When you target foreign-speaking markets with an online brand, you need more than translation to connect with audiences. Expectations of your brand, website and the content you publish online are going to vary between different markets and failing to meet these demands will hurt you.
This is why you need website localisation, as this adapts your site for different audiences so you can maximise profit from every target market.
#1: Website structure
The first thing you need to think about as an international brand is website structure. This starts with choosing a domain structure that allows you to create different language versions of your site and then a system that sends users to the correct site.
There are various ways to go about this, but the best options from an SEO perspective are:
- Country-level domains:webiste.com, www.website.co.uk, www.website.es, etc.
- Subdomains:website.com, uk.website.com, es.website.com, etc.
- Subdirectories:website.com, www.website.com/gb, www.website.com/es, etc.
Each approach has its pros and cons, but these are the best options you have from a website performance and SEO point of view.
You also need to think about the structure of your site at a code level. When you create a multilingual site, you are actually creating multiple sites that will all need to be maintained, updated and changed over time. You want to be able to make these changes in one place and apply them to every site, instead of having to manually change the same code multiple times to implement a single change across all of your sites.
#2: Language selection
Having multiple language versions of your site is great, but you still need to make sure users access the right version of your site. This is fine if visitors know the correct URL to type in, but most visits tend to come from referral links of some kind – search engines, social media, ads or elsewhere.
That means that you need a redirect system in place that sends users to the right version of your site. A good solution for this is to use geotargeting to access user locations and send them to the most appropriate version of your site – users in Italy to the Italian version, users in China to the Mandarin version, etc.
However, you still need to offer users the option to change language for tourists visiting, non-native speakers and people in countries where multiple languages are spoken.
It is tempting to translate your web content for each target audience and be done with it, but this is not going to do the job every time. As we said before, audience interests vary around the world and you need to create content that appeals to these, meaning you’ll want to create different content for each audience.
We are not saying every piece of content needs to be unique, but it is not much good to bang on about Easter in countries where it’s not celebrated. Likewise, Valentine’s Day customs vary around the world and you will want to tap into these nuances to build stronger relationships with your target audiences.
#4: Multilingual SEO
Website localisation and multilingual SEO overlap a lot and we’ve already covered one key area with domains. Multilingual SEO is a vast topic and you’ll need to cover a range of technical and strategic aspects including:
- Audience research
- Choose domain and URL structure
- Choose web hosting
- Create language selector
- Use UFT-8 character set (HTML)
- Optimise/localise code for maintenance
- Declare language for each version of your site (HTML)
- Optimise titles and meta data for each language (HTML)
- Localise visual content
- Optimise visuals for each language – e.g. alt descriptions, file names, etc. (HTML)
- Identify (and translate) keywords
- Localise currencies, measurements, dates, etc.
- Localise landing pages
- Multilingual content
For more information on multilingual SEO, check out this section on our blog page and this section on website localisation and search optimisation.
#5: Quality translation
We opened this article on website localisation by saying that a mere translation is not enough to adapt your website for other languages, but it is still one of the most important aspects of localisation. There is not much point in setting up domains and language selectors, localising your content and going through all the technical elements of multilingual SEO if the translation of your pages lets you down when visitors reach your site.
Make no mistake about it: quality translation is an essential element of website localisation.
If you need any advice on adapting your website for any other aspect of your business for international audiences, please contact our team of languages experts today.