There are 195 countries in the world, and each country has its own unique version of language. Add to that the fact that there are more than 4.5 billion daily internet users and every user would prefer to read the content in their own language. In fact, 72% of users spend time on the websites in their own language and 72.4% are more likely to buy from a website that offers them information in their native language.
So how do you reach the new potential markets and enhance your digital presence in order to please international customers? The answer is website localization.
The intricacies of going global
If you’re new to this, you’re not alone. Many website owners confuse the terms localization and translation. While they might keep localization in mind, all they do is simply translate the website copy which predictably leads to poor results. In order to truly win the hearts of international clients and retain your brand reputation, you need to clearly understand what are localization and translation and how they differ.
Translation is simply translating the copy from one language to another. You have “a red apple” in English and “une pomme rouge” in French. Simple as that.
Localization is far more tricky. It is a process of adapting your product (i.e. a website) to a specific market or audience in accordance with the audience’s culture. Think of design elements as an example. If we compare the Canadian and Japanese Coca-Cola websites, we will see that the design differs drastically. While the Canadian website seems to have a clearer layout and displays the messages about the brand’s value and mission, the Japanese version of the site seems over packed with information and images. But is it wrong? Not at all! The trick is, Asian audience loves to learn as much information as possible about the product before buying it, so Coca-Cola clearly did some quality research before launching the Japanese website.
Now, localization may seem quite a hassle. Not only do you have to translate all the content, but you also need to take care of metrics and dates, images, and even layout. So why would you decide to localize your website? Here are some of the biggest benefits.
Increased credibility and brand reputation. Customers love when a brand takes care of their needs and goes extra mile in an attempt to deliver a superior user experience. Therefore, an international brand that caters to its customers and knows about the different cultural aspects is more likely to win people’s hearts.
If a user goes to a website and sees that it’s available in multiple languages, including their native one, this immediately boosts trust towards this website and encourages the user to explore and browse it. On the opposite, if there is only one language present on the website, it might lead to a high bounce rate. After all, 60% of global customers “rarely or never” buy services or products from English-only websites.
Increased market share and revenue. Website localization means the expansion of your digital presence and therefore, entrance to new markets. And if you enter the new markets prepared, this will inevitably result in increased revenue and bigger market share. A study by Shutterstock confirms that 71% of marketing decision-makers from the US, UK, and Europe increased their sales thanks to the localization.
Competitive advantage. Finally, website localization can serve as a valuable competitive advantage. Think about it: while there may be dozens (if not hundreds) of companies similar to yours, hardly several of them will make an attempt and become truly international. Therefore, if you show that you really care about all your customers, this will become an unbeatable advantage.
The challenges of localization
While localization is indeed a great way to connect with the customers worldwide and significantly boost your reputation, it also has several pitfalls that not many entrepreneurs are aware of. These are the localization challenges that have to be considered in order to avoid major financial and resource losses. These challenges include:
- Great variety of languages and dialects
- High costs in terms of coding and translation spendings
- Various cultural issues to consider
- Great variety of processes involved in localization
Though they may sound complex, it’s actually not so difficult to resolve them if you use the right tools.
Website localization: A step-by-step checklist
Now that we know what exactly localization is and how it benefits one’s business, we can look at the actual process of localizing your website:
- Market and competition analysis: at this stage, you will determine the most potential and profitable market to enter.
- Definition of the project scope: assess the project in order to set the deadlines and requirements for all parties involved in localization.
- Choice of a third-party services provider (localization company) or assembly of an in-house localization team and assignment of roles.
- Use of Hreflang tags and Unicode: this helps make the website compatible with multiple languages.
- Work on design: visual elements of the website should correspond to the particular cultures that you target.
- Translation of the website content: make sure to pay attention not only to the text but formats as well (such as dates, time, and other metrics).
- Renewed SEO strategy: different countries have different keywords that rank the highest so you will need to work on that aspect as well. For example, 20% of all Google searches are in local languages, so you want to consider that.
- Compliance with local rules and regulations: you need to double-check if your website and all its contents correspond to the rules and regulations of the countries that you target.
- Testing: before launching the website, it is obligatory to test it and see whether it works equally well in different languages.
It is worth mentioning a few localization risks that testing can successfully identify. Probably the most common issue is the lack of space: while some languages require less space, others will demand significantly more. Compare “Hello” and “Bonjour” — these two words have an obvious difference in their length. Other issues include text direction, messages adaptation, notifications, and so on.
Website localization is a complex process and every step takes time and resources. However, there are ways to make localization easier and faster.
Use automation — a lot!
Automation is a great time-saver in terms of localization, so don’t hesitate to use it. If you have a lot of text to translate, you’ll very likely use translation memory and glossaries. A translation memory is a tool that keeps track of the translated copy, stores it, and notifies the translator in case a text similar to the already-translated one is encountered. As for the glossary, it is a compilation of all specific terms that can be met in a text (for example, medical terms) alongside their context. With the help of a glossary, translators can always know what a specific term means and when it should be used.
There are a variety of available computer-aided translation tools that store translation memories, help automate the translation process, and speed things up: SDL Trados, SDL Passolo, OmegaT, Sisulizer, Poedit, MemoQ, and more. Automation is also offered by CMS and translation platforms: for example, when a translation is approved, it can be automatically published in a CMS with a CLI — command line interface or API. Such little things end up saving a great amount of time.
When preparing big chunks of text for translation, it’s easy to slip into the temptation of machine translation, but you should not rely on this without a solid professional strategy.
The thing is, localization is quite complex and there are many examples of the cases when it went wrong. There are hundreds of examples of marketing translation fails even from the biggest brands like Coca-Cola or KFC.
And if you need an example of a really clever localized website, ASOS is your choice. The brand has different and customized messages about shipping for every available location: “Shipping to Collection Points” for France and “One-day Shipping for 15€” for Italy. The company clearly did some research and found out which messages would elicit the most response from the customers.
A quick case study: localization of Jooble portal
Jooble is a job search portal that is now available in 60 countries, so it came as no surprise that the company needed to expand its reach and translate the website into different languages. The company required website translations into 16 languages, including Tagalog.
To begin with, Alconost requested materials from Jooble that would help their translators properly understand the context. For this, Jooble provided many screenshots of the user journey. These were then uploaded into the cloud-based translation software Crowdin and were carefully considered during the translation process.
In addition, the source texts were provided in the form of .docx files containing text with HTML code. The translations were carried out directly within the HTML code; all tags needed to be kept intact, as they’re essential to website formatting. In this way, the translations could be integrated into the customer’s system directly upon completion. The translators, aside from being native speaker professional translators, had extensive experience working with HTML texts.
Once the translations were added to Jooble’s website, we conducted a full linguistic testing, where we were able to fix some “long strings” that did not quite fit into their allocated places.
Ultimately, Jooble was able to create a simple user interface that would work for all regions. With the help of the screenshots provided, the translated website copy was made to be enticing to the users. Jooble also made sure to add popular searches to the home screen ー it automatically displays the types of job that would be most interesting for someone from that region, thus augmenting the click rate.