Posted: Tue 14th Dec 2021
If you’re looking to attract and engage with customers overseas, your website is probably the first thing about your business they’ll see. But does your site “speak their language”?
Your website as global shop window
To cater to customers across the world, you need to make sure people of different cultures and languages can access your website easily. This is especially true of customers in the regions and markets you’re trying to sell to. Your aim is for all visitors to your website to have a good experience.
It’s said that over 70% of internet users won’t buy online if the information they read isn’t in their native language. This is why translating your website content is an important step towards having that global shop window.
But the work doesn’t stop there. When it comes to websites, translation alone can leave some key technical, cultural and branding elements behind, especially if you use machine translation with no human checks. This is where localisation takes your website to the next level.
What is localisation?
Localisation means making technical changes to a software product so it can serve a specific language or region.
This not only includes translating content, but also adapting currencies, measurements, date format, symbols, colours, navigation, coding, search engine optimisation (SEO) keywords and more.
For example, did you know that the ‘thumbs up’ symbol is considered offensive in the Greek culture?
If your website includes images and icons, make sure they have the same meanings and connotations in your target markets. If they’re likely to offend certain readers, and not have the same impact as other symbols would, replace them. The same goes for colours.
Another important task in website localisation is adapting SEO keywords. It’s easy to think that simply translating your English keywords into the language of the target country would be enough.
However, how do you know your target audience abroad will be typing that same keyword or key phrase into the search engine?
Take the word ‘jumper’, for example. Someone in the UK might type this word when looking for a warm item of clothing. An American, on the other hand, would probably type ‘sweater’, as to them a jumper is someone who jumps out of buildings!
If you choose to use machine translation when translating your website, keep in mind that Google will likely identify your content as ‘machine-made’. And because of this, Google won’t rank the content high up in its search results. This isn’t good for your marketing!
What are the benefits of a localised website?
Localising your website for your target markets has two types of benefits.
Benefits for website owners:
More customers, more users and more products sold
Return on investment
Increased customer trust
Benefits for website users:
A website that’s easier to understand
A better experience
Increased trust in a brand
How much should we localise?
There are different levels to website localisation, which we explain below. The level you choose ultimately depends on your company’s goals for international growth, your target countries and your budget.
Standardised: Same content for domestic and international audiences and users have no choice of language. This is also known as ‘internationalised’.
Semi-localised: Only the contact page differs between languages.
Localised: Most content and pages are localised.
Highly localised: All content, and the site’s structure, is fully adapted and there are URLs specific to different countries.
Culturally adapted: Total immersion in the target region, reflecting the audience’s perception, symbolism and behaviour.
What’s involved in localising a website?
A comprehensive project to localise your website would usually involve the steps set out below.
A language service provider (LSP) can help you with this. An LSP can be an agency, a company or an individual that offers one or a variety of language services.
Analysing the website and determining what level of localisation you need and expect
Scheduling and budgeting: What tasks are required? How long will they take? How much will it cost?
Reviewing existing language glossaries or creating new ones
Preparing source material (the files the LSP will be working with)
Translating the content
Doing keyword research and implementing keywords for the target countries
Localising design and graphic elements
Carrying out quality assurance to make sure the brief has been followed, there are no mistranslations etc.
Testing the localised website, looking for any issues with language and functionality
Reviewing and making any necessary changes
Working closely with your LSP is key, so make sure you establish a good working relationship from the beginning and set clear expectations.
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