Ready To Go Multilingual Or Multinational With Your Online Business? Ask Yourself These 10 Questions First

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Offering your products, services and information in different languages or in new countries can provide a great deal of benefit. It allows you to reach entirely new audiences, boost traffic, increase revenue, and expand your overall business.

According to a 2006 study by Common Sense Advisory, 72.4% of consumers admit they are more inclined to make a purchase when information is in their own language. In addition, 56.2% of customers report information in their native language is more important than a product’s price.

The benefits of going multilingual/multinational are clear, but the challenge can be great. Before making the move, there are some things to consider first.

1. Have You Accounted For Shipping Rates?

If your website ships something, shipping rates can be a big deal for international business. Make sure you account for the cost of getting your product, people or just your general business offering to the location you are about to launch in.

You need to run the numbers before investing the time in the market. A search engine optimization (SEO) company might be able to get you ranked in another country, but does it make business sense to sell a product there? Expanding your business on an international level can mean a lucrative new avenue, but it may not make financial sense due to high shipping costs.

2. Will You Offer Backend Support & Customer Service Specifically For The Language Or Country?

When you go into a new market, expect that you will need to offer a similar customer service experience in that language or region. In some cases, you may even need to offer an increasingly dedicated experience.

This can mean an onsite knowledge base in that language, customer service and sales staff. In a survey conducted by Rosetta Stone, 89 percent of customers feel customer satisfaction and loyalty are promoted when a company serves in native languages.

3. Who Will Manage Inventory & Keep The New Sections Up-To-Date?

On an e-commerce site, you generally segment your product offering by region. For example, you have all the United States products in the U.S. section, the U.K. in another section, etc. In order to make this happen, you need to have a team manage the inventory.

Furthering this idea, you will want to offer products in specific regions that are profitable after expenses, shipping, etc. Because of this, you need to make sure that the person organizing the products online understands the business model, profit margins and overall company big picture goals.

When moving into other countries and languages, this can get more complex. You need to have the right products, in the right language, in the right country location, at the right price.

From a service offering perspective, these same rules apply. However, they can be a little less complex, depending on the business offering.

4. Do You Have An SEO Who Can Manage The Onsite Optimization Requirements?

Multilingual and multiregional SEO is fairly complex. Outside of doing keyword assignments and optimization and then translating that into different languages, you also need to make sure the content speaks to the demographic.

In addition, there is hreflang tag implementation, the decision between TLDs vs. subdomains vs. directories, and ensuring your current rankings are not lost should you alter your site’s URL structure. It can get even more complicated if you are dealing with certain types of mobile optimization, secure shopping carts (and other areas that are non-secure) and multilingual checkout processes.

SEO on a global level requires extensive strategic planning throughout the entire rollout process to promote efficiency and effectiveness. It’s important to have an experienced SEO team in place that is capable of handling multilingual/multinational website requirements.

5. How Will You Get Links In The New Country?

Unless you are a massive brand with high domain authority and the type of presence that will always be linked to, you might run into the issue of creating a great, well-optimized website that has no inbound links from within the new region.

This can be problematic. Even if you perform thorough on-site optimization, your rankings could remain low without inbound links — and thus, your site might never generate the business you were hoping for in the region. Sure, you can use the pages for PPC, but with a few links you could also be ranking higher in organic.

Make sure you have a strategy in each region to build links in a white hat way.

6. Will Moving Into These New Markets Hurt Your Ability To Manage Your Existing Clients?

You never want to spread yourself too thin. It can hurt your existing business, lead to high levels of stress, and leave you with a disorganized business. If you are going to make a big push into another language or region, make sure you will not be losing sight of your existing user base.

As we all know, search engine optimization and other forms of digital marketing are only becoming more competitive. You don’t want to spend a ton of time moving into another country and then, next thing you know, your current operation has fallen behind.

7. Who Will Handle Ongoing Translation & Regional Needs?

Finding a good translation company and website managers who understand regional issues can be tough. It is important to have a partner or staff who really gets it and will continue to be there. Make sure you have some type of plan in place to help maintain your lingual and regional goals.

8. What Will Your Marketing Be Outside Of SEO?

All the things you need in your home region will be needed in any new region you expand to. Multinational/multilingual SEO is important, but it is best if you complement it with digital and offline marketing in the region. This is why you generally see large companies implementing comprehensive global strategies as opposed to just launching new sites.

I have the pleasure of working many global clients – often, they have radio, TV, social media, email, PR, online ads, you name it, in each of the regions we are targeting. All that can really complement your SEO strategy to help boost online visibility.

Now, don’t get me wrong — you can be successful with just a general SEO build. I have a client right now with 70% year-over-year traffic largely due to their international optimization, but they are a rare case because the product has a good buzz.

9. Do You Need A Person On The Ground?

This question is pretty clear and must be answered before making the push. Although sending a company representative to another country may seem costly, the move is beneficial as you’ll have someone directly overseeing business relationships to improve overall functionality and performance.

Should you decide to take this route, have a general idea of how you will make that happen before you launch a service in some area that’s thousands of miles away.

10. Will You Be Able To Offer A Quality Experience Overall?

This is probably the biggest question you must answer, and the one I will leave you with. According to Oracle’s 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report, 89 percent of customers admit that they will stop doing business with a company based on poor customer service. Do you have what it takes to successfully offer your products and services to multiple countries?

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of emerging markets out there in the world. If you can get your website better visibility into those markets, it can mean you beat competitors to the location and establish a presence and sales first.

No matter what your online goals, you should consider multilingual and regional SEO. If you had the right response to all of these questions, you could be the right candidate.

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