Online Business

4 Simple Ways Businesses of Any Size Can Experiment with Spanish Translations


6 min read

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There are more Spanish speakers in the United States than there are in Spain. In fact, about 43 million people in the nation speak Spanish as a first language. What’s more, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2060, the Hispanic population will constitute 28.6% of the nation’s population. This Spanish-speaking populace is, perforce, a hugely important economic group, controlling close to $1.5 trillion in buying power, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth. However, it is estimated that less than 1.5% of websites in the U.S. are translated to Spanish.

Clearly, there is considerable untapped potential and significant opportunity for businesses selling or advertising goods and services to optimize their websites and social media presence to reach more than 60 million Hispanic Americans. Translating a website, app and communications for bilingual users can help grow sales, increase customer engagement and improve brand reputation.

Milestone Localization, of which I am the director, works with companies to help them reach non-English speaking users, and we’ve discovered four simple ways businesses of any size can maximize results with translations:

Translate ads

Translating your entire website and app may seem daunting, so if you’re looking to test the market, you can start by running ads in Spanish. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube let you target users that have set their device language to Spanish. Be careful, though: for ads to be effective, a word-for-word translation won’t work; you will need to find a native speaker to adapt ads in Spanish and effectively transmit the essence of a message. To see real results, stay clear of machine translations and make sure to do extensive Spanish keyword research. Cost-per-click on Google Ads for Spanish keywords is usually a fraction of the cost for the same keywords in English, so you can generate more traffic at a lower average cost. Run those ads on a nominal budget for a few months and study the rate and cost of conversion. 

Related: 6 Reasons Corporate America Misses Out on Trillions of Hispanic Dollars

Translate landing pages

In CSA Research’s 2020 report, “Can’t Read Won’t Buy”, 40% of respondents said they wouldn’t buy a product or service if information about it isn’t available in their native language; 65% said that they prefer reading content in their own language. Therefore, if your ads are in Spanish, your website’s landing page might need to be as well. It is also a good idea to translate any linked pages like “learn more”, “features” and “contact us” pages.

The process of translating your user interface, search engine optimization and content in another language is known as website localization. All content management system platforms have plugins you can download to create a Spanish version of a website. You can choose which languages to display yours in, based on system language or IP geolocation. Translations are usually charged per word, and translating three pages in Spanish will cost you less than $250. Make sure to run your experiment for at least three months to collect enough data to make a decision. If you see positive results, translate more pages on the website and add multilingual customer support.

Social media posts

A 2016 study by Facebook shows that more than 60% of bilingual U.S. Hispanics prefer creating and consuming online content in Spanish. There are three ways of employing multilingual social media posts:

  • Double posting — create separate posts in each language for the same content
  • Bilingual posts — include a translation in the original post; this works for image-focused posts where you can display the caption in different languages
  • Make multiple accounts — operate separate social media accounts for each language

Depending on the size and focus of your business and resources, pick the approach that works best. Small businesses can try both double posting and bilingual posts, then closely monitor user engagement to see what works. Keep in mind that social media posts are often creative and need to be “transcreated” — creatively adapted into another language in a way that captures the flavor, flair and nuance of the culture.

For example, the California Milk Processor Board realized that the “Got Milk?” campaign didn’t work for a Latino audience. To appeal to Latino mothers, they adapted it as “Y Usted Les Dio Suficiente Leche Hoy?” or “Have You Given Them Enough Milk Today?” To craft a message that resonates with your target audience, we recommend working with a professional linguist with marketing experience. Run an experiment for a few months to see if reach and engagement increase. If they do, start translating and localizing other communications.

Related: Marketing to Hispanics: Why It’s Not Just About Speaking Spanish

Add a Spanish customer service line

If you get most of your inquiries over the phone, add an option for users to select their preferred language. If you don’t already have a bilingual customer service executive, you can hire a freelancer to answer the phone for the duration of the experiment. This is usually the most cost-effective way to test if translation is right for a business, and is a method of experimentation that works particularly well for local establishments like restaurants, spas or dentists and for B2C service companies like insurance providers and accountants.

Keep track of the number and percentage of people selecting Spanish. If you see that a significant percentage of potential customers prefer it, take this as a green light to further experiment with translations.

Related: 4 Successful Ways Businesses Need to Adapt to a Growing Hispanic Demographic

When you’re doing business internationally or in a multilingual community, translating and localizing communications sends the message that you understand and respect cultural and linguistic diversity. You can use the strategies above to reach more Hispanic users in the U.S., yes, but also French speakers in Canada or Hindi speakers in India. Span the globe, and localize so that your business can be found in translation.

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