Data Driven Globalization: Using Pilots to Determine Priorities for Localization.

Mark  Ryan

August 12, 2009

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Marketers love the opportunity that the web offers to promote a product or service to a global audience. But when the costs of translating/localizing content, integrating a Web Content Management that supports localization, implementing localized SEO/PPC initiatives, and maintaining sites in multiple languages get added up – the value of localized sites gets questioned. Companies which have products and services that can be marketed to a global audience often let their websites follow their sales teams into new regions. That is, the sales teams start to sell a product into a specific region, and when the sales team is able to show a fertile market, the marketing team localizes a web presence to support the sales reps.

But what if the product/service is marketable to a global audience, and the company cannot afford to send a sales team to every major country/region where demand may reside? How does a marketer decide which regions to make investments for global growth? Knowing that some regions are more expensive to localize for and some regions are more competitive than others when it comes to SEO/PPC initiatives, how does a marketer weigh the cost against the opportunity?

The answer should be simple:

  1. Use global keyphrase research tools to see if customers in various regions are searching for your product or service on the web. It’s typically OK to make the assumption that if there are surfers using relevant keyphrases to find your services, that customers are out there.
  2. For the regions that have online audiences for your product, pilot as many micro-sites (2-5 pages) as possible with small campaigns for driving traffic and see which sites demonstrate growth. Translating a few pages and posting them as static pages is significantly less costly than fully building and deploying integrated/localized web sites.
  3. While the pilots are running, monitor site analytics to see if your micro-sites are attracting the traffic you expect, and if the sites are able to convert traffic at acceptable conversion rates (i.e. Lead Generation).

Note: 2-3 page micro-sites are not always successful at generating leads for complex products. Allow your micro-site to link heavily to your primary corporate site (even if it is in English) to help sell the company along with the product/service. The analytics will show if the language barrier causes abandonment.

The pilots will cost significantly less than full-blown web sites and will allow you determine which regions have more opportunity for growth giving your team a prioritized list of regions to localize into. Remember that these sites will require maintenance overtime as you are budgeting a pilot and full blown localized sites.