Having a website is just the first step in building your online presence. You need to think of many other things to stand out from your competition. One of those things is website localization. In the simplest terms, it’s about transforming your site to ensure it serves your target users perfectly.
Websites are digital storefronts. They are among the first places your potential customers will interact with your business. For this reason, you must ask yourself if they feel welcome. Are they drawn to your store? Do they understand the language or need a translation?
Considering most online consumers state they are highly likely to purchase from online stores that present product/service information in their native language, and most non-English speakers won’t consider buying from English sites, the importance of website translations can’t be overlooked especially among business owners expanding to international markets.
But website translation is just a tiny part of website localization. There’s more to website localization than what most people think. Let’s start at the beginning.
What Is Website Localization?
Website localization is simply the process of adapting a website’s design, content, and functionality to match the culture, language, and other unique preferences and requirements of a target audience. So, when you localize your site, you are adjusting multiple aspects, from language to cultural preferences/context.
Localization also includes adjustments to related aspects. For instance, when ensuring your site caters to different language translations, you must adjust the layout to allow enough space for different language translations. The same should also be done when using images that represent different target markets.
You may be wondering what kind of site owner needs website localization. Well, site owners who want to offer a better online experience to their different markets or locales need site localization. This allows for great experiences for different audiences (with varying languages, cultures, and other preferences) as opposed to offering one site for all.
What Does “Localizing” Mean?
Localization can be defined as adapting a website to meet the needs/preferences of a particular locale or market. Localizing a site is a critical business decision bound to have an impact on success in a certain market.
To localize effectively, a website owner must understand their target audience in-depth and ensure their products/services match the local standards and core cultural values of their audiences.
Localization demands an in-depth understanding of the customs and practices of different nations being targeted as potential markets.
For instance, for a US company targeting Polish clients, it would be important to take note of practice/cultural differences. Polish people prefer a formal business style, approach, and language. On the other hand, Americans don’t mind a more relaxed/outgoing business style. These must be factored in when creating a website.
How To Localize a Website
So, how do you do effective website localization? What factors should you consider when localizing a site?
1. Define Your Strategy
You need a localization strategy before you begin. This strategy should highlight how you intend to adapt your site’s messaging, content, offerings, language, etc., to meet the preferences and/or needs of your target market.
To do this effectively, begin with market research as part of your strategy-defining process. The research should uncover important information like main language/s, purchasing behaviors, preferred payment methods, social or cultural norms, etc.
Website localization usually precedes expansion. As you seek to serve different markets (hyper-local or global) with your site, you need to do more than the basic language translation process. How you present site information will dictate how appealing your products/services will be to target markets.
When defining your localization strategy, don’t forget to identify the stakeholders who will implement the localization i.e., website designers, developers, and content managers. It also helps to set business goals or KPIs for measuring the effectiveness of your strategy.
2. Localization SEO
Localization SEO focuses on local terminology or keywords. Proper use of such keywords is critical for ranking in local search engines targeting specific markets.
Localized SEO also boosts the overall customer experience (reducing bounce rates in the process). When your site has the language that your target market prefers, they are less likely to leave in a hurry. Localized SEO also builds credibility. Reputation begins with local target markets and grows from there to foreign markets. The best way to build your brand in any market is from the ground up.
But how do you do localized SEO? Well, you can begin with research on common terms used by your target audiences. It can be local idioms, slang, etc., and ensure you use these terms in your content.
You can then proceed and do geotargeting, which is simply using a country or region-specific URL structure. For instance, you can use nomadic.com/US for your American audiences and nomadic.com/DE for your German audiences.
Hreflang tags (HTML code bits) are also great for ensuring search engines like Google index your website content in other languages. Ensure you include these bits of code to tell Google there are X language versions of your site pages available.
Local Landing Pages SEO
When doing localized SEO, also remember to translate every critical element of your site (i.e., from meta descriptions and title tags to image alt tags and URLs). Landing pages also need local/regional keywords of exact locations.
It also helps to understand search engine preferences in different markets. For instance, Google is popular globally but is firewalled in countries like China. In such a market, Baidoo and Yandex are preferred. Your site should, therefore, be optimized as per such search engine preferences.
3. Content Localization
Content localization goes beyond mere language translations. It is about tailoring content around local clientele, their beliefs, and values. The content must meet the wants, desires, needs, and culture of a target country or region. It must also “speak the language” of potential buyers in the region/country in question. This will require language localization.
What is Language Localization?
Language localization focuses on adapting the product/service translation to the specific region/country. It ensures language translations of products/services are in line with the differences in specific markets.
Effective Content Localization
To do effective content localization, you must have a target region or country in mind. You should then consult with people familiar with the daily life/activities/preferences of your target market. Instead of using translation tools, such an expert will help uncover societal preferences and other metrics critical in coming up with truly localized content that converts.
Once you have an audience in mind and their preferences, needs, wants, etc., you can choose specific content to localize. This should be content that performs well in the region. Remember to include photography and graphical elements that match that region. It may take hiring content localization experts to cover all aspects perfectly.
4. Design Localized Pages
In the past, website owners would design a website first with one language (i.e., English) and then think about translating the site to other languages after website development. However, this seemingly common approach is slower and more costly.
These cons are preventable by translating a site early in the design stage as opposed to translating during the last stages. We suggest that you account for text contraction and expansion that is inevitable when translating sites to different languages. Some languages i.e., German, are wordier than English. Non-Latin languages like Japanese and Chinese expand vertically, requiring image and layout designs that account for such expansions or don’t change regardless of the language.
Design localization experts can advise on the site design and development aspects to consider, as well as tools needed to make design localization faster and easier. Website design and development experts can also take you through how website designs will change based on your target market.
5. Internationalization Website
Internationalization is also part of the website localization process. It refers to designing and developing a site to adapt and localize to different regions, cultures, and languages. Internationalization differs from localization in execution and where the process happens. For instance, both processes complement each other. However, internationalization happens once during software design and development.
It affects the front end and prepares the codebase to accept different configurations depending on the target language. Internationalization eliminates the hard coding of each language every time a translation is required. Code is replaced with placeholders that automatically retrieve a foreign language without demanding fundamental engineering changes.
What’s more, internationalization allows cultural formatting such as time zones, number formats & systems, text formatting, and more. The actual process of internationalizing a site involves placing code into your site that detects system preferences automatically, among other metrics like location settings and domain for target audiences.
This is critical for detecting which site language to use. The code also has fallback rules i.e., default language settings (like UK English for European countries) important for a pleasant website experience.
Internationalization can be a challenging process for website owners. It requires some expertise in website design and development. It also helps to be knowledgeable on CMS and website-building tools
6. Localization Workflows
In many instances, typical translations will take many words out of context. The importance of a comprehensive process can’t, therefore, be overlooked. Localization workflows can be defined as the processes of adapting/translating content to another language or cultural context.
They involve several steps, from file preparation to actual translation, editing, quality checks, and delivery. These steps are handled by groups of people (or collaborators) like software developers, translators, copywriters, marketers, reviewers, and quality assurance specialists.
Since there’s no single guide that fits all scenarios, you need to follow best practices for workflows to enjoy the best outcome.
Localization workflows are best created and managed by special software using localization best practices to automate workflows, establish a collaborative environment, and guarantee high-quality and consistent translations.
You need a website localization expert to guide you in creating and managing localization workflows, including picking the right software.
7. Web Localization
Web localization involves localizing a website from a design and development perspective. The focus is on adapting site design aspects, code, and functionality to fit the cultural and linguistic needs of a target audience.
It can involve other audience requirements. Translations can affect content navigation menus. Some design aspects also need to be adapted to your target audience’s culture. For instance, it may involve changes in color, font, image, and layout to make the site more appealing.
Other aspects for website designers and developers to consider in localization include using character encoding, which supports a target language. The right localization platform should also be used to automate processes.
Responsive design is also critical to ensure a site looks perfect on all devices, especially those popular in a region. Lastly, web localization should include testing to ensure all design and development aspects are working perfectly.
Website Localization Best Practices
There are many other factors to consider when doing website localization. Don’t miss out on our professional recommendations to ensure your localized website can get ahead of the competition:
- Translating web pages: We’ve not covered the actual translation. When it’s time to translate the site language, you can do machine translation or human translation to change content on your site to another language. As the name suggests, machine translation doesn’t include human intervention.Different methods will be recommendable for different scenarios. For instance, machine translation software is good for simple sentence/idea translations. However, we recommend human translators when translating complex sentences or ideas that can be easily taken out of context. Human translations also work best for creative language and business-specific communication.
- Measuring website localization efforts: A website localization process shouldn’t be completed without measuring results. As mentioned earlier, a good strategy dictates that you have a way of measuring progress. We suggest you use automated tools and measure important aspects like conversion rates, market share, social engagement in different languages, SEO keyword performance for specific markets, and more.
- Legal considerations: Lastly, it’s worth noting that different regions/countries may have unique regulations on localization-related factors like content privacy, data protection, terms of service, etc. You must factor such things into translations and your overall localization strategy. This may require hiring a local legal expert in the region to oversee the process.
Looking for Website Localization Services?
The benefits of localized websites include increased engagement and revenue when venturing into new markets. We’ve discussed the most important localization factors to consider and how to do website localization like a pro. While you can implement the above steps on your own, you are free to consult experts if you lack time and/or need guidance.
We happen to be website localization experts ourselves. Nomadic Advertising offers website localization services to clients in Canada, the US, and beyond. Book a FREE consultation, and let’s help you navigate the website localization process.
Our localization team does web design and development with localization in mind (SEO -search engine optimization-, UX -user experience-, and more) to ensure your business expands to other markets with ease. Get in touch with us and let’s discuss your localization project and ideal localization budget.
- Website localization is the process of adapting a website’s design, content, and functionality to match the cultural, language, and other unique preferences and requirements of a target audience.
- Site owners who want to offer a better online experience to their different markets or locales need site localization.
- Benefits of localized websites include expanding global reach (international customers), increasing customer engagement, building brand credibility, customer loyalty and boosting conversion rates and sales.
- How do you localize a website? Start by defining your localization strategy, performing localization SEO, content localization, designing localized pages, performing website internationalization, preparing localization workflows, doing web localization, translating web pages, and measuring your localization efforts.