Can Your Content Speak Spanish?

Q: What is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world?
A: The United States

Surprised? You shouldn’t be, given the latest U.S. Census figures that show 13 percent of the country’s population is Hispanic. And here are some other facts you may not know:

  • Thirty-five million Americans are Hispanic, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, an increase of 60 percent since 1990.
  • Fifty percent of the DMA, or demographic market area, in Los Angeles (where I live) will be Hispanic by 2010.
  • Hispanics represent a great marketing opportunity, with households that are larger than the general market average (4.2 persons versus 2.5) as well as younger (24 versus 36 years).
  • Hispanic buying power is growing at triple the rate of inflation.

Given these numbers, wouldn’t it make sense to add Spanish-language content to your Web site? Approximately 79 percent of Hispanics speak Spanish at home, so it’s wise to think in Español. And, if you don’t believe the Spanish-speaking market is using the Internet, you’re going by past statistics. Granted, other media are more popular (as evidenced by the wild success of Univision), but the Net isn’t far behind. Household computer penetration has increased approximately 43 percent in the general U.S. population, but it has increased approximately 68 percent among U.S. Hispanics.

Consider the possibilities of opening your Web site to this growing market:

Virtually seamless transition. Your Web site isn’t bound by the same restrictions as print pieces. All you need is a button on your home page to direct Spanish-language users to the site in Español. There’s none of that half-page-English/half-page-Spanish awkwardness of print. And I was never fond of printing pieces with English on the front, Spanish on the back. (And why is Spanish always relegated to the back anyway?)

The market is expanding. For reasons inexplicable to savvy marketers, the Web has been very slow to recognize this booming market. By adding Spanish content, you’ll be on the cutting edge, cultivating Internet loyalties that seem to have been overlooked by far too many organizations.

Brand loyalty. In general, the Hispanic market shows more brand loyalty than others, especially to organizations that respect the market’s cultural identity.

Access to millions. Beyond the Latino market in the United States, there are 300 million people in Spain, Central and South America, and the Philippines who speak Spanish.

Think you’re ready to add some Spanish flavor to your site? Here are a few tips:

Don’t just translate English content. Ever watch a movie that’s been poorly translated? The words just don’t seem right, often to the point of being comical. Beware of programs that provide word-for-word translation. Use a trusted translation service that can provide text in standard Spanish. Also, be alert to regional idioms that may not be widely understood.

Tailor your content. Many Hispanic Web users are far more internationally oriented than the general U.S. public. In fact, 78 percent of Hispanics use the Web to access international news.

Don’t forget autoresponders and email marketing. If you’re making the commitment to providing Spanish-language information, make sure your email marketing campaign follows suit. Add a Spanish-language option for your loyalty program.

Respond to skeptics. According to a study by Access Worldwide Cultural Access Group, Hispanics are five times more likely than the general market to have negative impressions of the Internet, especially when it comes to providing personal or credit-card information. (Only 32 percent of Hispanics surveyed said they’d made a credit-card purchase on the Internet.) Make sure your e-commerce efforts respond to your audience’s concerns.

Watch out for toll-free numbers and URLs. Make sure both your telephone number and URL are easily remembered in Spanish and your English versions don’t have embarrassing connotations in Spanish. (Remember the Chevrolet Nova that didn’t get very far in Spanish markets?) Also, ensure that all toll-free number lines are answered in Spanish.

Take a look at for an interesting example of a site clearly tailored for the U.S. Spanish-speaking market. It’s a one-stop site for business, entertainment, health, immigration, and travel news. Also, there’s an international section featuring news from Spanish-speaking countries worldwide. NASA gets some kudos, too, for launching a Spanish-language version of its site. Not-so-great reviews for Howard Johnson International, which announced a Spanish-language site and didn’t quite come through on its promise. (It’s under construction according to the site.)

Let me know how you do with your endeavors in Español. If you move into this market now, you’ll definitely be ahead of the curve.

Susan is taking this week off. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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