You’ve probably heard of Dr. Oetker before. It’s a German multinational company that sells baking products and frozen pizzas for many local markets in Europe. However, when they decided to approach the Italian market, they knew it would be challenging. After all, the mission was to sell frozen pizza with a German name in Italy— the land of pizza.
But Dr. Oetker managed to overcome this obstacle and became the highest-selling frozen pizza brand in Italy with one simple move. They changed the brand name to Cammeo (later turned into Cameo), which is a more Italian, familiar, and easy-sounding word.
Although it might sound simple, it worked because it was one part of a very effective global marketing strategy: localization.
A brand name is certainly important, but in this article, we’ll cover an even bigger part of the localization process: website localization. By understanding what it is, how it works, and how to actually do it, you can implement it in your business strategy.
Let’s walk you through website localization step-by-step and cover everything you need to know to unlock more business opportunities.
What is Website Localization?
Localization (also referred to as l10n in some business contexts) is defined as adapting a product, service, or offering to meet the needs of those from a particular market or locale.
Website localization (also known as l10n) is essentially the process of adapting your original website through language, design, and cultural elements to provide a relevant user experience for your new target audience.
Localization helps you communicate with your new audience on a meaningful level, rather than simply through translation. This leads to deeper connections, more loyalty, and greater customer satisfaction. The benefits of website localization include:
Entering New Markets
If McDonald’s had not prioritized chicken and paneer burgers, it would have struggled to enter the Indian market, where most consumers don’t eat beef. Starbucks weathered a costly failure in Australia by not paying attention to local coffee tastes. Good localization means you’ll avoid potential cultural misunderstandings that could impact your brand.
Improving User Experience
A localized website means that, no matter the language, all information is displayed properly and according to the visitors’ context. Visitors used to English pubs will be confused that they can’t order at the bar if you open a branch of your Chinese bar chain in the UK. Shoppers interested in your clothing line will be put off if they don’t understand the sizes you’re offering.
Building Customer Loyalty
People are most loyal to businesses and services that they feel care about them and their needs. An interaction with “Faceless MegaCorp (TM)” won’t inspire loyalty; but an interaction with an ecommerce brand that understands local customs, holidays, and other quirks will feel much more right and encourage customers to return.
Increasing your Revenue
With the right content localization strategy, you’ll have no trouble selling in new markets, to new and potential customers. This helps you optimize your business and grow your revenue.
What You’ll Need to Localize
One of the main ways you can communicate with local markets in different countries is by translating your content into your target languages. But localization includes much more translation. While translation plays a key role in the localization process, you’ll have to localize many aspects of your website, such as:
Adapting images, videos, graphics, and even emojis 😉 to resonate with the target culture
Fine-tuning content to suit cultural, religious, or general preferences
Modifying website design, layout, and formatting to allow for translated texts that read from right to left
Offering pricing in local currencies and numbers in local units of measure
Localizing date formats and phone numbers
Using the correct naming conventions, as different languages put first and last names in different orders
Adhering to local regulations and legal requirements
Essentially, a successful localization workflow encompasses all the steps taken to optimize the user experience of a consumer group in a specific locale.
6 Key Steps to Streamline Your Website Localization
1. Researching Your Audience
The website localization process starts with understanding why you’re doing it.
Even though international customers are a click away, that doesn’t mean they will buy from your website.
According to Nimdzi, 9 international internet users out of 10 will ignore your product if it isn’t in their local language. And this isn’t simply because they can’t understand what’s being said. Even 60.6% of people with high proficiency in English would rather look up something online in their native language.
Moreover, content localization shows potential customers from foreign markets that you acknowledge them and that you’re putting in the effort to communicate with them. This commitment is very effective in building trust, which is a crucial factor for doing online business successfully in your target markets.
Understand what each audience really wants from your industry; don’t rely on generalized data, as you won’t hit the bullseye when targeting your audience. We recommend creating buyer personas for each market, which you can do by asking the following questions:
What are the demographics of the people buying your product?
Is there a solid interest in your product here?
What do they prefer buying?
What’s the competitive landscape surrounding products like yours?
Is your product affordable to your audience?
How much will you have to spend on logistics here?
Do Keyword Research
Another crucial part of researching your audience is knowing what keywords they’ll use to search for your offering. Keep in mind that if your main website is in English, your foreign audiences will be using search terms in their own languages, so you’ll have to conduct international keyword research to boost your content’s visibility.
Simply translating your keywords and hoping for the best won’t be enough; you’ll need to find the exact terms your target audience uses. Simply guessing the keywords they’ll be using will lock you out of profitable opportunities to reach them. The more informed each of your actions is, the more likely you’ll succeed at reaching your target audience!
2. Build Your Localization Strategy and Team
Now that you know what your target audience needs, it’s time to build your website localization strategy around it.
But what’s in a localization strategy? It includes how you plan to adapt your marketing, products, and services to a particular audience. Essentially, this is every touchpoint you’ll have with your audience.
Your research will have told you:
the languages your target audience speaks
the colloquial language and slang they use
cultural and social norms
the most relevant celebrities or figures
pop culture references in relation to them
Integrating this into your messaging and offering will tell your audience that you do, in fact, have a current pulse on what they engage with daily. Even better, your localization efforts show that you understand them better than other companies (foreign or local) trying to woo them.
Let’s take a look at Coca-Cola’s global website:
And compare it to their Australian site:
Their global website had a general, over-arching message that could be applied to all their markets. But their Australian website used a clear image—bottles of Coca-Cola cooled by ice on hot, scorching sand—to put their product into the context of local culture. This established a clear association between their audience and ‘use cases’ for the product.
It’s not just how you word your messaging, but how you present the information you want to convey. That means choosing the right tone and voice for your content and designing your local website for mobile and desktop viewing (more on that later). Additionally, your strategy should include KPIs to ensure you’re on the right track, plus international SEO to ensure your localized site is as visible as possible.
Organizing a Localization Team
Website localization can be notoriously complex given the many groups of people involved—linguists or translators, developers, designers, localization managers, QA engineers, marketers, and more.
So, if your resources allow it, you’ll have assembled your team once you’ve gathered substantial information about your target audience, as you’ll more easily figure out who can help you with what. Each team member must fill the cultural and linguistic gaps between you and your target customers. Here’s an example of an ideal localization team:
A localization manager who oversees the overall project. Their goal is to delegate tasks, monitor the progress, and ensure everyone is on the same page
A designer who can easily adapt your branding guidelines to your target audience, creating websites and designs that reflect a localized version of your brand
A linguist or team of translators who can double-check the accuracy and relevance of your translated, localized content
Quality Assurance (QA) engineers who can thoroughly test your localized website and ensure it works properly
A customer support team that speaks the locale’s language
~Ideally, you’d have one in different regions per area you plan to target
Note that if you’re manually translating your website, you may also need a developer to ready your website for internationalization and address any technical aspects that may arise.
However, not everyone can afford to assemble a localization team, especially if you don’t yet have the numbers to confirm your potential of international growth. That’s where a website translation solution like Weglot can be very helpful: you can localize your entire website for a fraction of the time and money you would spend on a traditional localization team.
Then, once you’ve seen the fruits of your internationalization labor, you can hire a dedicated team to maximize your global reach!
3. Implement Multilingual Design into Your Website
Many businesses base their localized web designs on their main one, then simply add translated or localized web pages after the fact. However, as your website grows, that gives you a huge volume of content to convert into another language, increasing the likelihood of encountering translation problems, bugs, and design errors.
What do we mean by errors? For starters, text expansion and contraction—where the equivalent of a word or sentence in another language is significantly longer or shorter than the source text—tends to move around design elements on a page.
The result is an awkward page with text or media in places they shouldn’t be, harming your UX and likely increasing bounce rates. You’ll have shooed away your potential customers before giving them a warm virtual welcome!
That’s why accounting for multilingual design is a crucial part of localizing your website. It presents your information like it was specifically created for your target audience, not like it was made in a hurry to appeal to them.
Let’s take Facebook as a good example. Here’s their design for languages that read left-to-right, like English, German, Indonesian, and more:
Now look at Facebook’s website for Arabic users:
It completely flipped the design to better accommodate right-to-left alphabets like Arabic. Now that’s multilingual design in action!
4. Prepare Your Website for Internationalization
Internationalization is the process of ensuring your website is technically ready to host and display the proper translated content to your target audience. It involves more than the full translation of your website into your target audience’s preferred language, such as displaying naming conventions, currencies, and date formats correctly.
Here’s what you need to consider when internationalizing your website:
You’ll need to configure your website architecture to ensure that search engines pick up on the different language versions of your website and treat them separately from your main website. Otherwise, they’ll treat them as duplicates, which will harm your visibility on search engine results.
The right URL structure for your website tells search engines like Google to present that site to a specific audience in a specific country, enabling you to target them effectively.
Here are some URL structures to choose from:
country code top-level domain (ccTLD)
~example: yourwebsite.fr, which has a French ccTLD
Adding hreflang tags to your source code is an indispensable part of internationalizing your website. They’re HTML attributes search engines use to determine the geographic area and language the page is intended for. They look like this:
Try searching for “Nike official website” in the UK. The first result will bring you to https://www.nike.com/gb/. That’s hreflang tags in action; they’re meant to ensure that search engines serve you with the most relevant page, tailored to your language and geographic location. After all, you wouldn’t want search engines to serve the Vietnamese version of your website to a Spanish speaker in Argentina.
However, this won’t be a problem if you use Weglot, as it automatically adds hreflang attributes for you when translating your web pages.
A Highly Compatible Content Management System
If you’re using a CMS to host your website, you’ll want to make sure it’s flexible enough to show your content in multiple languages.
This won’t be an issue if you use Weglot, as it’s designed to be compatible with all websites, regardless of CMS or lack thereof. It integrates seamlessly with your website builder and other functionalities, like third-party plugins, all while immediately translating and displaying all your website content.
5. Translate Your Website
Now it’s time to translate your website for your global audience.
3 Types of Translation Methods to Consider
Machine translation: This method of translation is a tool you can use to instantly translate content without needing human intervention. It is defined by the Globalization and Localization Authority (GALA) as “fully automated software that can translate source content into target languages.” Several well-known companies that use machine translation include Google Translate, DeepL, and Microsoft to provide high-quality translation output. AI translation and automatic translation fall under this umbrella. This method offers instant results but more inaccuracy.
Human translation: Also known as manual translation, this method of translation requires the full input of a human being. This is typically done by a professional translator, a linguist, or a native speaker, sourced through translation services. While high in accuracy, this method can be costly and time-consuming.
A mix of both: Here, you’ll have the best of both worlds. This is often done by using a first layer of machine translation and then having a human edit the output until it reaches the desired level of accuracy.
Choose the Right Translation Management System
Many localization mistakes are made when using the wrong tools. After all, when you have translated and localized versions of your website, you’ll end up with a lot of content to manage and update. If you update the information in one language, you’ll have to do the same for all the rest!
That’s why having the right translation management system (TMS) is crucial to your success. It will simplify your translation workflow and get rid of tiring back-and-forth between your marketing team and your developer. It will also automate a lot of the repetitive tasks, helping you save your time and money and allowing you to focus your cognitive efforts elsewhere.
Here are a few features to look for in a TMS:
In-context translation: It’s easy to lose track of translation strings, and it’s tiring to go back and forth to see how they look on your website after making changes. But a TMS with in-context translation editing features, like Weglot’s Visual Editor, allows you to make changes in real-time on a live preview of your site.
CMS compatibility: Ideally, you shouldn’t have to change the way you work, especially when handling a project as large as website translation and localization. A TMS worth its salt will be compatible with whatever website technology you’re using.
Import/export translations: This feature comes in handy when using professional translation or localization services that prefer working with files. Export the file and send it to your translators, then reimport them back onto your website, and it’ll automatically push it live.
Collaborative features: Your localization team should have access to your project so they can edit or fine-tune changes as needed. A TMS with proper collaborative functions makes it seamless to add project members to manage your translations more easily.
Glossaries and translation exclusions: Glossaries keep a record of how you’ve previously translated content and enforce this throughout your chosen language(s). On the other hand, translation exclusions are when you configure your TMS so that it translates certain terms exactly the way you want them, or to never translate specific phrases (such as your brand name) to keep your translations consistent.
Localize Your Content and Interface
Your painstakingly translated content won’t successfully reach your intended audience if you don’t also account for your user experience (UX) and interface (UI)!
When your visitor navigates through your website, they should have the smoothest experience possible. Your localization efforts will impact this since the UI elements will be different per language.
What exactly does this entail? Depending on the language and audience you’re targeting, you may need to use other emojis and color combinations to avoid potentially offensive cultural associations. We also recommend changing your images, especially those representing people, to those that more accurately reflect your target audience.
Plus, you’ll want to keep in mind how long your website takes to load. Though it’s universally advised to keep your website page load to a minimum, this is especially true for audiences in countries with notoriously unreliable internet speed. Consider removing some visual elements to opt for a simpler UI in these cases.
6. Test and Continuously Localize Your Website
Your translated and localized website is ready to meet your global audience. But wait! Don’t launch it just yet.
It’s best to thoroughly test your website before pushing it live to the world. Here are some of the technical aspects to test:
Name and number conventions (currencies, measurements, weights, time, date formats)
How your media presents on the page
~How long they take to load
Page load speed
Checkout pages in different languages
Compatibility with browsers and devices
Bugs or errors in design
On the translation side, you’ll want to watch out for:
Typos and grammatical errors
Misuse of punctuation
Using the wrong keywords
Untranslated phrases or sentences (unless specified otherwise)
Cultural relevancy and appropriateness
Strange or unclear wording
Don’t leave this part to only your devs or engineers—your linguist or native speaker should also be a part of the process!
Localizing Your Site With Weglot
Step #1: Content Detection
Goodbye spreadsheets, hello automation! One of the first time-consuming parts of translating a website is manually detecting all the content on your site.
In theory, it sounds easy. But, not every page of your site is visible in the site navigation. This can cause you to miss big parts of your website from the translation process. This, in turn, can be damaging if these are key transactional pages.
With a website translation tool like Weglot, this step is done for you. It automatically detects and picks up every word on your site (even images and dynamic content) so you can be confident that everything has been detected. Even better, you won’t need to perform this task manually.
If there are pages and areas of your website that don’t need to be translated, you can easily exclude them from your Weglot Dashboard.
After detection, all your translated text will be in your Weglot Dashboard where you can manage them how you like. No more spreadsheets!
Weglot also allows you to export and import translations as XLIFF files. This lets you and your localization team review translations outside the Weglot dashboard.
Step #2 Translation Rules
A smooth website localization process wouldn’t be complete without a set of rules.
By rules, we’re referring to glossaries, style guides, adopting appropriate formats, and so on. Glossaries are important to a website localization project because there will be numerous brand or product terms that you won’t want to translate.
These rules can be ‘never translate’ a certain word or ‘always translate’ a certain word. This makes handling your translations smoother as you’re removing repetitive translation tasks.
Step #3 Translation Method
So, if you’re using website translation software Weglot, why are we talking about choosing a translation method? In case you didn’t know, Weglot gives a first layer of machine translation!
Not everyone is comfortable leaving machine translation as it is (we’ve written a detailed guide all about that, so head on over to learn more about how it can actually be your best ally). That’s why you need to think about the standard of translation quality you want for your website visitors.
Having a first layer of machine translation removes a lot of the initial work for those who review and edit your translations afterward. You may want the help of a professional translator to fine-tune your translations (especially for popular pages or transactional pages). You may even have your own multilingual localization team or linguists that you can add to your Weglot Dashboard.
It’s very easy to make website translation errors, which is why Weglot gives you the option to integrate your own translators, invite teammates, or even order pro translators directly. You can also see changes made to the machine translation in real-time and keep an eye on your website localization project process.
Step #4 Launch a Multilingual Website
That’s it! You’re now ready to launch your multilingual website.
Of course, there are many finer details that you may wish to look into further down the line, like translating images, to be appropriate for your target audience. But, when it comes to having a fully multilingual website in terms of the words on your website – you’re good to go!
What about the technical side of things? Using Weglot means your translated words are displayed under language-specific subdomains or subdirectories (depending on your CMS) automatically. So, there’s no need to worry about managing multiple websites for different languages.
And, with this workflow, you haven’t had to take away any precious time from your website developers!
“Weglot removed the pain of having to manage multiple stores for multiple locals. The integration was easy and the support is incredibly helpful. I highly recommend Weglot to anyone looking for a simple and cost-effective solution to translate their stores!” Mike Robertson, Director of Sales Operations, Nikon
Website Localization – Get Started with Weglot
Website localization doesn’t need to be scary. With the right tools by your side, the process can be a lot quicker and more efficient than you thought!
With Weglot as your localization solution, you can enter new non-English international markets and scale faster. Thanks to its automation, you can say goodbye to manual work and juggling excel sheets. Weglot helps you with content localization through easy website translation management, automatic content detection, and localization of all relevant formats. The best part is that you don’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your pocket or hire expensive linguists. All you need is the URL of your website to get started!
Read further for pro tips on localization
We’re not done yet! Here’s some important further reading to help you take your content localization strategy one step ahead: