We live in a world with a global economy.

How many times have you heard that one? It’s a cliché that’s becoming increasingly true, especially for those who engage in business over the internet. In a global market, you have to reach as many people around the world as possible or risk missing out on a large number of potential customers.

Many companies lose some of those potential customers by setting up their search engine optimization in only one language. The default for many businesses is to create an English-only SEO campaign because so many people around the world speak the language. What most people don’t realize is that 75 percent of the world doesn’t speak English at all, and only about five percent of all internet users in the world use solely English-based sites. Instead, they prefer searching for information using their native tongue.

This translates (no, that’s not a pun) to a potential loss of up to 95 percent of would-be customers!

Clearly, that is a number that’s just plain unacceptable. But what’s the answer? A multilingual SEO campaign.

That means translating your website content into as many of the most popular languages worldwide as you can so that you are able to attract “local” business from around the globe. Of course, that’s easier said than done, because language translation is rarely a 1-to-1 process. Here are several issues that you may run into when trying to utilize a multilingual SEO service.

They use language translation software.

As powerful and sophisticated as many of our programs and computers are today, the nuances of language still seem beyond what they can handle. This is especially true for translating from English to many European languages, where a single word may have multiple meanings, all of which depend upon details like context or pronunciation. Obviously, that’s something that doesn’t translate easily, so an overly literal translation can make your painstakingly-written content seem like an incomprehensible mess and turn people off.

Their translators aren’t native speakers.

In many ways, this is similar to the problem you have with translation software. People who don’t grow up speaking a language or who aren’t at the very least thoroughly familiar with current speech patterns and colloquialisms for the various countries that will receive the translation, can end up rewriting something that looks like broken French, Danish, Chinese, etc. to the locals. Usually even mid-range human translators do a better job than programs, because they can at least use their judgment in determining the intention behind the words. Even human translators only go so far though, so there’s even more to consider.

They don’t work with local search engines.

Yes, Google is the king, and many people use it around the world. What about those internet users for whom English isn’t their first language? They prefer using local search engines in their native tongue. The best way of optimizing your page for these search engines is to know precisely what kinds of factors they measure so that you can plan your SEO campaign instead of hoping to find a “one size fits all” model. Without research and planning, you’re likely to miss much more than you hit.

These multilingual SEO issues can also affect elements like pay-per-click advertising (PPC) because your ads target potential customers based on the search terms that they use. If your PPC search terms are all in a single language, you’ll never get any hits from customers who fit your profile but just happen to be using a foreign tongue.

Obviously, there are a variety of complications involved in trying to promote your business in the global market, and lots of things that you need to start thinking about. Ultimately, though, it comes down to one big question: can you really afford to miss out on all of those markets that don’t speak your language? If the answer is no, then you not only have to engage in multilingual SEO practices, you have to do it well.