How to Use the Web to Tap Into International Markets

The following is a guest post by Christian Arno.

Christian a Lingo 24

Running a small business is tough. For some, the thought of selling abroad is even more daunting, but the truth is you could be missing out on a valuable market.

As technology has improved, so too has the number of internet users, particularly those who have previously had no access to computers. As a result, there are more people looking to the web, and in particular, ecommerce.

There are 922 million internet users in Asia alone, which make up 44% of all web users. Compare this to the US, which is lagging behind with 272 million, and we’re starting to see the picture. To really rake in the profit, you need to go international.

So if you want to take advantage of this huge global market, there are a few things you’ll need to do:


Ideally you’ll want to speak your customer’s language. Don’t be under the impression that English, being the ‘language of business’ rules the roost online. Let’s look at the facts. Only 27% of internet users speak English—a percentage that is rapidly falling as other languages gain popularity. And other language use is increasing at a phenomenal rate. Between 2000 and 2010, Arabic use alone rose by over 2500% while English use grew by a meagre 280%.

And so, one of your first natural steps is to translate your website into your target language(s). Google Translate is a tempting and free online tool that can translate into pretty much any language you want. It does, however, come with the warning that it’s not the most reliable method. Translating machines can be tricky customers indeed, and you’ll probably find that meanings of words or sentences get lost in translation. It can result in a garbled, incomprehensible and highly unprofessional website. To help combat this, keep your web content simple. Avoid idioms, slang or turns of phrase, as these are the types of thing that tend to get mistranslated.

The easiest way round this is to hire a professional translator. They can ensure that your website reads well, without a hint of embarrassing ‘Spanglish’ text.

If you’re still dubious as to whether or not you need to translate your website, according to the Common Sense Advisory Panel’s ‘Can’t Read, Won’t Buy’ report, internet users are four times more likely to buy something online if they have information in their own language.


Sometimes it’s not just a case of translating your content, you need to localize too. There’s no point in speaking someone’s language if you’re telling them irrelevant news about your home country. And indeed, there’s a lot more to localizing than just removing local references. You’ll need to change your currencies and measurements (remember European countries favour the metric system!), and get yourself up-to-speed on preferred payment methods. In Germany, for example, people aren’t keen on paying online with credit cards. Instead, invoices are generally sent along with the goods, along with the hope of payment!

Even the colors you use on your website need to be taken into account, especially if you’re dealing with countries all over the globe. While in the US, we might see red as a color of passion, over in China it’s seen as good luck, yet in South Africa it’s a symbol of mourning, which signifies death. Not good. But if you show a little attention to these things before you start, the results can pay incredible dividends. A report by the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) found that for every $1 spend on localization, it returns a massive $25. That’s an ROI that nobody can ignore, least of all entrepreneurs and small businesses.


Chances are, you already have an English-language website. If this is the case, you know the value and importance of search engine optimization. This is an area where targeting international markets really comes in to its own for the simple reason that there’s a dearth of content on the foreign language internet. Think about it: with less foreign language content online, there’s less competition, meaning global-savvy businesses are able to climb the search engine rankings with much less effort. Those multilingual killer keywords have less competition, PPC campaigns are cheaper and as a result, your ROI is higher.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple as translating all of your existing content over to your target language. Just as people all over the world don’t speak the same language, they don’t search in the same language either. It even happens in English—where an American would search for a windshield, his British counterpart is looking for a windscreen. Having a native speaker on hand will help you not only to translate your keywords, but they can suggest ways in which a fellow speaker of their language may search for your particular product or service.

With a little thought, some insider knowledge and a solid international strategy, you can soon find yourself a global success. And we can certainly all speak that language!

About the author

Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, providers of professional translation services and multilingual SEO. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 150 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over sixty million words for businesses in every industry sector. Follow Christian (@l24ca) and Lingo24 (@Lingo24) on Twitter.

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