How to ensure your website has international appeal - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

Because the UK has a population of 66 million people, many website owners choose to focus exclusively on the domestic market.

A co.uk top level domain will help any site to rank more highly in British search results, while writing in British English naturally appeals to your core audience.

However, concentrating website marketing purely on UK visitors ignores more than 99 per cent of the world’s population.

And while the products, services or information your website offers won’t necessarily appeal to every corner of the planet, it’s likely to offer at least some interest in certain other nations.

From people in the Irish Republic to Australia, there are many native English-speakers who might want to visit your site. Plus, if you’re marketing something unique, its appeal may carry over into non-English speaking countries – in particular our European neighbours.

Creating a website with international appeal involves a number of challenges, but these can be overcome using a combination of technology, software and common sense…

Translation services

Publishing your website in languages other than English instantly opens up new audiences. More than 100 million people speak German as either a first or second language, while Spanish is the primary language of most South American nations.

There are two main forms of translation service:

  1. Automated platforms which use algorithms to attempt translations
  2. Specialist translation services, where multilingual staff translate sentiments as well as words

The former option is cheap – sometimes free – but generally fails to revise sentence construction or reposition verbs.

The latter option is far more expensive, but hugely superior in terms of translating humour or accurately representing sentiments in another language.

Transcreation specialists will instinctively know the subtle but significant differences between Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, for instance (the word ‘rapariga’ means ‘girl’ in Portugal, whereas in Brazil it means ‘prostitute’). This can be vital for ensuring a key message is accurately translated without causing confusion or offence.

It’s easy to add multiple languages to a website by installing an app like Weglot for WordPress, where clicking a moveable lozenge button can display text and captions in a hundred languages.

High-quality translation services even convert full stops to commas wherever overseas audiences might expect to see numbers punctuated by the latter, instead of the former.

Country-specific landing pages

If you type apple.co.uk into a web browser, it’ll redirect to apple.com/uk. The UK website is effectively a subdomain of Apple’s .com American platform, in the same way entering apple.com/it loads an Italian mirror of the US site. Yet nobody really notices because the .uk subsite is written in British English, and prices are quoted in Sterling.

Country-specific landing pages are often allocated through a process called geolocation, where web browsers identify the country of origin when a URL is entered and ask the host server for results relevant to that country’s indigenous language.

This is obviously a problem in multilingual countries like Belgium, but it can provide audiences in many nations with more relevant content – including…

Geotargeted pricing

This is crucial for companies attempting to trade across borders. A customer in France is not going to be impressed by an ecommerce site which only advertises goods or services in Sterling.

Geolocation pricing effectively switches the displayed currency as a webpage is downloaded, based on the location assigned to the IP address requesting the information.

This also ensures sites can accurately reflect country-specific pricing anomalies like import taxes or higher delivery costs, though it falls foul of location-cloaking VPNs or the Tor browser.

Alongside traditional currencies, some websites accept payment in bitcoin, which is an internationally recognised (if hugely controversial) digital payment vehicle. The advantages of bitcoin include the absence of currency conversion fees or exchange rates, though its drawbacks include a volatile value compared to conventional currencies.

Avoid slang, jargon or cultural references

Although Americans universally recognise Coke and Pepsi as cola drinks, Midwestern states refer to them as pop while in New England they’re known as soda.

Clearly, using the word ‘cola’ on a multinational website will be more widely understood. You don’t need to check every word of your site against cultural norms in every possible target market, but do be aware throwaway pop-culture references to The Inbetweeners won’t resonate particularly strongly in New Zealand, where the second movie’s box office takings were less than one per cent of those in the UK.

When writing for an international audience, it’s safer to stick to universally recognised sentiments – value, convenience, practicality. If you’re unsure whether a particular concept has reached foreign shores, do a little Googling to see whether your target audience is likely to understand a reference to it. Writing for Jamaican consumers requires a very different approach to aiming content at South Africans, even though both countries have English as an official language.

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