Does expansion, new markets and an international clientele form part of your business plan? If you are thinking of expanding abroad, think also about localisation. In the digital age, translating a site is no longer enough. To reach an international audience and optimise your sites’s SEO, you need to adapt your complete offering to the local target: vocabulary, currency, taxes, time zones, or URLS… to name just a few. Let’s recap the essential elements for localising a website.
Translation vs Localisation of a website
Although translating a website is not the same as localising it, translation is a part of localisation. Is that clear? Very different from copying and pasting or using automatic translation, localising a website is about adjusting all the content in order to cater for the local target market as well as the search engines. Both on centre stage and behind the scenes, every element must seem to have been designed especially for the country in question. We talk about cultural localisation for the visible elements, such as texts, and technical localisation for the inconspicuous or hidden elements in a site’s back end.
The cultural localisation of a website
Cultural localisation is adapting the content to the culture of the country: language, laws, customs, etc.
Forget automatic translation, good localisation requires quality translation. A good translator knows how to use vocabulary relevant to the target language and how to adapt it to the target audience. He or she is capable of drawing on historical or local cultural references, using typical expressions and the appropriate style or level of language. A robot cannot do this, at least not yet.
Having to convert the prices themselves into another currency discourages most consumers. Use the currency of the target country and convert every price indicated, on the product pages, in the terms and conditions, in the delivery conditions, and even in marketing content (blog, white papers, etc.)
If your products are seasonal, watch out for local specificities! Adapt your offering to the season and climatic particularities of the chosen country: a fur hat popular in Canada will have very little success in Miami.
Each country has its own calendar. Bank holidays, national holidays, or simple traditions should influence your business calendar, from promotional events to marketing operations, in order to optimise their impact.
Headers, footers, menus
They are visible, used for navigation and carefully crawled by search engine robots, so their localisation is essential. Translate them and adapt them, above all, to optimise the customer path or to prioritise the information to the needs of your target audience.
Vague, incomplete or missing information with regards to delivery times and prices are enough to put your online customers off. To avoid them abandoning their basket, ensure you give precise delivery times, adapted to local delivery methods and supply clear prices in the local currency.
Proximity is reassuring! Localise your contact information with a local address and telephone number, ideally also with a local team in place. Ensure you include an email address or offer a chat facility. In all cases, set out the customer service department opening times, adapted to the country’s time zone and answer consumers in their own language.
Once more, a potential customer faced with unfamiliar payment methods usually has one reaction: to leave. Bank cards, online payment platforms, electronic wallets, cheques, bank transfers, payment on delivery; each country has its own practices… that a well-localised website must absolutely understand and adopt.
Returns or refund policies
This essential information may vary from one country to another, depending on local laws regulating traders and protecting consumers. Do not be content with translating your original policy – adapt it.
Taxes also differ from one country to another, even from one state to another in the USA…
Parcel weights, distances, screen sizes, clothing sizes or shoe sizes: each country has its peculiarities when it comes to units of measure. You must adopt them, or at least provide conversion tables. If you don’t, it will be impossible for the customer to understand; and they might have a shock to discover the delivery costs if the weight of the parcel is not specified in the usual unit of measurement for the country!
It’s impossible to ensure a 48 hour delivery to the other side of the world, except with exorbitant delivery costs, or to announce an event at a French time for an Australian audience. Adapt each content element to the local time zone… and ensure you take account of the time difference!
Blog articles, white papers, infographics, tutorials, videos, emails – all are essential for natural SEO. Translate those which might interest your local target, paying particular attention to the vocabulary used and, even better, create bespoke content.
The technical localisation of a website
Too often forgotten, technical localisation consists of translating the elements that are hidden or invisible, but essential to the functioning of a website, as well as to its SEO.
For better SEO impact, choose a domain name for each country, bring together all the content relating to it, then translate every URL. So “societe.fr” is better than “company.com”.
Links to foreign sites will have no influence on your local SEO. Links to popular local sites will though!
Essential for good SEO, all the ALT tags must be translated to localise a website. And no image text, title or keyword should be missed.
Think about specifying the destination audiences in Google Webmaster Tools, to avoid the French site appearing at the top of the Japanese search results.
Error messages, popups, forms, buttons, automatic emails
When a visitor subscribes to your newsletter, sends a message or clicks in the wrong place, he or she will receive a response via an email, popup or error message. To complete a form, he or she needs to understand the fields, then to submit it, find the right button… These elements need to be translated to ensure good localisation!
Does the process seem complex? It’s worth getting right. A well-localised site is a well-indexed site, and its conversion rate is better. More visible to search engines, it is consequently more easily found and visited by your targeted consumers. Consumers who, if they find content adapted to their needs, will spread the word, improve your brand image… and therefore boost visits and SEO, creating a virtuous circle. Happy robots, happy customers, what could be better?