Fortunately for Irish tourism and other service businesses, English is the lingua franca of international business and travel.

Regular travellers for business and leisure will often find themselves speaking English with people for whom it is a second, third or fourth language.

6 killer tips for using auto translate tools for multilingual marketing

However, native English speakers account for only 27% of global Internet users, and research shows that people are six times more likely to purchase online in their native language.

As a multilingual xenophile, I am the first to say it is best to learn your customers’ language and understand their culture, but this is clearly not realistic in a world where over 6,900 languages are spoken.

Professional localisation and translation is obviously the best option, but this is expensive for many small businesses who, even if they made this investment, would still face the challenge of processing and servicing the resulting multilingual business.

Which brings us to auto-translation tools. These can be very useful and a few simple tips and caveats will help you make the most of auto translators, while avoiding pitfalls:

1. Start Small

Before embarking on a mass-translation of your entire website and social media presence, how about starting with a brief outline?

Translate a one-page summary of your service, which you could link to from a friendly welcome note in each language on your home page, use as a response to queries in that language and so on.

2. Fess Up!

While auto-translation tools are increasingly accurate – I find Google Translate the best – they will never replace human translation, so always start your translated text with a note explaining that you are using automatic translation.

3. Avoid Colloquialisms Like the Plague

Force yourself to be conscious of idiomatic speech. So, if your hotel is lavishly appointed and nestling like a jewel in the languid countryside, your translation text could read ‘excellent amenities including a, b, c, in a quiet, beautiful rural location’.

I know I need to get out more, but I enjoy testing auto-translation tools, and the best results are always achieved by using direct, simple English in the original text.

4. Localise Measurements and References

Simple things like using metric measurements for European languages and explaining religious or cultural references will make the translated text more relevant for the reader.

Use external links to provide more information to the visitor in their language, such as links to the relevant page in industry websites, currency translators, weather and transport resources.

5. Translate Metadata

Customise and translate the title, description and keywords meta tags for each translated page. This will assist in SEO and will also improve display in search engine results pages (SERPs) and on social media links, improving click-through rates.

Keyword suggestion tools can be used to generate synonyms in several languages for your target keyword list.

6. Prioritise and Update Translations

After an outline summary, prioritise the translation of most relevant pages, such as pricing, directions or location. Remember to update your translations if any details change.

Translating image and video descriptions and captions can have a strong impact, as they add 1,000 words to your brief translation!

Other Multilingual Marketing Tips

A number of other simple activities can help boost the multilingual profile of your business, including:

Geolocation: use Google’s Webmaster Tools to set the location of translated pages and an IP geolocation tool to redirect users to relevant language pages

Register Country-Specific Domains or Use Subdomains e.g. miservicio.es / fr.mybusiness.com

Link Building: secure inbound links from non-English websites such as blogs and discussion fora

Hire an International Intern: with a well-structured internship, this can be hugely beneficial for multilingual content creation and inbound link building

Bonne chance ! Suerte! Buona fortuna agus go n-éirí an t-ádh leat!

I am a digital marketer who has recently returned home to Ireland, following a two-year stint working in Silicon Valley, California. I am an avid traveller, reader and oenophile, always happy to connect with new people, online and IRL. All content (c) Karen Henry 2010-2016