There is a very funny episode of Family Guy where Peter Griffin thinks he can speak Italian just because is wearing moustaches:
What Brian the wise dog says (“you can’t speak Italian just because you are wearing moustache”) is a big truth that can be applied even to Web Marketing: to reach your international target you need a strategy a bit more sophisticated than… wearing moustaches!
Why would you invest in a multilingual web marketing strategy? The reasons are many and they have been widely discussed (have a look at the top 10 reasons to go multilingual online).
The most obvious and banal it’s also the most important:
with a multilingual web marketing strategy you can dramatically expand the number of potential users and customers.
According to a new research performed by the China Internet Network Information Center at the end of June 2009 there were 338million internet users in China, a 13.4% jump since the end of 2008.
In the European Union there are over 400million internet users (the 40% in the so called FIGS – France, Italy, Germany, Spain).
Localising your online presence means not missing the chance to reach a massive Non-English-Speaking number of users around the world.
Having a localized online strategy is sometimes the only way to enter a market via (important) local channel: being visible online in China and Russia means to rank in Baidu and Yandex which are the big guys over there. And ranking well (or even ranking at all) in these “local Search Engine” with an English website… well it’s just not going to happen. And even if it happen it’s likely that Chinese, Russian, Italian people will search in Chinese, Russian, Italian…
This lead to the next point: is a translation enough? The answer is no.
Translator are in the best case making nice smooth perfect translation of the content provided, in the worst case they are just translating literally, word by word the English version with sometimes ridiculous results. But having your website optimised for the same keywords in different languages is not (not always at least) effective. People around the world are searching different things, in different way, using different keywords that may not be the ones that a perfect clean translation can suggest.
Translating is not localising. And the difference between these two terms in an industry largely based on keywords is huge.