How to optimize a site and do internet marketing for an international audience is a major FAQ in the business these days. This is just a quick post of my first impressions from seeing the Web from another country – for the first time!
I suggest that one of the best ways to study this is to actually BE in other countries, but this is not always an option for site owners. Despite the fact that I’ve built multi-lingual websites over the years, this was my first opportunity to take my own computer along and just see what happens.
I’ve just returned from a three week trip overseas, including stays in the UK and France. This is a quick, first post on what I discovered. Since this was a family trip, not a business trip, I didn’t have as much time to play around online as I would have liked – but I will expand on this subject as soon as I can.
For a first-timer, the first challenge is getting an internet connection. I brought along my laptop (with a universal power converter) and made an effort to go online every day, no matter where I was. My first try was sitting outside Frankfurt airport in between flights. My trusty laptop detected a half-dozen possible networks, but of course I didn’t know if any of them were free & open networks. I picked one that looked OK, but it required a user login. I stopped at that point, not wanting to “experiment” with my computer too much or expose it to unknown risks.
(Note: My laptop, at least, came home virus-free. Wish I could say the same for myself. When it comes to your computer, don’t take chances if you are not sure what is going on!)
The second challenge is e-mail while overseas. You should definitely have a universal email account before you go.
Since I had missed a connecting flight, I HAD to contact my party at the other end to inform them. I discovered that the Frankfurt airport had little internet kiosks here & there. You just prepay for so many minutes with your credit card, then go online. From here you can use a universal email account such as Gmail or Yahoo mail, etc. This was a lifesaver. But I also discovered that keyboards are different in different countries! It took me half my online time just to find the @ sign
Next stop, a private home in France with a home wireless network. Since they had not put in a security lock, I was able to easily connect, surf, and use my Gmail account to stay in touch with ground control back home. In France I got my first real look at Google from within another country. The Google ‘home page’ defaulted to www.google.fr with everything in French, but with a few additional features – there were links for searching for pages only in French (or only in the domain .fr), or alternatively, switching to Google in English. (It was also just as easy to navigate to www.google.com .) Since I was doing my best to learn French, I stuck with Google.fr as much as possible but did not restrict my searches to only French pages. The upshot is that if you search for something, you’ll get search results for domains/pages in France, a page in French from another country, and the usual world-wide results for that matter. The world is your oyster.
Next stop, Scotland, at a nice B&B outside Edinburgh. They also had an open home wireless network available at no extra charge, and not requiring any login. (They were safe enough to do this, being up on the moors of the Pentland hills.) Here it was easy-peasy to do anything I needed – no discernable difference from being in the states at all.
Next stop, England, staying at a chain hotel. Here I discovered that they charge through the nose for an internet connection from your room – no thanks! They did have 2 computers in the lobby for public use. You prepay for so many minutes at the front desk,, they give you an access code, and you’re quickly online. But it ain’t exactly cheap.
Final stop, a hotel at the Nice airport. Here too, they charge a lot for in-room internet access. But since I was only there overnight (actually, half a night – had to get up at 4 AM for the flight home!) I did not spin the wheel and try my luck with their internet service. This hotel did not have any public computers available.
I will write more about how to build and optimize sites and pages for international exposure, how character sets fit in, and other topics, as soon as possible.
Part of this trip involved a major family reunion – I now have relatives in several continents and countries, including Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, all the UK, France, and I think Italy too. As time and politeness allows I will ask friends and family what their online experience is like from their location, and pass on whatever I learn.
Meanwhile I am catching up on my “real” work back here at home