you better expect that tourists will relish the thought of seeing one of their favorite bands at a venue in a different country. Don’t make it impossible for them to identify how to get a ticket for the concert.
- Make Your Website Tourist-Friendly
Is your restaurant or retail shop located in a town that’s popular with tourists from other countries who don’t speak your language? Mobile devices make it easy enough to find “restaurants” in a surrounding area, but how will they know what is on your menu or when you are open? If a visitor from the U.K. is shopping for hemp clothing in Berlin, how will they know that you were voted the #1 hemp clothing retailer in the city last year if your website is only in German and they don’t understand the language?
- Translate Press Releases
If you are trying to attract customers, clients, or visitors from countries outside your own, it’s a safe bet they will also be interested in knowing about the important announcements that you make in press releases. Are you opening a new store in a different town? Have you decided to extend your business hours due to demand? Did your company just win an award for outstanding service or product design? If these news items are important for folks to know about in your home language, then they may be equally important to potential customers and clients you are trying to attract from elsewhere.
- Go for a Native Speaker
When you have your website translated, be sure to use someone who is a native speaker in your target language. You yourself may be able to “get by” in another language, but using a native speaker will ensure that your business achieves the highest level of professionalism possible in the eyes of the customers and clients you want to attract. If your mastery of the language is fairly decent, you may just want a native speaker to proofread the text after you’re finished.
Keep these tips in mind and you will have a solid basis for expanding your company’s reach into new markets via the internet, or for attracting new customers when they come to visit your town on vacation.
I provide German-to-English translation services to small businesses and authors, as well as proofreading and copy editing services for English-language text. Check out my Services page for more details.
Bernadette Geyer provides writing, copy editing, and translation services for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and writers. She also leads online workshops on a variety of topics for small businesses and writers. Geyer likes being a small fish in a big pond, and enjoys helping others move to bigger ponds themselves.