English is the dominant language of the world. With more than 1.5 billion speakers and nearly 100 countries with English as a primary or secondary language, it’s no wonder why the language has come to dominate the web as well.
That being said, English isn’t the only spoken language you should be worrying about. There are 6 billion people who don’t speak English at all, and ample speakers in the United States who prefer a different language as their primary means of communication.
If you want to get the most attention for your website, and cater to users who may not speak English, should you create at least one page of your site that’s written in another language?
These are some of the main advantages of offering a page in a different language:
- Broader demographics. By creating a separate page that offers content in a different language, you’ll instantly expand your audience beyond English speakers, which could boost your potential audience by millions. According to Pew Research, there are currently 37 million Spanish speakers in the United States, and that number is poised to grow over the next several years. Catering to that audience could give you a competitive edge, especially if you’re operating in territory where other languages are as common as English.
- Offering pages in other languages also shows that your brand is willing to embrace other cultures, and make accommodations for people who may not be able to communicate in English. It shows an international awareness, and makes your brand seem more diversified and more powerful. If you’re a global company, like FedEx, this is an absolute necessity.
- SEO benefits. There are some search visibility benefits when you adopt a secondary language on your website. Depending on how you structure it (such as whether you include it on your primary domain or a subdomain), you could open a new branch of your SEO campaign. Search queries in other languages tend to have less competition, so your page could help you win some easy rankings. Additionally, if you create a separate page targeted to customers in another country, you could expand your territory to another country’s search engines.
- Minimal effort. It doesn’t take that long to create a page, or to translate one. Even if you only see slight benefits from its creation, the minimal necessary investment could still make it a profitable choice.
So what are the disadvantages?
- It’s only a page. Some English-primary businesses, like David Resnick and Associates, have taken to creating an entirely separate site that’s written in another language. If you only create one page, it may not serve your purposes entirely. Readers of other languages may be confused about who your business is or what you offer, and may become frustrated when they see that the rest of your site is in English.
- Empty promises. If you translate one page of your site to another language, but don’t offer services in those languages, users will become dissatisfied. If you’re going to create a page for these speakers, you need to be able to support them. Hire translators as customer service reps before you create a designated page.
- Reader alienation. If you aren’t a natural speaker, or if your translation isn’t high-quality, you could end up alienating the readers you hope to appeal to. On top of that, if you use poorly translated text, Google search bots might view your page as spam. If you’re going to make the investment to create an entire page in a different language, at least pay to ensure that the translation is top-notch.
- Current needs. If you don’t plan on attracting customers who speak another language, creating a page in a new language could end up being a waste of money. It isn’t a ranking or visibility gimmick; it should only be used if it’s going to strengthen your relationships with a new demographic.
There are some big advantages to creating a page of your site that exists in another language-that is, if you plan on targeting and supporting speakers of that language. Otherwise, there isn’t enough to gain to make the translation worth it. And if you’re serious about targeting a population that speaks another language, consider creating an entirely different site-or one on a subdomain specific to your chosen language. Your end goal here, as always, is to provide value to your target customers.