News | 20.01.2022

Translation and voice search: a powerful combination for digital marketing

Digital marketing is always evolving, but those working in the industry have arguably never experienced such seismic changes than in the last 18 months. In this blog, we look at emerging digital marketing trends, in particular voice search technology, and where translation fits into this new digital marketing landscape.

The closure of physical shops at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic saw ecommerce sales in the UK rocket by 46 per cent – faster growth than any time in the last decade. And even without restrictions, online shopping is a trend that shows no signs of abating. Research shows that 67 per cent of millennials and 56 per cent of Gen Xers prefer to shop online than in a physical store[1], and that figure is set to grow. In another sign of the times, 20 per cent of all Google searches are now conducted via voice searches – a figure that’s been on the rise since 2013[2]. But where does translation fit into all this?


The above trends are forcing online marketing specialists to create innovative ways to outdo their competition in what has become an increasingly saturated market. In order to achieve this, many brands have linked voice search to their online product offering to ensure a seamless customer experience when ordering. However, this technology in particular is creating novel challenges in its own right – especially for those who sell to international audiences speaking different languages, which is where translation becomes a consideration.


One in five UK homes has a smart speaker[3]. Utilised for everything from booking a taxi, calling a friend, playing a song or controlling other smart devices in the home, voice search equipment is now also becoming integral to another part of our lives. Research shows that 65 per cent of smart speaker owners feel comfortable making an online purchase with their speaker[4], while 43 per cent of voice-enabled device owners conduct all their shopping using this type of search[5].


Voice search has become so popular because for some it’s a more convenient way of exploring the world from home. As it is a more conversational interaction than typing on a screen, it also enables people to get to where they want more quickly. Smart speakers able to process around 100 words per minute, compared to typing, which typically sits at around 30 to 35 words a minute[6].


Forward-thinking business owners with global ambitions need to begin considering the role of translation in this process. Because, while these devices are great at translating human language into a search request, if you want to meet the needs of audiences around the world, your marketing materials will need to be tailored to a customer’s native language, often involving both website translation and software localisation (in the form of customer apps) for those who wish to shop by voice.


With voice search now such a key part of a successful ecommerce strategy, translation agencies are working closely with online brands to develop new methods to ensure their customers can find them from anywhere in the world. Translation agencies are also helping to create an attractive and efficient user experience across all marketing activity and materials, ensuring that those who seek out products via voice search are converted into customers.


Local SEO: vital to voice search


Over 70 per cent of the world has a first language other than English, and statistics show that up to 85 per cent of those people won’t buy from a company without a website in their native language, so website translation is critical to global expansion. When it comes to voice search, consumers want a smart assistant that understands them, speaks to them in their own language and which is able to produce results relevant to their request.


Alexa can currently speak and understand eight different languages, while Google Assistant on a smart phone can support up to 44 languages from around the world. While this does not cover every language, it does mean that those businesses that haven’t considered translated voice search as part of their marketing strategies could be missing out on huge global audiences.


Voice search aside, a website can only be found if its SEO strategy is strong. For companies that wish to attract customers to their websites from around the world, marketing teams must implement multilingual SEO, which includes conducting local and cultural research to find out what potential customers might be searching for. That’s because online shoppers will often search differently than their counterparts in the UK, so directly translating search terms that work for your English language site may not be enough. What’s more, voice search will require a specific strategy to cater for both written and spoken requests – typically, this involves creating website content that answers what a person says, rather than what they type. Material in the form of FAQs or top tips pieces work well for this, as they directly answer questions a user is asking, making the content more easily identifiable by a voice search tool.


There are many ways to improve SEO and it’s worth considering this as part of your overall multi-language website strategy, so you can optimise your local Google ranking and be found by your target customers wherever they are in the world, whether they choose to type their search or use voice technology.


Moreover, the likelihood is that if someone finds your website, they’ll probably seek out more about the rest of your services. If you’ve been able to capture a shopper through voice search, it would be remiss not to provide the rest of your marketing material in the relevant language. However, doing so usually involves more than just translating the original content word for word, unless you are looking simply at document translation or technical translation, where style is less of an issue.


Companies should deliver different target audiences and cultures with messages that are tailored to their specific markets, with their own cultural and linguistic considerations taken into account, a process which is known as transcreation. So, when you venture into international ecommerce and take steps to adapt your content for local markets, it’s vital to ensure messaging, content, tone and sentiment is relevant to your different audiences. That way, when they use voice search to find out more about your brand, you’ll be able to capture their attention in a language that really speaks to them, using messaging that’s appropriate.


Voice search and video content platforms


Video content has long been a creative way to engage a target audience, but increasingly, its content is being used to inform search results. For example, a typed Google search of ‘how to fix a broken washing machine’ will recommend a YouTube video to the user ahead of a standard webpage. And as our search terms increase in their conversational tone, voice searches will be expected to produce the same results.


For international ecommerce businesses who utilise video to promote their products, this will require ensuring videos are localised through either subtitles and voiceovers, and should also be used in video descriptions and meta tags so that they can be discovered from anywhere in the world, by a user making a request of their smart speaker in their own language. Doing so will mean when a request for a product like yours, or the content you’ve produced, is made in another language, Google is better enabled to offer your brand as the best result. What’s more, the video itself will make a bigger impact with your target customer, as it has been tailored for that particular user’s language.


Voice search is still a relatively new concept which is making huge technological advances, but research suggests it is set to dominate how we seek out products in years to come. For businesses who already work internationally, or who’ve made a global footprint one of their future objectives, there’s no better time to begin using translation to understand your current or potential customers, how they might find your products and what you can do now to get more customers – wherever they are in the world.


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