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5 Website Translation Best Practices

Aug 15, 2017

Here’s something to consider when it comes to translating your website: 70% of internet users are not native English speakers. Additionally, 75% of internet users won’t make important purchases from a website if the product descriptions are not written in their native language.

Once you recognize that most of the world and most online shoppers prefer to communicate and shop in their native language, you should build a strategy for how best to reach them. A critical part of that strategy should be translating and localizing your website.

Website localization describes the process of adjusting your website both linguistically and culturally for a local population. This not only entails website translation, but also:

  • layout and design modifications
  • localizing date, time, currency, units of measure, and address formats
  • language direction (which is significantly different for Asian and Middle East languages)
  • use of images.

In addition, it makes sense to curate targeted content and make sure that cultural sensitivity, local idiom, and other local preferences are taken into consideration.

It’s a complicated process, but a well-orchestrated website translation and localization of your site can open up new markets, increase customer engagement and satisfaction, reduce the risk of embarrassment and, ultimately, reduce your costs of doing business. Armed with the following 5 best practices, you can turn your website into a global selling platform that helps you effectively target consumers around the globe.

1. Hire professional translators

Every language has important nuances, and your messaging will become muddled or lost if you try to cut corners during the translation process. That’s why it’s important to enlist a professional website translation service to handle your project, instead of relying on inexperienced translators or free online translations that can never substitute for high quality human translation.

A qualified Language Service Provider (LSP) with ISO certification will have a clear and effective quality assurance process in place to ensure that your brand and message are being communicated accurately and effectively.

2. Plan for layout changes

Accuracy is not limited to the words on your website. You also need to keep in mind:

  • Spacing – Translating content into another language can dramatically affect how much space the text takes up on the screen. Often, a translation from English can take upwards of 30% more space on the screen.
  • Images – Images and other graphics need to be reviewed based on regional and cultural sensitivities. An appropriate image in one country, for example, can be offensive in another. Proper research must be conducted to determine appropriate replacements.
  • Coding – Depending on the language, you may also have to adjust the coding to allow special characters to appear on screen accurately.

3. Research the target market

Each target market has its own language and cultural preferences. Having a firm grasp on regional preferences will help you adapt your global marketing strategy and make the most of your international presence. Think about this: 90% of those surveyed in the EU agreed that they would choose to visit a website written in their native language over a foreign language one. So be sure to take the time to research the local audience and distinguishing market features in the regions where you wish to sell your product or service.

One easy way to target a local market is to include social media share buttons that are relevant to local consumers. For example, WeChat, a popular platform in Asia, had a record 889 million active users in Q4 of 2016. However, in the U.S., the app remains relatively unknown. Including WeChat-accessible features in your website is a simple and effective way to access Asian markets. Again, a qualified website translation company can always suggest other regionally relevant social media platforms to include in your campaign.

4. Modify your SEO strategy

Even if you manage to build a non-English version of your site that appeals perfectly to your target audience, your ROI on localizing your website will fall short if potential customers can’t find you on their local search engine results page (SERP). That’s why it’s important to research the various search habits of your target audiences. Find out what search engines and search terms or keywords are popular in the different regions you want to access. Then optimize your website accordingly and make sure it appears in the local SERPs. Your organic traffic in your targeted markets will increase dramatically. One website, for example, experienced a 47% increase in traffic in just three weeks – after being translated into 82 different languages.

After implementing and translating existing SEO media, curating fresh content to remain relevant in local searches is a necessary, consequential step. Features to focus on when crafting your localized SEO strategy include:

  • Targeted landing pages
  • Adapted domain names (for example: using .cn for an audience based in China)
  • Local keyword optimization

5. Consider legal issues

Depending on the nature of your business, your website may feature privacy clauses, terms of service documents, or similar content. While that content is applicable to the laws and regulations of your native culture, you’ll likely need to make adjustments to the legal language when translating your website for an audience in another country. Additionally, you need to make sure your site complies with any local restrictions. Enlisting an experienced LSP is the best way to avoid such pitfalls, and ensure that your site’s legal language is worded correctly and complies with local regulations.


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