Top tips for website localization
As the business world opens up into the global community, your online marketing must shrink into local communities. Those communities may be across the world from you, but they must be targeted specifically! This is the art of website localization, a term that should not be misrepresented. Localization does not mean that you are limiting your options for business. Quite the contrary – you are expanding your options to the audiences most likely to patronize you.
Let’s take a look at the website localization best practices that will give you emotional and cultural proximity to your audience regardless of your physical location.
Localized Market Research
In order to transcreate content and organize an appropriate sales funnel, you first need to understand the business landscape! Local market research includes understanding the culture, differences in language and the needs of the location. This research is easier to conduct than ever – you have plenty of AI tools that can help you translate the culture and reduce human error in data gathering expeditions.
Other alternative sources of information for companies looking to identify international market opportunity is Common Sense Advisory (CSA). CSA offer a number of research packages to help C-level executives and managers make strategic decisions in global market entry.
Plan for Local SEO
It is one thing to localize the content on your website – it is quite another to localize your SEO efforts. The two initiatives must be accomplished simultaneously – having the best website around means nothing if that website is not properly promoted through Google. (First page Google results receive over 70% of the clicks for a keyword. Third page results may as well be invisible.)
However, do note that the search engine that you target may be different depending on your market. While Google has the majority of traffic (over 92% of market share), it is blocked in China – Baidu is Google there. In Russia, Yandex is a major player. Naver must be considered in South Korea, and Yahoo is important in many countries as well.
Regardless of search engine, you need localized keywords. Part of developing your glossary is picking out the terms that may serve as unique keywords to help Google index your site. Make sure that those terms are localized – these are the most important terms to localize.
In addition to translating your English keywords, which is often a good place to start, using keyword tools, such as the Keyword Planner provided by Google AdWords, can be an essential tool in IDing and verifying localized keywords and keyword variations directly in the local language that are relevant to the local area.
SEO also includes creating a relevant domain structure. You will not only need a country-specific top level domain for best results, but also consider the format of your subdirectories and subdomains.
Correcting for Culture
There is a huge difference between translation and transcreation. For website localization, you want transcreation – taking your source content into another language without losing any of the nuances or colloquialisms in your speech. You also want to be sure that none of the nuances in your speech are offensive to the culture that you are trying to sell to.
There may be local values that split up the culture even more beyond political borders, so take this into account as well. This is especially important in certain cities in Africa – tribal relations often trump the political borders that you may be more familiar with.
Full Language Support
One oversight that even established webmasters make in the international market is to see if the CMS being used has the right type of language support. Do not overlook this feature – it will save you a great deal of work in the long run.
If you are planning to expand to the Middle East, Asia and Europe, CMS’s that support both Left to Right and Right to Left languages are vital.
UTF-8 and Unicode
So you have done all of the work to ensure that your content is properly transcreated. Can your website actually display all of your hard work? For instance, if your site does not have Unicode or UTF-8 standard, you are basically cleaning up your house and leaving your windows full of dirt – so much dirt that no one can see your beautiful living room from the curb.
UTF-8 is designed specifically for systems that are based in ASCII. In most cases, UTF-8 is the encoding standard that you should utilize on your webpage. Most CMS interfaces will automatically handle your content as UTF-8, but you should double check to make sure.
Conscious Graphic Design & Image Choices
Dynamic websites get more attention in the international market just as they do in the domestic market. This can put some pressure on your graphical interface, which needs to be flexible in order for your page to properly scale.
Why is this so important? Languages often have different lengths for different ideas. If you start in English, you will probably need to scale Asian translations by 120%. Starting from English and moving into Russian means you have to go the opposite way – Russian words are usually much longer than English words.
Finally, you must make sure that any icons that you use are not offensive to your target culture. Choice of image may become important in religious cultures in the Middle East, which are much different from Western culture.
Using a Language Selector
If you are moving in the international market, then you need to give your website visitors a choice as to the language that they want to see. This choice should be easy and intuitive, (or even entirely automated) so that you do not lose customers before they ever see what you have to offer.
Language splash pages are a great option to signal localization to buyers and help to get the user on the right site language to begin with. Even better, automated language display based on the browser language can set your site apart from the crowd. However, do note that if this option isn’t executed properly, it can lead to frustration if users are automatically directed to sites which are not in their native language. Whatever the chosen method of language selection, making it easy to locate the language selector is key, regardless of the language that the site is in at any given time.
Social Media Optimization
Aside from SEO, your website also needs to be optimized for the popular social media platforms that are local to the area. Do you have the social share buttons that apply to the area that you are marketing to? Not everyone uses Facebook and Twitter. In China, these sites are completely blocked.
The best practices above help to ensure that your website gives the same positive impression no matter where it is distributed. Keep this in mind before you move into the international market so that you do not incur undue expenses down the road. Understanding the culture of your international prospects also gives you a leg up. They will appreciate that you respect their culture and may give you preference because of the goodwill that you have engendered!