Website localization – Key strategies to keep in mind:
In this last article from the Website translation series, we present to you the key points to be borne in mind while planning to translate/localize your website. Localization is not only translation but also adaptation of the website according to the tastes and preferences of a given population, its culture and language.
1. Define keywords and plan Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
It is only after a website is translated that companies decide on multilingual SEO and thus website localization efforts become more complex and delays become a norm. This is a huge planning mistake.
Effective multilingual SEO requires team work with your web developers. Most important pitfalls are as follows:
a. Keyword research – Even countries sharing the same language use different words to refer to the same thing. Terms like rubber vs eraser or lorry vs truck mean very different things in the US and the UK. Bottom line - Good keywords for the UK, France or Spain may not be successful in the US/Australia, Canada/Africa or some Latin American countries, even if it is the same language that is spoken at two locales.
b. Different search engines in different regions - Google is the most used crawler in the West, but Yandex is the preferred search engine in Russia and it is becoming popular in other countries like Turkey. Baidu is indisputably the best search engine in China. Also, focusing your strategy only on Google may not give results for Yahoo or Bing. Yahoo is still a respected engine and service in Japan.
c. Monitor search engine updates – All search engines improve and update their search results algorithms. Though rich content and friendly design are important and will not go out of fashion, some periodic SEO strategy updates are required to maintain your ranking healthy.
2. Make friends with the IT team
You need to prepare the IT team from the start for the possibility that their code will need to be updated. The following potential problems need to be considered:
a. how to display the default language in a locale- display of content in a right-to-left layout, e.g. for Arabic, Persian, Urdu: making a mirror image of the existing website, such that the links, titles, text, paragraphs and images are displayed in a right to left format
c. space requirements needed to present the content in other languages- Remember that every language has a set of characters that occupy a different amount of space in a layout. If your first language is English and you want to localize a website for Germany, then you might be surprised that some words are quite long, even though both languages use Latin characters. Other languages occupy even less space than English, e.g. Chinese. Do the research to fit the content in the layout.
d. display of special characters and choice of right encoding for them (such as UTF-8, UTF-16, etc.)- Almost every language in the world comes with its own set of special characters, such as unique letters and accents.
The problem arises if you are not prepared to display special characters. The characters could end up as weird symbols as a result and will undermine the quality, feel and effect of your website. Another culprit of mis-rendered special characters is custom fonts that are minified and embedded on websites. Use minified font to display user-generated content should be avoided; comments, for example, might come out wrong even though all other content on the website looks fine.
e. display of first and last names in a culturally sensitive way: In Russian, a person's fathers name is used while addressing a person with respect. Hence, understanding cultural mannerisms and unwritten rules are of prime importance while localizing such content.
3. MARKET-SPECIFIC ISSUES (HOLIDAYS, MEASUREMENTS, CALENDARS, GENERAL language register)
Market-specific issues can be subtle yet make a lot of difference due to cultural sensitivities of your audience.
a. Date format - In the US, dates are displayed as MM-DD-YYYY, whereas in most European and Asian countries the day precedes the month (DD-MM-YYYY).Imagine users in European countries who are accustomed to a certain format for picking a delivery date, shopping on an Arab website. If they don’t pay attention to the instructions (which mention that the week starts on Sunday), they might just click on the calendar and expect to see Monday first. Users might in such cases (according to their cultural code). Holidays are also part of the calendar and could be confusing if the calendar does not show local holidays and vacations.
b. Register or of your message - Some languages are more formal than others – e.g. an informal tone is almost taken for granted in English (especially in the US), and addressing your audience as Sir and Madam might sound a little weird. German, French and Japanese are quite the opposite. A familiar tone might seem rude to such audiences. Hence the importance of working with native language translators; ask them for advice on choosing the correct language register depending on your product and the relationship you wish to build with your clients/customers.
c. Measurements –countries use various measurement units for the same measures – e.g. inch in the UK, India, but millimeters in the US, France. Localized versions of a website should show the right measurements corresponding to the countries/regions that you want to target.
4. MAKE IT EASY TO PAY on your e-commerce website!
If customers feel that paying for a product is hard or they don’t trust the payment provider, sales won’t happen! The most popular payment methods are popular only for certain markets.
Residents of some countries do not trust PayPal and will expect you to support locally popular payment methods, such as Wire transfer or Money bookers or Payoneer, Arab countries for example. Brazilians are accustomed to pay in installments and will expect to be offered that option. In the Netherlands, people are used to paying through a secure system, which redirects them to their own bank.
5. TEST YOUR IDEAS ON THE TARGET AUDIENCE before finalization of website
A website is like a living being. It needs to be continually developed to meet the public’s expectations and to deliver on your business goals. Remember to test your website on target users.
Audiences in different countries could be attracted to different things. Ask for feedback with a simple survey. You’d be surprised by the answers you get to just a few open questions. With this feedback, you will be able to adjust your content strategy and localize your website with even greater precision.