Growing up, I was one of those lucky kids of divorced parents who had a conservative French-Canadian family on my father's side and a very liberal Greek-American family on my mother's side. The trust level between these two factions hit its high point when my mom's side of the family thought my paternal grandparents, whom I was living with at the time, were conspiring to give me and my brother and sister up for adoption at an orphanage.
So "Yiayia" (grandmother in Greek) et al, decided to set up a phony birthday party for my cousin and invited us over. Only problem is, they never gave us back -- literally kidnapping us from one suspicious side of the family to the other.
The point here isn't really about my life's drama, although it's pretty funny now that I think about it. The point is that outside of the United States, there is one thing that isn't easily given, yet very difficult to earn, and that is trust.
Too often, I see and hear stories about search marketers and other advertisers whose multilingual-targeted campaigns fail miserably because they actually instill more distrust within the content of their ad copy and landing pages than they do by building enough trust to initiate a call to action.
Here are some general rules you can use to build trust on your language- and culturally-dependent versions of your site.
Rule 1: Localize, Don't Just Translate Your Keywords and Content
OK, I can rant and rave about this one for hours. However, for the sake of time and since Andy Atkins-Krüger covered localization in his column last week, I'll leave that for another time. In the meantime, try to guess who is most likely to succeed in this example:
- Company A buys a translation program and translates their site from English to X language.
- Company B hires a U.S.-based translation agency to translate their site.
- Company C hires a translation agency that has local translators that they outsource to.
If you guessed Company A, B, or C, then you're wrong. The answer is truly none of the above. However, Company C is likely to do far better in terms of proper copy.
Translation isn't the same as localization. Localization is the act of reviewing translated copy and localizing it to the market.
For example, in Hungarian a "hard drive" is called a "Kemény meghajtÓ". However, a localization expert who happens to be Hungarian, who likely lives in Hungary and knows technology, would say that it's called a "Winchester."
Were you wondering why hardly any Hungarians are clicking on your Hungarian Kemény meghajtÓ? Learn to localize, not translate. It makes a big difference in gaining the trust of your traffic.
Rule 2: "Culturalize" -- Usability is Often Different in Each Culture
Design your pages around the market to "culturalize." Learn about the cultures you're targeting and what they respond to by evaluating your local competitors.
For example, Koreans seem to be attracted to busy, complex pages. A cartoon Japanese site guide may point out the obvious, but it also shows your Japanese audience that you aren't leaving them out. To gain trust, know that culturally, the designed layout of your pages could impact how much someone responds to you.
Just because people respond to something in the U.S. doesn't mean people outside the U.S. will respond in the same manner. Your Italian description may be more emotionally descriptive, whereas your German writing may need to be more factually descriptive in order to gain the reader's trust. We here in the U.S. tolerate it when the British spell differently, yet the British are usually annoyed that we don't bother to spell correctly to their market.
Rule 3: Show as Much Proof as Possible of Why Your Product/Service is Superior
Use a case study example on all your country-specific pages with another known country-specific client; the more locally known and locally based client, the better. They won't easily buy into your service, especially if it's foreign. If, however, a respectable brand is using it, then they just might consider your product or service.
This can occasionally backfire. As proud as other cultures are, sometimes if they see their competitors buy a product/service they will lean toward a competitor.
Rule 4: Price It Appropriately
Make sure your product/service is priced in the currency of your target country and easy to buy. Research your payment options in the target countries and look at their local competition to see what your most successful competitors offer as payment. Many countries have little usage of credit cards, so you should be open to alternative forms of payment.
Shakespeare is quoted as saying "Love all, trust a few," and Indira Gandhi said, "You can't shake hands with a clenched fist." So even though others internationally will be open to learning about your brand, service, product, or idea, it will take some trust building in order to succeed.