5 things to consider when localizing your website

 by anthony on  |
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If you want your business to go global, then you already know that your target audience needs to be able to understand what you’re trying to say and what you're about. Well, we’re here to tell you that a multilingual website is your gateway to a global audience and localization is the master key.

You might have heard the term “localization” tossed around at some point, but we’re guessing you either didn't know what it was or stuck it in the same box as translation. Not the case! Where translation fails, localization excels. It allows you to adapt and tailor your content to really speak to your target audience in a way they can resonate with; none of this robotic charm that can scare off potential customers.

Hopefully, we’ve captured your intrigue and you want to learn more. So here come some tasty bits for you to chew on:

1. What languages should you translate your site to?

The languages of your existing (and potential) customers will vary, and not all of them will natively speak the language of your site. If you can translate your site to the language of each of your existing customers, you’ll make their stay on your website much more comfortable and increase your prospects of getting them to return. As for potential customers, you’ll have a much better chance to land them if you can show them the goods in their own language.

A study by the European Commission found that 90% of people will choose a site in their native language where possible and 42% will never buy from a site unless information is available in their mother tongue. That’s almost half of “foreign” visitors you’re not selling to! By translating your content, you’re catering for existing customers and encouraging repeat visits from high quality traffic. The growth in quality traffic will also give your business a great opportunity to generate more leads and potentially improve your conversions.

That doesn’t mean you should attack the problem with a scattergun approach, you’ll need to do some research to find out what languages represent the most traffic to your site and go from there. It makes sense that the biggest traffic-drivers should be the ones you focus on.

Finding your best languages isn’t a difficult process and the inherently measurable nature of digital will allow you access to precise metrics on which to base your decisions. Tools such as Google Analytics or your website CMS can help you find the data you need and enable you to start building your localization strategy accordingly.

2. What level of translation does your site need?

Your site will have different translation needs for each page and post, depending on how important the content is. Machine translation platforms, like Google Translate, can translate your content instantly for the end user but don't take context into account. This often leads to muddled, confusing and inferior quality content with no tone of voice. Needless to say, you should only ever use these tools on generic content that doesn’t really need a human touch or watchful eye.

For any sensitive and important content on your site, you should always look to use a professional translation for a higher quality end product. This means you’ll have to knock the cobwebs off of your piggybank and start investing some money – either in-house or by outsourcing – to get a level of translation that will add the context and tone of voice that would otherwise be missing.

This isn’t just a general statement we're putting out there. A survey by the Common Sense Advisory showed that 72% of customers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language. While this is a promising figure, an article by Hubspot states that poor grammar or spelling can result in loss of sales. So yes, while your website will look much more professional and trustworthy with a better level of translation, you’ll also reduce the risk of losing sales. Bottom line: it makes sense!


3. Should you localize in-house or outsource?

Localizing your website in-house means you’ll need to have the expertise already at your disposal, something which the majority of you reading this post won’t have. With this in mind, the option of outsourcing the entire localization process to experts will not only save you time and money, it will also result in a more successful localization of your site. Without the right people in your business, you can spend all the time in the world localizing your site and still come out with the wrong end result.

If you are looking at localizing in-house, consider how long it would take to translate just one 500 word post on your site into another language. We’re not talking about a straight-up translation, but a meaningful, quality one as we mentioned in point #2. Now, apply that timeframe to translating content across your whole site. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it?

Localizing your own website is always going to be a time and resource-heavy endeavor which carries significant costs. This may be of no concern to your business if you’ve got substantial resources to play with, but if you’re a smart business (and we don’t doubt that you are) you’ll always look for the fastest, most economically-viable option that represents the best value and end product. In a nutshell, outsourcing represents a comparatively affordable option when you count up the full costs associated with in-house localization.

4. Will localization affect the user experience (UX) of your site?

Once you’ve decided on all of the above, you’ll need to make sure that the UX of your site is just as good (if not, better) after the process as it was before. The elements that attracted site traffic in the first place can’t be lost during localization, with the format and structure retaining their “eye-catchiness”. Relying on a tool like Google Translate means your visitors will be served content which may not match the original format, simply because words and phrases can change in length when translated to other languages. This can cause havoc with things like paragraph structure and the overall visual quality of your site.

You also need to work out on what areas of your site a localized UX would be beneficial and add value to the UX of your visitors. Things such as the color of landing pages, currency icons and the font being displayed will all have an effect on the UX and you should always localize these where possible. For example, If your visitor is from the United Kingdom, your site shouldn’t display dollar prices or the American flag. Investing in an external localization platform that comes with these features would completely eliminate the potential for such errors. This also includes any images displayed on your site, which a machine translation won’t be able to do anything with.

5. How will your business localize and translate new content going forward?

You can certainly give yourself a big pat on the back once you’ve localized the existing content on your site, but that’s just the beginning. Now, you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to manage and sustain the process for all of your wonderful future content. This is where it gets tricky, as in-house localization would require a huge resource pool to continuously monitor the process, particularly if you've translated to more than just one or two languages.

Again, if you have the resources to do this it won’t be a problem. But outsourcing the process would afford your business the luxury of being able to work as normal, safe in the knowledge that your new content is being constantly translated and made relevant for your target audience. Not all localization platforms offer this function, but in a shameless self-plug we can tell you that Localizer does! Our “Automated Tasks” feature on the Localizer dashboard allows you to set up rules and ensure all new content is autonomously translated in accordance what you need.

Final Word

Expanding your business to reach a global audience is never going to be an easy task and you’ll need a sound strategy to execute it. Your website is the window to showcase your business to new audiences and must be capable of communicating on their terms. You’ll need to do quite a bit of research to discover exactly what it is you do and do not need to implement successful localization. Considering the time, money and personnel required for in-house localization, we believe it’s much more economically-viable to outsource the process and be assured of top quality localization.


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