For global brands, an effectively localized website is key to engaging and converting international customers. Why? Read our guide to website localization to find out.
People love to read – and buy – in their own language. 40% of global users won’t make a purchase in a language that’s not their own. And 73% want to see product reviews in their native tongue.
What does this mean for your brand? To attract and retain your international customers, you need to speak to them online in their language. And a localized website is at the core of an effective international brand presence.
By strategically localizing website content, your global audiences will be presented with a more seamless customer journey. It’ll help establish your brand in each market as it’s not only in their language but it resonates culturally and visually with your audiences too.
Discover why website localization is essential for your global brand – and the steps you need to consider.
WEBSITE LOCALIZATION DRIVES ROI
Localizing your website may seem like a daunting task — it’s an ongoing process involving updates and optimization. But, it’s worth it.
72% of consumers spend time on websites in their own language. So localizing your website increases your reach in your target markets. 76% of global consumers prefer to buy products with information in their own language. Plus, 42% of European consumers never buy online in a language that isn’t their own. A well-translated website with localized keywords will ensure your digital shopfront attracts and retains customers.
Ensuring your website is optimized for a smooth user journey is essential. This goes beyond translating copy and includes creative media localization and international SEO too.
Whatever your product or service, your customer needs to be able to ‘add to basket’ or get in touch easily. With a high-quality localized site, combined with a digital marketing strategy to drive traffic, you can boost sales in every market.
When your audience and potential customers can easily navigate and understand your website, trust in your brand will grow. Research by Edelman ranked brand trust as the fifth most important factor when buying. It came out as more important than reviews, corporate reputation and environmental impact.
This principle applies to your social media channels too. Users are increasingly using social media for brand discovery. According to Google, 40% of 18-24-year-olds use social media as their primary search engine.
How does this affect your localization strategy? Alongside your website localization, consider localizing your social channels too, to offer a more complete user journey in your target market.
It’s not just about language – cultural references and nuances are also essential to factor in. Content that reflects brand values has the fifth biggest ROI of any marketing trend in 2023. Globally, trust and authenticity are what your consumers want to see. So an effectively localized website should be at the top of your list when looking to scale internationally.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START?
While websites are just one part of the user journey, it’s a vital touchpoint for engaging and converting your global audiences. Here are elements you’ll need to consider when localizing your websites:
A GLOBAL STRATEGY
It’s important to set up your website for global scale from the get go. A key foundation is selective a site structure that is appropriate for your business goals and target audience.
Another thing to consider is a choosing a tech stack or Content Management System (CMS) that will support your localization efforts and not impair them. Choosing one with built-in functionality or plugins that support your international marketing strategy such as translation tools and currency converters is a smart move.
Additionally, it’s recommended to think about measurement frameworks. Be sure to map out what success looks like for your audience when they visit your site, and leverage an analytics platform like Google Analytics 4 to consolidate and review data. This will allow you to capture valuable user information, and effectively measure multilingual content performance.
How will your international audiences find you? Even if your website is engaging and culturally relevant, it won’t matter if your customers can’t find it. If you’re launching in a new market, SEO will help raise brand awareness among your target customers, a key component of a successful launch.
International SEO and keyword research are the answer. Don’t fall into the trap of simply translating keywords – thorough research of in-language keywords will help you find the most relevant words that are performing well.
First, it’s essential to plan your approach. Then optimize your on-page content with the keywords and make sure your technical SEO is up to date too. Read our blog about the best site structures for global websites for a deeper dive into optimizing your sites.
Set out a clear strategy for your website, including market research and international keyword research. This will inform how you localize your web copy.
You can also localize your website in steps. Which pages are the most important for your user journey? Localize and optimize those first, then move on to the less impactful pages over time.
It’s also important to decide how you’re going to localize your content. Will you opt for just language localization (for example Spanish) or will you go for language and market localization to allow for extra nuance, such as European Spanish and the variations of Latin American Spanish?
Working with in-market experts will ease the process too. For example, a marketing localization agency will take into account language expansion and contraction for languages like German or Chinese when delivering localized content.
It’s not just about your marketing content, you should translate and localize User-Generated Content (UGC) too. Translating customer reviews and frequently asked questions give your target audiences a reason to trust your brand and value what you’re selling.
Don’t fall back on low-effort machine translation for your customer reviews. Machine translation and AI can be useful tools for minor translations or to decipher meaning, such as for social media comments and keywords on Google Console. But, you shouldn’t rely on it to translate longer or creative content.
If you have a high volume of reviews, a tech supported localization process will help you achieve your goals without breaking your budget. Bear in mind that 73% of consumers want to see product reviews in their own language. Plus, keywords in reviews and UGC will help direct potential customers to your site through their searches.
As well as copy considerations, website localization takes all visual media into account. Simple media engineering may do the job for some creative assets. But creative design from scratch will give you locally relevant visuals that drive engagement and lead generation. Find out which one is right for you here.
Importantly, when it comes to images and videos, the models and even colours used should reflect your target region’s culture. Hitting the mark when it comes to cultural nuance and avoiding accidental offensive visuals is crucial.
Take a look at the difference it can make for video assets:
DESIGN AND LAYOUT
Once you’ve localized your website’s copy and visuals, checking the layout is key. In the West, people read in an F-shaped pattern. They’ll scan a webpage from left to right, with most of their attention focused on the left-hand side.
But in Arabic-speaking countries, people read from right to left. You therefore need to consider this during the localization process. Simply inserting translated copy into the same layout as your domestic site won’t fit with your audience’s cultural code.
Again, language contraction and expansion can leave you with a crowded page, or off-putting white space. For example, German is on average 35% longer than English. Typesetting and layout checks are both something your agency partner can do before you go live.
New ways of digital storytelling are changing the way brands approach content on their websites. Leveraging new updates like Google Web Stories and optimizing your existing international web content for mobile is also key.
You’ve localized your website, it’s live and ready to go. What now? Things change and you’ll need to add updates from your domestic site soon enough. To create an efficient localization workflow, using a translation plugin on your localized websites is the answer.
And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for all your needs, if you’re using WordPress the WPML plugin could be a viable option. As ever, plugins and translation tools are only as good as the people who use them. Integrating a workable process into your team and collaborating with marketing localization experts will ensure your localized websites stay relevant, visible and engaging for all your audiences.
Remember, your website is typically just one touchpoint in the user journey. Taking a holistic approach and localizing other key channels (such as social and customer service platforms) will give your potential customers a better experience.
Plus, to see success in a new market, buy-in and investment across your company are essential. Service delivery and fulfilment operations should be primed and ready to deliver to your international audiences, again to give your target customers the best possible experience with your brand.
Whether you’re expanding into a new market, or scaling in several, website localization is a key part of your international marketing strategy. With an expert in-market team on hand to do the heavy lifting with the localization process and help you with the strategy, you can efficiently localize and optimize your sites to maximize ROI.
Photo by Johan Mouchet