Once you’ve made the decision to expand your business into France, the next step to consider is creating an accurate, accessible version of your website in the French language.
Make sure your language is up to date
There’s nothing more likely to put off your new potential French audience than sounding like you’ve stepped straight out of the 1980s, which is why it’s important to make sure your French site uses modern terms – and not those you learnt back in the classroom!
Language evolves quickly, especially in the field of apps and technology – although efforts are being made to limit the influx of English words – and there are many words widely used today, which wouldn’t have been understood ten years ago. You might hear, for example, Je l’ai liké sur Facebook (“I liked it on Facebook”), with the anglicism liké replacing the usual French word for ‘like’, aimer.
In fact, last year La Petite Larousse added 170 news words to the new version of its dictionary, including ‘click-and-collect’, ‘émoji’, ‘batch cooking’ and ‘mocktail’! As English-language words are creeping into French, it’s important to identify whether French people search for a product using the English equivalent, or the French.
Take ‘Smartwatch’. There are 18,000 searches a month in France for this term, compared to only 1,600 for ‘montre intelligente’. If you sell this product and call them ‘montre intelligente’, then you are reducing your potential traffic by over 90%!
Since the use of language is ever evolving, it is often wise to do keyword research with native French translators to ensure you are using the most appropriate search terms.
Research your market
Just like with your English-language website, it serves very little purpose if people don’t know it is there. And this is why it pays dividends to work on your French SEO alongside the translation of your website. Importantly, this includes carrying out keyword research in French, and finding out what terms are most searched-for within your industry or sector. This is not always a straightforward task, which is why using an agency with expertise in French SEO is necessary to maximise your website’s visibility and potential impact.
Localise, localise, localise!
When it comes to gaining the trust of your French audience, appearing as French as possible is a good place to start – and having a French domain name will not only get your new potential customers on side by making you appear trustworthy, it will also boost your search ranking. This means example.fr would fare better than example.com as well as than example.com/fr and help to make you appear favourable with your French customers.
Translate your metatags
Metatags: those little snippets that describe your page, which appear underneath your listing in the search results. It’s not content that appears on your actual website, but it is really important that you translate it, nevertheless! This is the very first encounter your French audience will have with your site, and having English text could be off-putting from the start.
Only the first 57 or so characters of the Meta Title and 157 or so characters of the Meta Description will appear in the search results on a computer. For the Meta Title, this goes up to 70 characters on mobiles. The French language is on average 15-20% longer, so when translating Metatags, ensure that the new content respects the length guidelines.
Work out what to translate
Not all content is made equal, and not all content is equal in different countries! That’s why carrying out a blanket translation of everything on your English-language website isn’t always needed. Prioritise the content that describes the products or services that you are selling first and foremost, along with information about your brand. This is important when foraying into a new country, as your new audience is unlikely to be familiar with you, your company and its ethos.
As far as blog content is concerned, identify what has worked well in English primarily using Google Search Console or your site statistics. Before you go ahead and translate it, question whether it would work in the French language. It may need to be localised first, with cultural references made appropriate so that it is accessible for your new audience.
There are lots of considerations when translating your website into French, but it needn’t be a mammoth task. Follow our guidance, and you’ll have French visitors to your site in no time at all! Bonne chance!