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Vive La Difference: Slicing And Dicing Language Preferences

If your website is Canadian and contains lots of content, have you taken a look at the "languages" of your website visitors?  Do visitors with different language preferences look at different topics of content?  Are their visits of significantly different lengths?

The preferred language setting in visitors’ browsers is reported by many web analytics tools.  English, French, Spanish, Japanese as well as various country-specific versions.  To uncover opportunities worth taking action on, look at the differences in website browsing behaviour.  Consider the topics they visit, number of pages they look at, where they come from, and what themes of search keywords they used that brought them to the site.

At a recent Web analytics gathering, one organization with a bilingual site said they completed an upgrade in the quality of French on their website.  The result? Traffic from French language visitors increased, such that the percentage of French visitors rose about 10 percentage points.
Validation once again that quality content is worth the effort, in any language.


  1. benry
    benry January 23, 2007

    Yes, worth evaluating. But the real question is was the 10% increase in French visitor traffic worth the time, effort and expense to improve the French site? Did they see more sales? Did they see a change in the quality of visit?

  2. Eric
    Eric January 23, 2007

    Taking the time to properly write in any language is very important. What really kills me in Canada is the amount of companies that loosely translate the english into french. This not only does little to warm the hearts of french Canadians, but it actually backfires by turning off clients from these companies.

  3. June Li
    June Li January 23, 2007

    Benry and Eric,
    You’ve both raised excellent points.
    I agree that what’s “good” depends on the goals of the site and the organization. However, would it ever be acceptable to post a website containing low quality English? I suggest that an organization that is not willing to invest in quality French content is not truly committed to communicating in French and should probably not have a French website.
    Having said that, there may be companies with poor-quality French websites simply because an English-speaking person cannot quality-check the copy on their own. The translation process could be flawed because it lacks a check for quality and context but the organization may not realize this is the case. [And this is yet another case for surveying your website visitors about the quality of their experience.]
    Organizations may also not realize that translation is sometimes impossible. In the case marketing messages, new creative may have to be developed for the French Canadian market. How do you know if it’s worth it? Do a market test with 2 versions of content and measure the results.
    Thanks for the comments,
    June Li

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