Translating a website and website localization are essential for companies, business and even individuals looking to market and sell their products (and increasingly 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 translating a website, if you ever tried, is challenging and very time consuming (in the wrong hands). Nevertheless, translating a website and website localization are so essential to a company’s business that it becomes a priority from day 1 and companies can take positive steps to ease the translation process by preparing their websites for localization.
Website localization goes beyond simply translating a website. It includes some technical areas and website management, SEO research, 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 multi-language or multi-site
This is a key decision that will affect the whole of your website translation and website localization strategy. If you decide for 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. See 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 re-directed to http://www.panasonic.com/de/consumer.html.
Here, you go to the root site (.com) which then 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 fine for SEO and ranking, but there are some advantages to multisite as search results will make you appear more local and relevant to the country in question. Also, in a general backlink strategy, multisites can provide a number of quality links. The disadvantage is that you need to purchase and maintain several domains, which may differ over time.
A multilanguage strategy often forces you to publish almost simultaneously in several languages in order to maintain a coherent structure, but it is much easier to manage. If you are targeting different countries that share the same language, make sure to tell Google that content is "canonical" in order to avoid search engines penalizing all your sites for duplicating content. Pangeanic has sister sites in the US and the UK and we have tell Google that although the content is identical, each site is directed (with different spellings) to different 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 that are important 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 going to be key for you and with double-bit Asian scripts like Japanese, Chinese and Korean. The CMS you choose should also be flexible when it comes to source languages. Sooner or later you may find comments and relevant content coming from different languages that needs to be translated into the main language.
How will you deal with comments, reviews or entries in a different language? For me, the most important single aspect is seamless and powerful API capabilities. CMS software designers work in 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 a first draft or to publish non-essential documentat In short, any solution that does without the need to copy and paste text or files between systems manually is good.
3. Define a clear keyword strategy and plan Search Engine Optimization (SEO)Many website localization efforts are delayed in time, causing a great deal of frustration because decision makers only decide on multilingual SEO once translating the website has finished. This is a huge planning mistake. Any doctor will tell you that it is better to prevent than to cure. Effective multilingual SEO requires several actions by your web developers. So please never forget:
- Keyword research - Even 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 very 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 key and will never go out of fashion, but some periodic SEO strategy updates are necessary to maintain your ranking healthy.