It’s really hard to do business in a language other than your own mother language. As an entrepreneur and businessperson in Tokyo, I very much understand that. I’m constantly switching back and forth between Japanese and English.
So of course it’s really hard for you to make a homepage in a second (or third, or fourth) language.
Japanese, Korean, and other Asian businesses have my empathy. I personally understand your challenges. I cannot make a homepage in another language. I don’t try because it will hurt my reputation.
You may be able to use low-quality or mistaken English on your English homepage if you have a lot of funding, or you have a truly amazing and innovative product.
Usually though, you’ll hurt your reputation. This is silent damage, because you’ll never know the potential customers who never contact you.
There are many common problems Asian companies make on their English homepages.
Here are some big and extremely common reasons Asian companies have low-quality English websites. And some ways to start fixing and start attracting global customers.
1) Your site has no plan other than “have an English website”
Simple! You have no plan at all for your homepage.
Well, maybe your plan is “make an English website”. And that’s all.
- OK, how are you going to do it?
- What resources will you need?
- How much money and time?
- Why are you making an English website?
- Why will people read it?
- How will people find it?
- What devices will they be using?
- What action do you want them to take?
As a minimum, think through these questions, and look before you leap. A website is your public face. It’s also amazing because it’s FREE MARKETING! (and free sales if you’re good)
If you don’t know how to make that plan, you need someone with content marketing skills to align with your decision makers. Start with your business plan itself. Look at your mission. Look at your sales and marketing forecasts, and work around those.
Don’t even think of looking for a web designer until you’ve drafted a basic plan.
2) Your site has low-quality English (translation or original English)
Plan or no plan, most English websites for companies in Asia have English mistakes. They range from small typos to completely nonsensical English.
There are many reasons for this. In Japan and Korea, I’ve found the most common reason is simply not understanding the impact of language.
Language shows your credibility, builds trust, and makes customers comfortable. If someone is going to buy your product or service, they have to understand it.
Google Translate is not a solution. Translation alone is not a solution, though good translation is better than auto-translation. Best is to use a combination of translation, editing, and original English copywriting.
A trained native-English-speaking copywriter can do this. Don’t confuse them with a translator or non-native writer.
3) You copied the web design (and text) of your home country’s website
Japanese websites tend to use a LOT of words, graphs, cute cartoons. Korean websites rely on large images and less text. They may be compatible with Naver, but often this style brings up error messages in the rest of the world. Websites in Chinese, Thai, various Southeast Asian scripts, etc. — these all have special traits designed for local readers.
A simple and common problem is writing English in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. font. That not only looks unnatural, it often gives strange word breaks and sometimes doesn’t even display properly.
English readers are not local readers. Generally, English web design uses short, sharp sentences,
plenty of white space,
a conversational style of language. Even for B2B SaaS or luxury brands, the language is clear, sharp, and unmistakable.
Good English websites are set up to move the reader to take the next action: sign up for a newsletter, download a brochure, schedule a demo, make a purchase, and so on.
It’s an art and a challenge. Only an expert in English copywriting and web design will be able to guide you to make a good English website. Otherwise, you’re guessing.
4) Your web design has no aim, no idea what it wants
Is your website to display your product or service? They usually are. But have you thought about what you want the reader to do after they see what you’re selling?
Are you trying to attract customers? Probably yes! So how will they contact you?
Do customers need to know a timeline history of your corporation? Then why do you include it?
A good website must do more than show features and benefits. It must move the customer to action. Otherwise, the customer just leaves.
5) You’re not telling your company story
You know your story better than anyone. And perhaps you think it’s nothing special. For English readers, knowing a company story builds trust. We like to know how you got where you are. But we don’t just want a timeline, we want a human story.
We want to know business with people we know.
Add photos, show your history, talk about your passion. This makes you human and real to us. It’s sometimes hard to so this yourself, so a good writer can interview you, research your past, and present you positively.
6) You’re not showing your value proposition and USPs
So many Asian websites just list their products, financials, address, and a message from the president/CEO. One after another. Just like an online catalog or phonebook.
I don’t know what sets them apart from other companies.
Words like “high-quality” and “effective” don’t tell me anything.
You must clearly show what your product is special. Don’t just show features… show BENEFITS. Tell me how your product will solve my problem. Tell me how it will increase my free time, make me feel safe, help my profits.
What are your unique selling propositions (USPs)? How will you bring me value? Make it clear to me with content such as good English descriptions, use benefits, blog posts and white papers on the problems you solve, and even images and video.
7) Your English text is in images, so Google, and readers, can’t see it
This is an especially big problem for Korean websites. I was told this is because many Korean companies, especially SMEs, used a website-making program, possible by Naver. It places all text in images and even in Flash, which is now largely deprecated (not used anymore). The text isn’t visible. Google can’t read it. People can’t read it. It’s a sad waste of a website.
8) You never update your content
Google is always refining its algorithms, seeking the best answers to people’s search questions. Updated content improves your SEO ranking.
Updated content also lets the reader know you’re actively in business. Start by updating the “copyright 2008” line.
9) Your site has no original and engaging content
If you only list your products and address, you’re using the internet like a big phonebook. Even 20 years ago, this was bad design. These days, it’s fatal.
- Start with a few blog articles about areas in which you have expertise.
- Show social proof using case studies.
- Add white papers, video, tell your story, etc.
This gets the reader engaged with your company, builds trust, makes them look further.
10) Your company has inconsistent branding or no branding
Branding is your unique name, symbol, and design. It’s also your colors, fonts, tone, everything that presents the “personality” of your company. Think of Apple’s logo, use of white, unique typeface, music, etc. That’s all branding.
Most companies have a logo. But is it consistent across the site. Are the coloring and font consistent? Is your writing “voice” consistent? Start there.
Over time I’ll add to this list.
I’m here to help you resolve these problems. We’ll create a great homepage for you. Contact me for a free audit and to see how to present yourself with an amazing English website.