What languages have a presence online?

The internet has changed considerably from the early days. Previously the bulk of online content was presented in English. However, the last 5 years has seen a ballooning in the volume of content in languages other than English, and the number of non-English speaking users.

Right now less than 35% of internet users have English as their first language (compared to 50% in 2000). This is predicted to drop to 25% by 2008. Indeed, some of the busiest sites in the world do not even have an English version: Daum.net, a large Korean portal available in Korean only is frequently in the top 5 busiest sites in the world!

What languages should you target?

Besides absolute volume of potential site visitors as measured by language, there are several other conditions to take into account when planning a multilingual marketing campaign.

1. Is your site an information provision service/branding exercise?

If your site is primarily for the provision of information or for branding rather than point of sale, there are other areas to pay attention to. For example:

How do different cultures search for information?

Each culture, and language, has its own underlying logic. Site navigation, keyword targeting and intuitive use will all vary between languages. Even within languages, there are strong differences. As a simple example, UK English speakers are more likely to search for the term "vacation" whereas USA English speakers will use "holiday" more frequently. If you are a tourism provider active in these markets these simple variations can make all the difference to the effectiveness of your site.

2. Is your site a point of sale?

If your site is a point of sale, under what framework will users from a particular language become a conversion? Points to consider are:

Buying behavior: will users purchase online? Or will cultural constraints mean they would rather communicate directly with a local distributor?

Purchasing Method: how will users purchase? Is online credit card purchasing an accepted method within this language group/culture? Do you need to provide other purchasing options (telegraphic transfer etc.)?

3. Enquiry processing

If your translated site is likely to generate an enquiry, how do you handle those enquiries? For some sites it is easy to develop tightly structured generic enquiry forms, for others email processing may be required. For further information click here.