Welcome back for part two of our series on “The Importance of Website Localization In A Global Marketplace”! If you missed part 1, be sure to catch up on why translation should be included in your digital strategy when exporting and conducting business internationally.
In this second installment we will be diving into the details of, drum roll please…
If you are considering translating your website and need to learn what goes into a website localization project, then this post is for you.
We will cover:
- Machine translation vs Professional translation
- Technical considerations for website localization
- Budget factors for localization projects
By the end of this post you have a firm grasp on exactly what goes into a website localization project and will be able to assess your current website to determine exactly how in depth you need to go.
We see the localization process on a sliding scale. You can do a basic translation of your website content or you can get into a very advanced localization project that addresses all the details of your site such as colors and images.
The level of detail is completely subjective depending on your business and your target market. Our goal is to arm you with the knowledge you need to create an educated localization plan for your organization to be successful on the global stage.
Let’s get started:
Humans Vs Machine Translation
Before we dive into the details of website localization, you may be wondering why localization is even necessary when services like Google Translate make it so easy to translate your website…for free!
Google Translate has a very convenient plug in that you can install in your website so that users can translate it automatically. Even if you don’t have the plug in, Google typically pops up asking users if they want Google to translate it for them.
Some even use Google Translate and then place the translated text into their content management system.
The thing is, you are giving up all control when you do this and you have no idea how the translation is being conveyed.
Google Translate can be great for personal use, but we advise against it for any use in a professional environment and especially for publication on a website.
Simple – Machine translated content will negatively impact your SEO.
Google Translate does not produce high quality translations.
To rank high in the search engines, you need to optimize your content (search engine optimization aka SEO).
A successful SEO strategy is built on high quality content.
If your translated content is low quality, the search engines will rank you poorly and you’re less likely to be found.
Remember in part 1 when we discussed how users are searching the internet in their native language? Well, they aren’t going to find you if your translation is poor quality.
Professional translation services and tools on the other hand….
These will ensure you are publishing high quality translations that accurately convey the meaning and intent of your source text.
Professional translation tools support translators in creating and maintaining glossary and industry/company specific terminology and ensures consistency across all projects.
Furthermore, a keyword in English is not necessarily the same in your target language. There are always multiple ways to translate a given word or phrase so what users are searching for in English may be different in say, French.
When you work with a professional translation agency, you’ll be able to consult with in-country experts to determine the best approach to be sure that you are being found online, anywhere in the world.
Website Localization Technical Considerations
A website localization project involves much more than translation of text. Localization encompasses everything from your site structure to the types of imagery you use.
We will begin by addressing some of the major technical considerations. This is not an all-encompassing list but will give you a great foundation and understanding of the full breadth of a localization project.
How are you going to structure your website to support multiple languages?
Deciding on a multilingual structure is a big decision as it will have a long-term impact on your SEO.
You have several options including:
- Country code top-level domain.
Country code top-level domains are quite popular as they are tied to a specific country and it can show that you have a more serious local presence which builds trust and authority.
There is no right or wrong here, it depends on your intent and goals as with any strategy. Do your research and talk with your IT team and consult with your translation agency partner.
As we discussed in part 1 of this series, mobile web browsing is extremely popular with 53% of internet users accessing information through mobile devices.
Furthermore, in a lot of developing economies, mobile is the only option to browse the internet.
This advice goes for all websites, no matter the language – make sure your site is optimized for mobile
In the United States, we are used to a lightning-fast 4G network.
This is not the case for countries across the globe.
Did you know that many developing economies are still operating on a 3G network? That means their connection is much slower than ours.
If you’re website has very large photos or videos that may slow down the site load time, you may want to strip it down to a more simple interface for other countries. Although their connection may be slower, they have the same expectations as us when it comes to wanting sites to load quickly.
Once you offer multiple language options for your website, how will you make it clear to the user that they have a choice?
You can add an option on the top of the web page or depending on how many languages you offer, you may have the first screen that pops up be a language choice.
You can also set up your website to identify the location of the user and offer the appropriate language option (see example below). If you have browsed the web while in another country, you have likely experienced this yourself and had to manually change it to the English version.
Preparing For A Website Localization Project
Now that we’ve covered technical considerations, let’s take a deeper dive into how to prepare for a website localization project before you even approach any translation agencies.
All the factors we discuss below will play a role in your budget. Your localization project can range from simple to highly technical and complex.
The level of complexity and intricacy you put into your multilingual website depends on your organization, your target audience, and your overall business strategy.
You don’t have to implement every suggestion we discuss but we believe that the more awareness you have around what could be done, the more prepared you will be when speaking with translation agencies to collaborate on the best suited plan for your website.
This, in turn, will give you more control over your budget.
The first and most obvious budget factor and decision when localizing your website is the languages you will be translating in to!
The more languages you translate in to, the more cost that will be added. Price per language varies as well.
We suggest that you perform a content audit of your website before moving forward with any translation.
First and foremost, make sure you read through your English content with a fine-toothed comb! Make sure it is up to date, proofread, and written a manner that you are completely happy with.
A translation is only ever as good as its source text so, for the best results, write great content!
(PS. This goes for all translation projects. It may seem obvious but you’d be surprised how often this is overlooked. Read over the English before moving forward with translation. OK?)
You should also consider how numeric formats are presented on your website and be sure that those are localized. Numeric formats include:
- Phone numbers
Almost all countries outside of the U.S. use the metric system and have a different standard for writing out anything listed above so you’ll want to convert accordingly.
Take stock of what types of imagery you currently have on your website. Will these images resonate with your target audience and their cultural norms?
Maybe the majority of your imagery is of a your product and you don’t have to do much adjusting.
But if you have a lot of images with people – for example, groups of white males – all over, you may want to consider replacing them with photos of people that more accurately represent the demographic you are targeting.
A deep dive into understanding the culture and environment you are targeting with help with this tremendously.
Are you targeting a South American country? Hispanics are typically family oriented so maybe you add in some more imagery that reflects groups of friends and families versus individuals.
Colors & Cultures & Numbers, Oh My!
Did you know that colors have different meanings across different cultures and traditions?
Here are a couple examples of how the interpretations vary:
Western – Varies from danger, love, anger, and holiday’s like Valentines Day and Christmas
China – Color of good luck and celebration, used in many ceremonies from funerals to weddings
Western – Happiness, joy, hope, and caution at times
China – sacred, royalty, honor, masculine color
BLACK may symbolize death in western culture but WHITE is the color of death in parts of Asia.
WHITE is a bridal color in the west but RED is the bridal color in China. RED symbolizes joy in parts of Asia, but it signifies mourning in parts of Africa.
BLUE is generally considered a globally neutral color, which is why so many large multinationals use blue as their main branding color.
We’re not saying that you need to completely re-brand your website because you realize that green is strongly associated with Islam in the Middle East and you don’t want to isolate any religious groups in a tumultuous region.
Do your best to understand the culture that you will be working with and make small tweaks as your see fit.
It’s about making the effort to putting yourself in your clients shoes. Maybe you don’t make any color adaptations on your website but maybe, just maybe, it will be a great topic of conversation when you travel to meet prospective partners and clients.
The Use Of Numbers
We discussed numeric formats but now we’re talking about numbers themselves. Yes, even numbers have different meanings and interpretations across cultures.
Take 666 as an example. It’s viewed as the “devils number” here in the U.S. How about the notion that 13 is unlucky?
Other countries have their own versions of these.
Take this as an example - A golf ball manufacturing company packaged golf balls in packs of four for convenient purchase in Japan. Unfortunately, pronunciation of the word “four” in Japanese sounds like the word “death” and items packaged in fours are unpopular. Once they changed the packaging to three balls, sales increased dramatically.
Keep It Simple!
Please don’t feel overwhelmed by all this information. Take what you need and leave the rest.
When all else fails, keep it simple! Even the smallest adaptations will go a long way on the global stage.
If you’re going to invest time, money, and resources into selling on the international stage then invest in your brand and its reputation through professional localization services.
By offering your content and brand in a country’s native language, you convey a respect for the culture’s history, customs, and language. And respect will take you far in the global business world.
Want the information we discussed in an easy to follow questionnaire? Click the button below to download our one-pager that will help your organization get organized!