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The International Language of Online Marketing


It has quickly become a commonplace that the internet has made the world much smaller than it ever was. Friends, family, and businesses based thousands of miles across the globe are just seconds away through email, facebook, or skype, just to name a few of the many examples of online communication. However, international businesses, large or small, still need to appeal to a distinct regional or national base to be successful. Globalization and the internet have not – yet – made the world completely homogenous. Linguistic, cultural, and economic differences exist between regions in a country and between countries in a continent, let alone between continents in the world. For example, there is the distinction between amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, selling different products at different prices. There are also major variants such as the French amazon.fr and German amazon.de, appealing to a wide linguistic and cultural consumer base distinctly different from, but using the same familiar template as, the company’s English language versions.

Every aspect of a business’s online promotional material, from websites to banner ads to e-newsletters, needs to be designed with the target audience in mind. To discover the specific qualities of that audience, a business needs to research what the audience has already shown an interest in – what other websites are being accessed? What do they offer? How can your own business improve and offer content and products more specifically tailored to that market? Put simply, what does the target audience want to know and how can you deliver that information? With international markets, this is particularly tricky as there is myriad of cultural and linguistic intricacies that must be faced. In the European Union (EU) there are 23 official languages spoken in the 27 member states. Although English is the most widely spoken, German has the most native speakers in the EU with almost 20%, followed closely by English, Italian and French.

Understanding the nuances within languages is crucial to the translation/localisation process too. For example, the differences between French and German are obvious, even to mono-linguists. But the differences between French in France and French in Switzerland or Belgium aren’t that obvious. In France, déjeuner means ‘lunch’, but in Switzerland and Belgium it means ‘breakfast’. Additionally, dîner is ‘evening meal’ in France, but in Swiss and Belgian French the word is souper. Similarly, Swiss German often uses a different grammatical gender to that used in Germany (e.g. ‘das E-Mail’ instead of ‘die E-Mail’). Assuming you intend to adopt a fully localised marketing strategy, what are the practicalities involved in launching an international advertising campaign? Well, there are many similarities to that of a domestic campaign.

Online marketing is becoming the basis of many company’s promotional activities, moving away from traditional print promotion. The European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) recently conducted research revealing that 70% of advertisers were intending to increase their spending in online marketing in 2009, a figure that is likely to increase year by year. The internet has developed in a way which makes targeting local and individual interests a far more precise and successful practice than traditional forms of advertising. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) means that a business can know the exact interests of a customer and can target individuals with specific and relevant advertising. Advertising on individual websites also makes targeting particular interests simple – it is clear, for example, what kind of products a visitor to a canoeing and kayaking website is interested in.

Directing internet users to your own site is key too, and becomes easier because of the many tools available on the net. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method that many businesses use to push their name to the top of Google’s search results; EIAA’s research also indicated that 64% of advertisers were going to increase their use of SEO in 2009.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising also helps lead potential customers to your site and the beauty of PPC is that you can set how much you spend on each month in advance…it can be as little as £5 if you want. This lets you test the water to see how effective it will be – if it brings in customer then you can increase your spend, if not then you can investigate other means.

RSS feeds, which alert existing customers to updates on a website, are a useful way of keeping customers loyal to your business. A surprisingly low percentage of web users take advantage of RSS feeds – just 11% – but these users are the most internet savvy and the most likely to buy products online. Having a customer base continually returning to a site makes the site more popular; these users are also the ones most likely to recommend a site to friends.

As its name indicates, the whole point of the internet is interconnectivity. It enables a business to reach an individual customer directly and personally and, likewise, for that same individual customer to find the business that best suits his or her needs. A business needs to access and appeal to those customers by researching the specific interests of each target audience. It is a conversation between business and customer conducted from one side of the world to the other; as ever, the customer usually relies on a business to start the conversation.


This is a Guest Post by Alexandru Rotaru of Lingo24.

Lingo24 is a global translation services provider that also specialises in website localisation. It has over 100 employees based in the UK, Panama, Romania, China and New Zealand, and a network of 4,000 translators. Its projected turnover for 2009 is £3.7m.

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