If you have a business website you want to internationalize, or the company you are working for is planning to expand globally, website localization should be one of the first things to do. It can work wonders regardless of the size and niche of a business.
Many people have a mistaken idea about website localization. They think localization is done simply by translating the content of the website into another language, but it is more than that. Localizing a website requires a great deal of planning, research, editing, and testing strategies.
To help you understand this process and go international with your business, we listed the steps you need to take to localize your website successfully.
1. Identify and Understand Your Target Market
Thorough research is essential when planning to expand on other markets. Before deciding on a target market, you must understand their cultural background to see if your product will be successful there. Chances are your product won’t be successful in all markets you have your eye on.
Cultural context is vital. Keep in mind customs and traditions vary from country to country, and understanding them will help you identify the right approach for foreign audiences. For example, the US market is more laid-back, so Americans tend to love humorous and fun approaches with a touch of sarcasm thrown here and there. However, the same approach will not work in the Japanese market where people are orderly, and sarcasm is rare.
To identify your target market, start by looking at the countries with the highest interest in your products/services. You can check your sales reports or social media page metrics and your competitors’ customers to see if they are overlooking markets with huge potential. Once you’ve decided, you can partner up with local companies or individuals that can help you understand the market you are targeting. You can also research by studying the successful localized companies in the location.
2. Create Multilingual Website Content
Localization is indeed more than translating content. However, we still can’t deny the important role that website translation plays in this process. According to a Common Sense Advisory study, 71.2% of customers spend most of their time on websites using their language, which shows how important it is to adapt your content in different languages.
This will improve your website’s user experience (UX), increasing the time visitors spend on your website. Foreign users tend to trust a company more if they can easily understand the content on its website, and increased trust levels make users more likely to make purchases. Thus, website translation can increase your sales revenue.
There are several things to consider when building a multilingual website. The most important is you must translate the website’s content and adapt it based on the culture, preferences, and trends of geolocation. It is also vital to make sure you abide by the laws of the country you are targeting. Depending on the size of your website or the number of new markets you target, you can translate website content by using translation management software or hire translators with expertise in localizing content.
3. Apply International SEO Strategies
Every digital marketer and business website owner knows the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It improves your website’s rank on Google result pages and also boosts the website’s traffic and sales. Here are some of the SEO factors that you need to consider when localizing your website:
- Ensure you conduct local keyword research for the new market instead of translating keywords you are already using on your original market.
- Use language-specific hreflang tags to help Google understand what language you are using on specific pages of your website so it can display pages to the right users.
- Create country-appropriate URLs for your localized pages such as ccTLDs, subdomains, and subdirectories.
- Use the suitable payment currencies, address, phone number, and timezone on your website.
- Earn local backlinks on the new market by linking or submitting content and posts on local websites.
4. Plan the Website Layout Carefully
Aside from the languages and market approach, countries may also differ in their website layout preferences. For example, Americans tend to scan pages in an F-shaped pattern. However, this does not apply to Arabic countries. Arabians read from left to right, which means that you need to adapt the layout of your website accordingly. Otherwise, your localization attempt may be unsuccessful.
Moreover, content length may differ depending on the language you use on your website. You may even need to change the overall layout to fit your content. Some translations can be longer or shorter than the original language you are translating from. For example, if you are going to translate “lover” in Russian, it will be “возлюбленный” which is longer than the English word. However, if you will translate it in Chinese, it will simply be “情人”, which is a lot shorter.
Pay close attention to your choice of images, symbols, patterns, and colors on the website and adapt it to the culture of your target market. Take note of the historical, cultural, and religious taboos of the country you are targeting.
5. Help Customers Navigate Your Website
Make sure to make navigating your localized pages easier for your customers with a simple and intuitive web design. You can highlight the language options in the navigation bar to make them more visible.
You should avoid providing language options based on countries and locations. Instead, offer different languages as options to consider multilingual countries. For example, giving “Japan” as a language option for Japanese customers may work but only having “Switzerland” will not be effective considering that they have more than one national language.
6. Test Before Launching and Maintain Your Localized Website
Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect plan or website. So it is only natural to make some mistakes while localizing, especially if you are doing it for the first time. To avoid backlash, make sure to test your localized website first. You can do two types of tests: localization testing (you check Encryption algorithms, Hyperlinks, Form functionality, Load time, etc.) and language testing (you check special characters not displaying correctly, Spelling errors, untranslated strings, etc.).
Maintenance is also an essential part of localizing a website. Once you’ve created the localized version, you need to update it every time you update the original. SEO algorithms and trends also change over time, and updating your localized website according to them is necessary for success in the global market.
As you’ve seen from our article, website localization is more than translating pre-existing text. It implies adjusting your website content and user interface to fit the audience of the country you are targeting.
We hope this article will help you localize your website or even launch a multilingual website from the get-go. Follow these guidelines, and you can increase your business’s chances of success in a new market. If you are the owner of a mobile app, make sure you read our guidelines for mobile app localization.