Last week, I read a great article on ClickZ about the benefits and drawbacks of targeting a website by language or location. This article was primarily about Asian languages and countries, but the concepts outlined are pretty transferable.
If you need help with targeting more than one language or location, I recommend the piece. I only have one quibble. My quibble is in the next to the last paragraph:
“Targeting by language in my experience can work well when you want to just provide users with the ability to understand the content on your site in a different language. I know when I travel to Japan or China, I often use either the clean translation tool on a site or alternatively, Google translate so I can at least understand something. It can also be easily employed with the use of a paid search campaign and is a low cost alternative if serious cross-border marketing is “not” the main objective.”
As a translator, I do not recommend using a “translation tool” for paid search or any web content.
At best, it makes you look like an amateur. At worst, it can make you look like a fool. (Consider JFK’s famous speech where he tries to say he is from Berlin, and ends up saying “I’m a jelly donut” because of one mis-placed three-letter article.)
This writer does suggest that it is not to be used for serious marketing, but I’m of the mind that if I’m paying for it (such as pay-per-click ads) then it’s serious. Even if I’m not paying for it, it’s serious. It is a part of my brand reputation online, and if I truly want to expand into another market, then I need to take the time to truly manage the linguistic aspects of the marketing campaign, or that jelly donut will end up back on my face later on!