Let me tell you a short story.
Back in 2018, one of ATL's clients launched the Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish language versions of their website.
Their challenge was the fear of a complex workflow and expensive integrations with the CMS (Content Management System) they used.
After completion of the first phase of the whole localization project, the traffic from users browsing in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish grew to 25% higher than the rate of other traffic. ATL managed the technicalities while working closely with the client and handled everything that came their way.
We've closely worked with companies like that in the last 15 years and, based on this experience, we decided to share the 10 Best Practices in website localization that will put you ahead of your competition on a global market.
The first best practice in your website localization is to invest in a multilingual website as soon as possible.
Maybe you have wondered many times if you should have already started this project. There was always something more urgent, another meeting with the client, work on an advertising campaign for a new product or service. All of this is important because it concerns your cooperation with your clients.
Look beyond the borders of your country. There are potential customers waiting there, and all you have to do is make a decision to start your website localization project. After all, most of the international buyers prefer to purchase products on websites that are in their native languages.
Isn't it true that you want your business to grow and reach customers with your marketing, training, and product materials? Why not try selling to local customers in new countries?
First of all, identify new markets to launch your multilingual website in.
You can choose proven markets where your competitors are already successful. Or you can define new potential markets and get there first. The more local markets you select, the more likely you are to profit.
A multilingual website will give you better online visibility. The translated and carefully reviewed keywords in the local languages will, of course, give better results in all these languages, but they will also generate your main website traffic.
Related content: 15 Languages for Translation in 2020 That You Should Know About
The best time to start preparing for website localization is while choosing your CMS.
It needs to be user friendly and allow team collaboration. You will be surprised how many members of your team and the growing international team will require access to the CMS.
Make sure it has an intuitive interface and gives you the ability to easily grant permissions and customize rights, alerts, etc.
The solution should allow you to add as many languages as you want to your website. But make sure that it also covers language locale. It means that not only the French language is available, but variants such as French (Canada) and French (France), as it makes the difference for your clients.
Related content: How to Boost the Translation Into Multiple Languages at Once
It's also good if the solution has domain control and is based on XML, which makes the content selection and division easier. As a result, this allows you to easily separate content from page elements and create multilingual websites under the same domain, or completely separate domains.
No matter what the scenario, choose a CMS that suits your needs.
Internationalization, a crucial step of the localization process, means removing all localization obstacles from your website. The more you prepare the original content for translation, the easier and the more errorless the translations will be.
Related content: 6 Tips on Preparing Your Content for Translation
From a technical point of view, you need to decide how your local viewers will get to the localized version of your website. Are you going to ask them what language they want the website to be displayed in, or will you go for language version based on the language version of their browser or operation system?
You can also include a drop-down menu with the language versions so that the users can choose every time they visit.
Translating your content into local languages is one of the best things you can do for your local audience. This calls for celebration and even if there is only a small part of your website available in the local language, launch it! Let the users know what level of support they can expect in every language.
You don't have to wait to launch the Italian version if the Chinese language version hasn't been done yet. You may also make your multilingual main web page visible before the product descriptions are live.
Engage the audience and keep them updated about the progress in localizing your website elements into their local languages.
Once localized and launched, multilingual websites are never static. It is a constantly changing online tool for acquiring new clients, communication with your buyers, or even an e-commerce instrument.
You might have some news to be added to your website, new products, or new services offered, etc. This all needs to be translated into all the languages of your website.
Make sure that all your international clients have access to the most up-to-date information and product characteristics listed on your website, in their native language.
Translate the updates as soon as possible, then, ideally, launch the updated pieces of your content into all languages at once.
A good solution which will help you update content into multiple languages at once with minimal effort is by integrating your CMS directly with your translation service provider's translation software.
Translation software, often referred to as CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools, is not a program that translates by itself, but it is a set of tools and modules that allow faster translations with better quality, compared to translating in a simple text editor like MS Word.
The most important feature of CAT tools is that they divide the original content into smaller pieces called segments and store these pieces together with their translations in a language pair-based database called a Translation Memory (TM).
The segments stored in the TM can be reused. It also allows parts of these segments to be reused. Thanks to the reuse of the translations, you can be sure that the same piece of information is translated the same way on the product description page as on the main page.
You may need a new product to be launched, and its description is similar to already-translated product descriptions. The translation team will translate only the new words and reuse the already translated text. When this is done, they will simply check if the constructed text is correct.
It makes the translation update much more time efficient.
But integrations allow you to control the cost of updates. You have established connections between your website back-end and the Translation Memory, which enables you to see what percentage of the content will be reused. In turn, TM generates savings, as the reused content is not charged at the full translation rate because it qualifies for a discount.
Last but not least, thanks to integrations, the process of content distribution and management is really fast and tidy.
Related content: 5 Reasons to Connect Translation Software With Your System
Let's take WordPress as an example.
Nice and easy.
A good practice in website localization is to choose your website localization provider wisely. What does that mean? It means going through all the pros and cons of all possible solutions. And there are quite a few.
You can assign translation tasks to your marketing people or have your local distribution team localize your website. This solution seems to be the easiest, but it actually creates quite a few challenges, like putting too much responsibility on individuals that should focus on their primary duties, unskillful or lack of the use of CAT tools and Translation Memory (money loss), and in the end, sticking with a translation team that is slowing you down with more and more content to localize.
Related content: 15 Simple Ways to Kill Your Multilingual Website
Another solution is hiring an internal translation team. This is not recommended unless you plan to add localization services to your company's offer. Think about the number of in-house translators you need to hire if you want to localize your website into 7 languages, and multiply that by the number of content subject matters.
One person can be an excellent legal translator, but what about translating marketing content? And what about the downtime when your website doesn't need translation or update? What will the in-house translation team do then?
You can work with multiple freelance translators and establish a localization team. This is a better idea, but in this case, you also have to be aware of the consequences. A localization team consisting of freelance translators needs vendor and project management.
Somebody needs to work on the technical project set up, assign files, or give access to particular pieces of the project. Someone has to provide instructions, allow and monitor communication, collect queries, etc. In this scenario, it can all end up on your plate.
If you want the project management to be assigned together with the translation tasks, go for the localization company. There are many talents working in localization companies:
They cooperate with carefully selected experts in marketing or technical translations, subject-matter experts in various fields like engineering, life science, gaming, pro-audio, IT technology, agriculture, lifestyle, and other.
Such companies have extensive technological background and are equipped with professional CAT tools. They can assist you with integrating your CMS directly with their translation tools and optimize your localization process, or build a new one.
Most websites' content doesn't only consist of text. Modern websites are often packed with visuals, like graphics and videos.
Don't forget the visuals while assigning content for translation. The same localization company that works on the text translation can support you with translating captions. They can also provide recording of for your videos with a lector speaking in the target language. Choose between voice-over or dubbing.
Remember to convert prices into the currency that your buyers use. As an example, it will be the Euro for most of the European countries, the Pound sterling for Great Britain and the Japanese yen for Japan.
Another important factor that should be considered while localizing your website, especially if you are an e-commerce representative, is the payment method.
There are places in the world where a credit card is OK, but there are others where buyers prefer, for example, PayPal. Other buyers are accustomed to paying in installments.
Make sure you allow your buyers to pay in a way that is easy and convenient for them, otherwise they will leave without check-out.
The number of characters per word and the number of words per sentence is different for the same message written in different languages. It may be much longer, or much shorter.
Be ready to change the font or to slightly reduce the amount of information, or to formulate it differently.
Making sure that the website encoding supports local special characters brings you closer to providing a website that reads well. Missing the right encoding can lead to incorrect display of local special characters.
Design your website for special characters with diacritical marks for Spanish, Polish, Portuguese or German, and logograms for Chinese, Korean or Japanese.
Make sure to be aware of how your clients from various countries should be addressed. An informal tone is almost taken for granted in English.
German, French and Japanese are quite the opposite. A familiar tone might come off as rude with those audiences.
There are different dates and names for holidays, like Mother's Day. There are national holidays worth knowing about, and holidays that are not relevant in other countries, like the 4th of July.
One last element to think about while creating a multilingual website is checking the translated content.
One of the most commonly applied solutions is in-country review. You can decide if the translations delivered by the translation provider are verified, and by whom.
It can be your local distributor, or a customer. Remember to compensate for the time spent, by giving a bonus or a discount (if it is your customer). However, if you are going to compensate for the review, that's your choice. But refrain from asking for favors, because this may lead to chaos with feedback implementation and delay the website launch.
One of the best solutions is to include the review stage in the localization workflow. That means training the reviewers, and guiding them in how to review in a way that allows fast feedback implementation and translation quality measurement.
It involves the translation service provider providing tools and training for the reviewers. Also, the feedback implementation often requires updating project instructions and reference material, like the TM or Terminology (the list of approved translations for your product or brand-unique terms).
There are many things to remember when localizing your website. This is a complex project and requires money, time, and expertise.
There are more aspects of localization that apply to your unique scenario and your company needs.
Want to know what you need to successfully increase the traffic and reach more international buyers? Get in touch, and we can set up a meeting to discuss your challenges and your particular needs.