Marketing Strategies

The Difference Between Translation and Localization—and Why You Need Both

Your global success hinges on how authentically you communicate in your customers’ local languages.

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August 15, 2017


If your company is expanding into new global markets, it’s mission-critical to make your website available in your new customers’ preferred languages.

Traditional website translation will certainly generate interest among these customers—but to create genuine connections that lead to conversions, you’ll need localization, too.

Most folks use the terms translation and localization interchangeably, but there’s an important difference between the two. If you ignore that difference, you’ll miss out on an effective way to optimize your web content for global customers.

The Importance of Translation

Anyone who has traveled overseas knows the value of communicating in the “greatest hits” phrases of the local language: Please, Thank you, How much is it? and the like. But if you weren’t fluent in the language, you probably became frustrated, fast, by your inability to communicate when it mattered most.

Your customers face a similar challenge when interacting with your business online. They need a website that “speaks their language” so they can easily grasp what you’re saying. There’s no room for frustration or confusion. If they experience friction, they’ll often leave your site before converting.

Brass tacks: Websites in local languages yield better market responses than those that aren’t.

Your global customers can’t experience friction when they visit your website. If they do, they’ll abandon it.

Though it’s possible to use translation software like Google Translate to convert your web content into other languages, it’s widely considered a best practice to employ human translators whenever possible. People are simply more effective at crafting and editing translations for accuracy and nuance than computerized systems.

Localization Drives Engagement

Localization goes beyond the linguistic word-for-word conversion of conventional translation and instead uses words and phrases that resonate within specific markets.

Region-neutral translations are very effective, but this customized approach is often way more persuasive to particular global consumers.

For instance, consider the differences the words “trousers” and “slacks.” The words are identical in meaning, but one resonates far better in the UK than in the United States. When you communicate to specific regional markets with phrasing that’s uniquely relevant to them, you increase the likelihood of your brand being fully understood and accepted.

With authentic localizations, skeptical global customers can become your biggest buyers.

But localization can go beyond word choice. Savvy marketers often customize their multilingual websites to highlight special holidays, celebrations or customs in global markets. This illustrates a fluency in a local market’s culture, which quickly generates customer trust.

Other examples of localization include creating special promotions for specific markets, or crafting unique trust-building messaging to establish credibility in brand-new markets.

In the early days of serving a global market, it’s not uncommon for a company to be greeted with some local skepticism. How committed is this company to my market and needs?, these local customers often wonder. But when brands use localized content, they don’t appear opportunistic. They appear authentic.

The Solution You Need Is Within Reach

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

Publishing market-relevant localizations across many multilingual websites is more challenging than it sounds. It requires powerful technology that can customize website code to present the appropriate localized content to the right customers. It demands translation-management technologies that easily publish, track and update that customized content, too.

And it requires world-class translators who are fluent in languages, cultures and customs.

Look for vendors that can elegantly employ both website translation and localization to ensure clear, effective, relatable content for every market where you do business.

Photo credit: bellena/Shutterstock

Last updated on August 15, 2017

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