It's pretty exciting when a product makes the leap and goes global. With more than 73 percent of Internet users searching the web in a language other than English, the jump into the global unknown can certainly reap plenty of dollars. Yet, international websites are a serious game and require just as much thought and attention as their English counterpart.
Here are some top tips on how to tackle the localization of your product's website and online presence, and land gracefully on a cushion of dollar bills.
1. Localize Your Website
Localizing your website is the number one tip for going global. One international website isn't going to cut it when you expand your product to the masses, especially nowadays when growing internationally requires communicating locally.
Start by carrying out local research into your desired markets. Identify the basics, such as local competitors, to gain a wider picture. Find out what language they use on a day-to-day basis - is this different to their national language?
In Switzerland, for example, pockets of the country converse in Italian, French and Swiss-German. Therefore, should your website be just in the predominantly spoken German? Thorough ground-research will direct your website choices and guarantee its success.
If you're low on in-house resources, there are plenty of professional localization agencies that can do the work for you. With the know-how and localization specialists to hand, they provide a fantastic service that will maximize your international websites.
2. Speaking The Local Lingo
What localization agencies also have is a bank of translation experts. Translators are your window into a unknown culture; not only can they speak the lingo, but they are trained to know the market, keep on top of cultural and political changes, and can advise on whether an idea could be a huge success or fall flat on its face.
A good translator is worth their weight in gold, taking your message and transforming it for your new audience. Although machine translations are good, they don't give you that genuine local feel and simple inaccuracies can be a real give away.
For example, starting sentences with but or and, or having overly long sentences would give your website a translated feel. Professional translators create copy that reads like its written by a local and resonates with your audience; it's this local feel that will keep customers coming back to your website.
If you're localizing on your own, freelance translators can be found online. Proz.com or TranslatorsCafe are great sites and you can search by language, sector and current location to find one that best suits your requirements.
3. Give Your Website The Chameleon Effect
You want your website to stand out; but for its innovation, not because you've misjudged its content. Translators make the content feel local, but the layout and style is just as important.
Different cultures expect different features from a website. It's important to identify where you're marketing so that you can adapt your website accordingly. Something as simple as the colours used, the layout of the content or the interactivity of your website can make it a hit or a miss.
Cultural theorist Edward Hall created a High Context (HC) vs. Low Context (LC) theory to aid in understanding each culture's requirements. Generally speaking, HC cultures, such as Asian countries, expect content to be interactive and more socially oriented, with videos and background information; whereas, LC cultures prevalent in Northern Europe, like the content to be simple, more individual focused.
If in doubt, look at big brands, for example, McDonald's, Apple, or Nike, for inspiration as to how far you should be adapting your website.
Another useful tool is a quick language and location indicator function on the main webpage. When websites have numerous variants, being able to choose - and remember - your location and language is important. It shows that you're tailoring the information to your customer's needs.
4. Make Your Website a Search Engine Hit
Everybody knows that SEO can be a nightmare and, sadly, it's no easier in a different language. Yet, there is a saving grace. Whereas the English net is bursting at the seams with content, the volume in other languages is still relatively low, giving your product a much better chance of being found in searches.
As such, you should register and host your website locally, using top-level domains (for example, .de, .it, .uk, etc). Local domains give credibility to your website and increase its search engine ranking, especially when Google isn't the local search engine of choice. Keywords are also important, so using your local market research, ask your translator to work any identified keywords into your website copy.
Expanding globally is exciting but you need to be just as savvy in your web creation. By being aware of the new cultures you are marketing to, you'll soon become a household name.
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!