The insider's guide to multilingual website translation

By Acclaro
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Great news: your business is expanding into new territories.

Not-So-Great-News: you have to translate your website into numerous languages, most likely with a short staff and finite resources. If you find yourself standing on the precipice of cultural expansion—without the expertise of language, customs or localization logistics—you have a daunting task ahead of you and two very different paths to take.

Some companies choose to deploy their website translation via internal resources. You can guess where we stand on that decision. (And we have too many gory stories to share.) Other companies, the ones who know that ROI is right around the corner if localization is launched correctly, choose a localization expert who works with them to ensure success. You’re the branding expert. Your translation partner is the localization expert. Together, you’re a formidable team.

No matter what path you choose to follow or what parts of the world you’re expanding into, we have found six commonalities among our most successful multilingual website translation deployments.

The following six best practices will help you create the most efficient, timely deployment possible that helps maintain your brand standards and tell your company’s story in the most powerful way to all of your target audiences. Remember, every audience is different. If you treat them with the respect and attention they deserve, you’re quite often repaid with ROI.

Fast-track your launch with validated learning

You can’t recreate your website in a day. (No matter what your bosses are asking.) You know this. We know this. But what you can do to appease the deployment “fast-trackers,” while still protecting your brand, is following the lead of the “lean startup model.”

Even if your company is part of the Fortune 500, you can kick-start your multilingual website translation with one small step: launching a sample of content. This can be a homepage or a product page or even minimal ecommerce functionality. Either way, it’s movement. Then you can scale.

Create a hierarchy of content

Not all content is equal. Your headlines and call-to-actions, for example, are imminently more important to your bottom line that the third paragraph on a random services page. Treat them as such.

Acclaro has found that transcreation is most successful for headlines, taglines, calls-to-action and main body copy. (Learn more about transcreation here.) When you adapt your main message linguistically and culturally for a specific audience, they will respond appropriately.

Consider human-edited machine translation for less visible content such as Frequently Asked Questions or Press Releases. Your audience will forgive you if the fifth bullet point in an FAQ is a little “off.” However, if your headline is confusing, that visitor most likely will not convert.

Don’t sweat the small stuff for now. Sweat the big stuff that can kick-start your website, engage your audience and grow your business.

Use the power of automation

You don’t have time for manual processes. The exporting and reimporting of your website’s content is not an efficient way to meet deadlines. Naturally, this is one of the more common mistakes the Acclaro team finds. Why? Because it’s the easiest step to initiate movement. But unlike Validated Learning in Step 2, it’s an inefficient, costly, time-consuming and error prone step.

Why not automate content transfers by using available tools and technologies like content connectors or an API?

If you already have a global-ready website such as WordPress, Drupal or Craft, use a Content Management System translation connector to easily manage, order and publish translations from within your CMS.

You can utilize live or proxy website translation, which is a service that sits in front of your website (like a mirror) and applies translations in real-time, so visitors can see the content in their local languages. The beauty of proxy website translation is that you can have multiple proxy websites that let you manage your source website and still keep all your multiple websites in harmony. (Of course, you need to make sure that your content is professionally translated.)

Translation technologies such as APIs, CMS translation connectors and proxy website translation can significantly speed-up your website launches and maximize your control over your content. The old way of manually moving content is riddled with errors and can be a massive drain of money and resources. Use technology to your advantage speed up launches for faster launches, while also presenting your brand professionality to the right audiences with high quality localized content.

However, here’s a little foreshadowing to Step 4, but please do not rely on technology too heavily. The horror stories are many.

Know who you are and what you want

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Technology is imperative to scaling your translations. However, technology is not the panacea that so many localization companies portray it. (If you’ve been burned by expensive localization technology that spits out low quality translations, you’re not alone.)

Why? If the end result is not high quality, improving the process is meaningless. The trick, as Bill Murray so eloquently stated to Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation, is this: know who your brand is and what your brand wants out of multilingual website translation.

The most successful multilingual website translations combine talented people with automation. When you use advanced language technology and you pair it with linguistic talent who knows your audience, magic happens.

Brand consistency

All this talk of branding makes some marketers roll their eyes. But of course you know better. A superior user experience is imperative to continued growth. The fewer roadblocks you give the consumer, the faster you can make a sale.

Make sure that as you are localizing your website, you are also localizing complementary marketing content. Again, no roadblocks.

Make a marketing plan (long before you launch) and then localize that campaign. Localize your email campaigns, landing pages and other marketing resources that your new consumers might see. Many companies, maybe even yours, have spent millions of dollars creating and maintaining their brand, only to leap into a new market, forget about all the ancillary support, product, sales and marketing content, and boom, you’re back to square one.

There will be surprises, of course, no launch is complete without them, but the more you plan for up front, the more successful your launch will be. “Winging it” is terribly costly when it comes to force-feeding marketing content in support of a launch.

Provide context and test, test, test

Have you ever translated German? It’s a bit long-winded compared to most languages. OK, it’s a lot long-winded. In fact, it’s up to 35% longer when translated from English.* And Japanese is substantially shorter. Which means web design is immediately affected during translation.

You can see the problems that could arise when website translations occur between languages. With in context review, images will be correct. Context will be correct. And design will be correct.

Using in context translation tools make the QA process more efficient, because your translation team can catch errors and issues before you press the “live” button. Once your website reaches your audience, any substantial content and design issues start a chain reaction of increased costs, time, redos, phone calls, conference calls and problem solving. Solve the problems while they’re small. Giving translators the firepower they need ensures a locktight native translation.

As a final step before launching, consider testing visitor engagement by serving up different versions of your translated website to your audience. Test your entire site if you want, or smaller parts if you’re unsure. See what drives the most conversions to ensure a great return on investment for your website translation. You might be surprised at the test results.

You may also want to implement pseudo localization to identify problem areas very early in the website development phase. You can discover very early in the process (and very cost-effectively) whether buttons are too short, headlines are too long or images just don’t translate.

If you implement these six best practices, you’re following in the footsteps of our most successful multilingual website translation launches around the world. Even if you don’t have the necessary resources, ideal timing or perfect data, don’t worry. Just think “small wins,” “great teamwork” and “continual improvement.” If you do, your website can help your company grow by leaps and bounds.

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