April 5, 2011, 5:04 PM

Want to reach the world? Brush up on your Chinese, Spanish, Japanese ...

A web site accessible in 11 languages can reach 1.5 billion consumers, a report says.

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A web site that can be read by any web user anywhere in the world has the potential to reach nearly 1.89 billion people, according to Common Sense Advisory Inc. To snag 80%, or about 1.51 billion, of them, web publishers need to translate their sites into 11 languages, says the market research firm, which focuses on globalization issues.

The firm’s “Top-Scoring Global Websites” report ranks the world’s 100 best global internet properties, and a large part of its scoring calculation is based on how accessible the sites are by language. According to the report, an English-only site can be read by 23.2% of the global online population. Making it readable in simplified Chinese adds 22.3% and Spanish 9.0%. The following top languages, in descending order are: Japanese, Portuguese, German, Arabic, French, Russian, Korean and Italian.

Online consumers speaking these languages collectively control 85% of the economic buying potential of the world’s online audience, the report says. “Language is an essential consideration for companies that seek to drive behavior of potential customers on foreign-language web sites, whether they’re targeting consumers or business buyers,” the report says.

Common Sense Advisory found that of the 1,000 web site properties it studied, the top 100 made site content available in at least 16 languages. In rank order, the top five sites are Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Mozilla, the not-for-profit organization that provides the Firefox web browser. Common Sense Advisory used web sites listed in Interbrand’s Best Global Brands Report, the Forbes Global 2000 list and the top 500 sites listed by web traffic tracking firm Alexa to determine which 1,000 web sites to study. The study did not directly evaluate e-commerce functions in its calculation, although some of the report’s top 100 sites do sell online in some geographic regions. HP, Canon, Apple, Dell, Starbucks and Lancome, for example, appear among the top 100.   

Read more about international e-commerce in Internet Retailer’s Top 300 Europe Guide.

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