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Website localization for beginners: How does it actually work?

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You’ve probably heard of Dr. Oetker before. It’s a German multinational company that sells baking products and frozen pizzas for many local markets in Europe. However, when they decided to approach the Italian market, they knew it would be challenging. After all, the mission was to sell frozen pizza with a German name in Italy— the land of pizza.

But Dr. Oetker managed to overcome this obstacle and became the highest-selling frozen pizza brand in Italy with one simple move: Changing the brand name to Cammeo (later turned into Cameo), which is a more Italian and easy-listening word. 

Although it might sound simple, it worked because it was one part of a very effective global strategy: localization. You might have heard the term before but you might not yet be aware of all the benefits it can have for your business.

A localized brand name is certainly important, but in this article, we’ll cover an even bigger part of the localization process: website localization. By understanding what it is, how it works, and how to actually do it, you can implement it in your business strategy and start benefiting from all the opportunities it can unlock. So, let’s walk you through website localization step-by-step and cover everything you need to know. 

What is Website Localization?

Let’s start with the basics and first understand what localization means. Localization (also referred to as “l10n”) is simply the process of adapting a product or content to a specific market. Just like the Dr. Oetker example. 

But why do businesses use localization? Well, because it’s the key to international success. When you adapt your product, website, or your content to your target market, you’re not just heard, but you’re also understood. And this results in sales, growth, and success.

If your business has a website, the easiest way to reach wider audiences and to increase your revenue is website localization. 

How to implement website localization 

Understand

The website localization process starts with understanding why you’re doing it. Sure it sounds like the smart thing to do and everyone else seems to be doing it, but why? 

First, you need to understand that just because international customers are a click away, doesn’t mean that they will buy from your website. According to Nimdzi, 9 international users out of 10 will ignore your product if it isn’t in their native language. And this isn’t simply because they can’t understand what’s being said.  Even 60.6% of people with high proficiency in English would rather look up something online in their native language. 

And it’s not hard to understand why. Do you ever find yourself looking up when someone uses a word that sounds similar to your name? It’s because as human beings, we pay attention to what feels familiar to us. A study found that even five-month-old infants, who can’t speak themselves, have preferences for native speakers and native accents.

Moreover, localization shows foreign customers that you acknowledge them and you’re putting in the effort to communicate with them. This commitment is very effective in building trust which is a very needed factor for doing online business. It’s so effective that the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) found that on average, every €1 spent on localizing your website yields €25 in return.

Graph showing that every €1 spent on localizing your website yields €25 in return

Now that you understand why localization is crucial for international success, you are ready to start planning for it!

Plan Ahead

The world is a big place and your website gives you access to any market. Although this is a huge opportunity, you might get lost if you don’t plan ahead. So start by analyzing potential markets. Where do you have higher chances to sell?

If you’re not sure where to start, look at your website visitors. For example, the French eyewear brand Jimmy Fairly realized that 19% of their visitors were foreign customers even though their website was only available in French. They decided to take advantage of this and create a multilingual website. Within a month, their international sales were 4 times higher and 8 months later, they were 6 times higher!

If you have a website, chances are you already have foreign visitors like Jimmy Fairly. So start by analyzing them. Learn about their behaviors, preferences, and culture. 

Translate

Now that you know your target audience, you can start to speak to them. This is where translation comes in. And when it comes to translating a website, you have two main options: human translation and machine translation. 

Human translation is when a professional translator does the job for you. It’s great because you know your translations will be accurate and of high quality. But if you’ve ever used human translation, you also know that it’s also expensive and time-consuming.

Machine translation, on the other hand, refers to translation software like Google Translate, DeepL, and Microsoft Translator. They can be quite handy as they offer a very quick and cost-effective solution. However, you might be questioning its accuracy. Well, although it’s not completely error-free, it’s improving day by day.

As you can see, it’s not possible to say one of these translation methods is superior to the other. We rather believe that they complement each other. That’s why Weglot offers both of them.

Our solution starts by providing an instant first layer of machine translation. Then you can choose whether you want to make manual edits – either yourself or by adding teammates or you may want some parts to be verified by a professional translator which you can order directly inside the Weglot Dashboard. This way you’re saving time, money, and getting accurate and high-quality translations!

Visual design saying that "Human translation and machine translation complement each other."

Apply Multilingual SEO

You probably already use SEO to increase your website’s ranking. The same goes for your translated pages. If you don’t apply multilingual SEO, your target audience won’t be able to find your website when they search for keywords in their native language. 

Luckily, Weglot takes care of it for you. How? Well, along with your website content, our solution also translates your metadata and adds hreflang tags. And before you open a new tab and search what hreflang tags are, let me explain.

Let’s say a foreign customer searches for a keyword in their native language and your page is the relevant result. And you’re ready for this, you already prepared a translated page for this customer. You know it, I know it, but how will Google know? This is where hreflang tags come in and tell Google which page of your website should be shown to this potential customer.

Website translation without multilingual SEO is simply incomplete. By applying multilingual SEO, you ensure that your website will rank higher on search engines and it will be discovered by foreign visitors easily.

Localize 

Here is the shocking part for those of you who thought that website localization was just about translating your website. But as you might have noticed, there are many other website localization steps apart from translation. 

You made a great start by translating your website and talking to customers in their native language. However, there are plenty of other considerations you should be aware of as you go global. For example, non-textual components such as images, videos, and other documentation play a very important role in the website localization process. 

Imagine being a Chinese customer and seeing images of only Caucasian women on a cosmetic brand’s website. Moreover, some images might even be offensive for some viewers from certain cultures. This could lead your visitors to believe that you aren’t sensitive and appreciative of their culture. Then the fact that you provide translated pages won’t mean much to them.

In order to fully benefit from website localization, you should translate the entirety of your website including images and videos. This doesn’t just improve customer experience but it also positively impacts multilingual SEO. That’s why you should choose a translation solution that will also allow you to translate non-textual components.

At this point you might be wondering “How do you even translate an image?” Well, there are three main things to consider:

  1. Image file or the image link
  2. Texts in the image
  3. Image alt-text

With Weglot, you can easily translate your media files either from the dashboard or the in-context editor. All you need to do is to change the URL of the image with the version that you wish to use for your translated page. 

Regarding text in images, the best advice is to simply avoid having them completely. That’s because the only way to translate a text in an image is to change the actual image and as you can imagine, this would take too much time and effort. Instead, keep your text over the image as it will allow for the written content to be translated automatically.

Finally, you should translate the image alt-text because it’s very important for multilingual SEO. Weglot also automatically takes care of this, so all you need to do is double check your translations to make sure that you’re happy with them.

Also don’t forget about other details such as measurements, currency units, and date formats. Otherwise, your audience might get confused and start looking for another website where they won’t feel lost.

To avoid all this from happening, be aware of cultural nuances, pay attention to details, and make sure to adapt your whole content.

Visual design saying that "Non-textual components such as images, videos, and other documentation play a very important role in the website localization process. "

Include

From programmers to marketers, every team member can be a valuable resource when it comes to localization. Especially if you have an international team, your team members can provide you with useful information that you might not be able to know otherwise. Therefore, include your whole team in your localization strategy and benefit from what you already know.

For this purpose, Weglot has an “add member” feature that allows you to include other team members to your project on your Weglot Dashboard. This way you can ask your team members to verify your translations and work together on your website localization project.

Automate 

As you can see, the website localization process is very comprehensive. Therefore, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can handle all this manually. Website localization is crucial but it shouldn’t take up all your time and energy.

Moreover, localization is an ongoing process. As you go global, your business will grow and new products and markets will be added to your portfolio. So you will need an automated tool that will make sure that your website is always ready for your foreign customers. 

At Weglot, we’re well aware that website localization is a challenging task. Without the right tool, it might do more damage than good. That’s why we created an automated translation solution to make it as easy as possible for you. With Weglot, you can have your multilingual website ready in just minutes. And by now you know that we don’t just mean the translation of the text on your website when we say that.

Our solution will automatically take care of crucial factors of website localization such as multilingual SEO and media translations. And this isn’t just a one time thing. As your business keeps growing thanks to the benefits of website localization, Weglot will always make sure that the entirety of your multilingual pages are translated as you keep adding new content. All that is left for you is to fine-tune your translations and enjoy your increased visibility and sales.

Conclusion

Website localization might seem intimidating at first as it comes with extra work and considerations, but it shouldn’t be with the right tool. Weglot will allow you to have a multilingual website in minutes so that you can start your website localization process and reach wider audiences immediately. With our effective solution and excellent customer support team by your side, you have nothing to worry about!

Since you are already here, you can start your localization journey now by signing up for Weglot’s 10 day free trial!

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