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How to Get Website Localization Right: 10 Best Practices

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Brands are able to reach so many more people today than they were able to in the past. In fact, “the world is your oyster” has never been a more appropriate saying. 

But, while it’s easier to access different markets, it can be harder to make a connection with them, especially if you’re not speaking the local language. 

According to research, 40% of internet users won’t buy from a website that’s not in their local tongue. That’s a huge amount of custom (and potential revenue) you could be missing out on.

The solution is localization. 

If you think this simply means translating your website into the languages of the markets you want to reach, think again. The term actually means creating a unique experience for each user based on their locality. 

Don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered. We’ll take a look at why you need website localization and the best practices you can implement to get started. Also if you need a quick summary on what localization is, make sure to check our video!

Why do you need website localization?

As more people are accessing the internet – your website quickly becomes one of your most important assets if you’re looking to attract new audiences. 

But, when you’re selling products and services to new customers across the world a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of your website and marketing strategy is certainly not going to cut it. 

With a world full of different cultural nuances, societal norms, values and languages it becomes crucial to your business success to treat each market with the same personalization as your local audience. 

1. Research Your Target Markets First 

The customer is always right – or, at least, they are always right about what they want and need. 

Brands that assume they know what different markets want are on the fast track to failure. Assumptions are particularly detrimental when expanding into new cultures and destinations with wildly different interests and lifestyles (Tesco’s Ramadan Pringles blunder, anyone?). 

Start by figuring out if the markets you want to reach are a good fit: do they even need or want what you’re selling? And, importantly – can they even afford what you’re selling?

Once you’ve figured out if there is a demand for what you’re offering, take a look at who your biggest competitors are in your target destination. This will give you an overview of what’s working and what’s not and who’s dominating the space.

2. Multilingual SEO 

Knowing your audience is key because it forms a crucial part of your entire localization strategy. Once you know who’s on the end of your copy, products, messages, and marketing, you’ll have a deeper understanding of their intentions.

This helps with SEO – a.k.a. generating organic traffic to your site through search results and in turn your multilingual SEO.  

Spanish multilingual seo search for blue shoes in target language

The key is to ensure your translated website aligns with the search intent of shoppers in the locations you’re targeting. For example, the keywords favored by internet users in one destination might not be the same as in another, even if you’re talking about the exact same product. 

Multilingual SEO goes a long way in making your website visible in new markets. Get it wrong, and you’ll disappear beneath competitors that are using the right local search terms. 

This was paramount for Jimmy Fairly’s success. Traffic to their site increased by 70% after they created an English, German, and Italian version complete with relevant and popular search terms in their target languages. 

3. Align With Cultural Differences

Cultural awareness and sensitivity are vital if you want to succeed in new destinations and an important website localization best practice to follow. The last thing you want is to come across as brash or out-of-touch with the locals. 

This can be tricky to get right because what’s hot in one destination might not be so hot in another. As a result, it’s important that you double-check any cultural references on your site and ensure your copy is appropriate for the market you’re serving. 

At this point, it can be really useful to bring a professional translator from the destination you’re targeting on board to look over some or all of your translated website. They can quickly determine if the content and context are right for the audience. 

4. Allow Users to Switch Between Languages 

Even 60.6% of people with high proficiency in English would prefer to be greeted in their native language. 

Giving users the option to choose which language they want to see your website in will help each individual choose their own journey. Providing choices like this will capture more traffic and cater to a wider range of people. On top of this, you can target keywords in different languages to make sure you’re optimizing your site for each new market. 

Airbnb language switcher options

Airbnb serves multiple different target markets and gives users the option of pretty much any language they want. Obviously, you don’t have to translate your site to this scale – Airbnb has an unusually global audience – but you can still give users a choice! 

Whilst website translation isn’t all there is to website localization – it certainly plays an important role in localization best practices.

5. Develop Multilingual Brand Assets

It’s worth remembering that your website isn’t the only asset you have. It’s likely you have numerous other pieces of collateral that visitors interact with when they’re on your site, so don’t overlook these important parts of the sales process.

Create voice, tone, and style guides for each new location and translate downloadable content like ebooks, case studies, and white papers too. 

We’re not saying you should create your brand from scratch every time you want to target a new market – far from it, in fact. This would be very counterproductive. Instead, create key pieces of content with your new market in mind to maintain consistency around the world. 

6. Use a Website Translation Tool 

Don’t make localization harder than it needs to be. You’ve already got the basics; it’s simply a case of presenting those basics in the preferred language and format of any new destinations. 

The easiest way to do this is to leverage a website translation tool made especially for translating websites that simplifies and automates the process for you. 

Ron Dorff homepage with website localization

Clothing brand Ron Dorff needed to translate their website quickly to meet the demands of a blossoming new market. They used Weglot to translate their ecommerce store, including descriptions of over 150 products, in just a few days. This generated 70% more international sales and increased traffic by 400%. Not too shabby for a couple of day’s work. 

7. Localize Media

Your copy shouldn’t be the limit of your website localization. There’s a lot more content on your website than the words – think about all the images, videos, and graphics you have on each page. These are also key in the translation process, especially if you’re targeting wildly contrasting destinations.

Make sure your multimedia assets align with the language and needs of new markets so they don’t cause any glaring disconnect with new buyers. 

Adobe Turkish version of website

Adobe does a great job of this. 

Above is the Turkish version of its website and below is the Russian version. The brand could have used the same image on both sites, but instead, they chose to feature visual content that was relevant to each country. 

Russian version of Adobe website

8. Keep Your Website Design in Mind 

Translating your copy is all well and good if translations were always neat and matched word for word. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Instead, you’ll find that sentences and paragraphs don’t run at the same length in different languages which can affect how the text appears on screen. 

Make sure your website design is responsive and can adapt to the changing needs of new languages. In particular, keep an eye out for call-to-action buttons as these are a common culprit for truncated text. 

Example of the difference in text length between a direct translation between English and German

Take the above example. 

“Get your copy” is a common CTA used for downloads, but the German translation is much longer than the English phrase which might cause issues if your CTA buttons are a fixed size.

Using a visual editor in the website translation process can help you identify such issues before you go live with your multilingual site. 

9. Consider Local Language Nuances

It’s not just the words you have to get right when translating; you also have to consider common local practices, like how dates or titles are written out. 

Even though English is the native language of both America and Britain, they each write out dates differently. America puts the month first, while Britain’s dates start with the day. 

Example of the differences between date formats in English (British) and English (American)

Small touches like this can make a huge difference, especially if you want to make sure people feel comfortable (not confused) while visiting your site.  

10. Test, and Test Some More 

Localization is a process. It’s not a one-and-done situation and it can take some time to get it right. This is particularly true if you’re targeting markets you don’t have any prior experience with. 

Testing is key. When you track what’s working and what’s not, you can tweak and change elements to ensure visitors have the best experience on your site regardless of where in the world they’re visiting from. 

See what content your new market resonates with the most, test new words and copy and, most importantly, consistently measure your results. 

Successfully Reach New Markets

Expanding into new markets is exciting. You’re no longer limited by borders and can quickly turn entire populations into potential buyers. 

But the key is to get it right. Localization isn’t just about translating the words on your website. It’s about creating a local experience for each and every user. 

Start with these website localization best practices to figure out who your new audiences are and what they want from you. Only then can you create slick and enjoyable experiences for people no matter where they are in the world.  

Try Weglot’s 10-day free trial and see how you can accelerate your website localization project. 

About the author
The best way to understand the power of Weglot is to see it for yourself. Get your website multilingual live in minutes.
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