Translating your international company’s website can be time-consuming and complicated. Here is a guide to some of the things you need to think about and a list of resources to help make sure the process runs smoothly.
Why you should translate your website
There are many reasons why you should have your website in different languages if you are looking to do business in other countries. These include:
– 75% of people prefer to buy products in their native language.
– 40% of online consumers will never purchase from a website in a language other than their native language.
– 75% of online shoppers are more likely to make a repeat purchase if aftersales care is in their native language.
– Content that targets the local market has six times more engagement than content designed to appeal to the global market.1
Website translation and localisation tools
Before translating your website, you must decide which tools you will use. Word or Excel files offer a simple but time-consuming solution. You will need to insert the translated text into your webpages, which will need to be proofread. The translator will need to be able to see the website’s layout so they can check the context and ensure that the overall message is translated, not just the individual words.
A content management system (CMS) is software that enables you to manage your website. If the website is multilingual, you will need to choose a CMS with the capacity to handle this, such as WordPress. Plugins like TranslatePress or WPML can be used within a CMS to translate your website.
When researching website translation, you’ll probably hear about localisation. Localisation means “adapting a digital experience for users who speak other languages or live in other countries”.2 Localisation also takes the culture of the country you are adapting the website for into consideration. Localisation is essential for calls to action where the directness, level of intimacy, and capitalisation can all differ depending on the culture of your intended reader.3
Localisation tools, such as Weglot and Lokalise, manage the whole translation process. This type of tool features include:
- Glossaries: enable you to state how specific terms should be translated
- Project management tools: help you to assign tasks to particular teams and allow these teams to work together
- Translation management systems (TMSs): enable you to manage and organise your translations
- Quality assurance and validation processes: enable you to review the translations and make final changes.4
To learn more about the difference between translation and localisation, see Lionbridge’s blog post “Translation & Localization Services for Multilingual Websites”.5
Things to think about before you translate your website
Before translating your website, you need to establish who your customers are and what type of language they use. For example, a retailer targeting fashion-conscious teenagers will have a different style from a hotel targeting wealthy, older couples.
You also need to consider which language variety you should use. i.e., American English versus British English or Latin American Spanish versus European Spanish. Each variety of language has different spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.6
Another thing you need to consider is the content layout. For example, French and Spanish texts tend to be longer than English ones, which may change the spacing on the page. Are your pages equipped to handle those changes?
You need to consider currencies and payments if you’re selling products or services to a new market on your website. For example, if you’re translating your website into UK English to attract British customers, will you accept payments in pounds sterling?
It is important to note that you will need to do new SEO keyword research for the new language version of your website. If you translate your original keywords, you will likely get literal translations that are not the terms your clients use.7
You need to think about the URL for the new language version of your website. Your business might be best served by a Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) such as mycompany.uk if you are targeting the United Kingdom. However, this would be a separate website that would need time and resources to create and maintain. Choosing subdirectories (or subfolders) that sit on your existing domain might be more convenient because this would allow you to target multiple languages and markets with one website. Therefore, if you were a Swiss-French company, your UK customers would be directed to yourcompany.com/en-uk instead of yourcompany.com/fr-ch. There are also subdomains or third-level domains, for example, uk.yourcompany.com. This is when localised content sits on a separate subdomain and can be hosted on servers in the target market. This significantly improves page load times, benefiting user experience and SEO.8
If you want your website to rank for your translated language, you also need to translate the metadata. These elements used by search engines include everything from meta descriptions to tags and image alt texts.9
Website translation resources
This article aims to give you a brief outline of what’s involved when translating your website. If you want to learn more, take a look at the following resources: