Website translation is the core language strategy of multilingual brands in the modern age. Companies can create a native online presence for every target market with their multilingual website acting as the hub that ties their inbound marketing strategies together. That being said, it is easy to underestimate the challenges of website translation and localisation. In this article, we cover five essential tips for companies getting started with their website translation strategy.
Follow these to avoid some of the most common and costly mistakes – and generate ROI faster.
The most expensive aspect of website translation is poor planning, because this is the most common cause of expensive mistakes. Website translation is more technical than many people appreciate and the sooner the planning of your translation strategy starts, the more potential issues you will be able to avoid.
Building a multilingual website requires specific domain, navigational and coding structures to function properly. There are several approaches to choose from (each one has its pros and cons) and it is essential to make informed decisions based on business goals.
For companies with any doubts about these early planning decisions, it is recommended to speak to a professional language agency that specialises in website translation and localisation, as they have the knowledge and experience to advise on the best options and approaches.
Translating page content from one language to another is only one of many steps involved in developing a functional multilingual website. To ensure every user accesses pages and content in the right language, web codes needs to be optimised correctly to facilitate translation, which brings us into the territory of website localisation.
Website localisation ensures websites are accessible to users in every target language and location. It adapts numerical values for local markets and also considers symbols and icons to ensure they are relevant to every audience (e.g. the use of flag icons or other navigational elements).
Localisation also deals with text expansion that can break layouts and user interfaces. Likewise, it considers font and typeface choices while evaluating the potential impact on design and other issues, such as browser support.
We have already touched on code optimisation and design factors like layouts and font choices, but a complete localisation strategy looks beyond web pages. Actually, we have already touched on this with domain structure, and this decision affects the entire navigation of a multilingual website – and another key navigational feature is how language selection is implemented.
A common strategy is to use geo-location detection to auto-select the national language of a user’s location, but this strategy is not bulletproof. This is because many online users have location detection turned off. Travellers, non-native residents and nationalities with multiple languages also need to be taken into account here.
If content marketing is an important part of your marketing & online communications strategy (blog posts, social media, newsletters, etc.), then your content strategy needs be localised as well, in order to get the best results.
Building on the idea of localising your content marketing strategy, you will need to take a similar approach with multilingual SEO. A common mistake many businesses make with their first attempt at international SEO is translating keywords from their source language into each target language.
This does not necessarily match with the search queries their target audiences are using, which means you could be optimising for the wrong keywords. Priorities can vary across markets, so certain language audiences may not even search for the same things. This means that web pages, keywords and copy need to be optimised in a way that reflects the interests of each language/location market.
Language professionals often use machine translation to speed up their workflows, but it should never be used as a standalone translation solution. Many content management systems (CMSs) and themes include automatic translation features, promising to convert web pages into multiple languages.
Machine translation is simply not accurate enough to rely upon without the involvement of language professionals. It cannot do anything for the more technical aspects of website localisation that we have covered in this article: domain structure, code optimisation, UI localisation, etc.
It is also not a good solution for multilingual SEO and the points we covered in the previous section, causing a variety of issues including incorrect keyword translations, low-quality content and duplicate content problems – all of which can affect indexing and rankings in search engines.
To be clear, there is nothing wrong with machine translation as a technology, as long as it is used properly – the implementation into CMS platforms and themes is the issue here.
Website translation and localisation are the fundamental elements of a company’s digital multilingual strategy. If you need help developing a more solid translation process to achieve a better online presence, please contact our website translation and localisation team here at translate plus.