Website localization: How to reach a global audience

With the vast opportunities presented by the global marketplace, it’s essential to understand the dynamics and intricacies of website localization. From accessing a broader customer base to boosting user engagement and improving conversion rates, the benefits are both compelling and far-reaching.

However, successful website localization requires more than simple translation; it demands a strategic approach, the right tools, and a profound understanding of the target audience. This article delves into the key components and best practices of website localization.


The role of internationalization in website localization

Internationalization (often abbreviated as “i18n”) is the process of designing and developing a website in a way that allows it to be easily adapted and localized for different languages, regions, and cultures. It serves as the foundation for effective website localization.

By designing your website with internationalization principles in mind, you set the stage for a smoother and more effective localization process. It can include things like character encoding and text handling, language-agnostic design, locale-aware content formatting, multilingual URL structure, among other.

By designing your website with internationalization principles in mind, you set the stage for a smoother and more effective localization process while ensuring that your website is accessible and user-friendly for a global audience.

Benefits of website localization

Website localization is a strategic investment that, when done well, can:

  • Help reach a wider and more diverse audience;
  • Increase user engagement;
  • Enhance User Experience;
  • Improve conversion rates;
  • Help gain competitive advantage;
  • Maintain a consistent brand identity;
  • Improve search engine rankings;
  • Provide valuable data and insights.

One of the most significant benefits of website localization is the ability to reach a wider and more diverse audience. By speaking your audience’s language and understanding their culture, you can connect with potential customers around the world.

When your website is localized, users from different regions feel more comfortable and engaged with your content. This often leads to longer time spent on your site, lower bounce rates, and increased interaction with your content. Localization can also have a direct impact on conversion rates, especially for e-commerce websites.

Users are more likely to make purchases or take desired actions when they can do so in their native language. In the 2020 Can’t Read, Won’t Buy – B2C report, which surveyed more than 8,000 consumers in 29 countries, it was discovered that 65% of consumers prefer content in their native language, and 40% would not purchase a product or service that is not offered in their language.

Localization makes it easier to enter and establish a presence in new markets, as your website is already adapted to local preferences and regulations. And when users feel that a brand understands and respects their language and culture, it fosters loyalty. Happy and engaged customers are more likely to return and recommend your products or services to others.

What parts of a website require localization?

Key parts of a website that typically require localization can include the following:

  • Content. This includes text, images, videos, and multimedia elements.
  • User Interface (UI). The user interface encompasses all the elements that users interact with on a website, such as menus, buttons, forms, error messages, and navigation.
  • URLs and directory names. Localized URLs and directory names make it easier for users to navigate and understand the website’s structure in their own language.
  • Meta tags (title tags and meta descriptions). Meta tags provide information to search engines and users about the content of a web page.
  • Keywords and SEO elements. To improve search engine visibility in different regions, keywords and SEO elements need localization.
  • Currencies and pricing. For e-commerce websites, pricing and currency symbols need to be localized.
  • Local payment options. If your website involves e-commerce or transactions, offering localized payment options that are common and trusted in the target region is essential for user convenience.
  • Date and time formats. Date and time formats, including calendars, need to be adjusted to align with the target region’s conventions.
  • Units of measurement. Localization involves adapting units of measurement, such as converting between the metric and imperial systems.
  • Images and graphics. Visual content, such as images, infographics, and icons, may require adaptation or replacement to reflect cultural norms, preferences, and sensitivities.
  • Forms and databases. Forms, databases, and input fields may need localization too.
  • Social media integration. Integrating social media sharing and follow buttons that cater to local social networks and social media practices can enhance user engagement.
  • Local reviews and testimonials. Highlighting local customer reviews and testimonials can build trust and credibility with users in specific regions.

Website localization best practices

Understand your target audience

Conducting thorough market research is a fundamental step in the website localization process. Start by collecting data on the demographics of your target audience. This includes age, gender, income, education level, and occupation. These factors can significantly impact their preferences and behaviors.

Language is one of the most critical factors in localization. Identify the primary language(s) spoken by your target audience. Also, consider dialects or variations of the language, as they may have different regional preferences.

Cultural differences and sensitivities play an especially crucial role in localization. These can include customs, traditions, taboos, and even humor that may vary from one region to another. Also consider the local holidays and events celebrated in the region, as you may want to tailor your marketing efforts and promotions around these occasions.

A good starting ground is to analyze how your competitors are approaching the target market. What localization strategies are they using, and how effective are they? This can provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t.

Choose the right content for localization

Not all content needs to be localized. Focus on the most critical content like homepage, product descriptions, CTAs (Call to Action), contact information, and any legal or compliance-related content (e.g. legal agreements, terms of service, privacy policies).

Beyond simple translation, consider the cultural implications of your content. Some content may contain culturally sensitive elements that should be adapted. This can include images, colors, symbols, tone, and writing style.

Photos, illustrations, and graphics should resonate with the local culture. Avoid images or symbols that might be offensive or misinterpreted. Different cultures also attribute different meanings to colors. As for the tone and writing style, some cultures prefer formal language, while others are more casual. Adapt accordingly.

Build or hire a localization team

Decide whether to build an in-house localization team, outsource the work to a localization agency, or use a combination of both. The choice depends on factors like your budget, the volume of work, and your long-term localization strategy.

If you opt for an in-house team, you’ll need to fill key roles, including a localization manager, translators, editors/proofreaders, localization engineers, and Quality Assurance specialists. When hiring, look for candidates with expertise in localization, a deep understanding of the target culture, and relevant language skills.

Implement multilingual SEO

Multilingual SEO is a comprehensive strategy that combines traditional SEO practices with considerations for language and culture. You will need to conduct keyword research separately for each language and region you’re targeting. This helps you identify the most relevant search terms in each local market.

Avoid duplicate content issues by creating unique, high-quality content for each language version of your website. Ensure that the content is culturally relevant and tailored to the preferences of the local audience. And customize meta tags, including title tags and meta descriptions, for each language version of your website.

Other things to consider include using hreflang tags in your HTML code to specify the language and geographic targeting of your pages, using top-level domains (TLDs) or subdomains for each language or region, translating URL slugs, using local Schema, among other.

Adapt the User Interface (UI)

User Interface (UI) adaptation is a crucial aspect of website localization that involves translating and customizing the user interface elements of a website to make it more user-friendly and culturally relevant to a target audience. It goes beyond merely translating text; it encompasses a wide range of design and functional considerations.

Translate and adapt all user interface elements, such as menus, buttons, labels, error messages, tooltips, and navigation elements. These elements should be culturally and contextually relevant, making it easy for users to interact with your website.

Consider the directionality of text. Languages like Arabic and Hebrew are written from right to left, so UI elements should flow accordingly. Provide support for bi-directional text where necessary. You should strive for a consistent look and feel across all language versions of your website while still accommodating local preferences and design sensibilities.

Website localization tools

Website localization tools are essential for streamlining the process of adapting your website for different languages and regions. These tools help manage content, translations, and the technical aspects of localization. Some website localization software that can be highly beneficial may include:

  • Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress;
  • Translation Management Systems (TMS) such as POEditor;
  • Content localization platforms like Contentful;
  • Machine Translation tools such as Google Translate;
  • Localizable website builders like Wix;
  • Collaboration and project management tools like Asana;
  • SEO localization tools such as Ahrefs.

Content management systems are the platforms that you use to create and manage your website content. They serve as the foundation for website localization. A CMS with strong multilingual capabilities allows you to create and organize content in multiple languages, making it easier to maintain a consistent user experience.

Translation management systems are specialized tools for handling translation projects. They help manage translation workflows, automate translation processes, and maintain translation memory. TMS tools are particularly useful for large-scale or ongoing localization efforts.

Content localization platforms are designed to help you manage and adapt your website content for different languages and regions. They often include translation management, collaboration features, and content version control, making it easier to maintain localized content.

Machine translation tools use automated translation algorithms to quickly generate translations. While they may not always provide perfect translations, they can be useful for getting a preliminary sense of content before human translators refine it.

Localizable website builders are website development platforms that offer features for building and managing websites in multiple languages. These platforms often include templates and tools for creating multilingual content.

Collaboration and project management tools help teams work together efficiently on website localization projects. They allow for task assignment, progress tracking, and communication among team members involved in the localization process.

POEditor, your partner in website localization

POEditor is a translation management platform that can significantly assist with website localization. It streamlines the process of translating and managing content for websites in multiple languages. Multiple team members can work on translations simultaneously, and you can assign different roles, such as translators, proofreaders, and administrators, to ensure quality control.

You get integration options with popular content management systems, version control systems, and developer tools. This means you can easily connect POEditor with your existing website infrastructure. We support a variety of file formats commonly used in website localization, such as Gettext (PO, POT), XLIFF, and JSON, making it easy to import and export translations to and from your website.

Our tool includes features such as translation memory for storing past translations, glossary for consistency, contextual assistance for understanding where and how the text will be used, machine translation for speeding up the localization process, and QA checks for maintaining translation quality, among other.

Overall, POEditor streamlines the website localization process by providing a centralized and collaborative platform that simplifies content management, translation, quality control, and project coordination. It’s a valuable tool for both small businesses and large enterprises aiming to create and maintain multilingual websites efficiently.

Final thoughts

Website localization represents an opportunity for businesses to break down language barriers, embrace cultural diversity, and build meaningful connections with users from various backgrounds. It’s a testament to the power of technology, communication, and cultural understanding in the digital age, where the world truly becomes a global marketplace.

The benefits are clear, from increased user engagement and improved conversion rates to access to a broader customer base and enhanced brand reputation. However, it’s essential to approach website localization with a well-thought-out strategy, a commitment to quality, and the right tools and resources.

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