Website translation endgame
The first point to consider in any website translation proposal is:
Why translate this website?
The answers fall into two general categories.
Translate a website to service existing customers
Often a client has an existing customer base in the target language. The primary motivation is to provide better service to this existing client base. This may be B2C or B2B (as in distributorships/agencies).
Website translation to attract new clients
Here the goal is to use the web as a marketing and/or POS (point of sale) mechanism. The client wants their website to gather customers, whether that be by generating an enquiry, a registration or a sale. This may be B2C or B2B (as in developing distributorships/agencies).
The importance of establishing this goal prior to beginning the translation process is if you want to gather new clients via the translated website, then you need to get the clients to the site in the target language. This means thinking first about online marketing and site promotion in the translated language; search engine optimization, PPC, link building etc.
Next question: What Languages to translate into?
Many clients already have a language or set of languages they are interested in having their website translated to. However, there are important points to consider above and beyond just potential market size (what percentage of the population is online in that language?) If the website is a point of sale, how many web users in that language have access to credit cards? If credit card uptake/use is not at a high enough level, are their other payment mechanisms that can be utilized?
Review some of our market reports here to get a picture of ecommerce uptake in some foreign language markets.
Multilingual Search Engine Optimization
Keyword research is the basis of all SEO and online marketing and it can bring up some interesting and valuable data. An English language example would be keyword research undertaken for a tourism provider. We looked at keywords and key phrases options for the USA and UK. Interestingly, in the UK the use of the term "vacation" outweighed that of the term "holiday", whereas in the USA the opposite was true. And when we start to move between languages and cultures, we find that greater differences appear. An example is a range of home garden organic fertilizers marketed into Japan; the client thought that the "organic" was the main selling point. After doing some online and offline research, we found the fact that the fertilizer had no noticeable odor was as, if not more, important. Perceived benefits will differ between cultures.
If one of the goals of your website translation is to attract new clients, via search engine marketing or other web promotion techniques, then you need to consider doing your keyword research, in the target language(s) BEFORE the translation is begun. This is to ensure that the keywords used are included in the text of the site; see Multilingual Search Engine Optimisation for more information.