We translated our website into French – here’s why!

We translated our website into French to attract more overseas visitors. Here's why you should consider translating your business website too.
16 Nov, 2020

Why translate your website?

Over 360 million people speak English as their first language¹. That’s a huge potential audience for your business.

However, there are over 7 billion people on the planet.

We’re not suggesting that you target everyone in the world with your marketing, but you very likely have an opportunity in more than just the English language.

If you can sell your product or service to French language customers, for example, it might make sense to offer your website in that language too. After all, there are 80 million native French speakers in the World, and 235 million daily, fluent speakers².

That’s a huge additional audience.

What’s wrong with using a Google Translate widget?

The Google Translate Widget is (currently) free to use for non-profit organisations, and is simple to add to a website. It allows your website visitors to translate your page content into pretty much any language.

Google Translate uses machine learning technology to offer a pretty accurate translation.

The Google Cloud Translation API is available for websites that don’t hit the criteria to use Google Translate.

However, it’s not yet perfect, and would still require the person to find your website in the first place!

Proper translation instead of automatic

The argument in favour of translating your website

Put yourself in the shoes of non-English speaking customers. Let’s take a search for your next holiday as an example.

If you were French and looking for a holiday home to rent somewhere in France, you would probably use google.fr to search for something like ‘maison de vacances à louer’ (or something similar).

I just did that search, and (unsurprisingly) there were no English language results on the first page of Google!

So, here’s the thing – at least 150,000 Brits own a property in France³. A large number of those will rent their properties out to holidaymakers, and yet surprisingly few have French versions of their websites.

Isn’t that bizarre?

These property owners will spend large amounts of money putting their properties on listings websites, or other costly marketing activities. They will spend that money year after year.

Doesn’t it make sense to at least consider providing your web content in a different language? You’ll perhaps have a one-off investment, and possibly small ongoing costs such as adhoc translations and hosting, but nothing like the cost of being on some of the bigger rental property listing sites.

Getting a French version of your website doesn’t have to be costly. You probably already have a perfectly good English language website, and might have opportunities to add plugins to help deliver French content to French visitors. You’ll still need to translate your content, but the design and build has already been done.

The same argument can be had for all sorts of businesses, in any language. Do you help offer travel services? How about food and drink sales?

 

What are the potential barriers to translating my website?

It’s pointless translating your site into another language if your product or service isn’t relevant for speakers of that language.

It’s also very difficult to benefit from translated web content if you are not able to handle enquiries in that language. So, employ someone who speaks the language fluently, or you’ll put off enquirers.

Consider using a separate telephone number for your 2nd language website so that your calls can be confidently answered in that language, rather than answering in English and then hurridely switching to French when you hear the caller struggling.

What are the costs of running a 2nd language website?

Running a second language website is a serious undertaking. You’ll certainly need to do a bit of planning (we can help with this!) to decide things like whether you need an additional domain, how much of your content you are going to translate (do you need all of those 100+ blog posts to be translated?), and how much it will cost :

  1. Content translation – aside from the initial translation effort, every time you add or change a page on your English site, you’ll need to translate it and add it to your 2nd language site;
  2. Possible additional domain (e.g. mydomain.fr) – you could do as we have done, and just run the French website as a sub-folder (https://dmjcomputerservices.com/fr/) under our main site. However, if you want a french language domain name then you’ll need to purchase that domain and find some hosting for it;
  3. Premium plugin fees, for example if you use one of the multi-language WordPress plugins (such as WPML, which costs $79 per year);
  4. Possible extra telephone number;
  5. How about social media? Whilst not essential, you might want to give some thought about marketing in your chosen additional language;
  6. Extra manpower… to handle all of the extra business you get!

Taking translation one step further

Creating an additional language version of your website content is a great first step to getting more customers.

For best results, though, especially if organic search traffic is a priority, you will need to consider all of the same things you did when you built your English website, namely :

  • Keyword research – research your keywords from the perspective of your foreign language visitor (so don’t just translate your English search terms and assume they will use those!);
  • Permalinks – make sure you translate your urls;
  • SEO titles and meta descriptions – these will appear in the search results listing, so it would be a shame if they appeared in English;
  • Images – consider using images that are relevant to your audience. Use your foreign language in things like image names, alt texts, captions etc.;
  • Prices – think about whether you want to include GBP prices, Euro prices, or both in your website content;
  • Localisation – when launching your English site you may well not have added ‘UK’ to mentions of your business / postal address. Might be a good idea to do this on your foreign language site so that your audience know where you are based;
  • If using a platform such as WordPress, make sure you set the site language correctly, as this will then ensure that themes and plugins use the language of your choice. This is an important point, as you don’t want your beautiful translation to be let down when your theme displays ‘search’, ‘Page 1 of 7’, ‘read more’ etc. instead of ‘rechercher’, ‘Page 1 sur 7’, ‘lire la suite’ etc.;

Want a FREE sample of your own website in French?

Drop us a line with the contact form below and ask us to translate 300 words of your website from English into French so you can judge the quality of our work.

References

¹ Source: Babbel.

² Source: Wikipedia France.

³ Source: Wikipedia

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