In today’s business landscape, a company website is now firmly established as an important part of any brand strategy. It is rare to find a successful business who underestimates the selling power of their website. It is, however, much easier to find organisations missing out on a huge portion of the potential global market.
There are roughly 1.5 billion non English speaking internet users. Chinese users account for over 500 million alone. With E-Commerce spending predicted to reach 1 trillion euros by 2013, there is huge potential for lucrative expansion overseas.
Website localisation is a process which helps businesses to break into overseas markets and maximise their profits. It is the process of adapting a website for a specific group of people, taking into account local cultures, values and dialects. In this article we will discuss the process in more detail and give you some ideas about how to work out the best markets to enter and people to work with.
Top 10 Website Localisation Tips
Here are our top ten tips which will help you with website localisation:
Researching your markets
Choosing which markets are most likely to be interested in your product or service is one of the most important steps in the entire process. Take time to research each potential market which may prove profitable. The internet is a good tool for this. Google Analytics and Google Market Finder allow you to build up a clearer picture of where your customers are from and what they are searching for.
Making use of support
There are a number of organisations designed to help business to expand overseas. Try and take advantage of any help you can find. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) offers a wealth of information and advice, including country reports which will assist your research. Other useful services include the Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) and the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS).
Delving in deeper
Once you have identified the key markets you plan to enter, further research is recommended. Try and find out who your competitors are, and how they are marketing their products or services. Looking at which languages are spoken is also highly beneficial, as there can often be different languages used in a single country. There are also bound to be a number of cultural differences which could impact your promotional efforts. Working with a good website translation provider will reduce the potential for negative effects, as they will have experience of both the language and the culture of your target markets.
In order to minimise the complexities of the translation process, it is highly recommended to use clear and simple written content. Short sentences which avoid idioms and abbreviations work best. You may also consider using visual elements to help communicate your message. Symbols such as the ‘recycle sign’ are universally recognised. Using them can lead to more effective communications. Images and photos can also be an excellent way to help potential customers understand what you are offering. Be sure to check you have the correct usage rights, or alternatively source visuals from free image libraries online.
Agreeing a glossary of terms
This is good advice for all types of translation. Before the project begins, agree any company or industry specific terminology, which will be used with whoever is providing your localisation services. Most companies will have a preferred set of terms which they use when referring to their product or service. Ensuring that your localisation provider is aware of these reduces the risk of confusion or misinterpretations.
Thinking about your domain
With a new foreign language site comes a new domain name. You should consider how you will separate the different versions of your website. You could purchase the top level domain for the individual country and host it locally. Alternatively, you can use a subdomain, i.e. . Another option is to set up language specific subfolders within your top level domain, for example . The jury is still out in terms of the most effective domain for SEO, so it is worth looking into which domain type suits you best.
Optimising online marketing strategies
Most likely, your marketing strategy, with some adaptation, will be equally effective in your target market. Whilst of course you should still localise your off-line marketing material, the main potential issues will arise online. SEO and social networks are two off the most powerful modern marketing tools, but different territories have different preferences. Try and find out what are the dominant search engines and social networking sites. Doing so will allow you to ensure that you have optimised your website’s marketing potential.
Knowing when to use online translation tools
It is not generally recommended to rely on free online machine translation services during a translation project. Lacking the facility to interpret cultural differences and specialist terminology, these systems can actually harm your business. However, they can be effective when dealing with overseas queries from customers, giving you a good idea of what is being said. Using machine translation to understand someone is fine, but don’t be tempted to use these systems to translate your response. Potential errors and inconsistencies mean you risk underwhelming a potential client.
Checking your website works locally
Testing your website works as intended in your target markets is an excellent idea. The best way to ensure this is by working with an in-house native speaker or a contact in your local target market. Conducting a thorough trial of your localised site with the help of a native speaker allows you to iron out any issues or inconsistencies before releasing it to the public. One important point to note when planning your new website is that most languages will take up more space than English. Being aware of this allows you address this issue at the outset.
Thinking about future developments
Once your business has made the transition into your overseas markets, try and think about the next step. Will your website be updated regularly? Do you want overseas customers to benefit from this updated content? Depending on how successful you are operating in a certain market, you may want to consider translating this new content. It is also worth thinking about any website redesigns that may occur in the future. Brand consistency determines that your foreign language site will also need redesigning.
If you are likely to have on-going website translation requirements, for example when content is updated or new content added, or if your business may expand into more global markets and therefore require multilingual websites, consider CMS integration. Does your existing website’s CMS integrate with translation tools, does it provide an environment to manage translation projects and workflow? For more on website translation and CMS integration click here.
As you can see, there is a lot to consider with website localisation. A successful localisation project can really pay dividends. Working with an experienced professional translation agency will make the process much more efficient and leave you free to concentrate on other aspects of your marketing strategy. If you have any further questions regarding website localisation and marketing translations, or would like a free translation quote, please contact a member of our customer services team on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email firstname.lastname@example.org