Most of the people using the internet are not doing so in English. Almost eighty percent of internet users are non-English speaking. Does this exclude them from your site – and does it exclude you from their business? As access becomes more widespread around the world, especially via smartphone, the issue of multinational SEO becomes more prominent. What can you do to reach some of those hundreds of millions of internet users?
There are tens of thousands of languages spoken throughout the world; you don’t need to issue a version of your website for each, but you should target those with large populations or those for whom your site would be most relevant. UPS, for instance, offers their site in versions of English geared towards countries from the US to Bahrain, as well as Arabic, Japanese, German, French, Spanish…the list goes on and on. UPS can do this because it is a huge multinational company and can pay for translators so the content is readable in whatever language selected.
A smaller site or business won’t have the resources for this, but if possible, a paid translator is preferable over a Google translation service. If the budget doesn’t allow a professional translator for all content, make sure that you do go to the expense for your targeted keywords. Subtleties of the language or to the locality for which you are optimizing may not be apparent in dictionaries or machine-generated translations.
Once optimized, make sure that it is easy for visitors to find their preferred language or it will all be for naught. Having it automatically direct them to a site based on their ISP location is convenient, but make sure that switching languages is also just as convenient if another language is preferred.
Finally, if you are focusing on a particular market, it may be worth it to build a website for that particular country. Google, for instance, is seeking to capitalize on the enormous Chinese market, so they have created Google.cn.
Whatever the scope of your business, it may behoove you to move towards a multinational site. Non-English speakers are six times less likely to buy from an English-only site. Perhaps you could convert some of these millions of internet users into potential customers.