Website localization: how to prepare for a successful outcome

Website localization: how to prepare for a successful outcome

Translating your website into multiple languages (or even one language) can be a big undertaking. We strive to make the actual translation process as efficient and carefree as possible. However, the process always goes more smoothly with a translation-friendly source. Follow these best practices to prepare for website localization.

Design with translation in mind

Are you creating a new website, or redesigning an old one?  Take advantage of this opportunity to create a translation-friendly site.

  1. Adapt your design: If your website design is not already responsive, have it adapted for responsive viewing on mobile devices. In some parts of the world, users browse exclusively on mobile devices.
  2. Research multilingual plugins for your content management system (CMS). For example, we use WPML (WordPress Multilingual) for the Scriptis site.
  3. Prepare for text expansion with ample white space.  When translating from English into Spanish, French, Portuguese, or Italian, the target translation will require up to 30% more space. When translating from one of these languages to Chinese or Japanese, the target translation requires less space. Your design should accommodate these changes.
  4. Never embed text in images. Follow this principle to create translation-friendly content in any medium. If we cannot extract the words from the image for translation, we will need to re-create the image.

Establish parameters

Whether redesigning a site or translating a current site, consider these issues before soliciting quotes for website localization.

  1. Choose content for translation: Which parts of your site need to be translated? What portions of your website will appeal to people in other countries? Will you sell all of your goods and services in other markets, or will you start with a limited offering? Do the foreign language sites need to show job opportunities, directions to your place of business, or frequently changing news items? Triage the content before you get a price for website translation to avoid unnecessary sticker shock. You might consider starting small with landing pages and micro-sites.
  2. Get a cultural assessment: A pre-translation cultural assessment can help determine if your site presents difficulties for localization. The site may include images or colors that are inappropriate or unappealing to the target culture.

Pick the right language service partner

Find a translation agency with experience in website localization. Choose a team with the technical savvy to interact with your web developer. Together, they will determine the most efficient translation process based on the site’s size, content management system, and other factors. Depending on your needs, your language service partner can recommend either hands-on localization engineering or an automated solution such as a proxy-based approach.

Link sites through a language menu

Make it easy for users to find and switch between language options. You might choose a simple list of language links side by side, or a pull-down menu.

Whatever you choose, list each option in its own language. For example, indicate Spanish with the word “español” in the language menu on all versions of the site. Do not use flags to indicate languages. Only use flags to mark sites dedicated to a particular country. Otherwise, you implicitly exclude some speakers of global languages like French, English, or Spanish.

Plan for international SEO

Prepare for core international search engine optimization (SEO) so your prospects can find you! The following points summarize our downloadable free resource, 10 steps to international SEO.

  1. Specify your targets: Be clear whether you intend to target by language or by region.
  2. Choose your URL structure: You can structure the foreign language sites as subdomains of your main site, subdirectories, or separate URLs. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.
  3. Conduct multilingual keyword analysis: Don’t assume that direct translations of your existing keywords will give you the best keywords in other languages. Do the research to find the best keywords and phrases for users in each language.
  4. Specify the language and country in the html tag of your site. When optimizing for Google, use the hreflang tags in your HTTP header, HTML header or xml sitemap. Look beyond Google to index your site for relevant local search engines such as Baidu in China or Yandex in Russia.
  5. Translate all relevant content: Search engines scan and use all content to evaluate your site. This includes meta page titles, descriptions and keywords, image descriptions, and URLs.
  6. Prepare for off-page SEO: Develop a plan for building backlinks from other sites in the same language. Participate in relevant local social networks and consider soliciting mentions in news media. Keyword research will have helped you prepare for pay-per-click advertising.
  7. Plan for updates: a static site will tend to fall in rankings over time without updates and additions. Updates to the “flagship” site will require translation as well. Our expertise with localization engineering will help assess the feasibility and budget required for maintaining localized versions of your site in sync with the authoring workflows.

Website localization: maximize your ROI

Website translation can be challenging. And, doing it wrong can simply be a waste of money. However, bringing localization experts to the planning table with your technical and authoring teams can help with budget planning and minimizing costs. Most importantly, working with a professional language service partner gives you the best possible chance of international success.