Translating your website into another language is only one part of the process, website localisation looks at another part, the human element. What does this mean? It’s the subtle nuances that allow you to identify the specific cultures and behaviours:
- Modifying content to suit the tastes and consumption habits of other markets
- Adapting graphics to target markets
- Using proper local formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers
- Addressing local regulations and legal requirements
When localising your website you will need to make sure your website conforms to cultural expectations, specialised terminology and understanding of browsing habits of that region, country or corner of the world. We have created this guide and broken it down into two parts due to the sheer amount of information. Part one will look at your target market, what type of website to choose and your SEO strategy. Part 2 will focus on your server considerations, your languages and your UI and UX.
Tip 1 – Know your target market.
The worst thing you can do with your budget and time is to translate and localise your website into 50 languages when only 5 of them are interested in your product/service. Find out where your customers are coming from. Google Analytics is a free that offers a range of information about the type of people visiting your website and where they are coming from.
The location section displays where in the world your users are located based on their IP address. If you have any goals set up, this is where you will be able to see who converts per location, depending on your chosen KPIs. Normally this would be goals such as contact form submissions, registrations and downloads. Depending on your business this could differ.
The Languages section in Google Analytics is based on the user’s browser language which is normally defaulted to the PC language. It is important to remember this because it might not always be the actual language they speak. For example, they may have English as their browser language but their native tongue could be Cantonese. It can give you some insight the languages of your users but take the data as a guide not as fact.
Tip 2 – Do I go for full website localisation, a microsite or a certain pages?
The next question you should be asking yourself is how much content you are going to translate for your website as part of the website localisation.
The most ideal scenario is to translate and localise the entire website, including blog posts, press releases and company updates. This improves the relevance for that local search engine, so if you want to build international SEO (and you should be) then it really is the only option. However, this is a costly and time consuming exercise and is only worth that expenditure if you have already established a business in this country.
Budget conscious businesses can select to build a microsite which would act as an entry point for international visitors. It would include only the most important and relevant information to the business which would help lead to a sale. YOU would also have a domain name that is specific for this country. Finding out what pages to include can be done by heading back into Google Analytics. This is helpful when testing a market and trying to gauge interest from prospective clients.
Finally, the last resort in creating an international website is choosing only a few pages on the existing website to be translated and localised. These are usually the landing pages which lead to the most conversions based on the business’s needs. Some of the most common pages are:
- Core service pages
- Conversion based pages (including forms, payment page etc.)
- About us / Team page
- Terms and conditions/privacy
Tip 3 – One website with many languages or many websites in one language?
An additional part to consider for your localisation project is whether you want to have multiple websites under a single domain (eg .in or .cn), or each website has its own top level domain (i.e. co.uk/com). This is referred to as a TLD strategy.
There are benefits and considerations to both.
One website with multiple sites underneath will be easier to manage and can reduce operational costs (you’ll only need one domain instead of 10, for example).
Websites such as Panasonic have taken this route; landing on their international websites will take to you to their main site https://panasonic.com but will redirect you to a subfolder under it with the translated website https://panasonic.com/de/.
This allows the search engine to know that a single site contains multiple languages which can be index for those specific countries.
On the other hand using multiple websites per language can add more visibility and relevancy in the local market in the search results pages. From an SEO point of view, multiple websites are set up specifically for that language and will gave a single root domain dedicated to each. For back linking this can be seen as the more favourable strategy to use.
Pro Tip #1 – If you are targeting countries which speak the same language such as the UK and US, make sure to tell Google that the content is canonical. This way you will not be flagged for duplicated content which could affect your rankings.
Pro Tip #2 – Adding hreflang attributes and markup will also help Google and other search engines understand what language you are targeting for those specific pages.
Tip – 4 Consider switching to a new CMS which offers multilingual website compatibility.
Not all CMS (content management systems) are the same and some will have better support for multiple languages than others. Moving to a new CMS can not only add additional functionality from your existing one, but it can save time and money for future projects. This can be more apparent if you have a custom CMS which requires functionality to be coded in directly at an extra cost.
When looking at updating your current CMS or looking to migrate to another you should check for a couple of key features.
- How well does the CMS handle Arabic and other right to left languages?
- Also check to see its Indian language support.
- See how websites will be structured
- Is there a centralised system which can easily make or edit existing websites?
- Does the CMS have multilingual language APIs?
- Any CMS that does has already considered Multilanguage content and could make the process easier in the future.
A good starting point for a CMS which has multilingual compatibility is the WordPress Network, it allows you to control plugins and other settings from a central location. Each website can be assigned a root domain or a subfolder depending on how you wish to structure your multilingual website network.
Tip 5 – Define your keywords and SEO strategy
Many websites are translated and localised without ever considering the multilingual SEO strategy for the new website. Part of your website translation and localisation plan should include new research into keywords for that region and how it plays apart in the bigger SEO strategy you have for all the websites. Here are some multilingual SEO parts to consider.
Language in the same country can vary, what one part of the country uses for the word “roll” might be different in another part of the country. An example in the UK of this would be the word “Bacon Roll” in the north it can be called a “Bacon Bap”.
Knowing the differences in language inside a country will play an important role in deciding what keywords you will use. This means that your existing keywords on your native website won’t just magically work for a new language.
Google might be a powerhouse in the West but over in the East it is a different story. Places like Russia and China have Yandex and Baidu both overtake the market share of searches away from Google in their region.
Each search engine uses different algorisms which decide on a websites rank, luckily most follow the same sort of patterns but some are more specific than others.
Pro Tip # 3 – Not all search engines support the same mark up. Google and Yandex support the hreflang attribute but Baidu and others such as Naver do not. Understanding what mark up each search engine uses is important to improve your ranking.
Pro Tip #4 – Baidu for example does not like websites to be on multiple search engines and in this case using one root domain for you different languages won’t work well.
Continue reading our tips for successful website localisation in part 2 of our guide.