If you’re involved in search engine marketing, then you’ll already appreciate just how effective – and cost-effective – it can be to reach, and convert, consumers via the web.

Even if you have a strong foothold in your local web, though, have you considered casting your net beyond the boundaries of the English language?

The web is becoming more and more multilingual with each year – English currently accounts for only 31% of all online use, and foreign languages are seeing massive growths in online use. For instance, Chinese use online grew by 755% and Arabic by 2064% between 2000 and 2008, compared to a 204% growth for English.

That’s a huge market out there waiting to be tapped into via the internet; but to effectively reach customers in foreign countries, you need to speak their language.

The good news is that there’s less competition online in languages other than English. That means you’ll see a better return on investment (ROI) for your internet marketing activities in foreign languages than for English internet marketing.

Here are some stats than present a compelling argument for investing in search engine marketing in foreign languages.

  • Over half of all Google searches are in a language other than English.
  • Only 25% of the Earth’s population speak English – 94% of this number do so as a second language.
  • 85% of all consumers require information in their native language before making a purchase (‘Cant’ Read, Won’t Buy’, Common Sense Advisory).
  • E-commerce is growing year upon year – an 11% compound annual growth rate is forecast for Western Europe alone over the next five years, hitting €114 billion by 2014 (Forrester Research Inc).
  • 35% of all web traffic goes to the top Google-ranked site – which is double the traffic of the second ranked site (Chitika Research).
  • Every $1 spent on localisation yields a $25 return (Localization Industry Standards Association 2007 report).

As you can, there’s a huge market out there to be tapped by simply translating and optimizing your website for other language markets. Even if you’re only aiming to sell within one country, it’s worth looking beyond English. For instance, in the US alone, Spanish-speakers are expected to wield a purchasing power of $1.2 trillion in 2011 (Selig Center for Economic Growth).

It’s easier to get started marketing online in foreign languages than you may imagine, especially if you’re already involved in online marketing. You simply need to have your English campaigns translated and localized for your target foreign languages by native speakers with experience in search engine marketing. There are many experts in multilingual internet marketing who can provide advice and assistance.

Machine translation tools can help you to get the gist of general business communications and understand incoming orders from foreign language clients. However, for the more complicated and business-critical tasks, such as keyword research, back-linking campaigns and the creation or translation of optimized content, your best bet is to outsource to experts in translation and internet marketing.

Even with the cost of outsourcing your foreign language internet marketing, you can reach a whole new audience of consumers for a fraction of the cost of direct marketing ‘on the ground’. Indeed, you can dabble in a foreign language market by creating and promoting an optimized website for less than $1000.

One excellent case study of a business which has seen dramatic revenue increases by dabbling in the foreign language internet is UK animal healthcare company Hilton Herbs. Their revenue has increased dramatically since launching foreign language websites for Germany in 2003, France in 2006, the USA in 2007 and Japan in 2009.

The company’s inspiration to move into foreign language markets came after receiving unsolicited orders arriving from France and Germany, convincing the owners that they should create and market localized websites for those two markets at the very least.

The strategy was a great success, with the French website doubling its sales every year since its launch, while the USA site has also seen sales double. Indeed, in 2010 60% of Hilton Herbs’ revenue came from overseas, a total of £1.2m. The company is now looking to continue its international expansion, with plans for websites targeting China, Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2011.

As you can see, there are great opportunities for businesses to export using the internet – and the time to launch online marketing campaigns for foreign languages is right now. As the amount of content online in foreign languages grows, the competition for consumers’ attention grows alongside it – as with all untapped resources, the scrabble for space in the foreign language internet has already begun!

Author: Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company specializing in website localization and optimization. Lingo24 has been helping some of the world’s biggest global brands with their localization campaigns since 2001. Contact Lingo24 for a quote on foreign language internet marketing services.