The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to issue quarantine and even lockdown measures, as well as restricting most forms of travel and social gatherings. Because of this, computers and smartphones are one of the few mediums people use to stay connected with their family and friends, and also to stay in the loop. But when you have this many people around the world going online and staying home on a prolonged basis, this presents ripe website traffic opportunities.
With this in mind, translating your website is a good way of attracting global traffic. But if you already had that idea in the first place, how sure are you that your multilingual website can handle the sudden surge in global traffic? There are tools and strategies you can use to ensure that your multilingual website is consistently up to speed. You should obviously employ localization, a subset of globalization (not to be confused with internationalization), to further refine your multilingual website in order for you to bring in more traffic.
Quarantine measures are creating a global traffic goldmine
Let’s do a quick recap of the global situation in regard to internet traffic. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in governments implementing quarantine measures and telecommuting schemes. Most global and even domestic nonessential travel is restricted for the next few weeks and months, depending on how countries can properly contain the virus within their own borders.
As a result, hundreds of millions to even billions of people around the world are now quarantined indoors to some degree, and must continue to social distance until their governments say otherwise. This unprecedented scale of people staying indoors presents ripe website traffic opportunities.
COVID-19 news is not always what people want to read about and watch. People can only take in so much somber news in one day, so browsing the internet and social media is helping people stay entertained and informed, and at the very least, sane under quarantine. Web traffic has gone up quite a lot as more people hunker down.
What does this mean for websites? An effective digital marketing strategy in general is one that can adjust and accommodate global trends. So what can you do to grab your slice of the hundreds of millions of internet users staying at home? It’s pretty straightforward in the end: Having a multilingual website can attract a multilingual audience.
But with so much global traffic now at your digital doorstep, can your multilingual website even handle such a surge in traffic? That’s something you have to strongly consider as even a network giant such as Netflix had to cap their bandwidth by limiting the quality of streaming from high definition to standard definition.
But even if you’re not witnessing that much crippling traffic on your website, at least for now, it’s better to stay proactive. After all, significantly slow loading speeds and website outages can result in drastic consequences to your current and future traffic. For instance, Google’s marketing industry resource Think with Google reported the industry benchmark for page load times should be under three seconds.
At three seconds, the chances users will bounce increase by 32%. At five seconds, bounce probability increases to 50%. No matter how you look at it, those are staggering statistics. One second is all it takes for users to look the other way. In the end, it pays to have good website health, especially when taking into account current traffic conditions.
How to translate your website
Pew Research surveyed 34 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, 32 reported that over half to nine-tenths of their population use the internet, with North America, Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and some countries in Latin America exhibiting the highest internet usage.
If you’re wondering which language can bring you the most returns in traffic, Internet World Stats showed that in 2019, other than English, Chinese and Spanish were the top internet languages. There were nearly 900 million Chinese internet users and nearly 400 million Spanish internet users. If you can effectively localize your website to even just one language, you have the potential to attract millions of viewers.
How you go about website translation can range from using Google Translate to a separate optimized website with all the assets localized to the intended target audience.
But you don’t exclusively need to create another website in another domain. You can simply use subdirectories to create another multilingual version of your pages. Each subdirectory will have its respective translated pages, in which case you have to provide a panel for users to simply switch between languages.
You can also opt to create an entire new translated website registered in a regional domain. For instance, if you want to create a Japanese website exclusively for mainland Japanese audiences, then you have to have your website registered in their domains for it to be indexed locally. This is a long-term and pricey way of making a multilingual website. But it helps knowing your long-term options with your multilingual website for future reference.
As for the actual process of translating your website content, could Google Translate be enough? You might think it’s too good to be true — why doesn’t everyone have a multilingual website if Google Translate is right there for us to use? Your suspicions are well-founded.
Indeed, Google Translate, or any free online translator for that matter, is very convenient to use and is mostly free. And WordPress features plenty of handy website translation plugins. But Google Translate, and machine translation (MT) in general, is not without its shortcomings. Even though MT development has achieved great strides in recent years, Google Translate can’t accurately translate complex and nuanced expressions. It also can’t handle lengthy sentences and paragraphs without diverging away from text’s actual context. Free online translators can only accurately work with generic texts and common expressions.
Truth to be told, inaccurate and inappropriate translations can damage your website and brand image, especially if you’re reaching out to a new foreign audience for the first time. Proper and effective website translation is more than just copy-pasting translated content onto your website’s content management platform. After all, if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it right from the start.
Your safest option, one that can bring you good results without backfiring, is by hiring a website translator. It’s the same basic idea as hiring a website developer to create your website. You’d want a website translator familiar with website architecture both at the backend and frontend. You can find them either at freelance platforms such as Upwork or from a translation company. A translation company provides diverse translation services legal translation, medical translation, and yes, website translation services.
Have an arsenal of website analytics and performance tools
The standard way to ensure your website is up to speed, not just in terms of loading speeds, but also in terms of overall website health, is to run a website audit. You can use website audit tools to crawl around the website and give you a website health score. As a refresher, they crawl around your website and look for broken links, duplicate tags, gauge loading speed, and any other bugs and issues that can harm its user experience (UX). Generally, an average score of 88 out of a 100 (and higher) is what you want.
But your score will be more meaningful if it can maintain high marks relative to the amount of traffic your multilingual website gets. You can easily keep track of your traffic through a variety of tools, Google Analytics being one of the most popular. It even checks the amount of time users spent per page and whether or not they accessed it through a computer or their phone.
When your site is experiencing a surge in traffic, you have to put the effort in maintaining a consistently high score. However, as with many things in website development in general, that’s easier said than done. There’s a high chance of encountering initial setbacks with your multilingual website if it’s your first time doing it. But since you can’t afford to miss out on global traffic, then you should waste no time in making improvements.
A website health score is affected by a multitude of things. But if you think you’ve already done so much on your own end such as repairing 404 errors, optimizing graphics, revising tags, then consider upgrading your hosting plan. If you originally subscribed to a shared hosting plan, then consider upgrading your hosting plan to cloud hosting since it’s considerably faster than shared hosting.
While shared hosting is cheaper, by definition, you’ll be sharing space with other website owners. The more people are crowded in one server, the slower loading speeds will get. On the other hand, cloud hosting servers are not tied to servers in one geographic location. They consist of multiple servers located throughout the world that act as one server.
If you have a shared hosting plan and the server malfunctions, then all websites under it will go offline. If a cloud server malfunctions, then other servers can take the additional load, which means your website stays online. Cloud hosting is more expensive, but it’s often worth the extra investment.
However, are tools and upgraded hosting plans enough to optimize your traffic? As you probably know, there’s a lot more work that goes into attracting and maintaining traffic than just backend maintenance. You should put as much effort on your website’s frontend as you do on your backend. But again, this is easier said than done.
What if you’re not getting the traffic results you need? Should you translate your website to a few more languages? Truth to be told, if you don’t have a sound content marketing strategy, then there will be significant diminishing returns the more languages you try to cover. And it won’t be worth the additional time and investment.
Rather, you can maximize the effectiveness of just one language through localization. Localization is the process of adjusting content to fit the needs, preferences and interests of a target audience. You could say that’s just marketing in general, but localization is different.
It’s mostly employed as means of reaching out to foreign audiences. Localization goes deeper than translation. It’s about making a lasting and meaningful impression by resonating with them. Website localization also has its unique checklist dos, don’ts and know-hows.
Website developers and owners know that user design (UD) and user experience (UX) are what will make or break a website. But again, that’s easier said than done, and you probably know that with your experience optimizing your English website. So how do you localize UD and UX?
One of the most important factors is aesthetics. One peer-reviewed study explored how users ranked website design elements relative to user experience. The researchers found out that graphical representation is the second most important design element after navigation. In that case, aesthetics is a highly significant factor.
Some cultures and societies have preferred color schemes. For instance, some view red as a lucky color while others view it as a hostile and unlucky color. Depending on your target audience, you have to adjust to their preferred color schemes that’ll evoke good impressions.
Another factor in providing a localized UD and UX is optimizing typography. For many languages, you need to have it written in their native writing systems. In that case, you have to adapt your typography until it meets a satisfying visual standard for your foreign audience. In other words, you have to worry about how your texts look and whether or not it’s appropriate, legible and aesthetically pleasing.
Chinese, for instance, has characters with very intricate strokes. So the right font is crucial. Another example is Arabic. Unlike most writing systems that are read left-to-right, Arabic is one of the handful of languages in the world that’s read from right-to-left.
Localize content that follows trends
Since you’re dealing with a foreign audience, you’ll have to expand your content research process to their domain, literally and figuratively. You have to make sure your content incorporates local numerics from currencies, units of measurement, time zones and so on. But other than that, you need to also share content that follows local prevailing trends.
Following trends and knowing what your audience wants to read and watch is one of the essentials in SEO practices. You can’t come up with good localized content without obviously knowing the prevailing trends in their pop culture. However, knowing what they want to read and/or watch is one thing. Making sure that your content actually appears on their regional search engine is another distinct SEO consideration.
Having proper keywords is part of good SEO and good Google rankings. You can certainly adapt through localized keyword research. Each country has its own preferred keywords, and languages are divided by distinct regional variations and dialects. For example, the word “apartment” is used in the US, but the word “flat” is the keyword in the UK.
Website localization is a long-term consideration, especially if you plan to register in regional domains. Doing it right can take a long time, much more than just website translation alone. In fact, website translation is just part of website localization if you look at the wider picture. So whether or not website localization is worth undertaking is up to you to decide. But if you do decide it’s worth a shot, then it’s also worth doing right.
Have your multilingual website proofread
Before deploying your localized multilingual website, you have to test it first. You’re not only looking for bugs, but most importantly, translation errors and localization faux pas. This requires an expert and objective eye. For that, you need to have localization experts and beta testers.
Ensure that your beta testers are native speakers. Their local knowledge can provide you with nuanced criticisms on how to refine your website. You can easily find a website localization expert from the same translation company since localization is one of the language service industry’s staple services.
All in all, even if the urge to quickly deploy your multilingual website is too tempting, it’s worth doing it the right way with the right people with the right knowledge and experience on board. It’s worth exerting the time and effort to properly optimize both the frontend and backend of your website for it to be capable of attracting and retaining new incoming streams of foreign traffic.