Website localization is essential for any company whose site has an international target audience. It refers to the process of getting your website localized for multiple languages in your target markets.
It includes translating static text on your website into another language and adapting your site's user interface (UI) and business practices to better represent the local culture of specific regions.
When you consider that 40% of individuals refuse to buy from a website unavailable in their local language, it’s crucial to make your website as accessible as possible.
Moreover, 65% of consumers prefer receiving information in their local language, even if it's of lesser quality. It shows that there is existing demand for localization, and businesses must meet that demand to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.
In this article, we'll discuss how you can benefit from localizing your website for multiple regions, the prerequisites for this process, and how to implement it successfully.
Benefits of website localization
There are several benefits of localizing your website for different regions, including the following:
Enter new markets with ease and gain a competitive edge
When you localize your website, you're expanding your audience beyond English speakers. This means you'll be able to enter international markets and reach more people who require your offerings.
Even though 60% of websites are only available in English, only 25.9% of users speak English. This indicates a massive gap in the global market waiting to be tapped.
Plus, users don’t have to rely on online translation tools to understand what you offer, making your intended message stick. Ultimately, it increases your site’s conversion rate and business’s revenue.
Even if you don't have an immediate plan to expand overseas, website localization will help you grow your business without investing in physical expansion resources.
Improve your website’s user experience
Localization enables people who don't speak English to use your website, so they’ll give you more page views and conversions. For example, if a German user accesses your ecommerce website in English, they might need help understanding what you do, what you sell, or how to make a purchase.
Moreover, if the website is merely translated, it may offer a confusing user experience if the following is not localized:
- Size measurement (EU sizes vs. US sizes)
- Preferred currency (conversion is variable)
- Preferred local payment options
All these aspects tend to impact the overall experience and, in turn, prevent users from making a purchase.
Build customer trust and loyalty
Localizing your website helps you build customer trust and loyalty by providing a personalized experience that matches a user's preferences and language skills. Plus, when you comply with the specific region's privacy and security guidelines, customers trust you more.
It also helps increase sales by helping you target the right audience with localized ads and website content, which can lead to higher conversion rates.
Enterprises like KFC have been doing this for years. They create local versions of their sites in multiple languages for each country where they operate. It allows customers to find locally relevant products in their own language.
KFC’s French website displays text in French, and currency in Euros with relevant localized terms
KFC’s United States website displays text in English with relevant localized holiday deals
Drive revenue and brand growth
Ultimately, all these aspects add up to positively impact your bottom line. You'll expand your website's presence and, in turn, your business's presence. This expansion creates more awareness, attracts more users, and drives revenue.
For example, Napta, a resource and skills management SaaS tool, increased its rankings for its new German website, despite only being a month old.
Estelle Barthés, Marketing Manager at Napta, says, "We started optimizing the blog content one month ago. Even though our domain is super new, we already gained a lot of positions with our main keywords. Really encouraging!"
An increase in keyword positions from the time Napta's team began localizing their website in German
Prerequisites of website localization
Before starting the localization process, getting a handle on a few things beforehand is vital. Here are some prerequisites for the process:
Identify demand by speaking to internal teams
The website localization process is a huge undertaking. It goes beyond the translation of your content and involves the following:
- Modifying the site’s underlying code to enable internationalization
- Translation of the site's content and making it culturally relevant
- Adapting the site’s UI to make it more relevant to different user bases
Getting the job done requires time, money, and a workforce. For this reason, it's vital to understand if there's an existing demand in the first place.
To gauge that, you need to speak to internal teams like marketing, sales, and customer support. They’ll be able to give you an estimate of which regions users are contacting them from, what languages they speak, and more.
Understand your market and target audience
Once you identify which regions show some demand, you must conduct thorough market and audience research.
Matthew Ramirez, Founder of Rephrasely, says, "Analyze your business goals and target audience to determine where you need to localize. This includes researching the demographics, culture, and language of the people who will be visiting the website. This is the single most important step because it will help you determine your localization efforts.”
It’ll help you understand:
- The kinds of languages they speak
- The cultural nuances of the region
- Other regions that speak similar languages
- How your product or service can benefit those users
- Whether you need to modify your offering and price point
- How much ROI you can expect from the process
Once you have all this information, it'll become easier to determine which market is worth going after and why you need to prioritize specific markets right now.
Account for key elements before implementation
Here are a few key elements that lead to a successful localization process:
- Language and regionalism: Translate the website copy, content, and UI elements into the target language—for example, the main website copy, the page content, images, and videos.
- Cultural nuances: Account for different cultural nuances like date and time systems, metric systems, local holidays, and phrases to avoid.
- Payment systems: Ensure that the correct currency is displayed, legally approved payment options are available, and accurate address boxes are available.
Payment options and currency differ for the same product depending on the region
- Communications systems: You need to translate terms of service, privacy notices, addresses, and phone number formats. You must also ensure that your marketing and sales teams have relevant sales content in those languages.
- User navigation: Users need to be able to access different languages readily, which is why you need to place these elements at the right touchpoints.
Users can access localized versions of Napta’s website in UK English, French, and German
Create a comprehensive localization strategy
Once you have all the information, you need to create a robust website localization strategy. It involves finalizing what needs to be localized, what resources you need, the project management framework, and tentative timelines.
You also need to account for potential roadblocks in the process and prepare for them. Here's what a few experts have to say:
Robert Brandl, Founder of ToolTester.com, says that before conducting this process, there are certain questions you need to ask:
- Where should the website be hosted to make sure it's fast-loading?
- Do specific legal requirements (GDPR or country-specific privacy regulations) need to be considered?
- How will international customer support be managed?
- Are you going to charge prices in local currency?
- Who will take care of international SEO?
Nicole Tang, Senior Program Manager of Finder.com, says, “The most important thing is to have a translator on board. This goes beyond the actual translation of your content and includes helping you understand the cultural nuances around how to position your website so that it hits the mark with your target audience.”
Mia Comic, Content Marketer at Instrumentl, says these are the most challenging aspects of the process:
- Finding experienced translation teams who can produce high-quality localized content
- Inconsistencies in localized content, such as mismatched images or design elements
- Search engine optimization for different languages
- Ensuring brand consistency across multiple markets and languages
So, account for these aspects beforehand and then kickstart the process.
7 steps to localize your website seamlessly
Here are seven essential steps to kickstart the website localization project:
Internationalize your website
It’s best to internationalize the website first before moving into localization. It is the foundational element for the entire process, as both the front and back ends are modified to accommodate localization efforts.
Essentially, developers account for this when the website is initially created and employ standards like Unicode to simplify this process. Issues like decimals, currency, date formats, or string character limits are taken care of during this step.
Here are a few more things they account for:
- Separating UI elements from the source code of content
- Support for right-to-left and left-to-right lettering
- Ability to adapt to different regional preferences
- Presentation of information on the site
- Handling of data based on regional requirements
Moreover, it reduces the upfront costs of localization as most of the groundwork has been done beforehand. Many content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Wix, Webflow, and more have this functionality built into their interface or integrate with Smartling, but it can depend on which one you choose. While some may support 20 languages, others only support 3 languages.
Different CMS platforms vary in their support for different languages
If you've already created a website and are now localizing it, it's best to change the underlying architecture before getting started.
Optimize the website’s elements
For website localization, you need to optimize the website's user interface to cater to different regions. This process includes changing the layout and style of buttons, text boxes, and other elements on the page.
It also means that you must adjust your product descriptions, shipping information, and payment methods for each country so customers can easily use them.
Jameela Ghann, Marketing Consultant at she[EMPOWERS] says, “The UI is what people see and interact with when they visit a website. If the UI is not properly translated, people may have difficulty navigating the website or understanding its content. This is especially true when you localize websites where text is originally read left to right to languages where text is read right to left!”
When converting left-to-right to right-to-left languages (or vice versa), you need to account for text placement on the site.
Amazon’s USA website favors a right-to-left user experience
Amazon’s UAE website favors a left-to-right user experience
Irrespective of the language, you need to factor in how much the text will shrink or expand. For example, the text can expand by 25% when you convert English to Spanish. But for languages like Chinese or Korean, it contracts.
Letters in different languages occupy different amounts of space, which impacts website UI
Create a robust localization workflow
Creating a localization workflow to have a streamlined process in place is essential, saving time and effort down the line. To achieve this, you need to identify who will be responsible for different stages of the process.
Typically, these professionals are involved:
- Translators: Responsible for translating the content and making it culturally relevant
- Copywriters: Responsible for writing the content based on the brand’s offerings and style guide
- Marketers: Responsible for verifying the messaging of the content
- Product managers: Responsible for verifying the technicalities of the content
- Quality assurance teams: Responsible for reviewing the technicalities of the website
Next, you can decide which localization workflow to use for your business. Depending on the size and scale of the project/website, there are two workflows you can use:
- Waterfall localization: It's a workflow in which the process's later stages depend upon earlier stages. Localization is done only when the website is complete.
- Continuous localization: It’s a continuous process where localization happens simultaneously as content updates are deployed.
Ideally, continuous localization would be the best option, as you don't have to delay the website's launch. Moreover, you will continuously update your website, so having a workflow in place to localize it works best. Implement an automated localization
Implement an automated localization process
An automated localization workflow is essential because it can save money, time, and resources. For example, if you're working with a team of translators, then the time it takes for them to translate content into other languages can add up quickly.
Automated tools can translate texts faster than humans because they don't need rest breaks or additional training. Moreover, you can use these tools 24 hours a day, meaning there's no limit on how many translations you can get done in one day.
However, it’s important to note that there needs to be a healthy balance between the two. You do need human translators and reviewers to look over the content before it goes live in order to lower the error rate.
For example, DialPad, a business communications platform, was able to translate its content with the help of Smartling. Their content required <1% of the strings to be edited, indicating a high accuracy rate.
Book a meeting with Smartling to learn more about automating your localization process.
Translate individual web pages
While website localization doesn't mean website translation, translation does make up a considerable part of the process. To ensure high accuracy and efficient use of resources, you need to translate individual web pages one at a time. This way, you can monitor each aspect of the process with ease.
Swapnil Pate, SaaS SEO Consultant, says, "The most overlooked aspect of website localization is making the on-page copy contextual to the users from that region. It could be from a language POV wherein you need to make the messaging more colloquial or add images/infographics/data specific to that locale."
Plus, it can take a lot of work to keep track of all the changes that have been made. You can avoid repeating the same changes across multiple pages, which means less time spent on translation and more time spent on improving your site's usability and performance.
Test each component before the launch
Once you have completed the translation process, it’s time to test each localized or translated component and web page before going live.
Testing your site is crucial to improving its quality and ensuring that your target audience can use it successfully. It'll help you avoid mistakes such as missing translations or typos that could be costly.
You need to review several aspects of the process:
- Hreflang tags that are tied to the right region
- Accurate text translation
- Appropriate cultural context
- Accurate measurement system
- Appropriate payment currency and options
- Correct hyperlinks
- Translated images and videos
- Form functionality
- Loading time for different regions
- Usability of the site
- Grammatical and spelling errors
- Punctuation errors
- Untranslated text
- Accurate brand messaging
- Cohesive brand messaging
- Readability of the text in different languages
Measure the efforts of your localization process
After you're done localizing your website, you need to measure the effectiveness of your efforts. It means you can monitor aspects like site usability, increase in visitors, increase in leads, increase in conversions, market-friendliness, and more.
For example, Vitamix, a blending equipment provider, was able to achieve a higher return on their ad spend in Canada by localizing their website in French. They received a $3.49 return on ad spend for the French experience as opposed to $2.54 for the English experience. This metric helped them understand the viability of a localized experience in that region.
If the website is not meeting your goals, you need to optimize it further. James Kuck, co-founder at My Media Pal, says, "Most local businesses do not reverse engineer the competitors that are on the top of page one completely. Since ‘Success Leaves Footprints,’ if you evaluate the top three websites that are ranking for important targeted terms you can learn exactly what to do to compete. It is not just about a ‘beautiful looking website’ but more about specific CTAs for conversions and a proper structure for optimization along with inbound relevancy and authority coming in from backlinks."
You also need to research keywords to see where the content or translation gaps lie, then address them. The aim is to keep troubleshooting and optimizing till you get your desired results.
Localize your website and grow your revenue
Staying competitive in today's global market requires considering multiple languages and cultures as part of your business plan. It's a crucial aspect of any business's growth and is something to be considered from the very beginning of building your website.
The localization of web pages helps not only to gain a new audience for your business but also helps attract local customers in foreign markets.
If you're looking for an end-to-end website localization service or translation management software to facilitate this process, request a meeting with Smartling today.