The argument for multilingual search engine optimisation expands well beyond the obvious benefits of having a website in more than one languages. Being able to be seen, understood and – if you do things properly – be booked in the language of your customers’ choice will give you a solid, and long-term advantage over your competition. It will also give you a very powerful tool to segment your audiences, which in turn will enable you to target needs more accurately. The result? Many, many more bookings!
Multilingual search engine optimisation is the result – rather than the clear goal – of ensuring that your website can accommodated both guests and search engines in their
quest for content relevant to your needs. It is also one of these activities where doing things right once, will allow you to benefit in many ways and for a long time. And what is even better, because it isn’t just aimed at better listings in search engines, it will let you start seeing the benefits right away!
Introducing a multilingual element to your website, is the type of activity that will benefit your rankings; and even the most die-hard anti-optimisation executives in any organisation would find it very hard to argue against it. Running a hotel in a world where people will check out your website for better rates and information even if they book via Kuoni in Switzerland or TUI in Germany, means that you will inevitably have the attention of an international audience. Servicing them in their language is both doing the right thing for your customers (some cultures will be delighted even if they do speak English) and it is serving yours.
- Re-building – not translating
Re-building, rather than translating your international multilingual website, is a point of unexpected importance. There are two reasons for this – one relating to your actual visitors, and the other to your electronic ones.
- Too formal?
Translation companies (that are not going to be working only with hotel related customers) will invariably provide the most accurate translation possible. That doesn’t always work for international visitors. Strict translations often miss the underlying essence of the message – usually making the text look stuffy and formal. Effectively hotels are getting their message written in the formal version of the language, which although it is very correct – is usually not what the local visitor would expect.
It is still much better to have the language than no language at all, yet there are also search engine optimisation implications.
- Mismatching search engine terms?
Here at eHotelworks we look at the local search terms used by consumers before building the text and content of your website. If you want to build your website in Russian you will need to know how Russians research your destination and hotel. Are they looking for a “country-side hotel” or a “hotel in the country”? The search terms make a huge difference in your visibility and are therefore a great guide on what you should mention first. This approach ensures you are offering what your customers are looking for, when you know you have the right product.
- Culturally unacceptable?
On top of the linguistic barrier reasons, there is such a thing as different visual expectations from customers, depending where they live. If you take Expedia as an example, www.expedia.com is somewhat different to www.expedia.co.uk, and – as you might expected – even more different to www.expedia.it.
The Italian vs. the UK and US versions are a clear example of the point of cultural optimisation on a web-page. The same company – and one that is very good at what it does – is giving different visual messages to different cultures. Italians react differently than Britons, and even more differently than the Chinese (who – incidentally – like websites that you and I would consider cluttered). Expedia has reached these conclusions when they monitored the behaviour of each audience and identified the differences. They then used different visual messages to attract conversions.
Active hotels (www.activehotels.com) is highlighting this point well. If you speak to any American, they will all tell you how dreadful the site looks to them as a first impression. Unlike Expedia, who are using their US and UK versions for conveying different actual messages rather than significantly different visual structures, Active is presenting us with what will initially seem like a paradox. A very successful company that is actually disliked by the Americans – usually a vital segment to capture success in this arena…
The explanation comes from the focus of Active. They are not known at all in the States (the company is letting its parent operations of www.booking.com and www.priceline.com take the US bookings). Their concern is the UK.
One of the reasons of their success (there are many more) is that UK customers seem to associate a cheap looking website with cheap prices (something like walking in a pound shop on the high-street). They offer all the information and functionality you would want, but they are giving you the feeling of buying at great value. (Surprisingly the actually also do often offer better value in the UK than their global competitors, and that naturally helps.)
- Where are you based?
Multilingual and multicultural also implies local. And “local” is the current big thing! Websites that are hosted in each country have higher chances of being found. This is based on empirical evidence more than anything else, but it seems to be correct – and more correct in some countries over others. Even your Google search engine offers the option for your country’s local results. Would we be reasonable to assume that this giant of giants would waste such prime real-estate represented by the space and position of this option, if it wasn’t critically important to their customers?
Locally hosted websites, in the local language, with a local URL and a familiar look and feel will place you in front of the eyes of the international traveller, who will also understand your message and will be left with no doubt that you care.
And as if this wasn’t enough, it will give you one more advantage – one of indisputable strength.
International versions of your website will allow you to target your marketing to each country!
Germans like breakfasts included in their stay. Most likely very unlike your own holiday experience if you are a Briton, this is the time that they like to spend together before they all start their day in your resort – so they will sit for long conversations around their breakfast table for the best part of the morning. You, as the resort owner or sales and marketing manager, would most likely want to offer them an inclusive breakfast deal.
At the same time, Britons are now bombarded with double-digit percentage discounts from companies that try to survive the economic downturn by stimulating transactions that will protect their cash-flow.
A multilingual website would allow you to offer different inclusions to your guests that “book now”. Despite the obvious difficulties that this would cause your operations if your booking engine can’t support different messages in each language (there are ways around it – but never really easy to manage) having a .de and .co.uk version of your website would allow you to package a similar discount as two different and respectively appealing offers. You are effectively customising you offer to what each group wants, communicating the value of your offering to your customers; in their language too. Philip Kotler could not be happier for you.
Multilingual websites which follow the rules of reconstruction, cultural optimisation, local hosting and multi-point targeting, mean you will be seen and booked more, because you are able to communicate and be understood better than your competition.