By now you probably heard it all. Your content is important. And your website, as your storefront, hosts your content. The more visible it is, the more traffic it will get.
With more traffic, you will of course get more visibility and revenues. All successful businesses whether manufacturers of goods, service providers, or software in the form of SaaS or gaming, know this. In order to make the most out of content, these businesses localize their websites.
In this article, we are going to provide you with the steps of website localization along with key definitions, localization best practices, website localization and translation tools, cautionary tales, cost-saving tips and an all-around guide to getting your website localized. When it comes to website language localization, MotaWord, both a leading provider and a serious user of website localization (our website content is translated into 11 languages and counting), is the best partner to learn from.
You have likely heard the term localization when talking about translation. These two terms are often used interchangeably. We will get to the specifics of both later. For now, just know that translation is the exchange of one language for another staying as close as possible to the original text. Localization goes a little deeper and ensures that content, currencies, addresses and the overall message feels natural to the local audience. In this article when you see the term translation, it means localization.
If at any moment you have questions or would like some more information do not hesitate to contact us.
Here is what we will be looking at:
- Why Website Localization is Important?
- Who Needs Website Localization?
- Common Website Language Localization Methods
- How Does Website Localization Work?
- How Technical is Website Localization?
- What Language Does the Internet Speak?
- Free Website Translation, is It Possible?
- Free Website Translation Limitations
- Can I Handle Website Translation Myself?
- Common Mistakes in Website Localization
- Website Localization ROI (Return on Investment)
- Website Translation or Localization?
- What are the Best Website Localization Formats?
- Localizing Websites Into English
- How Do I Localize an Entire Website?
- How Much Does It Cost to Localize a Website?
- Importance of Translation Memory (TM)
- Translation Management Systems (Tms), What are They?
- Finding the Right Translators for Website Localization
- What Content to Translate for Your Website?
- How Do I Add Translation Services to My Website?
- Dealing With Website Localization Errors
- How to Localize a Website
- Can Any Translator Localize Websites?
- What Makes MotaWord the Ideal Partner for Website Localization?
- If You Have a Website to Localize Today, This Is What You Should Do…
If you want to get to know how to localize your website, you already have a good idea on why website localization is important.
But certain things are nice to hear anew and who knows, you might see reasons that you have not previously thought of.
To begin with, as of the time of writing this, there are 4.6 billion internet users in the world. And that number is growing. While English is the most popular language on the internet, only 26% of these 4.6 billion people speak it. That leaves around 3.4 billion people who do not know about you, cannot search your site or see your services if your site is only in English. The more you translate your site, the more of those 4.6 billion internet users you can reach.
Having a website is like having a storefront. While not everyone will be your client, you can potentially get clients from anywhere. That is why you should ensure the reach of your website and content are as wide as possible.
Now you know the benefits of website localization translation. But this is just the beginning. According to research by the Common Sense Advisory; Yes, you read it right. Over half of the internet users would rather get information in their own language than aimlessly shop around for the best price. If this doesn’t motivate you to seek out website translation localization services, nothing will.
Up until now we have touched upon the information aspect of localizing your website. There is also the necessity aspect.
Many companies need to provide information to their workforce in different locales in their native language. Companies within the US seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors by speaking the language of neighbourhood minorities. Press releases, legal advice, or anything that needs to be announced on a large scale benefit from translation.
And more and more, our websites are the places where this information is gathered and circulated.
In MotaWord’s case, in the past for a company like ours to grow internationally, we would have had to open a local office in another country and have representatives there. Currently, website translation and ensuring that our translation service is accessible to non-English speaking people is nearly all we have to do. (there is a bit more of course like currencies, localized information, and consistent content creation but more on those later…)
Short answer - anyone who has a website - even individuals who mainly use it as a CV for their services.
But as stated above, businesses of all sizes localize their websites to ensure compliance, reach more people, and bring a cachet to their business, which sets them apart from the competition. Any website that seeks to inform the maximum amount of people on the internet use localization as a means to augment the reach of their content.
As a website language localization service, we at MotaWord are used to translating the websites of a wide variety of clients, such as:
- Large international firms: You may want to read our case studies about clients such as Iron Mountain, Nielsen, Coach, and others.
- SME’s: Small and medium businesses of all sizes have used MotaWord to translate their website content into multiple languages.
- European healthcare firms: Europe is a block of countries and when it comes to healthcare and related businesses such as Medical Device Manufacturers, nearly all content is required to be translated into the 24 European languages. Because of that reason, the translation ordering form on MotaWord has a specific selection of “All Official EU Languages”, which will select these automatically.
- Market research firms: Global surveys, word clouds, marketing materials, case studies, and many other contents published on market research firms’ websites are routinely translated.
- Software developers: If you are a software developer, chances are you are aware of the importance of localization. Localization is the process of translating content while making sure that a certain country’s specific issues are taken into consideration.
- Game developers: By far one of the most translation savvy users. Game developers, as well as localizing their games, ensure that their websites are always translated into multiple languages.
- Law firms: Law firms and lawyers-especially those that deal in immigration or family law - know the value of translating their websites into the languages of their target audience.
- Hospitals and Clinic Systems: Some countries attract many international patients due to their specialty in certain health fields. Those hospitals and clinic systems know the importance of localizing their content into multiple languages to attract their international patients. In addition, some countries like the US have large Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals who do not primarily speak English well. Hospitals and clinic systems that serve LEP populations translate and localize their website content into their LEP-specific languages.
MotaWord’s diverse list of clients and industry experience make us a premier website localization service.
Within the industry, we do not refer to everything as “website translation.” In fact, each translation process has its own lingo.
Depending on the content and the pages of your website that need to be localized, a knowledgeable website localization service will provide you with any of these options:
Translation: This is the one everyone knows but few know the true meaning and limitations. In a nutshell, translation means rendering a source content into a target language staying as close to the original as possible. While a translator will ensure that their rendition is accurate, they will not deviate from the original source content and will not try to alter it.
When it comes to marketing, any content that has cultural undertones, humor, or demands creativity, translation is often limited.
In general, translation is rendered as TEP (Translation, Editing, Proofreading). This means that a source is first translated by a professional translator, then it is checked by a separate proofreader, and finally edited by a final checker for accuracy. Anyone is liable to make mistakes. This process just ensures that the possibility of a mistake is kept at minimum.
Transcreation: The word transcreation is a blended word. It is made up of “translation” and “creation.” Many take it to mean creative translation.
It is in fact deeper than that. Transcreation takes into account not only the words you want to depict in the target language and the meaning you are trying to convey but it focuses on which words would be best received. This is done taking into account the culture, language, common vernacular, and also the audience that the message is being translated for.
Transcreation, when done well and by native translators who know the locale the content is being translated for, is the holy grail of quality. It is best done with constant consultation with the client.
Copywriting: This is the complete creation of content based on the use in mind. For website translations, this might be a bit too much but for important marketing messages within the website, copywriting might be used.
Back-translation: When accuracy is the ultimate goal - especially accuracy in the message that your target audience will receive - back-translation is a very useful tool. Say you are translating a vital marketing message within your website and it is imperative that the message sounds right, the best way to ensure that is getting the content translated and then translated back into the original language.
If your English source marketing message is being translated into French, you would just get the resulting French translation rendered back into English by a totally different translator who has not seen the original English and compare. Voilà…
This way you can be sure that the message being conveyed is correct.
Machine Translation: Who here has not heard of Google translate? As those in the translation industry would admit under duress, they really put the whole translation task under the spotlight.
Machine translation, such as what Google offers, is an amazing tool. It allows large amounts of text to be translated within seconds. And what’s more, when used for non-commercial purposes it is free.
It is divided into two categories currently “statistical machine translation” and “neural machine translation.” The latter being a recent technology that yields better results under certain scenarios. Machine translation can further be enhanced by “learning” techniques that train the computer in your lingo.
Of course like everything else in life it has limitations. The quality can be very poor or at best suspect. There are no guarantees.
When used for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes, search engines (and here we just mean Google as none other matter) tend to disfavor machine-translated content.
Errors in translation can reflect really poorly on your brand and have spelled the demise of many a product and company. Unchecked, machine translation can put your brand at risk.
Machine Translation is best used to get the gist of a message in a foreign language. For anything to be “publish ready,” human translators are still the only way to go.
Post-editing: This is the hybrid method of using machine translation with a layer of human editing; hence the name “post-editing” meaning a machine translation edited by a human.
Post-editing tends to be faster and cheaper than straight translation but accuracy might suffer if the post-editing process is not done carefully and with the right tools.
- Collaborative Translation: This is what MotaWord is famous for and something we pioneered. It is the use of multiple translators working in tandem on the cloud translating your content while a proofreader is checking the content for consistency and accuracy. It is much faster than regular translation and also better quality as multiple translators, and all other stakeholders collaborate simultaneously to get the job done.
Like with everything else, it takes a little bit of preparation to do a good website localization. As Abraham Lincoln famously said; “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
A proficient website translation partner will be able to guide you through the different steps in your website language localization. Steps such as:
1. Reviewing your content and ensuring that it is ready for translation (here we have to say “only translate fully approved and finished copy.” It will save a lot of time down the line) 2. Preparing a style guide to be communicated to the translators (you may find more about what a style guide is here. 3. Preparing a glossary and getting that translated for your review 4. Understanding the parts of your site that need translation and providing you with insight based on experience 5. Providing you with an easy to use Translation Management System (TMS) - free of charge - to ensure the seamless translation of your content and easy continuation of your future translation needs 6. Providing you with a robust and dependable Translation Memory (TM) - again free of charge - which will ensure that you will never be charged for repeating sentences or sentences that were previously translated. (Here is another article of ours titled: “Translation Memory - It's What Friends Use For Your Translations”) 7. TEP - Translation, Editing, Proofreading. Nothing less should do. And all for a single low fee. 8. Continuous 24/7 support in real-time: Because let’s face it, you are going to need it for last-minute changes and questions. 9. All modern connectors such as a WordPress plugin. Drupal plugin, an API, and advanced tools that can integrate machine translation and human translation to any endpoint. All free of charge. 10. And of course after sale support where any issue will be solved to your satisfaction even after the completion of your website translation.
Website localization is quite technical.
We do not mean to scare you as all you need is a knowledgeable partner willing to help. Even with the best of tools - and WordPress does it handsomely - localizing your website is going to require planning and some coding.
Planning is required in how to depict your new languages. Will you be using a dropdown menu somewhere on your website? Will you automatically detect the browser language of a visitor and serve your site in that language - provided your site has been translated to the said language?
How will your URLs look for your foreign language sites? Will you be using a prefix or a folder structure for your new languages?
How about your images, your meta tags, your titles? All those need to be taken into account while your site is being translated. This is an area where previous experience and amazing tools really come in handy.
Reading the above might put you off. Don’t let it. Understanding the best way to translate your website is as easy as asking us.
Got more questions? Drop them below in our real-time chat and we’ll answer.
At the answer for why you should translate your website, we said that around 26% of the 4.6 billion internet users are English speakers.
But that still leaves the other 3.4 billion people. What language do those internauts speak? Many people ask this question as a means to understand where the ROI would be in translating their website.
While the answer to the ROI question requires a bit more insight, the top internet languages are quite easy to list. Here it is important to say that we are taking a United States based point of view.
In fact, based on an inhouse research we conducted on the Top 100 ecommerce websites, top ecommerce websites prefer translating their content into French, Spanish and German. These 3 languages are followed by (in order) Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Polish, Korean and Turkish.
If you’d like to see the underlying data and the full research, read our article on it.
Once again, this answer is based on commercially important activities (not based on general knowledge seekers, or memes and other internet content) and our research was done by looking at the current website translation behaviour of the Top 100 ecommerce websites.
If the maximum reach (regardless of industry or geography is your aim), 90% of the world’s sales potential can be accessed by localizing into English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese & Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (and their local variants).
Yes, very much so nowadays. Machine translation is certainly one way to go. The other way of course is you or a colleague knowing the target language and doing the work yourself.
Both of these options of course have shortcomings.
Website translation and localization services, those that modify content to feel natural to local audiences, are rarely free. This is due to the fact that human translation is required for localization as machines are not yet good enough to make text feel natural to local audiences.
In the case of performing your own website localization, there is a learning curve along with the time you will be spending on free translation of your website. Localization of websites can be an arduous task. It would certainly be time-consuming and also take your focus away from other more valuable tasks.
Machine translation has quality issues. Oftentimes, machine translation will not recognize nouns. It will also fail in nuances of recognizing the meaning of your content. Machine translation tends to work better for some languages (those for which the provider of machine translation has a good corpus) and worse for others.
Depending on the quality of your website translation, search engines can also penalize your site for bad quality content, ranking your site lower than those of your competitors.
Yes. It helps to be organized when you are translating your content.
Start with the webpage structure. Buttons, common elements, and then get to the text and images.
Depending on how you host your website, you will need to have a modicum of technical knowledge. This will be important in displaying your website content in multiple languages and in hosting your new language content.
You will hear this over and over in this article. The most common mistakes done in localizing a website all relate to a lack of preparation.
As with any publishing task (because you will at the end be publishing your website in a new language), the task needs to be thought out at the onset and planned properly.
Here is what we mean by this:
Hopefully, you will be doing all this work in localizing your website for more visibility and revenue for your brand/service/product. But how do you calculate this? How do you ensure that you get the best ROI from your website localization?
It always helps to think of translation as part of your product development cycle. As we previously said, a well planned web localization is certainly easier to execute.
Maximizing ROI when it comes to translation has two components.
The first is ensuring that you are doing the right things. No need to translate your website into Arabic if you will not be operating in the Middle East or you don’t need to be read by Arabic speaking local groups (and right-to-left languages can be quite painful in web localization execution; oftentimes requiring a lot more effort).
The second of course is to ensure that you are doing the website localization in a cost-effective way.
Growing companies until now would opt for a Localization Department to ensure that things are under control. Large corporations and global enterprises would outsource to multiple vendors.
Both of these approaches are obsolete in our day and age. Platforms like MotaWord that have complete workflows and constantly evolving technology that allows for better task completion enable companies of all sizes to streamline their website translations while seriously slashing their costs compared to traditional translation agencies that still use archaic systems and operations.
MotaWord is 20x faster and 60% cheaper than traditional translation agencies not only because of its collaborative nature but also because our process is constantly evolving. We do not bog down our clients with technology purchase and focus on being their trusted source of translation in all forms investing in technology ourselves and putting it to their use.
While translation and localization are two terms used interchangeably when it comes to website translations, the bulk of the work when it comes to websites is actually localization.
Localization is the task that is used to render a website into another language and to ensure that the user experience is in place for that language (again the example with the Arabic language comes to mind).
Localization also takes into account country-specific issues such as currencies, measurements, addresses and telephone information, and many others.
So when we talk about website translation, we are actually referring to localization.
So, you are ready to get started localizing your website but you are not sure on what formats your translation solution partner should support?
The answer is “all of them.”
A technically savvy translation partner should be able to deal with your HTML files, your XML files, InDesign documents, SRT and VTT files for your time-coded videos, Illustrator and Photoshop files for your images, PDF’s for your marketing materials, and basically anything you can think of. Website localization should be a full-service experience.
Gone are the days when you had to put all your website content into an MS Word file or an Excel sheet so you can get them translated and then have your website created in another language.
With the current technology and the right partner, your WordPress website can easily be handled with a plug-in, your HTML files can be rendered with ease, and your content can be easily published in the new language without too much coding.
As English speakers, we do not often think of English as a foreign language. This however does not change the fact that for over 3.4 billion internet users that speak a language other than English - it is.
The same considerations apply to web localization into English. Planning it well, ensuring that the English you are translating into is the appropriate one (there are serious differences between US English and British English), and of course, country-specific considerations as we’ve mentioned earlier.
The answer to “how do I localize an entire website” depends on how the website was created.
It certainly helps to have a CMS (Content Management System) if you are to venture into website localization. A CMS will ensure that all your content is accessible easily, that it is well organized, easily adaptable and of course can be localized. For more detail on CMS systems see our article on that.
And talking about CMS, there is one that rules above all else. WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world.
- 62% of websites built on a CMS are WordPress sites,
- 37% of the top one million websites are based on WordPress,
- WordPress users produce about 70 million new posts each month.
It would be appropriate here to tell you that if you do not have a CMS in place for your site, you are not ready for translating your website. The first step would be to take a few steps and get your website onto a CMS.
Once that is done, pick the website localization service that has proprietary tools to handle your translation and just use them. For example, MotaWord has a proprietary WordPress website translation plug-in that will ensure that your WordPress website can easily be translated into any language. You can download our tool directly from WordPress free of charge and get your localization process started.
A reliable website localization services would only charge you a per-word cost for the translation of your website. And they will be able to provide you a website localization quote free of charge.
Unfortunately, in the translation industry, there are a lot of middlemen that try to pass themselves off as solution partners and their inclination would be to charge you for every task and technology provided. These would all add to the total website localization cost.
When shopping around for website localization rates or calculating your website localization cost, make sure to:
- Stay clear of any company that tries to charge you a subscription-based fee.
- Stay clear of any company that talks about “minimum charges” (paying $50 per language for a sentence to be translated into 10 languages can easily cost you $500 - can you imagine that? Just to translate 1 sentence…)
- Stay clear of companies that charge you for the use of a Translation Memory. Any respectable company - or even individual translator - should have this in place and should sign an agreement saying they hold no right on your translated content and they will be providing you with your Translation Memories at project completion.
With that, you should expect your per word cost to be between 8 US cents to 14 US cents per language (depending on volume and language). Remember, as with everything else, transparent pricing is a must and you should be able to get a quote instantly for your translation needs - 24/7.
At MotaWord, we pride ourselves on being able to provide instant quotes - take a break from this long piece if you’d like and go to our quote page to give it a try yourself. You’ll see how simple getting a translation quote for your content can be.
We touched upon the importance of Translation Memory as a cost-saving aspect and also a consistency aspect earlier.
We cannot stress enough the importance of using one, especially if your website translation needs will be ongoing.
After all, why should you have to pay for the same translation over and over again?
A Translation Memory is also great for distributed and remote workforces, large enterprises or any setup whereby multiple departments independent of one another in the same organization can order translations for the same website.
Your HR department could be translating once portion whereas the sales could be sending a presentation for translation that has the same taglines, the same disclaimers, or snippets.
A well-maintained and reliable Translation Memory will ensure that those pieces of information are only translated once.
MotaWord even discounts for Translation Memory matches and repetitive content within the same document at the quote stage.
Expect nothing less.
While not entirely necessary for a website translation (your modern CMS can act as a Translation Management System there) it is useful to have a Translation Management System.
Simply put, a Translation Management System is a centralized place for your translations and the best ones can handle many file types, allow communication between different stakeholders, handle payments to the individual translators, incorporate a Translation Memory to help save costs and of course, allow you to manage it all.
There are quite a few companies out there that provide these systems as a platform business and they charge users either on a monthly basis (oftentimes with limitations on how many words you can translate) or on a per-use basis.
MotaWord at its core is in fact a Translation management system. With one important difference. All repetitive functions on MotaWord are automated by our AI system.
And for our clients, the use of all TMS functionality on MotaWord is always free of charge.
Quite like choosing a contractor in renovating your house, your website localization is best done by translators that have the expertise and experience.
After all, you would not let anyone do the electrical systems in your home, would you?
It is imperative that you use native translators while translating your website and that they have previous experience and familiarity with tools needed. They should know basic HTML. They should be able to handle image files and recreate them.
On this front, individual translators have less experience than specialized companies like MotaWord that has constant, ongoing experience.
All of the navigation panels, images, text, blog posts, marketing and product presentations, videos, audios and whatever else you might think of putting on your website can be translated.
As stated earlier, it pays to have a plan. Ask yourself what is really necessary.
If you are writing a blog post that is specific to a certain country, it would make no sense to translate those. The same is also true of products or services that will not be offered in the country for which you are translating your content.
Do a simple triage and ask the question “will this be necessary” before you begin the translation process for your website.
Many organizations are interested in instant translations for customer support or large and constantly updated text.
These can be handled by specialized translation services - mostly relying on machine translation with sometimes a human post-editing process for greater accuracy.
A knowledgeable translation partner such as MotaWord can easily help craft a solution and a budget for incorporating translation services into your website.
The MotaWord API is a great tool that can become part of any process needing instant translation.
For this and any other advanced need, just talk to us. A simple “hello” would do. Our Translation Pricing page for specialized translation services would be a good way to have someone contact you.
As in any project of any scale, no matter how well you plan and prepare, there might be unforeseen problems or errors.
As they say, “People plan, God laughs.”
If you are working with the right localization service, any error can be handled - even months after the project is completed. At MotaWord, we pride ourselves on always standing behind our translations and ensuring that the service is flawless and the customer support is live and 24/7. For any project - no matter the size.
Your website is a constantly evolving medium. It is only normal that the content in it also evolves and is added to.
At a minimum, websites have ongoing needs for the localization of their blog articles or new product or service pages.
A good website localization plan would entail the continuation of the translation effort as needed.
This is the part where tools and well-employed systems can save you a lot of trouble.
- A CMS can make updating your content - for all languages- a breeze.
- A translation partner like MotaWord, where there are never any minimum charges and a free-of-charge Translation Memory and TMS can make updating even a single sentence effortless and for pennies.
- Tech-savvy support from your translation partner can get you the answer you need to all your questions.
Choose the best partner. It will make a world of difference.
Previously we said “It is imperative that you use native translators while translating your website and that they have previous experience and familiarity with the tools needed. They should know basic HTML. They should be able to handle image files and recreate them.”
So the answer to this question is a solid “no.”
You should only use translators who are native in the target language, have familiarity with the website localization process, and who will be there for the long haul to take care of your ongoing and evolving website localization needs.
A proficient website translation partner will be able to guide you through the different steps in your website translation. Steps such as:
1. Reviewing your content and ensuring that it is ready for translation
2. Preparing a style guide to be communicated to the translators
3. Preparing a glossary and getting that translated for your review
4. Understanding the parts of your site that need translation and providing you with insight based on experience
5. Providing you with an easy to use Translation management system (TMS) - free of charge - to ensure the seamless translation of your content and easy continuation of your future translation needs
6. Providing you with a robust and dependable Translation Memory (TM) - again free of charge - which will ensure that you will never be charged for repeating sentences or sentences that were previously translated.
7. TEP - Translation, Editing, Proofreading. Nothing less should do. And all for a single low fee.
8. Continuous 24/7 support in real-time: Because let’s face it, you are going to need it for last-minute changes and questions.
9. All modern connectors such as a WordPress plugin. Drupal plugin, an API, advanced tools that can integrate machine translation and human translation to any endpoint. All free of charge.
10. And of course, after-sale support where any issue will be solved to your satisfaction even after the completion of your website translation.
All these and years of experience localizing websites for organizations of many sizes make MotaWord the ideal partner for your website localization project, to assist you with translation localization services.
You should contact us.
Not to necessarily work with us. Maybe you’ll decide not to translate your website.
But at a minimum, you would have the guarantee that you are getting advice from the best in the business. And we love sharing our knowledge.
For this and any other advanced need, just talk to us. A simple “hello” would do. Our Translation Pricing page for specialized translation services would be a good way to have someone contact you.
And if you are ready to get started, just let us know. We look forward to being your trusted partner for website translation projects.