Customer Insights

A Complete Guide to Website Localization

Do you know the difference between website translation and localization? With unique elements like cultural nuances and regionalisms, website localization can help you create a strong and authentic online experience. Discover more about it here.

Veronica Pastuch's avatar
Veronica Pastuch

January 27, 2023

12 MIN READ

What Is Website Localization?

Simply put, website localization is the process of refining website content through culture, language, and flow to provide the most valuable and relevant experience for users.

Most people equate “localization” with “translation,” but accurate website localization is far more nuanced than simply displaying words in a new language. We’re going to walk you through how to execute a powerful and authentic localization strategy.

The Basics of Website Localization

Localizing a website requires five key elements:

  1. Language and regionalisms ensure that copy, content, and brand voice come through accurately and authentically, making users feel like the site experience has been customized.
  2. Cultural elements of communication like date and time formats, units of measure, and local holidays ensure that websites communicate an understanding of global nuances and make users feel at home on the site.
  3. Transactional elements such as currency, payment options, addresses, and character sets are crucial not only for the local feel of the site but for the accuracy and proper handling of transactions and on-site conversions.
  4. Local communication and trust elements such as phone numbers, local addresses, in-language customer support, legal notices, and security banners may not seem mission-critical. Still, they’re essential to engaging with local audiences. They also ensure that your in-market sales and marketing teams have the information they need to serve your customers.
  5. Navigation and discovery for your translated site are critical to helping users select the language they need and immediately start interacting with your site authentically.

Why Microsites Aren’t Enough

As you expand to international markets with your digital presence, one thing becomes abundantly clear: local markets expect a website experience as fantastic as the one on your flagship site.

It can be tempting to solve the website localization problem with a simplified microsite that takes your company’s essential information, translates it into the local language, and provides an abridged experience to those users. But users regularly abandon websites that don’t provide consistent language experiences or deliver compromised experiences in favor of a simplified approach.

As you extend your global reach into new markets, strike the right balance with powerful website translation that doesn’t compromise the user experience.

How to Localize Your Website In 6 Steps

Step 1: Prepare for Website Localization 

Are you ready to localize your website? To lay a strong foundation, you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • Am I committed to creating a fully authentic, multilingual site, so my users know I’m invested in their experience? (You’ll read more about this in an upcoming section.)
  • Do I have a website team that can support my international digital presence as it scales? A great partner can help make this easy.
  • Are my in-market sales teams asking for a more complete, robust online customer experience? If the demand is there, it might be time to meet it.
  • Do we have valuable, compelling content that can accelerate our global business growth if we can get it into the hands of our local audiences? You’ve already invested in a robust online experience and want to maximize your return.

Step 2: Prepare A Localization Strategy (The Why, Where, Who, What, and How)

Creating localized content for your website is vital for many reasons. A localization strategy focuses on tailoring your website content through subject matter, keywords, and languages to connect with a localized market instead of a global one. Your graphics, the language you write, the topics you cover, and everything else will be specific to a localized market. You can create as many localized strategies as possible based on your target areas.

A common problem many businesses face is treating the localization process as a one-fits-all process. Instead, develop a localization strategy specific to your brand, project, business niche, and target market. When working out a localization strategy, you’ll want to have answers to such questions as:

  • Why is it important to localize your website now, and how does this localization project fit into your brand development and growth?
  • Who are your competitors, and what are they doing to market to your audience? What are the strengths of their efforts, and what are their weaknesses?
  • Who is your target market? Study your target market to see how local customers will receive your localized product or service.
  • What are your primary localization KPIs? Define the goals and progress metrics to measure the success of your localization campaign.
  • What services, platforms, and tools will you use for the localization workflow, and how can a project move forward successfully?

Step 3: Complete Localizations and Manage Workflow

Setting up a solid localization workflow for your website involves many steps, such as website translation, image adaptation, and testing. It also calls for continuous execution of these steps because societal cultures and preferences are never static. Therefore, if you’re embarking on localization for your website, it pays to have a proper workflow backed by powerful automation tools to help you localize your website quickly and adaptively.

Localization workflow and quality assurance (QA) processes ensure you’ll have accurate translations, initially and as your business needs to make updates or changes to content. Depending on the size and scale of the website, the localization process can involve collaborators such as web developers; product managers; copywriters, marketers, translators; and QA specialists and reviewers.

Various translation and localization solutions exist to support the implementation of the localization process, including:

  • Translation APIs automate text translation from one language to another in any multichannel publishing platform without storing or managing translation data. 
  • Translation proxy-based technology provides a hands-off approach to translation and localization needs. Proxy technology leverages the code and content of your website, enabling the translation, deployment, and continuous operation of translated versions, for as many markets as you wish. Proxy systems preserve the website’s functionality and continually update and serve its translated content.
  • Translation connectors automate content transmission between a Content Management System (CMS) and a translation service provider, making translations quicker and more cost-effective. Connectors enable you to exert control over how your translations are crafted and how your brand is presented across languages and markets.

Incorporating localization into your website development in an agile manner has several advantages. First, translations aren’t just done once and are delivered at the end of the development cycle. Instead, they are translated as web pages, and content is being developed. This signifies that once new updates are released, translators or localization teams can simultaneously work on the localization of the changes happening on your website.

Step 4: Determine Your Method of Delivery and Upload

After completing your translations, you’ll need to copy the translated files into your code structure. Quality translation platforms will allow you to pull the translated files ready for use into your application. The next step is to import these translated files into your application and deploy your newly localized website or application with the completed translations.

Whether it’s an in-house server or folders in the cloud, every team works with some kind of file-sharing service. Localization work is tied to private information, so a secure server is necessary. Using a file management tool with version control leads to great benefits. Version control shows a revision log and gives you access to the older versions of the same file. It then saves collaborators from creating several versions of the same file to track changes and allows the user to compare different versions. Version control may also keep your old work in case of corruption or loss of the file in its current version.

Step 5: Enhance for Multilingual SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) increases visibility when people search for your website on Google. The better your website’s visibility in search results, the greater your chances of people clicking and redirecting your website. In addition, the more new people on your website called organic traffic, the more people are likely to avail of your services or products. 

Multilingual SEO is important because Google is different in every language. Therefore, it’s critical to optimize search results differently on each search engine in whichever country you’re targeting your localization, such as Google.co.uk or Google.com.au. Doing so will rank your search results on every type of search engine available in that country. 

Translation alone won’t adjust everything on the page. Therefore, a strong SEO strategy also includes localizing various elements to satisfy search intent properly. These elements include: 

  • Localization dives into the website’s HTML and allows you to adjust each page’s meta title and description. Well-written meta descriptions attract readers and potential customers. When metadata are translated and localized correctly, they sound more authentic, which helps global users trust your site enough to click through.
  • Translating images also impacts SEO since Google utilizes this text and the page’s context to understand what images to display in the image search results. Image alt text is short descriptions (about 125 characters) of pictures on a web page. Translate alt text to allow images to pop up in image searches in the language of your target audience. 
  • Hreflang tags are an HTML attribute used by Google to specify a web page’s language and geographical targeting. Updated hreflang tags create a better user experience for those searching in that specific language and country and are only addressed with SEO localization rather than translation.
  • A Sitemap is a list of web pages created so search engines can easily find your web content to see the newest pages on a website or all the web pages together, including all images and video content. It’s essential to update your sitemap to include the local versions of web pages, so relevant search engines pick them up. A multilingual URL structure indicates that the website is targeted to a specific country, users, and search engines. 

Step 6: Monitor and Continually Optimize

Localization management tools give you visibility into every aspect of your localization projects. This includes tracking the progress of each project, which tasks have been assigned to which stakeholders, analytics on translation quality and the performance of individual translators, and measuring the results of your localization efforts in terms of key performance indicators (KPIs). 

While your translation tools do the heavy lifting of translating your website content for you, you can localize your website more efficiently and effectively by:

  • Create a translation glossary and translation memory “style guide” where you state your preferences for how certain words and phrases should (or should not) be translated. You’ll need to input rules into your translation glossary to construct it manually. Using your website translation solution to translate content will automatically build up translation memory in real-time, a database of previously translated texts that the software references when translating content. 
  • Use your website translation solution’s translation glossary to specify your translation preferences. As a result, you maintain consistent translation across your website and a consistent user experience. This is especially valuable if specific phrases and sentences regularly appear in your website copy.
  • Activating automatic content detection: Your translation tool should have already automatically activated content detection. But if it hasn’t, take a few minutes to set it up! With your translation tool detecting and translating content instantly, you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and time in the long run.

Website Localization Goes Beyond Translation

When you localize, in-market visitors to your site should be able to experience all the elements, concepts, and content that they use in their everyday lives.

That means ensuring your content uses the culturally relevant, preferred terminology, phrases, and slang of your local customers. Literal translations can be obviously out of touch with the local culture and compromise things like SEO and brand integrity.

This approach includes localizing multimedia content, too. For example, having images, video content, and PDFs appearing in the correct local language can enhance brand credibility and encourage interaction with content.

As always, the devil is in the details. Make sure important content on your site is digestible and usable in your global customers’ language—from localized currency and payment options to units of measurement, address formats, and contact information. With these critical localizations in place, your customers won’t miss a beat while spending time on your site.

Think Beyond the Site

Great website localization means thinking beyond the site to the digital assets, content, and channels that make up your international digital presence.

First and foremost, consider how locals will discover your site. Make sure regional search engines know about your new local website so you’re easy to find in search results. Working with a website translation partner that knows SEO can give you an advantage, too, by thinking beyond localized keywords and leveraging advanced technologies like hreflang. This ensures that the translated version of your website correctly displays in your customers’ local search engine results.

The most advanced providers can help with powerful user preference-detection technology for your site that can seamlessly welcome first-time visitors in the language they’re likely to speak and help them find the localized site that best fits their needs.

And make sure your omnichannel content—such as email campaigns, social media posts, and offline assets—is translated, too. Work with a partner that can help you find and localize this content and ensure that it’s connected to your digital presence in all the right ways.

Website Localization Is An Investment In Your Global Business

As you consider ways to adapt your company’s website for local markets, look for solutions that deliver accurate and authentic website translations and offer engagement-boosting localizations.

Managing website localization well requires having world-class translators, powerful technology that can deliver the right localized content to the right audiences, and powerful workflows and translation management tools that make it easy to publish, track, and update your customized content.

Your global business deserves the best digital presence possible. Work with a partner that can elegantly employ website translation and localization to ensure straightforward, effective, and relatable content for every market where you do business.

MotionPoint’s website localization services are ideal for resource-conscious organizations. MotionPoint translates, localizes, and optimizes the world’s most important websites, mobile apps, web applications, and omnichannel content—all with minimal customer effort.

 

Last updated on January 27, 2023
Veronica Pastuch's avatar

About Veronica Pastuch

Throughout her 15-year career leading successful multicultural teams in the website localization industry, Veronica Pastuch has directly contributed to the translation, deployment and ongoing support of more than 1,500 multilingual websites, with an absolute commitment to superior quality and customer satisfaction.

Veronica Pastuch's avatar
Veronica Pastuch

EVP of Translation Operations

12 MIN READ

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