4 questions to ask before localising your website

website translation
4 questions to ask before localising your website

Every day since January 2018, more than one million people have come online for the first time, making a total of 4.39 billion internet users today. Attracting the digital attention of such a large audience has become an important task for brands and companies across the globe.

This is why many marketers have put translating company websites for worldwide visitors at the top of their to-do-lists.

Some businesses have already recognised the importance of speaking to people in their own language. In the beauty industry, L’Oréal translated their corporate website into more than 40 languages to cater to investors and beauty enthusiasts around the globe. In hospitality, luxury hotels, such as Fairmont and Shangri-La, are catching up, simplifying travel for non-English speaking guests by setting up a multilingual booking platform. The LVMH group, a luxury goods conglomerate, also optimised their online experience by writing and speaking to users in their mother tongues.

If you are interested in tailoring your website to markets around the world, here are the four key questions you need to consider before getting started.

How to be seen

A beautifully designed website doesn’t serve its purpose if it can’t be found by the local market.

You need to take Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) into consideration when localising your website. Translating texts is not enough to increase online visibility. You also need to translate meta data if you want your website to been seen.

Keywords can also affect website ranking in search engine results. There are online tools, such as Google Analytics and SEMrush, that identify the most popular search terms and phrases in your industry. It is important to speak with the translator about the vocabulary that will boost your searchability. A professional linguist is capable of weaving it into your online content.

How to stand out

When landing on webpages, visitors expect to see relevant and useful content. It is crucial to identify which information to translate and which to leave out. For instance, messages addressed to Latin Americans are unlikely to interest Chinese visitors. This can be a daunting task, with hours spent reading and selecting. Moreover, without in-depth knowledge of the local culture, important content might be overlooked. Hiring a professional language consultancy firm is a good idea as they will be able to give you advice about content selection, saving you time and effort.

In addition, the style and tone of the translated content should be coherent with the image and spirit of your brand. The original meaning of a text is often lost in the process of localisation, resulting in miscommunication or damaging the corporate image. This is why it is important to work with properly trained experts on your translation project.

It is of equal importance to provide translated images, video captions, and an easy-to-read layout. A comprehensive user experience shows that the company values every single visitor, which in turn creates a positive perception of the brand.

How to cut costs

Using machine translation is a common way to cut cost. For websites that have a large quantity of simple, repeated phrases, machine translation can indeed be helpful. For instance, the pre-translation function of translation tools is beneficial to e-commerce websites where phrases such as ‘size’ and ‘dress’ re-appear multiple times in every page.

However, machine translation doesn’t always work.

When dealing with more complex, sophisticated texts such as taglines, brand messages, or creative slogans, machine translation is likely to increase the cost by producing nonsensical and awkward sentences that require further editing or even re-translation. The amount of time and money spent on fixing mistakes is often greater than that spent on working with a good language services provider in the first place.

In addition, it is good practice to keep a multilingual glossary that includes the standardised expressions used by your company. By doing so, time won’t be wasted on referring to the previously translated texts. If you are using a translation tool, a glossary can be imported as translation memory (TM) to boost the accuracy of the machine translation.

How to execute

Websites and apps usually have different kinds of content. Planning the localisation for each device is key.

First, the backend. This is a key consideration for apps, CRMs, and intranets, but also blogs and websites including forums. Backends are usually translated using a special tool, such as PoEdit. You can keep the translation memory for future use, updates and website changes. The automatic translation tools provided, however, are not good enough. Depending on the language combination, the result can be catastrophic. Make sure you don’t cut sentences into too many segments (as sentence structure widely varies) and use a real translator to go through it together with your developer the first time.

Second, the structure of the website, such as menus, titles, recurrent content and keywords. These elements can usually be translated automatically and proofread together with the person in charge of branding. It can then be saved into a translation memory and reused indefinitely.

Finally, the content, like news, articles and marketing material. You need to separate this content from the rest of the website and you should get a backend solution that allows you to have several versions of the same article in full. These texts require a person who is not only a native translator, but a good writer who knows the domain and how to speak to the public you are targeting. The translation doesn’t have to be an exact copy of the original; it needs to convey the meaning as if it had been written in the target language to begin with. This is the beauty and art of our profession.