A Few Words

SEO / SEM Tips for Successful Global Marketing: Don't treat it like translation

Posted by Elise Kaplan on Mar 2, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Successful website marketing professionals know that well-thought-out SEO and SEM campaigns will drive traffic to their sites. When expanding globally, these professionals are eager to apply this experience to their foreign language websites to attract cross-border customers. However, simply applying what they know about high-quality website translation to their well-crafted SEO terms often leaves them wondering why their foreign languages sites are underperforming. Generally speaking, this is because SEO localization is not translation of SEO terms, but rather the generation of equivalent foreign language terms used by people from a specific geographic locale in their online activities. The best way to illustrate this is by example.

A popular English search term is "auto insurance." A simple direct French translation is "assurance automobile." However, keyword tools tell us that in France, "assurance auto" or “assurance voiture” are far more commonly searched terms – between 60 and 30 times more per month than the direct translation above. The search for equivalent terms as used online in France yielded better results than simply translating. But wait, going to Canada instead? Then note that "assurance automobile" is as common as "assurance voiture." Vive la différence! And don't rely on simple translation.

Even simple, unambiguous translations do not always reflect how search terms are used. Let's look at an example when we're translating towards English. An Italian website for a hotel talks about being:

"...una comoda ubicazione vicino ai negozi, musei e alle attrazioni principali di Roma."

Translated correctly into English this becomes:

"...a convenient location near stores, museums and the main attractions of Rome."

The key Italian SEO terms were negozi, musei, Roma, as in "Roma negozi", a popular search in Italian.

The translated sentence correctly uses the word "stores" for "negozi", so you would be forgiven for using "Rome stores" in your English search-optimized sentence. However, keyword search tools will tell you that "Rome stores" is the least searched option. The best option turns out to be "Rome shopping", so the search-optimized sentence should read "...near shopping, museums and the main attractions of Rome." This could only have been discovered by testing several foreign languages variations of the original term to see which nuances, dialects and local expressions perform the best.

Localized Search Engine Marketing (SEM) has similar characteristics. At the most basic level, there are character limitations that must be observed. English is a notoriously compact language, so a simple translation will likely exceed ad space limits. Experienced global marketers know that optimizing results means approaching the ad with the same insights, care, and process they used for the source English ad, and then relying on a native speaker trained in search ad copywriting to "transcreate" -- to create the same message in language that aligns with the local market.

Successful SEO localization requires a custom approach for each target language/market. This becomes even more complex in the many linguistically/culturally diverse Spanish language markets when most translation efforts are centered around a "least-common denominator" strategy of using a single variant of Spanish for all Spanish-speakers. While the economics of a single variant of Spanish are understandable for a large volume of text, a focused approach to SEO and SEM for each market will produce better results.

There are many opportunities for cross-border merchants to profit from global opportunities. Optimizing website functionality, offering multiple languages, and adapting to cultural preferences are important steps cross-border retailers can take to stand out from their competition.

Working with a professional firm experienced in SEO/SEM localization is clearly a must for global website marketing. Since matching foreign language keyword requires testing many alternatives, a partner that charges by the search term or by the hour rather than by the translated word shows they understand this iterative, creative process - and are equally invested in your online success. Please contact us to learn more.


Topics: Global Consumers, SEO Localization, SEM Localization, Global Markets

3 Keys to Retail Success in the Cross-Border Market

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Jan 29, 2016 10:02:15 AM


global-retail.pngIn his recent article, “Cross-Border Merchants Win with Added Functionality, More Languages,” author James Gagliardi shares research efforts being used to track the state of global ecommerce across national borders. The following summary of his piece highlights key points for cross-border companies hoping to grow their business in the international market.

With international business-to-consumer digital commerce expected to reach $1 trillion by 2020, retailers must learn to master cross-border transactions to succeed. There are several areas that an enterprising merchant should focus on to stand out from the competition.

User-focused Experience

Today’s most successful retailers are using increasingly simplified checkout functionality and allowing users to choose from a variety of languages.

Successful cross-border merchants have expanded their language selections so users can choose the language they’re most comfortable using. Half of the top 10 merchants surveyed offered at least 20 language options, significantly more languages than the previous quarter's report.

Don’t Demand Too Much Too Soon

Digital merchants should be cautious in demanding too much information too soon from would-be customers. To make subsequent purchases easier, some sites require users to create a full profile to complete a purchase. Although well-intentioned, this requires first-time customers to trust an unfamiliar out-of-country merchant with their information, creating the potential for abandoned shopping carts. Retailers should be extremely cautious when making these demands on consumers too early in the buying process.

Know Your Audience

When selling across borders it is vital to know your target audience. For example, Europe is a desired destination for many digital retailers in North America. Savvy merchants know that the continent is very diverse in language, culture, currency and payment preference – and adjust their strategies and priorities accordingly.

For example, European consumers’ preferred payment methods vary by country — some Europeans strongly favor direct debit options and retailers should make sure their ecommerce platform can process these and other choices.

Where to Go?

The article includes the X-Border Payments Optimization Index that ranks 195 merchant sites around the world. In addition to helping prioritize receptive markets, it also lists industries more receptive to cross-border transactions.

There are many opportunities for cross-border merchants to profit from global opportunities. Optimizing website functionality, offering multiple languages, and adapting to cultural preferences are important steps cross-border retailers can take to stand out from their competition.

You can read Gagliardi’s article in its entirety here. If you would like help growing you business internationally please contact us here.


Topics: Global Consumers

Elanex GlobalNote | Communicating in Shampoo Language

Posted by Donald J. Plumley, CEO on Jan 21, 2015 11:49:42 AM



​Communicating with your employees (or customers) in English only? Take a lesson from your shampoo bottle.

Why do shampoo bottles from the UK sold in Denmark, a country with very high levels of English fluency, have instructions in Danish? Robert Lane Greene of the Economist mentioned in a talk I attended this is because marketers want to communicate with consumers as directly as possible without the extra mental processing effort*. For Danes, the instructions, “rinse and repeat” are quickly and easily understood with very little “mental cost” when written in Danish. The goal of the marketer is to build an emotional connection to their brand. They also want to reduce hurdles to adoption – even if its only the mental processing time of a bilingual customer.




In the US, there are over 37 million Hispanic speakers and the number of non-native speakers in other languages is growing fast. While global corporations have long embraced the benefits (and challenges) of a multilingual workforce, all companies face a variety of hurdles communicating effectively with their employees in various languages. So many simply don’t, or don’t do much.

So how are shampoo and the multilingual workforce connected? 

Employee communication - everything from monthly newsletters to training materials to health and safety instructions - traditionally happens in English. If the workforce were asked, “would you prefer to have communication in another language,” many would answer “no preference,” leading to the potentially incorrect conclusion that English is sufficient.  Why? Many simply do not want to admit lack of confidence in the language of the company. In the recent US Census, 24% of those that speak another language at home claim to speak English “not well” or “not well at all."**  

With an increasingly diverse customer base, there are obvious advantages to a multilingual workforce. Delivering employee communication in the languages of the workforce helps reinforce the emotional connection with your team. Considering the value of safety instructions or training materials, take a lesson from your shampoo bottle. Then rinse and repeat.


* This is based on research by Daniel Kahneman describing how much less effort it takes to connect with people in their native language. This is known as System 1 versus System 2 in his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow

** As Common Sense Advisory has noted in "Can't Read, Won't Buy", the comfort one’s native language provides is even more pronounced when it comes to customers’ purchase behavior.  

Topics: Global Consumers, Employee Communication and HR

Elanex GlobalNote | Every Day is Cyber Monday

Posted by Donald J. Plumley, CEO on Jan 8, 2015 9:43:00 AM



For consumers around the world, fighting traffic at the mall is no longer part of the holiday ritual. Nearly every item can be crossed off the shopping list without ever leaving home.
The same goes for business-to-business transactions. Alibaba, now one of the world's most valuable companies, includes B2B sales as a very important part of the site. Businesses around the world can research and even purchase everything from supplies to machinery with just the click of a few buttons. 

Here are two numbers worth considering:


The number of languages needed to reach 98%
of the global online ​community


The amount of the world’s economic opportunity 
you can access with only 13 languages

Visualizing where these global customers are coming from is also eye opening.  Here is an Infographic that can help you to navigate the global opportunity (click for a larger image or to download):​

Elanex Infographic Languages Online

As you consider ways to accomplish your growth strategies for next year, remember it’s more than selling online. Delivering customer support information, product documentation, training, and more to a global audience require that language be part of your plans. 

Topics: Global Consumers

Foreign Market Entry: Why Communication is Essential to Success

Posted by Elanex Marketing Team on Jul 31, 2014 4:22:00 PM

The ubiquitous combination of online information, inexpensive connectivity/communication, and ease of transportation have created global demand and reduced the obstacles to selling overseas. Today, international sales are a possibility for any business, however being successful takes more than simply launching a new website.

spain1_Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a self-funded startup, conducting business globally has never been easier. But here’s the thing: it may be easier, but it’s still not easy. Technology has made the logistics more manageable, but a successful global business requires more than a logistics plan. From taxes and tariffs to product adaptation to understanding local restrictions (and this is just the tip of the iceberg), laying the groundwork to operate in a foreign country should be well planned to avoid costly mistakes. It can also be very lucrative as long as you take the time to understand your customers.

Any business can attract international customers. It’s really all about communication. Taking the time to communicate with your customers in a meaningful way is the best way to accelerate growth in your new markets. Here are 3 easy tips that will allow for clearer and more meaningful communication with your new international customers:

Tip #1: Who, where, and what?

Look at your weblogs. From what countries are your visitors coming, and how does this compare with actual enquiries? For example, you might receive a lot of emails from Sweden asking about your products, but the weblogs tell you that 100 times as many people from Korea are hitting your website. Perhaps they are interested in specific products or information – or are more broadly focused. Do they go to your “contact us” page but then leave abruptly? All of this information can help paint a picture of missed opportunity, potential obstacles, and where to focus your efforts.

Tip #2: Don’t underestimate the importance of translation

If you want to do business internationally, you simply must communicate in the language of your customer. Think of it this way: if a customer can’t understand what your product or service is, she’s not going to buy it. Even people from other countries that report reasonable English skills spend more time and dollars on native language websites. Translation must be a priority.

But not any translation will do. Free online or super-low cost services are appealing, but often are worse than not translating at all. Make sure your translation is top-notch; one that shows your understanding and expertise by using the correct technical terms and fluid language spoken in the country. In short, language counts. It’s a critical step in maintaining the integrity of your brand. Your customer’s experience – how well you communicate with your potential customer in English or any other language – speaks volumes about how you value their business.

Tip #3: Your website is your calling card: optimize the experience

Your website will likely be the first step in communication with your new global customer. There is more to clear communication than using the correct terminology and phrasing. You should also demonstrate your understanding of your new market’s cultural norms. Some call this localization. Others call it common sense.

Localization is the process of adapting content or products to a specific locale. Some examples of localization include adapting graphics, modifying content layout to fit standard paper sizes, converting to local currencies and using the proper formats for dates, telephone numbers and addresses, and even modifying content based on local cultural sensitivities. In short, localization gives your materials the look and feel of having been especially created for your target market. It allows potential customers to think of you as a local provider they can trust.

There are other tips, such as international SEO, keeping embedded text out of graphics, using a CMS that enables easy multi-language content management, and more…we’ll save those for another time.

Free Download:  5 Questions to Ask Your Translation Service Provider





Topics: Global Consumers, Best Business Practices

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