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 some key website localization best practices, you can ensure that your message resonates with potential new customers and that your company is set up to successfully meet its globalization goals.

Why you need website localization 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 in the world, 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 that’s in their native language.

So, it’s no wonder that 72% of people prefer to use websites in their own language for most 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 said they judge 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 own language, identity, and culture. This, 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 is great for inspiring engagement. In fact, 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. What’s more, the first five organic search results on the first page account for almost 68% of all clicks. Clearly, 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. In languages other than English, there is much less competition for SEO keywords.

If your website is multilingual, you have the opportunity to rank for some of these less competitive keywords in other languages, which helps to 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.

8 expert tips for web content localization

Done right, website localization can deliver real results for your business. Here are some best practices to consider for successfully localizing your website:

1. Make sure 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 that’s 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. Making sure your website is set up to handle multilingual content before beginning your localization initiative helps to create a more seamless 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. The last thing you want is for localized website content not to fit into your site’s design or to be truncated. It’s important for your website to be built in a flexible way that allows 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. This 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 right encoding to handle these special characters. Unicode is generally the industry standard because it can represent more than 1.1 million different characters and can also use 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 make sure that 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, but 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 personal name), an honorific title, or a religious name.

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

It’s important to take this complexity into account 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 that’s not available in a user’s preferred language, notify them of this when they click on the link and let them decide whether they want to proceed or not.

Putting website localization best practices into action

Localizing your company’s website opens up a host of new opportunities for your business—helping you to 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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