Many small businesses gear their websites to the customer next door, keeping in mind the local community. But in a nation that is becoming increasingly multilingual, can small businesses afford to assume everyone who views their site or sets foot in their storefront speaks English?
The U.S. Census says no. In 2009, 20 percent of the people in this country reported that they speak a language other than English at home. When surfing the web, they likely prefer to surf in their native tongue, too.
Offering your website in multiple languages can greatly expand your customer base, showing you care enough to include them in your communications. But when it comes to adding multiple language options to your website, there is a right way and a wrong way to handle it. By following these few crucial tips, you can avoid a website disaster.
- Stay away from automated translation services. While electronic translation software can make life easier in some situations, the truth is that many of these services lack the sophistication required to translate properly. Correct translation requires the hard work of someone who is proficient in the tongue. Freelance translators can tweak your copy to account for the subtle nuances of the foreign language you’re adding.
- Separate languages, separate page. For Google search engine rankings, it’s important to give each language its own page. Side-by-side translations on the same page confuse search engine algorithms. For Google’s advice on multilingual sites, click here.
- Understand your audience. Appealing to a wide range of cultures means also understanding those cultures. Take steps not to offend potential customers with offhand remarks that may be taken the wrong way in another language.