Using the localization process to resonate with travel audiences

Using the localization process to resonate with travel audiences
Motoko Hunt

Motoko Hunt

Motoko Hunt established AJPR in 1998, offering search marketing consulting services with a background in Asian and Japanese markets.

Motoko Hunt

Motoko Hunt

Motoko Hunt established AJPR in 1998, offering search marketing consulting services with a background in Asian and Japanese markets.


ost business and website owners understand the importance of having localized content for each of their target markets. Localization makes it easier for customers to understand the products and the services you offer, and makes it easier for customers to convert — it may determine whether or not they click the “order” button on your website or go to your competitors’ sites. As web competition grows, simply translating your content is not enough. While more websites are implementing a push for personalized content and better user experiences on sites, it is also true that websites and businesses overlook or ignore locale-specific interests to improve the content for the target markets they are serving.

Good localized content needs more than correct translation

In most cases, the content localization process is the straightforward translation of the main site content into different languages. When websites cover multiple markets using the same language, due to resource and budget reasons, the content may be translated once with some localization for currency, sizes and local contact information. Localization work such as changing metrics and the currency is also important to send the right signal to the search engines letting them know for which country the site is designed. But there is more localization work we can do to make the signal stronger. Even the English content can be further localized by using locale-specific terms. For example:

  • Lift vs. elevator
  • Toilet (loo) vs. bathroom (restroom)
  • Trolley vs. cart
  • Holiday vs. vacation

These are some of the frequently used terms in various travel related websites. If the site in question switched these example terms, the readability of the content for local users would improve. Additionally, this would boost site visibility in search results.

Top TripAdvisor attractions ranked by different travelers
Top TripAdvisor attractions ranked by different travelers
Top TripAdvisor attractions ranked by different travelers

Figure 1: Top TripAdvisor attractions ranked by different travelers.

Who is the main audience for a localized website?

These differences don’t stop at the local dialect spelling.

I am a Japanese native, so when I search for good Japanese restaurants anywhere in the world, I tend to look for reviews by Japanese customers. One of the big differences I notice between restaurant review sites created by Japanese people and the localized restaurant review sites in Japanese is the word used for Japanese restaurant. On the sites created by Japanese natives, it’s always referred to as 和食レストラン compared to 日本食レストラン used on localized sites. When I search for 和食レストラン in, say, New York, I usually get the Japanese restaurant reviews and recommendations given by Japanese people in the search results. When I search for 日本食レストラン, I see the Japanese restaurant reviews and recommendations given by non-Japanese people in the search results. Because I trust reviews by the Japanese when it comes to Japanese food, I go with the ones using 和食 instead of 日本食.

Interest in "Paris tour" regionally in the United States.

Figure 2: Interest in “Paris tour” regionally in the United States.

The differences in opinions among the intended audience are everywhere. For example, the popular tourist destinations in a certain country can be vastly different depending on where the tourists come from. According to TripAdvisor, the top five must-see attractions ranked by users in the US, EU and China are different (Figure 1).

The list also looks different among Japanese travelers, as they tend to pick places to visit over a weekend, such as amusement parks, beaches and hot springs.

How do I find local interests?

There are multiple ways to find the interest in specific countries or regions. You can find research and survey data published from sites like those above from TripAdvisor. The tourism offices in different countries publish such data as well.

It’s possible to find interests and trends from the search queries. In addition to the keyword tools by different search engines, you can find the keywords people used to find your website in your own data in the analytics tools. With the analytics tool, you can also find data such as which pages are most visited, where people visited your website from and what people searched for once they are on your website. Customer feedback and the input of local representatives also provide valuable information.

Organizing information for country-specific sites and Sample matrix for one market.

Figure 3, top: Organizing information for country-specific sites.
Figure 4, bottom: Sample matrix for one market.

There are third-party tools you can use to find the general trends and interests related to your business. Google has a free tool called “Google Trends” which you can find in popular search queries and trends over a period of time. Figure 2 shows the results for “Paris tour” interest in the past 12 months in the US. It looks like people in Washington, D.C. are most interested in finding tours in Paris, followed by New Yorkers.

How do I prioritize sites and content for localization?

Content prioritization should be a part of the website localization process.

Even for well-established companies, content localization to create different language or country websites is an enormous task. By prioritizing content creation/adaptation based on interests and trends, you can localize the sites and content in multiple stages, and you can serve the content that meets the needs of local demand at the same time.

You can prioritize the content using various data and information. For example:

  • Keyword search volume
  • Current website visitor data
  • Visitor trends reported by authorities such as tourism offices, ministry of transportation and chamber of commerce
  • Social media trends

Once you gather this data, give scores for each language or country and the content group for the localization.

Below is a simplified scoring example for the country/language sites. This gives you the localization priority order based on the market demand. When multiple countries are using the same language, such as country 1 and 2 for English and country 5 and 6 for Spanish, you could initially create one language site to target all countries speaking in the same language. Once you have more budget and resources, you can break out separate country specific sites in the same language (Figure 3).

Once you prioritize the target countries and languages, you can prioritize various content groups based on similar data analysis. By creating this matrix by market and language you can identify unique interests in each market, which helps prioritize content creation and localization (Figure 4).

After the localized sites go live, monitor the site performance using key performance indicators that work for your business goals. What worked well before may not always work now, especially when the site has any type of updates or major changes. This type of monitoring helps you identify problems and then take action in a timely manner when a certain language or country site doesn’t perform as well as the data you collected for the prioritization indicated, or it starts to lose its performance level.

How do I apply specific local interests to my website?

A content prioritization workflow is also beneficial for content served on localized websites. Even if you are not able to do extensive research, knowing the local interests can help you optimize the content served on the websites. For example, if you are aware that Chinese people prefer group tours, while Australians are interested in individual travel with a flexible schedule, you can push the package tour information on the China site but not on the Australia site.

You can tweak not only the destinations you offer, but you can also research different interests in preferred transportation and other travel-related information such as restaurants, tour packages and even visa applications.

Classifying the popularity of different sites in Japan with different  demographics.

Figure 5: Classifying the popularity of different sites in Japan with different demographics.

Many websites are enabling recommended content push modules on the top page or the side columns based on weighted insights. Let’s say your Japan travel sites have a “you may also like” list on the destination pages. Instead of showing the same five destinations on the Japan destination pages on all country/language sites, you can serve the top five destinations based on interests discovered from your research.

Figure 5 was created by simply using the top ten attractions list by TripAdvisor mentioned above as an example. By having a prioritized list like this, you can serve the destinations marked as “first group” on each country site. By pushing the destinations that people in that specific country are most likely interested in, you can increase the conversions/sales on the site.

Setting up these modules and weighting content helps validate your understanding of the target market. By monitoring these lists and which of the links gets clicked, you can start to refine offers and options based on specific interests and increase your potential for coveting more customers.

Use data to grow your business

It is important to always think of the target audience for each of your websites and ask relevant questions. Are your Japanese destination pages created for a Japanese audience, or for the foreigners thinking of visiting Japan? What is the reason when a specific piece of content performs really well on the US site, but not on the China site?

Collecting and analyzing data may seem a never-ending task. But in reality, it doesn’t need to take too much of your time, and you could do it inexpensively, as there is a lot of free data published online. Making decisions based on data can also save you from guesswork and give you a negotiation tool when creating localized websites. By prioritizing your market sites and content, new sites will start converting more quickly, which will boost your income and allow you to add more customized sites for smaller markets.