International marketing

Building your content localization strategy: best practices and why it’s key to your website’s success

Building your content localization strategy: best practices and why it’s key to your website’s success
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
July 13, 2023

When Coca-Cola launched in China, they quickly realized the name didn’t quite have the same catchy ring to it. 

In Chinese, the phrase directly translates to “bite the wax tadpole”. This led to a country-specific rebrand. The world-famous drink is now known as Kekoukele in China, which has a much more palatable translation – “tasty fun”. 

But it’s not just brand names that don’t translate well into other languages. This is where content localization comes in.

It’s the practice of adapting your content to resonate with a specific destination. This includes translating it to the local language, presenting your existing content in a culturally-sensitive way, and adjusting your overall global marketing strategy

After all, foreign markets have unique wants, needs, and interests. And you can’t reach them with a “one-size-fits-all” strategy if your native speakers don’t understand what you’re offering.

In fact, it goes much further than this. Research shows that 40% of consumers won’t buy in another language, while 65% prefer content in their local language. 

Translating your website into different languages is the first step of a globalization process. But content localization goes beyond just translating into the native language. It’s about creating a unique and local market experience through your marketing content for each geographic area you plan to target. 

The right localization strategy will help you build and sustain loyal audiences all around the world. You’ll vastly improve your user experience, charm your new audience, and improve your brand awareness. What’s not to like?

What is content localization?

Content localization is the process of modifying your current content for a specific new market. When you localize content, it not only needs to be translated for your new audiences. It is also adapted to be culturally appropriate and understandable for them. 

A word-for-word translation is not enough because of the differences in idioms, cultural sensitivities, naming conventions, formatting, and language nuances. Your marketing efforts need to be centralized around your new international audiences and their specific requirements to really build brand loyalty.

Here's a quick video summarizing content localization:

Why a content localization strategy is key for global growth

There are many reasons why content localization is vital to your business growth. Still, they all stem from the same thing – consumers that feel connected spend more.

Customers want to feel connected to brands. When they do, 57% will increase their spending and 76% will buy from them over a competitor. It’s like supporting a friend over an acquaintance or a complete stranger.

The tricky part is sparking a connection in the first place. A great way to do this is by creating localized content that aligns with the interests and needs of each target market. 

With this type of content, you’ll show a vested interest in who they are and what they want. Your customers will feel understood, respected, and like you “get” them. 

Building unique content for your target market has a lot of advantages for a global brand:

  • It helps you enter new markets and establish your brand better
  • It makes you more relatable to your audience, improves engagement, and builds brand loyalty over time
  • It ultimately improves your conversions, which in turn enhances your sales and revenue

You’ll soon find that, as you work on your content localization strategy, you’re also working towards a great international SEO plan.

Steps to build a content localization strategy

1. Research your target markets first 

The customer is always right – or, at least, they are always right about what they want and need. 

Brands that assume they know what different markets want are on the fast track to failure. Assumptions are particularly detrimental when expanding into new cultures and destinations with wildly different interests and lifestyles (Tesco’s Ramadan Pringles blunder, anyone?). 

You need to conduct market research to understand your target audience. Start by figuring out if the markets you want to reach are a good fit: do they even need or want what you’re selling? And, importantly – can they even afford what you’re selling?

Then, consider who your biggest competitors are in your target destination. You’ll have an overview of what’s working, what’s not, and who’s dominating the space. An international SEO agency can also provide you with these invaluable insights, along with the right keywords to target.

2. Determine what content to localize 

Sometimes, it might not make sense to translate and localize all your content for your new audiences. 

Running a content audit and identifying your top-performing pieces is a good place to start. We’re not saying you shouldn’t translate everything on your website or your marketing materials, but rather focus on your highest converting pages. These can include high-conversion landing pages and your homepage. 

To make this even easier for you, there are localization tools you can use to give your new foreign audience a truly localized experience. These include your social media accounts, but this is something to assess once you’re highly visible in these markets.

3. Choose the right localization services

Adding translation software to your website will automate the content localization process and workflow. While we mention in the intro that there’s more to content localization than just translation, the latter is still important!

The benefit of using a website translation tool is that it automates the hugely time-consuming process of translating a website manually. It comes with translation management, which does so many things for you: duplicate pages, dealing with translators, and more. 

Ron Dorff homepage with website localization

Clothing brand Ron Dorff needed to translate their website quickly to meet the demands of a blossoming new market. They used Weglot to translate their ecommerce store, including descriptions of over 150 products, in just a few days. This generated 70% more international sales and increased traffic by 400%. Not too shabby!

You can read more about the differences between different localization services in our full guide.

4. Consider your wording

Now the translation part is in place, it’s now more important than ever to ramp up that content localization by using words that resonate with your target market. Even different countries that speak the same language have different variations of words they use. 

For example, British people use “trainers” whereas Americans use “sneakers”. It might not seem like much, but if a British person is on your site and sees you regularly referring to “sneakers,” they might feel like you aren’t speaking to them.

Adobe website US version

The Adobe US version and the British version are both in English but feature different content that’s relevant to each target market.

This is where a word-for-word content translation needs a little tweaking to ensure you’re speaking to local audiences, and where glossaries (part of a website translation software) become invaluable. You can set up rules such as ‘always translate: sneakers to trainers” to speed up the content localization process.

Adobe website UK

5. Show up in local search engines 

Visitors in different destinations use different variants for the same search intent. This is true for the search terms they’ll use to find your products or services. 

Localized content lets you target the unique keywords used in different markets to help you dominate search results for that destination. 

Let’s use the sneakers vs trainers example again. If your content isn’t localized, and you consistently refer to “sneakers”, British visitors may never come across your site simply because they are typing “trainers” on search engines instead.

Multilingual SEO goes a long way in making your website visible in new markets. Get it wrong, and you’ll disappear beneath competitors that are using the right local search terms. 

That’s why it’s vital to align your translated website with your target area’s search intent. Even if they speak the same language, there are regional differences that will impact their chosen search terms.

For a brand like Ron Dorff, this was key to attracting a global audience. When a French shopper searched for a relevant term on Google, they landed on the French version of the site and went through a localized journey. Likewise, if a UK buyer accessed the site, they would land on the English version. 

6. Provide a personalized shopping experience 

For those with an ecommerce store, there are a few more things to consider when it comes to your localization efforts. 

A large majority of consumers are still skeptical about online payments. Handing over money into the ether is a scary prospect, so we tend to gravitate towards more familiar payment options.

The issue is that preferred payment methods vary depending on your customers’ location. A shopper in Brazil might prefer to pay via Boleto Bancario. But if they don’t see that option available, they’ll happily go to whoever offers it.

This is actually a huge reason shoppers abandon their cart without completing their purchase (along with not showing the price in the shopper’s local currency). 

Building a global audience is all about using localized content throughout the buying journey, from the homepage to the checkout page. This is key to keeping customers engaged and providing a pain-free browsing experience.

Best practices for a successful content localization strategy

When you’re selling products and services to new customers across the world, a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of your website, marketing, and content localization strategy won’t cut it. 

In a world full of different cultural nuances, societal norms, values, and languages, it’s crucial to your business success to treat each market with the same personalization as your local audience.

Align with cultural differences

Cultural awareness and sensitivity are vital if you want to succeed in new destinations. It’s also an important website localization best practice to follow. The last thing you want is to come across as brash or out-of-touch with the locals. 

This can be tricky to get right because what’s hot in one place might not be so hot in another. To solve this, work with a professional translator in your target location to review and optimize all your marketing materials. They can quickly determine if the content and context are aligned with the audience.

Allow users to switch between languages 

Even 60.6% of people with high proficiency in English would prefer to be greeted in their native language. 

Giving users the option to choose their preferred language to see your website will help each individual choose their journey. Providing choices like this will capture more traffic and cater to a wider range of people. On top of this, you can target keywords in different languages to make sure you’re optimizing your site for each new market.

Airbnb language switcher options

Airbnb serves multiple different target markets and gives users the option of any language they want. Obviously, you don’t have to translate your site to this scale – Airbnb serves a global audience – but you can still give users a choice! 

Whilst website content translation isn’t all there is to website localization, it certainly plays an important role in localization best practices.

Develop multilingual brand assets

It’s worth remembering that your website isn’t the only asset you have. You probably have numerous other pieces of collateral that visitors interact with on your site, so don’t overlook these important parts of the sales process.

Create voice, tone, and style guides for each new location. Translate downloadable content like ebooks, case studies, and white papers too. 

We’re not saying you should create your brand from scratch every time you want to target a new market. This would be very counterproductive. Instead, create key pieces of relevant content with your new market in mind to maintain consistency around the world. 

Localize media

Your copy shouldn’t be the limit of your website localization. There’s a lot more content on your website than the words – think about all the images, videos, and graphics you have on each page. These are also crucial in the translation process, especially if you’re targeting wildly contrasting destinations.

Make sure your multimedia assets align with the language and needs of new markets. This will avoid any glaring disconnect with new buyers. 

Adobe Turkish version of website

Adobe does a great job of this. 

Above is the Turkish version of its website and below is the Russian version. The brand could have used the same image on both sites. Instead, they chose to feature visual content that was relevant to each country. 

Russian version of Adobe website

Keep your website design in mind 

Translating your copy would be fine if translations were always neat and matched word for word. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. You’ll find that sentences and paragraphs don’t run at the same length in different languages, affecting how the text appears on screen. This is called text expansion and contraction.

Make sure your website design is responsive and adapts to the changing needs of new languages. Keep an eye out for call-to-action buttons, as these are a common culprit for truncated text.  

Example of the difference in text length between a direct translation between English and German

Take the above example. 

“Get your copy” is a common CTA used for downloads, but the German translation is much longer than the English phrase, which might cause issues if your CTA buttons are a fixed size. This can affect your conversion rate and customer experience. 

Using a visual editor in the website translation process can help you identify such issues before you go live with your multilingual site.

Consider local language nuances

It’s not just the words you have to get right when translating; you also have to consider common local practices, like how dates or titles are written out. 

Even though English is the native language of both America and Britain, they write dates differently. America puts the month first, while Britain’s dates start with the day.  

Example of the differences between date formats in English (British) and English (American)

Small touches like this can make a huge difference, especially if you want to make sure people feel comfortable (not confused) while visiting your site.  

Test, and test some more 

Localization is a process. It’s not a one-and-done situation, and it can take some time to get it right. This is particularly true if you’re targeting markets you don’t have any prior experience with. 

Testing is key. When you track what’s working and what’s not, you can tweak and change elements to ensure visitors have the best experience on your site, regardless of their location. 

See what content your new market resonates with the most, test new words and copy and, most importantly, consistently measure your results.

Successfully reach new markets with content localization

Expanding into new international markets is exciting. You’re no longer limited by borders and can quickly turn entire populations into potential buyers. 

But the key is to get it right. Localization isn’t just about translating the words on your website. It’s about creating a local experience for each and every user. 

Start with these website localization best practices to figure out who your new audiences are and what they want from you. Only then can you create slick and enjoyable experiences for people no matter where they are in the world.  

Try Weglot’s 10-day free trial and see how you can accelerate your website localization project. 

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