Earth globes on a shell, by Joao Silas

Translated by Núria Adell.

The Internet is wonderful, isn’t it? You simply have to create an incredible website, upload it to some server and from the first day you’ll have lots of visits from anywhere in the world. ?? Or is this not how it works?

Last week I talked about the most important issues to consider when creating an international startup. I think there is no doubt that attacking the international market from day one is more complex and more expensive than starting with something smaller, focusing on a more local audience whose environment, culture, language, etc., you’re more familiar with.

Today, following the previous post, I want to share the results of implementing a global strategy in Nelio. Let’s review, point by point, what we have achieved so far.

The product

Our plugins, Nelio A/B Testing and Nelio Content, are offered in several languages. As you know, the internationalization of plugins in WordPress works in such a way that, if there is a translation of the plugin in your language, it will appear in that language, but if there isn’t, it will simply show up in English.

If we take a look at the language of the installations that have our most recent plugin (Nelio Content), we see that 63.5% have the installation in English and 11% in Spanish:

Website languages using Nelio Content
Languages of websites using Nelio Content.

Not bad at all! We initially thought that most sites would be in English and that Spanish would occupy an important place (notice that it’s in second place), so it seems that the decision was right.

If we talk about geolocation, we have a reach of 107 countries.

Sites using Nelio Content by countries
Sites using Nelio Content by countries.

Our perception is that having the plugin in a certain language helps to penetrate that market more quickly, as we see in the English-speaking or Spanish-speaking world. In any case, we see that we can still establish a presence in countries for which we don’t have a translation (for example, China).

The support service

I also mentioned that another problem you have to take into account when creating an international business is the time difference with your customers and the implication this has in terms of the support service.

In our case, we’ve worked hard to decrease the number of support tickets we get. So, for now, we’re able to manage the time difference quite well. In fact, our current average response time is less than three hours; in general, all issues coming up throughout our working hours are resolved very quickly, almost immediately, and the first thing we do every morning when we get to the office is resolve those problems that may have occurred during the night. This procedure works for us because at the moment our users encounter (relatively) few problems… thanks to the quality of our plugins, of course! ?

Interestingly, what we have noticed is that in our country, Spain, perhaps because of proximity, language or culture, there is a tendency to make phone calls and expect a more exclusive and personalized service than in the rest of the world … ?  Of course, we have no problem in talking to our users on the phone, but we believe that mail support is much more effective. Don’t forget that a phone call interrupts one’s workflow, since, unlike emails, they force you to respond instantly ?

Finally, there is a second type of issues that I have not mentioned: those related to payments. As I said on a previous post, we use FastSpring as a payment platform. When there is an incident of this type, FastSpring usually solves it directly, which allows us to have, indirectly, part of the support in US time.

The websites

After merging our blogs we ended up having the Nelio website both in English and Spanish languages. Publishing regularly and promoting the content of our blog with the help of Nelio Content, the number of visits has grown considerably, multiplying by 10 in less than one year.

The languages and geographical scope of our website are summarized below:

  • Language of the devices from which visitors read us: 73% Spanish, 20% English, and 7% others.
  • Language of pages visited on our website: 75% Spanish, 25% English.
  • Location: 35% Spain, 8% Mexico, 7% Colombia, 6% Argentina, 6% US, 4% Chile, 4% Peru, 4% Venezuela, 2% India, 2% UK, and 22% others.

On the other hand, the most visited posts of our blog in English and Spanish are the following:

Analytics in English
The most read post of our blog in English has received 5,500 visits.
Analytics in Spanish site
The most read post of our blog in Spanish has received 55,200 visits

The number of visits of our most visited post in our blog in Spanish is 10 times greater than the post with most visits in English. This result is surprising, since we can appreciate a significant difference between the distribution of blog readers and that of the users of our products. For instance, even though the use of our plugin in installations of WordPress in English is clearly superior to Spanish (63.5% versus 11%), it turns out that this is the opposite for website visits (25% in English versus 75% in Spanish). Is the Spanish-speaking market only interested in the posts of our blog, but not in our products? ?  Taking into account that the objectives of our blog are: first, to get more visibility and sales of our products and, secondly, to contribute to the community of WordPress and share our experience, I guess the Spanish-speaking market particularly values our contribution to the community ?

If you’re in a similar situation, it is very important that you understand what is known as the The Blogging Trap: “even if you’re able to continuously increase the visits to the blog, if you are not capable of placing your products on the same audience that reads you, you have a problem “. Indeed, our blog‘s audience does not exclusively correspond to our potential client. Many of our articles are read by other WordPress developers who are currently not in need of our products.

In the end, we have come to the conclusion that our main channel for “selling” the plugin is directly through the Directory of WordPress plugins. Unfortunately, we have no way of validating this hypothesis… What do you think?


Finally, turning to the revenue, let’s look at our international reach. What percentage comes from each country? If we analyze only the revenue of Nelio A/B Testing, whose website is only in English, we see the following:

% of Nelio A/B Testing revenues by country
Percentage of Nelio A/B Testing revenue by country during the last 12 months.

Nelio A/B Testing has a reach of up to 40 countries. 60% of our income from Nelio A/B Testing comes from the United States and together with the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and South Africa, they represent more than 80% of the total. This figure is well above the percentage of WordPress installations in English around the world (55%). The only countries that provide us with income whose first language is Spanish are Spain, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. Together they reach 1.46% of our total sales. In fact, Spanish, as the language of our clients, is surpassed by German from Germany (2.73%) and French from France, Belgium, and Reunion (2.63%). How do we interpret these figures? Basically, the use of tools for A/B Tests and heatmaps is still considerably superior in markets where online marketing is more developed. 

On the other hand, if we look at the figures of Nelio Content, whose description of the product is both in Spanish and English, we see some differences:

% of Nelio Content revenues by country
Percentage of Nelio Content revenues by country (last 10 months).

We launched the beta version of the product 8 months ago and our income is currently coming from 17 different countries. In particular, English-speaking countries (the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom) account for 61% of the total and Spanish-speaking countries (Spain, Colombia, Peru, and Mexico), for almost 15%.

Our conclusions

Honestly? Looking at the data above it’s not easy to draw a conclusion ?  But since I promised you some, let me summarize our impressions to date:

  • Positioning a website in a language other than English is easier, possibly for the simple reason that there is less competition.
  • People who speak English go directly to the Plugins Directory to find what they’re looking for.
  • Not all markets are prepared for certain types of products. In online marketing particularly, each country has a different level of maturity.
  • Offering products in a language other than English accelerates their introduction to that market.
  • The English-speaking market needs less direct interaction than the Spanish-speaking one, facilitating the distribution of products and services online.

Even though it’s impossible to know what the results would have been if we had started with a local market, it seems that, in our case, it would have been more difficult to position ourselves and so the figures would have been worse. Note that at the moment, our percentage of income coming from our own country is very small, so it’s good that we didn’t start as a local startup…

Finally, I want to add that one has to make many decisions when creating a startup, but nobody has a crystal ball to know what will work best. For us, the best strategy has been to follow a Lean Startup methodology and “validated learning”. But even now we still have some doubts as to why certain decisions or actions have worked better or worse. I suppose that is the thrill of undertaking: to have a certain level of uncertainty, right?

Featured image by João Silas.

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