Website localization best practices: 8 smart tips for going global

By Acclaro
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Your company’s website is often your first opportunity to make a good impression on new global audiences. By following key website localization best practices, you can ensure that your message resonates with potential new customers and that your company is set up to meet global growth goals successfully.

Why you need website localization services to succeed worldwide

Website localization delivers powerful benefits for your business that can help drive long-term growth. A localized website with high-quality content allows you to:

Expand your reach into new markets

There are nearly 5 billion internet users worldwide, and if your website is solely in English, then you’re only reaching about a quarter of them. It’s a simple fact that people process information better and place more trust in content in their native language.

So, it’s no wonder that 72% of people prefer to use websites in their language for almost everything they do online. That makes choosing the right website localization techniques key for entering lucrative new markets.

Establish credibility and trust

When surveyed, 75% of consumers judged an organization’s credibility based on its website. A localized website shows customers in your target markets that you take their needs seriously and respect that they have their language, identity, and culture. Multilingual web content, in turn, helps to inspire trust in your brand, and that’s good for business. On average, consumers spend 25% more on brands they trust.

Keep web visitors actively engaged with your brand

Customers engage with brands that feel authentic, relevant, and in sync with their priorities and values. Localizing your website goes beyond translating your content. It allows your brand to become a cultural insider, which inspires engagement. Locally targeted content gets 6x more engagement than content that hasn’t been localized.

Leverage an international SEO strategy

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a top priority for most companies for good reason. In a poll, 49% of marketers said that organic search has the highest ROI of all digital channels. Moreover, the first five organic search results on the first page account for almost 68% of all clicks. The better your website ranks, the better it is for your business.

The challenge is that the SEO landscape in the US is intensely competitive. Website localization offers a solution to this problem. There is much less competition for SEO keywords in languages other than English.

If your website is multilingual, you can rank for some of these less competitive keywords in other languages, which helps drive more traffic to your site. At the same time, ranking well for non-English keywords helps to increase your Domain Authority (DA), which may also help your site rank better for keywords in English.

Industries that benefit from website localization services

If your website is an ecommerce marketplace, localization is an absolute must for global success. Product offerings, pricing, payment methods, and currencies typically vary by locale, and failing to localize can turn off potential customers. In a survey, 40% of respondents said they would not buy from websites in other languages.

However, it’s not just ecommerce sites that benefit from localization. Given customers’ overwhelming preference for native-language content, there are compelling reasons to invest in website localization for businesses and organizations of all kinds, including:

  • Software as a service (SaaS) providers–Users overwhelmingly prefer software in their language. If a software company’s website isn’t localized, potential customers may assume its products aren’t either and turn to a competitor for their purchases.
  • Financial services companies–Whether it’s fintech, cryptocurrency, or blockchain-based banking, financial services companies face vastly different legal and regulatory environments from one country to the next. Website localization helps these businesses make sure they stay in compliance across all their markets.
  • Non-profit organizations–From education and the arts to the environment and health, non-profits connect with their audiences through a shared passion for the mission. Website localization services enable these organizations to deliver their message with maximum impact across languages and cultures.

8 web content localization best practices

Done right, website localization can deliver the kind of business results you’re looking for. Here are some best practices to consider for successfully localizing your website:

1. Ensure your website is localization-ready

A smooth website localization experience starts with choosing the right content management system (CMS). Team members across markets will likely need to access the CMS, so make sure the interface is intuitive and easy to use.

Next, you’ll want to remove potential obstacles to translation and localization from your site—a process known as internationalization. This can include checking that your website’s technology is flexible enough to handle different character sets, date and time formats, and currency. Ensuring your website is set up to handle multilingual content before beginning your initiative helps create a more seamless localization process.

2. Account for differences in language orientation and length

Some languages, like French and German, may need more room than English, while languages like Chinese or Korean may need less. When translating, the last thing you want is for localized website content not to fit into your site’s design or to be truncated. Your website needs to be built with flexibility in mind, allowing for different languages, including language orientations (e.g., languages that are read right to left or top to bottom versus left to right).

3. Keep text separated from images whenever you can

Embedded text in an image is difficult to localize since it can’t be easily separated. Instead, consider using a layer of translatable text for images, using CSS, for example. Using best practices for multimedia localization allows for a more seamless translation experience.

4. Check your localized content for corrupted or missing characters

If you find garbled characters in your localized content—such as question mark symbols systematically placed within words where they don’t belong—this typically means that the character set for the target language wasn’t supported.

You can avoid these problems by making sure you’re using the correct encoding to handle these special characters. Unicode is generally the industry standard because it can represent more than 1.1 million characters and uses more bits per character than ASCII.

5. Make sure your database schema can support international variants

If your website relies on a database for various functionality, it’s important to consider localization from the outset when creating that database. Database fields can be constructed in a way that makes it impossible to display multi-language variants. To support website localization, you’ll need to ensure your database schema is flexible enough to accommodate multilingual content.

6. Avoid hard coding for time, currency, and date formats

Time and date formats, not to mention currency, vary a lot between different locales. It can become very complicated to manage if these formats are hard coded. To reduce the complexity, consider using standardized formats such as ISO, epoch time, or UTC. There are also libraries such as Date.js and Moment.js that will automatically format dates and times for each geography.

7. Account for variations in how names are structured and ordered

There are many different naming conventions used in countries around the world. In English-speaking cultures, personal name + middle name + family name is the typical construction. Still, in other cultures, a person’s full name may include their mother’s family name, father’s family name, father’s personal name, grandfather’s personal name, a patronymic (name derived from the father’s name), an honorific title, or a religious name.

Names are also structured in different orders in various cultures. For instance, Korean names start with the family name first and the personal name second.

Considering this complexity is important when creating databases for your company’s website. To accommodate the sheer variety of naming conventions, you should consider using a single field for “Full Name.” This way, you won’t end up with personal names in the family name field and vice versa.

8. Make it as easy and intuitive for users to switch languages on your website

A seamless user experience makes people feel welcome on your website and encourages them to spend more time there. Many people speak more than one language fluently, so make sure it’s obvious how to switch languages by locating the language selector in a highly visible location on your site.

It’s also important to create a continuous experience in the selected language. Don’t switch users to a different language without their permission. If your site has content unavailable in a user’s preferred language, notify them when they click on the link and let them decide whether they want to proceed.

FAQs for website localization services

Q. How does website localization differ from translation?

A. While translation and localization are closely related, they have fundamental differences. Translation is the process of converting text into another language. It’s one part of the more extensive process of localization, which involves adapting the entire customer experience for different locales, including both language and culture.

Q. What kind of organizations need website localization?

A. Customers overwhelmingly prefer website experiences that are tailored to them. They’ll spend more time on a site if it delivers culturally relevant, native-language content. To be competitive and attract global customers, website localization is a must.

This is true for companies and organizations across many different industries, including:

  • eCommerce
  • Financial services
  • Hi-tech
  • Media and communications
  • Travel and hospitality
  • Non-profits 

Q. Is website localization a worthwhile investment?

A. Website localization is one of the best investments you can make for your global business. It delivers a broad range of important benefits for meeting your globalization goals. Done right, website localization can help your organization:

  • Expand your reach into new markets
  • Build credibility and trust with new audiences
  • Improve engagement with your brand across markets
  • Drive web traffic and boost your search ranking

Q. What should you look for in professional website localization services?

A. Look for a provider that can be a true partner throughout every stage of your website’s localization—from strategy and planning to translation to ongoing updates. Choose a team with the language and cultural expertise needed for your markets, domain expertise in your field, an efficient, well-organized workflow, the appropriate technical knowledge, and deep experience with localizing websites.

Your partner should also be able to work with your translation management system (TMS), offer integrations that facilitate collaboration and speed up turnaround times, and provide continuous localization to streamline the translation process.

Putting website localization best practices into action

Localizing your company’s website opens up many new opportunities for your business—helping you expand your reach globally, win over new customers, and increase engagement with your brand. The best website localization starts with choosing the right professional localization and translation company as your partner.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you implement website localization best practices to unlock long-term growth and achieve your globalization goals.

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