How to Measure Translation ROI – Is Translation Worth the Effort?

Translation is a big effort – often in both time and money.

Organizing all the content to be translated, finding which countries and which variants will help move the needle on your business. It’s hard to know whether it’s worth all the hassle.

In this article, we break down:

  • What metrics to track to see whether translation is a good investment
  • How to test the potential ROI of translation
  • How to determine the cost/benefit of translation

Let’s dive in.

Setting your goals – define your performance indicators

The first step to understanding the ROI of translation is setting expectations. You can’t know if your translation was “worth it” if you don’t know what you’re doing it for in the first place. Not all goals are revenue-based. 

For example, you may just want more brand awareness in a certain region. You can assign your own monetary value to that metric, but it’s hard to track exactly how much revenue was generated from brand awareness. 

Types of translation KPIs to track

Here are examples of KPIs that can be affected by translation and tracked.

Translation KPI 1: Traffic by country or language

This is a very straightforward metric. You can set up Google Analytics to see how much traffic you’re getting per country or language. If you set a compare period, you can directly see whether your translation is helping you get more website traffic from a specific region.

Translation KPI 2: Market share

By market share, we mean local market share. Local market share is the percentage of an industry’s sales in that region that are owned by your company.

For instance, Germany has a US $13.332M luxury goods market. For a luxury goods company to calculate their German market share, they’d take the total sales revenue they’ve made in Germany in a specific amount of time and divide it by the above number. 

Then you’d track changes over time after your translation.

Translation KPI 3: Conversion rate per country

This is another straightforward metric. How many more leads or customers are you getting per country? Compare before and after you’ve translated your content. Bear in mind what your translation strategy looks like – SEO content takes a long time to start ranking, whereas a PPC campaign should give quick insights.

Translation KPI 4: Local engagement

This metric isn’t exactly tied to revenue, so it makes it harder to calculate the ROI. But it’s an important one. More country-specific engagement means more brand awareness. It means you’re generating demand, and usually leads to greater revenue. Can you give this a monetary value?

Testing translation ROI potential with PPC

Before you dive into translating your content into multiple languages, it’s a smart idea to see whether your audience will even bite. Approach this with the mindset that you’re going to pay to test whether to invest in localizing everything. You can translate a landing page and a PPC campaign and run traffic to it. If you get good results, it’s a good idea to translate everything else.

Translation as an investment vs. a commodity

Once you have all your goals set and you’ve tested out your audiences, it’s time to look at how you’re going to approach translation. Machine translation is the cheapest option. 

You may already be aware of the effect that copywriting has on conversions and revenue.

Good copy – even tweaking just a couple of words in the CTA or your tagline – can improve ROI by double-digit percentages. Translation works the same. If you had a machine or student write your SEO copy or Facebook ads copy, it would be cheaper, but you wouldn’t see as much return (if any).

The same applies in other languages. That shouldn’t be surprising if you think about it.

Translations that actually get ROI require knowledge of the medium (SEO, ads, email, UX writing, etc.), and a knowledge of the culture (does this cultural reference make sense? Will the target audience take this the right way?), not to mention being familiar or specialized with your industry vertical.

See translation as another growth investment – just like a conversion copywriter, a great web designer, or a veteran email marketer – and you’ll see the greatest ROI. 

What is the cost of translation?

The cost of translation varies greatly. You can work with a do-it-all corporate agency, boutique agencies, or freelancers. Costs range from free (machine translation – not recommended) to a substantial investment. 

As a ballpark figure, you can expect quality, revenue-driving translations to start at €0.18/word, if you’re counting per word. When it comes to ad copy or taglines, translators can’t really charge by the word. It could take a whole day to translate a single tagline or headline for highest effectiveness and conversion.

Just because a translation service is expensive doesn’t mean it’s good. Be sure to do your due diligence first. Make sure the provider you choose understands the medium of the content to be translated and the subject matter. Language isn’t enough.

Choose what content needs to be localized

It’s possible that not all of your content needs to be translated. At least, not right away.

As a rule of thumb, translation is charged by volume, so more content means higher costs. You can dip your toes into it and translate little by little.

You can start with a PPC campaign/landing page as we mentioned above. If it works, then you can translate your website – at least the parts that make sense for that audience. If you have an app, when you start getting a lot of traffic from a certain country, it might be time to consider creating a version in that language.

What is the true ROI of translation?

We hope this article has helped you calculate whether translation will be worth it for you or not. The best advice we can give is to set your expectations beforehand and choose a translation provider that can meet them.

Got any questions about translation ROI? Get in touch with us – we’d be happy to talk about how we can improve yours.

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