Translating a website and localization is essential for companies, businesses, and even individuals looking to market and sell their products (and services) in a shrinking world. There are hardly any “national markets” any longer, and the growing number of startups in Europe and the US is proving that a good idea, some investment, and good execution can reach the world very quickly. But website translation, if you have ever tried, is challenging and very time-consuming (in the wrong hands). Nevertheless, translating a website and website localization is so essential to a company’s business that it becomes a priority from day one.
Companies can take positive steps to ease the translation process by preparing their websites for localization, for example, by using a geographic term. Website localization goes beyond simply translating a website. It includes technical areas, website management, SEO research, and text optimization. Your “translation” may not reflect the original, but a good localizer will make it effective. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to facilitate effective localization to go from a single-language website to a multilingual website.
1. Decide on multilanguage or multisite
This is a critical decision that will affect the whole of your website translation and website localization strategy. If you decide on a multisite, you need to purchase your site’s name and secure it in different countries to make it more “local” and relevant to readers.
For example, go to http://www.cocacola.es/, which is the Spanish website of this famous brand. They have bought a local .es domain to address Spanish audiences. We have Pangeanic.es to address specific issues of Spanish-speaking companies that need international translation services. Check www.sony.de as another example of a multisite strategy. But type panasonic.de, and you will be redirected to http://www.panasonic.com/de/consumer.html. Next, you go to the root site (.com), which tells search engines you have a specific section for German speakers (/de/).
This is multilanguage, that is, many languages in one site. In theory, both strategies are acceptable for SEO and ranking. Still, multisite has some advantages, as search results will make you appear more local and relevant to the country in question. Also, multi-sites can provide several quality links in a general backlink strategy. The disadvantage is that you must purchase and maintain several domains, which may differ over time.
A multilanguage strategy often forces you to publish almost simultaneously in several languages to maintain a coherent structure, but it is much easier to manage. If you are targeting countries with the same language, tell Google that content is “canonical” to avoid search engines penalizing all your sites for duplicating content.
For example, Pangeanic has sister sites in the US and the UK, and we must tell Google that although the content is identical, each site is directed (with different spellings) to other countries. Lastly, adding hreflang attributes and markup to your sitemap will help Google know which of your websites corresponds to which languages and countries.
2. Use a Content Management System (CMS) with multilingual capabilities
A good CMS will streamline the website localization process. However, not all CMS are created equal. Consider the markets and languages vital to you and that the CMS supports all of them, including right-to-left languages (Arabic, Hebrew). Check compatibility with Indian languages if India is essential for you and with double-bit Asian scripts like Japanese, Chinese and Korean.
The CMS you choose should also be flexible regarding source languages. Sooner or later, you may find comments and relevant content coming from different languages that need to be translated into the primary language. How will you deal with comments, reviews, or entries in a foreign language?
For me, seamless and powerful API capabilities are the most important single aspect. CMS software designers work with the knowledge that their users will come from Turkey, the US, Poland, Egypt, and Argentina and that users will need to manage multilingual content soon. Therefore, a Content Management System that has already thought about translations and has a translation API will make it easy to pull monolingual content and publish it in several languages using your translation company’s translation management system (TMS).
You may include machine-translation solutions here to enable the first draft or to publish non-essential documents. In short, any solution without needing to copy and paste text or files between systems is good.
3. Define a clear keyword strategy and plan Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Many website localization efforts are delayed in time, causing frustration because decision-makers only decide on multilingual SEO once the website has finished. This is a huge planning mistake. Any doctor will tell you it is better to prevent than cure. Effective multilingual SEO requires several actions by your web developers. So please never forget:
- Keyword research – Countries sharing the same language tend to use different words to refer to the same thing. It is OK if you are looking for information on Justin Bieber vs. Miley Cirus, but terms like rubber or eraser mean very different things in the US and the UK. Latin American countries do not search for information in the same way as European Spanish speakers. A bunch of good keywords for the UK, France, or Spain may not be successful in the US, Canada, or some Latin American countries, not to mention Portugal and Brazil.
- Respect each engine in each region. Google is king in the West, but Yandex is still the preferred search engine in Russia, and it is becoming popular in other countries like Turkey. Baidu is the indisputable search king in China. Also, focusing your strategy on Google may make you disappear in Yahoo results or Bing results. Yahoo is still a respected engine and service in Japan, whereas Google’s privacy issues are viewed with suspicion in a country where privacy matters.
- Monitor search engine updates – All search engines try to improve and update their search results algorithms. It is true that good content and friendly design are crucial and will never go out of fashion. Still, some periodic SEO strategy updates are necessary to maintain your ranking healthy.
Final Thoughts on Website Translation Services
In the end, if you have a business website that needs to be translated, read through the above tips and see which ones are most important to you. It’s not like there is one “correct” way to do it, and the advice we provided above should work for almost any size project. However, if your website project is large in scale, you might consider partnering with an expert in website translation and design. Also, don’t feel rushed or pressured to decide right away on who you’ll hire; take a break, think about your options and do a little research before making that final reward of your contract.