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How to take advantage of non-English Digital Marketing

How to take advantage of non-English Digital Marketing

Christian Arno, founder of the global translation company, Lingo24, shows how to take advantage of non-English Internet Marketing

Did you know:
- English is decreasing as the language of the Internet?
- Over half of all Google searches are in languages other than English?
- Customers are five times more likely to buy from websites in their own language?
If you didn’t know this already, you do now.  Interestingly, recent research has shown that although many marketers are aware of the value of localisation, they simply don’t act upon it – or if they do, they consider mere translation of their website to be adequate.

Genuine localisation involves much more than word-for-word translation.  Effective marketing in a foreign language demands understanding the culture of the country, knowledge of the market and ‘screening’ for similarity or negative connotations.

This may seem obvious, but even the biggest companies have shown a startling lack of common sense when exporting their products.  Colgate, for example, launched a toothpaste called Cue in France.

Had they done their homework, or had someone do it for them, they would have been aware that Cue was the title of a hard-core pornographic magazine that had been on France’s top shelves for years.

For small businesses, where several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of rebranding would mean total disaster, it’s even more important to get it right first time.

Where to start

Your ROI depends on choosing a market that provides the best fit for your business. The existence of other companies in that country providing similar goods or services is not a bad thing – it shows that the demand exists.  But saturation is a different matter, and unless your USP is very U, hope of any SPs at all will be dashed.

Target Market Languages       

Having your website built in the language of your target country is a specialist task.  To be effective it must include country and culture-specific references.  This means that a website in French, for example, cannot be exported wholesale to Switzerland or Belgium but will need adapting to those particular French-speaking markets. 
The company you choose to carry out this work should also be proficient in search engine optimisation (SEO) for all converting terms in the target language(s), vital for your Search Engine ranking.


To avoid the Colgate experience you will need to have your brands screened in both the target language and its dialects. We were recently asked to screen the name Korr for a car to be launched in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, in certain Arabic dialects, it means ‘baby donkey’, not exactly aspirational transportation. 

A pharmaceutical company asked us to research the name Refenis for an anti-flu drug:  it turned out that in Mandarin ‘nis’ sounds like ‘you die’.  Their alternative proposal was Sperabis but was hardly an improvement:  ‘bis’ sounds like ‘will definitely die’!


To follow on, you should consider employing native speakers of the target languages for enquiries and account management.  If you are marketing in a foreign language, your customers will reasonably expect their queries and transactions to be conducted in that language.

Proof of the Pudding

Our own company has websites in the most common languages.  We particularly wanted to target markets in Scandinavia and the Netherlands and although most of the population in those countries can readily understand e.g. English and/or German, we decided to build country and culture specific websites for Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Holland. 

The result was a 500% overall increase in sales in those countries in less than three years.


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