Digital globalisation is the cheapest way to expand your business internationally. The internet has put an end to the traditional barriers to entry into foreign markets. Now, no expensive infrastructure or tangible international assets are required, paving the way for thousands of small online businesses to pedal their products across the world.
However, just because some of the barriers have been removed, that does not mean success overseas is a given. Creating a successful multilingual website that opens doors in new markets is a serious undertaking. If you take a look at any successful international company, let’s take McDonald’s as an example, you’ll see that every region has its own version of the McDonald’s website.
Why? Well, a good website localisation strategy can make or break your attempts to expand overseas. Everything from the layout and design to the imagery, text and symbols you use must be relevant in the cultural context of each location.
So, to help with your international expansion plans, here’s our five-point guide to localising your global website…
1. Cultural context is key
The cultural context is everything when attempting to successfully localise your website. Every element of design, the text, images, and even the choice of colour must be considered in the cultural context of the target market. A page that works well in one language could have a completely different impact on a new audience. Taking the McDonald’s example again, a picture of a hamburger or cheeseburger on the homepage of their Indian website would not go done too well given that 80 percent of the population do not eat beef!
It’s also important to consider attitudes to business etiquette. In the UK, being informal and showing the human side of a business can work well. However, in countries like Poland and Japan, the business style and language is much more formal, so a direct translation of a more relaxed UK website may lack appeal.
2. Don’t take any translation shortcuts
Think about all the elements of your content that make it appeal to a specific audience, such as cultural references, slang, idioms and turns of phrase. All too often, businesses simply turn to an automated translation tool like Google Translate to localise their website pages – often with disastrous results.
Google Translate cannot take cultural references into account, so while it might be a clever tool that can provide some assistance with very simple translations, when you want copy that resonates with your intended audience you should always use a professional.
3. Make your message appropriate
Brand messages can mean different things to different people, with culture playing an important part in the message you convey. Crafting a brand message to let customers know what they can expect from your business is important, but creating a universal message that conveys the right message in different cultures can be tricky.
To be successful, it’s essential you make culturally appropriate changes to your branding, whilst ensuring that your overarching message and brand values are accurately recreated.
4. Check the layout
In some markets, the very fundamentals of your website will need to be changed to make your content accessible. In the Western World, we read in an F-shaped pattern, from left to right. However, in the expanding Arab market, people read from right to left, so that’s something you’d have to change to stand any chance of success.
5. Localise your keyword research
A localised SEO campaign will play an essential role in establishing your brand in overseas markets. Translating your website is all well and good, but if you merely translate your keywords, rather than checking the words and phrases your new audience are actually using, you could miss out on loads of potential traffic.
Localised link-building should also play an important part in your strategy. Optimising for Google alone might not be enough, so check out the most popular search engines in your target market. Do this well and you will benefit from a boost to your rankings and increased visibility for local searches.