Every successful business owner asks at some point: How can we grow further? The answer is often international expansion. One of the biggest hurdles to conquering a new market is the process of localization. Simply installing a plugin for automatic translation won’t be enough, though. If you really want to convince your new target audience to buy from you, you need to consider localizing every component of your website, app, or software that might affect your customers’ buying decision. Here are ten best practices to guide you through the process of creating localized websites.
Keep Your Design Flexible
You wouldn’t believe how much languages can vary in length. For example, while English has an average word length of 8.23 characters, it’s 11.66 characters for German. Imagine the small button for “Cart” on your localized website overflow easily trying to fit in the German “Einkaufswagen.”
That’s not all. If you are planning to translate your site to Arabic, your design needs to accommodate the right to left reading direction. For Chinese, Korean, or Japanese, it will be vertical. Our advice is to keep your layout flexible and leave extra space (at least 20%), especially in menus and buttons.
Make Sure Your Website Uses Unicode
All known languages considered, 110-116 different characters exist in our world. That’s plenty, and your website likely won’t have to display all of them. But how can you make sure that they all show correctly and don’t end up as weird symbols?
The solution is encoding your website using Unicode. UTF-8 is the industry standard and should solve the majority of your compatibility issues. Only if you’re dealing with mostly Asian languages would UTF-16 possibly be the wiser option.
Develop a Local SEO Strategy
To get your newly localized websites off to a great start, it has to be found in the local search engines. Beware that Google is not the king of search everywhere. In China, everybody is using Baidu, while Russians “google” on Yandex.
If you really want to succeed in local SEO, it’s not enough to merely translate your list of keywords. A local SEO specialist can help you identify the right terms so that your translators can include them on your site right away. Also, building backlinks to your new localized website likely has to start from scratch. You can’t rely on your old external links anymore.
Localization is More Than Translation
Translating your site to other languages is a great start, but you want your new target audiences to feel completely comfortable with your website. That can mean that you’ll also have to adapt images, messages, and even colors to fit their cultural context.
For example, it’s easy to forget that the southern hemisphere is experiencing the exact opposite seasons than the north. When you display a picture of a family playing in the snow in December, your Australian audience won’t be able to relate in their summer heat. Also, always ask yourself if the people in your images have the ethnicity that matches your new target market.
Consider Local Laws and Regulations
Areas that you can’t afford to neglect in your localization strategy are local laws and regulations. Almost every country has its own rules with regard to terms of service, privacy, and data protection, just to name a few. An example is the newly implemented GDPR data protection regulation for the European Union. You’ll have to follow it to the T if you want to do business there.
To get all your ducks in a row, it could be wise to hire a local legal specialist, who can advise and guide you. Don’t shy away from the costs as they’re likely less than the legal fees you’d have to pay for violating local law.
Adapt Your Social Media Strategy
Social networks are a major traffic source for many websites. As with search engines, there are clear local preferences. For example, you might already be aware that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are banned in China. Instead, WeChat and Sina Weibo run the show.
To get your new localized website the attention it deserves, connect with your target audience on their preferred social media channels. Additionally, make sure to always show the right social sharing buttons on your site.
Localize Your Customer Support
When your new customers see your website in their native language, they’ll have the expectation that they can reach out to you and receive support in that same language. Offering local phone numbers and addresses will make them feel more confident that you’ll be there for them if needed.
Your customer service team should be prepared to handle inquiries in different languages. In case you don’t want to hire native speaking support staff right away, you could prepare templates that answer the most common questions in all languages.
Adapt Your Payment Options
Your new customers have made it all the way to your checkout page. You certainly don’t want to lose them there. However, if they don’t trust the displayed payment options, they’ll close their browser window faster than you can say “Paypal.”
Each country has its own preferred methods for payment, and you might have never heard of some of them. For example, the Dutch prefer to use iDeal, which redirects them to their own bank. Researching and offering the right methods will pay off (literally).
Don’t Localize Manually
If you think manually managing your website localization will save you some money because you don’t have to invest in a professional translation management software, we have to burst your bubble. Relying solely on spreadsheets and emails leaves too much room for error. Your project will ultimately require more manpower and leave everybody involved frustrated.
The right translation management tool can really take the headache out of getting your localized website set up. One of the most useful features is that your translators can type directly onto your website. Imagine how much faster everything will get done.
With a specialized tool, like PhraseApp, coordination and communication between project management, developers, and translators will be a breeze. Moreover, it can smoothly integrate into your existing workflows, so you can finally escape spreadsheet hell. Try out PhraseApp today by starting your free 14-day trial.
Test Your Localized Website
Before you let your new website loose, it’s time to test. Check if everything is functioning correctly, if the translations are all accurate, and if any designs are broken. Be sure to also optimize your site for speed. A slow loading process can destroy the great first impression you’re hoping to make on your new audience.
Once your site is up and running, you can continue to test and improve. Why not ask your new audience for feedback through a survey? That can give you a hint on what to focus on to increase conversions.
Wrapping It Up
Website localization can look like a mountain of a task. But when you follow our best practices, you’ll be able to pull it off much more easily than you might have initially thought. If you do get frustrated in the process, think about the opportunities that await your business in new markets across the globe. You have the chance to tap into the pool of over 4 billion internet users worldwide. The sooner you start, the earlier you’ll earn the rewards for taking this brave step.