When you're marketing to global audiences, your messages must be accurate, concise, and targeted to establish consumer trust and brand loyalty. Satisfied customers often result in repeat purchases and increased return on investment (ROI). That is where translating marketing content comes into play, ensuring that messages are properly conveyed to various global audiences.

Marketing groups have traditionally approached translation with caution, because it's expensive, time-consuming, and somewhat of a black art. Consequently, translation was applied only to documents such as manuals or to ads.

With the advent of the Internet, however, translation was extended to cover websites as well—with the main intent being localization of a site for a specific market.

Within the last few years, we've seen a radical transformation not only in website content but also in how the content is created and used.

User-generated content now dominates by volume. It can be created either by nonprofessional writers who are employees of a company (e.g., bug-fix write-ups, how-to's, chat logs, and other such support content) or by users of a company's product or service (e.g., product or service reviews).

Needless to say, Web users are heavily influenced by the product or service reviews of their peers and by the utility of the content needed to resolve an issue at any given moment. And for Web properties that depend on visitor traffic for monetization, translation of content is invaluable in several ways.

Here are some promises and pitfalls of translating marketing content to maximize ROI:

  • If content on a page is translated along with its corresponding page tags and keywords, users can easily find website content in their native language. Why is that important? Bounce rates are typically lower and conversion rates are typically higher if visitors can find content in their native language on a page.
  • If the content of a page is translated, then it is indexed by the popular search engines and becomes findable when a search is conducted in the site visitor's native language. Making content natively findable is a good way to increase organic traffic to a page. For that to work, the appropriate search terms leading to the page also need to be translated.

A typical challenge that site owners face is determining how they should translate the site's content. Depending on the type of content, different translation methods should be used:

  • Ad copy, brochures, manuals, and legal documents are examples of content that is best translated by humans so that emotions and nuance can be properly conveyed.
  • On the flip side, all "fact-based communications"—which cover much of the user- generated content to be found, such as reviews, product-support information, and chat logs—are well served with automated translation performed by domain-trained engines.

Although human translation is obviously "human perfect," it tends to be slow, expensive, and frequently inconsistent. Automated translation, on the other hand, is fast and less expensive.

With that said, it is necessary to ensure that automated translation conveys facts accurately and is of appropriate quality, so that readers find the translations understandable and the information useful.

Delivering understandable, useful information on the Web can have a measurable impact on a company's brand promise to communicate with its customers. But that information must be delivered timely and in the appropriate languages, else website visitors may view the company poorly.

Selecting the appropriate translation method for each type of Web content enables companies to extend their marketing reach and deliver on the brand and customer experience.

* * *

Translation applied correctly enables marketing to achieve its goals of making content findable, increasing Web traffic, retaining visitors, and improving monetization. Translation applied carelessly, however, can result in misinformed and unsatisfied customers, a damaged brand, and a lower ROI for marketing campaigns.

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The Promises and Pitfalls of Translating Marketing Content

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Swamy Viswanathan is vice-president of products at Language Weaver (www.languageweaver.com), where he is responsible for strategy, products, and marketing.