The Oban Blog

Oban experiment shows cultural differences online

The results show the importance of tailoring web sites to cultural preferences for sites that are intended for a multinational audience, says Greig Holbrook.

Oban Multilingual, the international search, SEO online marketing specialist, has completed its experiment to measure differences in responses to websites between different cultures.

The research showed a number of differences between French and German web surfers when responding to a website promoting tourism in Jordan.

The test site used Oban’s multivariate testing software which allows a website to automatically serve up variations in content, and then track user reactions to the changes, giving insight into web design elements in a live environment.

The experiment used a site promoting tourism in Jordan, in French and German, with elements such as text size and colour changed automatically. The text of the site was also provided in straightforward translated format and in a ‘localized’ version that had been rewritten specifically in the native language of the site visitor.

The site received over 2,750 visitors during the experiment, with those that downloaded a brochure on Jordan, around 10% of the overall visitors, counted as conversions.

In general German visitors responded better to localized text than to a translated version, being twice as many conversions from localized text, with 12% of visitors converted, as translated, with just 6%.

French visitors showed a preference for a mix of localized and translated text, but were most influenced by the size of the call to action to download, with a translated heading in much larger font size getting the best conversion rate of 16%.

German and French visitors also responded differently to colour, with German visitors apparently showing a preference for a purple background with white text, and French preferring a white background with black text.

The company also looked at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in different languages and using native words for SEO terms, like the German or French names for the country of Jordan.

Greig Holbrook, MD of Oban, said that while further testing was necessary, the initial results showed the importance of designing sites for different cultures for websites that aim to attract a multinational audience.

“This shows that tourism sites will see the uplift in conversions by creating sites specifically designed towards individual cultures’ preferences. By not optimising for and catering to international users of the internet, official destination sites are not only losing valuable traffic to their sites, they are also inadvertently sending those searchers to other sites which may not offer valuable, impartial advice,” Holbrook said.