Website localization - More Than Translation

Published on May 31, 2019

by Marcos Dinnerstein

Summary: Website localization requires multiple elements for your company to effectively function in a different country. Understand the basics when your company enters new markets.

This post puts the role of language translation into a larger context of website localization. But first, we’ll review some of the language translation aspects of website localization.

Localization Style Guide This is the set of rules for translators that will determine how your company will look, sound and behave in a new market. These guidelines will enable the company’s content to conform with and natively reflect this new market.

What are some of the components of a localization style guide:

  • A clearly defined writing style

  • A defined set of personas being addressed. Besides language spoken, what is the range of education levels, beliefs (religious or other), value systems, cultural habits and traditions of the audience you are speaking to and with? (don’t forget customer service!)

  • You’ll need to determine whether the goal is to faithfully recreate the content or creatively recreate the desired outcome of the source content

  • Grammatical forms preferred (passive vs. active voice, imperative or infinitive)

  • How to use acronyms and initializations (what’s the difference?)

  • A complete translation glossary of products and services from source to the target language

  • How will the target language content treat slogans? 

Goya Foods had a simple enough slogan, “Si es Goya, tiene que ser bueno”. A direct translation, "If it's Goya, it has to be good" was not a problem. However… when Perdue Chicken entered the Spanish market they made this epically bad translation: "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken". This became, "It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”. That's food for thought, isn't it?

Read these relevant posts on Style Guides and on how to localize the content on your website:

What is a Style Guide

Why Should You Run Your Website Localization Project On Motaword?

What else should you consider when planning website localization? You should also look into the functionality of your website. We’ll touch on a few things to get you thinking and when ready, you should hire qualified people to implement this part of the website localization project. 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in the target language. How do users in this language search for your products or services? Have a local SEO expert in your corner to be sure your content can rank well in search engine results and be found by your potential customers.

Use Hreflnag tags, e.g. hreflang="en"(for English) and hreflang="es" (for Espaňol) so Google knows which page to list in a given country. Different versions of the same language, such as US, Australia or the UK should have tags that identify each of them as well. 

Page Load Speed Sites that load quickly rank higher in search results. A maximum of three seconds is what Google recommends. What affects load time? The size of image files, bloated CSS or HTML files, and too many ads are among the guilty parties. And if the internet is generally slow in the country, you should consider building a simplified version of your website. Google provides a useful tool with its PageSpeed Insights that offers concrete suggestions on how to improve the speed of your site.

Identify Local Sites for Backlinks The most effective website localization strategies will plan on building relationships with local websites for links back to your local site. The search engine algorithms are too sophisticated to do this quickly so don’t fall for claims that know how to ‘hack’ this. It won’t work. Produce high-quality content to build natural backlinks from relevant sites. Over time your Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) rankings will increase.

What URL Structure Will You Use There are three options possible. 

Option One: Create a completely new localized website such as mybusiness.de (Germany). Since this is a stand-alone site it won’t be able to take advantage of the value of the original site’s page rankings. (remember pages are ranked and not entire websites)

Option Two: Create a subdomain as part of your original website. The URL of our example would be de.mybusiness.com. This lets the search engines know the country that the page is intended for.

Option three: Create subfolders on your existing English language website for the localized pages. Example, mybusiness.com/de/home/. An advantage for this option would be you can build on any existing SEO work you’ve done and Google will evaluate your local pages using the ranking of the original site and associated backlinks.

Bear in mind that there is debate on which is the optimal SEO strategy and SEO is an ever-changing landscape. Consult with a trusted localization expert with a reputation for being up-to-date on the field.

More than one-third of the world’s sites are built on WordPress so you and your developer team might find this video useful in planning your website localization work.

WordPress Multilingual Class, #2: Website Localization and Internationalization


SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER