Editor’s Note: This article was written by a future expert from the CAWEB Master’s course. Enjoy!

Internet has become a global media that enables exchanges between different cultures. It is now essential for companies willing to go international to adapt to their international audience, mostly by localizing their website(s). However, most of the time localization still isn’t done the right way. Let’s have a look at website localization best practices to boost your international strategy.

1. Build a Real Website Localization Strategy

Are you really planning to translate your web content without any localization strategy? Think about localization as a part of your product or service development. You first need to ask you the right questions:

  • Do I need to localize my website? It actually depends on your current audience and the impact that localization may have on your business.
  • Which audience am I targeting? It is not only about the language but the whole culture. If you adapt your content to British users, you won’t apply the same strategy as for North-American users.
  • Did I set my goals and do I have a team? Define the real objectives of the international strategy you’re building. If you’re lucky enough to have a team, think about all the skills needed during the localization process. You should surround yourself with translators, developers, web designers but also, when possible, with native speakers.
  • Do I have a budget and a schedule? Your localization strategy should be realistic depending on the resources you have and the time you would like to spend on this project.

The key is to set an effective project management strategy for your website localization.

2. Translation is your Starting Point, but not Only

Localization usually sounds like translation. Many people think that it consists in only translating content. That is partly true but content translation is only a step in the localization process. Don’t overlook the following aspects, they will help you provide the best content to your international audience:

Your website also needs to be prepared for the translation process and more precisely it means it needs to be internationalized. Consider using:

  • Unicode: this programming language supports any character and symbol (very important for Chinese or Russian translations for example).
  • Hreflangs: they enable Google to connect your localized pages to the original website and be more visible online.

Keep your source language simple as it is aimed to be translated. This applies particularly to specific terminology, jargon or even slang. You also really have to pay attention to the quality of your translation. Translation should be done by professionals! Consider having a translation team or working with a translation agency.

Half of the international Internet users prefer using websites that are translated in their native language and 55% of European users read content in different languages on the internet. Considering localization also means considering the user’s preferences.

In terms of localization, be aware of the following aspects:

  • Don’t forget to localize currencies, date and time formats, payment methods, symbols, icons etc.
  • Adapt the content to the targeted culture: think about local events mostly if you own an Ecommerce website (Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.)

In a nutshell, write your content and don’t just translate it. Have you ever heard about international SEO? This is the second question you need to ask yourself: can my audience find my website?

3. Website Localization Goes Hand in Hand with International SEO

Before any website localization you need to conduct a local SEO audit for each language or country you are targeting. You may be surprised discovering that your international audience doesn’t exactly use the same keywords as you do. For instance, French people mostly search “portable” for smartphones while Belgians use the word “GSM”. The languages are really close, but some specific words are completely different.

SEO constantly needs to be checked and improved. Here are 3 very useful tools to manage your international SEO:

After the translation process, compare the source and translated content. Try to analyze each keyword and define if it needs to be changed depending on its popularity among your international audience’s researches.

Remember to change your external links: it is very interesting to include links that target local content your international user is more likely to read. International SEO also means adapting alt tags and meta tags.

Finally, try to walk in your customer’s shoes: is he or she only using Google? If you’re targeting a new market you will discover that Google isn’t the only search engine in the world (Yandex is very famous in Russia while Baidu is mainly used in China).

Take your time during your international SEO keywords research: this is an important step during website localization.

4. Create an International User Experience

Finally, localizing your website comes along with a unique user experience for each of your targeted languages and/or countries.

Think about some translation issues that could occur. You are localizing your website for the Arabic market, but you forgot some technical aspects:

  • The read direction is different, but the menu and layouts are not optimized: your user may be lost and leave the website quickly.
  • Some buttons need to be resized according to your new localized content.

Visuals such as pictures, colors and website structure are at the heart of your localization strategy. You need to provide the best user experience for your new customers: colors have different meanings according to cultures; the website navigation needs to be intuitive etc.

Stay informed on UX design best practices in the targeted country. You need to provide an international user experience by making the navigation easy, clear and user-friendly depending on the context.

Now you know some of the best practices for website localization that could help you reach a new international audience. Keep in mind that localization is an important process in your international strategy. It should be done seriously and carefully to provide the best user experience for your new international audience.

Ready? Steady? Localize!

Thank you for reading, we hope you found this article insightful.

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Thanks from the TCLoc web team