Stand Out: Why You Need to Localize Your Website (And How)

Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

If you do business online, then you should be using website localization to increase your international and interstate customer conversion.

If you’ve been reading up on digital marketing strategies lately, then you’ve probably heard about website localization.

But if you think it only applies to large multinationals or companies with production units overseas, then think again.

If you sell your goods or services online, then the very nature of that gives you access to international markets.

Even if the majority of your furniture, software, or party favors are bought locally, you should be thinking about international visitors who reach your site willing to give you their business.

Why? Because there are more than three billion Internet subscribers in the world today and more than 75 percent of them are outside of the Americas. That’s a pretty large potential foreign market.

What is Website Localization?

While the term may be fairly self-explanatory, let me go ahead and explain it anyway. As the world becomes increasingly globalized and the Internet gives businesses both large and small access to new markets like never before, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the need for website translation.

After all, if you show up in a country that speaks a foreign language; it doesn’t matter how great your products are, you won’t be able to convince customers to buy them if you can’t explain what they do and how they work.

So companies looking to get a slice of the intercontinental pie need different language versions of their sites for different countries. Some do it well. Others not so much.

And as customers become savvier and the competition begins to heat up, it’s clearer than ever that delivering a generalized, translated version of your site into “Arabic” (the same version from Marrakech to Medina) isn’t going to go down well with the locals.

If you’ve ever had a conversation with a Brit or an Australian (let’s not even begin with the Irish) and you didn’t catch a word they were saying; then you’ll understand why website localization was born.

You can’t send the same message to customers across the world with different cultural nuances, social norms, values, climate and geography. Blandly rolling out a one-size-fits-all website or marketing campaign is akin to treating your foreign language customers like second best. And who’s going to buy from you if they feel like second best?

The goal of website localization then is to create just as compelling a look and feel of your site for your international visitors as your home-based clientele.

Not offer them a diluted or erroneous translation, littered with grammatical errors that they can barely understand; but an engaging message in their native tongue that resonates with them on a local level and makes them say, yes this company is for me.

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Website Localization Involves:

  • Adapting content to international or regional audiences
  • Ensuring cultural compatibility
  • Adapting images, colors, and icons, where necessary
  • Adjusting layout to accommodate content
  • Conversion of units of measure and currencies
  • Adapting local formats (phone numbers, dates, etc.)
  • Complying with local legalization
  • Localization and linguistic testing

Why Does Localization Matter to You?

While the Internet has opened up an almost infinite wealth of business opportunities, it’s also ramped up the competition. The modern consumer is more demanding than ever before because they have a plethora of options at their fingertips; they no longer have to drive to a different town or walk to another store.

If you fail to capture their attention, keep them interested, speak to their desires and provoke action; then before you know it they’ve clicked away to your competition without so much as a backward glance.

If you’ve checked your analytics and you know you have a large customer base in Mexico; localize your site, promotions, and images to your Mexican audience. Find out their words for “deal”, “awesome”, or “quote”.

Study the colors that sell the best, as they may be different from your US customers’ preferences. The time invested in market research will pay dividends when it comes to conversion rate.

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Reach Your Target Market With the Right Message

Of course, it depends on the scope and goals of your business as to whether you need to roll out twenty different versions of your website or not. But even if you only do business stateside, your customer demographic will vary greatly from one part of the country to the next.

If you keep your buyer persona in mind like a good marketer, then you’ll know that talking to Paralegal Michelle, who reads The New Yorker and votes Democrat, isn’t the same to speaking to stay-at-home mom, Susan, who’s a die-hard Republican. And it’s not just a north/south, city/country, or political divide.

Climates, traditions, even public holidays vary from state to state as well. How do you target your message to capture the interest of all these different thinking, different talking customers? Through localized landing pages, social media campaigns and local SEO.

SEO and ASO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may not be everyone’s favorite term. It’s been shrouded in mystery by many an underhand SEO agency using “black hat” tactics, but let me tell you a secret. A lot of SEO really comes down to common sense.

A sizeable budget helps of course, but it’s not everything. These days, Google’s algorithm is becoming more intelligent.

Optimizing your content for search engines is no longer about keyword stuffing. You need you use the right keywords for your local audiences and create an engaging message that keeps visitors on the page. Bounce rates and length of time spent on pages are among many metrics that are becoming more important.

Search is increasingly local. And website localization takes locally used search terms into account, as well as location. Let me give you an example. If a browser in Manchester, UK, is looking for say, cupcakes, it’s of little use to them to see search results displaying Los Angeles’ finest.

If you sell children’s clothing, remember that British people buy “jumpers” not “sweaters” and that “fanny packs” are something else entirely. Also, while Google or Bing may be our favorite search engines in the US, some foreign markets use different, local search engines. It’s important to know what these search engines are and to optimize your content for them as well.

What about ASO? What’s that? If you’ve got an app or you’re thinking about getting one, then you’ll need to apply similar practices to your app’s name, title, descriptions, and keywords to optimize it for App Store search according to region.

You shouldn’t get an app as a second thought, or just because everyone else has got one. If you want your app to get noticed, get popular and grow, you’ll need to pay just as much attention to app’s content and localization as you do your website.

In 2015, there were more than 1.6 million apps available for Android users, compared to 1.5 million for iOS users. Whatever your niche, you can bet there are a fair few apps competing for their share of users.

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Stay Away From Cultural Taboos

Ever walked down the street naked in Colorado, or sunbathed topless in L.A.? No? That’s probably because they’re cultural taboos. Maybe fairly obvious ones. But cultural taboos exist in all societies.

Did you know that in certain places in the Middle East, giving someone the “thumbs up” sign is just about one of the most insulting signs you can make? You need to know what cultural taboos exist where you do business so you can avoid making them.

Testing

Try using tools like Hot Jar to get an in-depth idea of how visitors are using your site. You can see recordings of user interaction, the tabs they click on, and their scrolling behavior.

It’s much more in-depth than analytics because you can see real visitor behavior on your site. Where they hesitate and why; and what seems to be stopping them from buying. Learn from the data. Make modifications. And try something else.

Fully localizing your website is an immense project, but paying attention to small, but important details in your largest markets will result in more targeted traffic to your site, improved credibility for your brand and highly respectable SERP. It’s time to get local.

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