Choosing your Translation Agency for International Website Marketing: What would Gandhi want?

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gandhi_choosing_translation_agency.jpgInternational website marketing, SEO and SEM ultimately means communicating to your market in a different language. Localisation is all about getting this right, i.e. speaking to your audience as they expect to be spoken to, understanding their culture and adapting to their buying preferences. Working with a translation agency is critical to getting your online marketing pitch perfect; but be careful, there are translation agencies then there are agencies that really understanding digital marketing. You will want to work with the latter.

So we wondered, what would a wise man want from their translation agency? What questions would they ask and what skills would they look for?

Author, Megan Currie, lists ten areas she believes her wise man of choice, Mahatma Gandhi, would look for if he was scoping out how to make sure he hired the right translation partner.

1.    Someone who can get you the ‘Mother Tongue’ of all Translators

Putting together the most effective content and set of keywords for your business’ website will require a deep understanding of two different areas of expertise: the first is the product or service you provide, as well as the wider market surrounding it; the second is a relevant and current knowledge of the target language – the language your campaign will be translated into.

For this reason, the best person to compose your SEO terms will always be a native speaker of the new language: if your campaign is being translated into French, it must be done by a French person, rather than an English speaker who has learned French as a second language. If your translation agency wants to give you a specialist who’s working into what is for them a foreign language, it is very unlikely that he or she will be familiar enough with the very detailed aspects of the target language – and indeed the French market your campaign is about to become part of – which will be necessary to bring the maximum amount of traffic to your website. Find an agency that will give you the linguist you need.

2.    There’s Translation – and then there’s Transcreation

If you wish to make your marketing campaign successful in other countries, the most obvious solution is to have it translated so that people can read it in other languages. However, a good multilingual agency knows that this is not in fact an effective way of communicating globally with other cultures. The original campaign has been composed by your marketing experts for a specific target audience, and that target audience is now going to change. This means that not only do the words have to be translated into a new language, but the campaign has to be re-marketed to a certain extent, in order to reach the same numbers of clients in the new country as it does in the existing one.

A very literal example is that, if you offer a window-fitting service, your search terms in English will presumably include the words ‘window’ and ‘pane’. But French, for instance, has four words for these: ‘fenêtre’ refers to the entire fitting, including the frame; a small pane is called a ‘carreau’, but larger ones are known as ‘vitres’ – except shop windows, which are called ‘vitrines’. So, if you simply translated the search term ‘window’ into French, you would probably end up with ‘fenêtre’, which as a translation is perfectly correct – however, you would be missing out on a multitude of shop owners searching for replacement vitrines who would never be directed to your site.

This is why it is so important to hire an agency that not only understands the need for a French native speaker, who will be familiar enough with the minutiae of the language; but who also offers much more than a simple word-for-word translation of the search terms you are already using.

3.    Who’s got your Back?

After initial construction, your global campaign is also going to need continuing linguistic attention and support as time goes by. Markets change, trends evolve, and just as the statistics of your English site need to be monitored and tracked, you’re going to need ongoing support from a native specialist in the target language to look out for changes and improvements to the translated website marketing campaign.

A native specialist knows the language and works in the relevant market on a daily basis, so if an ad takes a dip in click-throughs, he or she is much more likely to be able to tell you why than your home-country PR team. Perhaps the expression ‘cool’ has gone out of fashion in France, and altering your ad to claim that your window-fittings are now ‘top’ would boost your sales back up again. If you don’t want the global campaign falling behind the competition just a few months down the line from your big investment, don’t sign up for a translation agency that doesn’t offer long-term language support once the initial work is completed.

4.    The things they do for You

As a busy team member in an expanding company, it’s easy to completely delegate all of the foreign-language SEO work to another agency and simply leave it with them. However, it’s often much more beneficial for both parties if you understand exactly what it is that they’re doing for you, and at least the basic premise of how they’re doing it – so make sure you’ll have access to this information before you sign up.

If you are unfamiliar with everything that goes on on the translation agency’s side of things, then the only ‘feedback’ you will receive in terms of how well they’re doing is your profit margin. In reality, this can fluctuate independently of the efforts of the translation agency, and can lead to frustration and bad blood if a slow month comes along and you can’t be on the same page as your SEO experts about what went wrong. The more each party understands about what the other does, the more productive your dialogue can be and the more efficiently you will be able to co-operate in order to resolve any issues that might arise.

5.    It’s the effort that Counts

As a client hiring a translation agency for your online marketing, you can pay by workload or you can pay by results. There are two problems with results-based pricing:

1 – The first is that the results you see might not actually be as closely related as you might think to the amount of effort and manpower put into the project by the multilingual agency: you could end up either paying a disproportionate amount for a small amount of website marketing, or conversely, the SEO agency could be put off the contract as it won’t be worth their time and staffing.

2 – The second potential issue with this method of payment is the translation agency’s attitude towards the website marketing project. If they earn per click, they will aim for the lowest ratio of effort : clicks to maximise their return of investment. For instance, if there comes a point where the multilingual agency isn’t making enough, they might slow down and invest less in your account until they reach a more profitable balance. This means that you and your language agency are working at cross-purposes, and your account isn’t receiving the attention you want it to – so it will be in your best interests to find a translation agency which will allow you to pay for input rather than output.

6.    There’s no ‘ROI’ in ‘Profit’ – Getting the Focus Right

Many multilingual agencies prefer to work towards a target return of investment (ROI) when working on a global website marketing campaign. However, this is often not the most profitable option for you, so it’s usually much wiser to make sure your translation agency will work towards a target profit, and that it knows how to achieve it.

Profit starts with your earnings and subtracts your expenses – a high profit margin means that you earn a lot more than you spend. Return of investment or ROI takes your earnings and divides them by your expenses – so if the translation of your website marketing campaign earns you £6,000 in sales at the cost of £2,000 for your foreign-language SEO services, your ROI is 6/2 or 300%. So your profit and your ROI will not always be the same, and multilingual agencies will often want to aim for the highest ROI because it is easier to calculate and achieve. However, you’ll want to try to find a translation agency that is committed to maximising your profit, rather than focusing on a high return of investment. When signing with a multilingual agency, make sure you ask how they will go about this, and choose one that’s able to provide concrete plans and SEO strategies for achieving it.

7.    Does it all Add Up?

Management of a global PPC campaign requires two sets of skills – one left-brain, comprising the creativity required to produce website marketing text and devise the most effective keywords; and one right-brain, involving the monitoring of statistics and the use of algorithms to calculate the effectiveness of the global campaign and plan the next moves. Each one of these sets of skills is essential, and it is crucial that you do not place too much importance on one at the expense of the other.

Advanced statistical knowledge is key as it can ensure a very high efficiency of SEO. An effective campaign will include up to several thousand keywords, and of course with so many of them, managing the bids for these keywords requires a very accurate idea of the value of each one. Only through advanced statistics can you bid most profitably on these keywords, and a good algorithm can apply this mathematical information practically and automatically to maintain the pool of keywords. This is why it is so vital that your translation agency be able to provide not only the more creative skill set for producing convincing advertisements, but that it also has the right-brain power to back this up with highly efficient statistical algorithms to provide monitoring and improvements.

8.    Your Market’s Going Places. Will your Keywords Follow?

Your advertisements or SERPs are ranked according to their quality score, and this is determined, amongst other factors, by the number of people who click through to your website after searching for a certain term. So if someone searches for ‘window fitting’ and chooses your ad or website out of the five that pop up, the engine knows that yours was the most relevant search result, and boosts your quality score. Conversely, if someone searches ‘window cleaning’ and your window-fitting ad appears, they will either click the ad – in which case you have to pay the ad company for the probably useless click-through – or they will click a different ad because they can see that yours isn’t relevant to them, lowering your quality score and meaning you will have to pay more in the future to continue to occupy the top spot.

At any rate, customers who are clearly not searching for your product should be excluded from your search engine terms, and this is why it is so important that your keywords are frequently and consistently cleaned out, modified and tweaked to suit the search environment. This will change constantly and the keyword pool of your foreign-language website will need to be maintained with just as much care and attention as the original, so make sure your multilingual agency will offer this.

9.    Have them tell it to you Straight

Your multilingual agency will be capable of gathering all kinds of SEO-related information about your website marketing statistics – so much that if they were to send you all of it, the volume would be overwhelming. You’ll want to know how the global language campaign is progressing, but sifting through to find the practical meaning behind every detail would be a waste of your time, so it helps for you and your translation agency to ascertain which information is helpful to you, and how it should be presented in order for you to be able to make use of it. If the translation agency sends you figures of the percentage ROI, but what you really want is a graph showing the figures of what you’re spending and making back, they need to be able to oblige.

It is also useful to receive the same parameters of information for all the languages of your global campaign in the same format, so you will be able to directly compare the strategies and the results in each language. Before choosing a translation agency, ask to see a sample statistical report and find out how flexible they can be with the data and format they provide, as this will also ease your understanding of what they do as discussed in point 4.

10.  Collaborate to Accumulate

No matter how much communication and understanding you have with your website marketing campaign managers, a certain level of trust is involved in any business partnership. If you knew their jobs as well as they do, you wouldn’t need to hire them – so you need a multilingual agency you can trust to know what they’re doing well enough to be paid for it. If you don’t feel this trust and confidence in your global language partners, or if they tend to avoid updating you on how things are going, then something isn’t working as it should. Insist on an open line of communication, regular meetings and an environment which fosters the understanding of each others’ priorities and the open exchange of ideas. The better you understand each other, the more fruitful the partnership will be.

What this means when it comes to choosing a translation agency is that, as well as all of the above, trusting your instinct to know if they will co-operate fully and frequently with you is an important element to consider. If your calls go unanswered, if the representative seems impatient when asked to explain concepts, or if in any other way you feel not enough attention is being given to you, this could be a sign of difficulty working in harmony further down the line.

Helpful? So, now you have no excuses! Using Gandhi’s wise-man tips, go find that translation partner and start marketing to the world! If you have any feedback for us on the tips above we would love to hear them.

* Involved or looking into international SEO? You might be interested in our free Beginner’s Guide to International SEO.

* Based in the South West of England? Then you also need to make sure you attend Ecommerce South West.

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