Website localization: Should you do it? Chances are if you’re reading this article, you’re considering localizing your website and thinking through the pros and cons.

Website localization means custom designing your website to create a compelling site that appeals to your users in a foreign market. Your content will be adapted to suit local tastes; which means everything from the language, layout, currency, measurement units, images, date and time formats, and more to fit the cultural norms of the intended target audience. 

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This post was optimized in June 2021

It’s a time-consuming and expensive process. The big question is: Do you absolutely need to?

The answer actually depends on you.

Website localization may seem like another marketing buzzword, but it’s an important tool in today’s global economy.

That said, whether or not you should localize your website would depend heavily on your business.

If you’re a small, local business and don’t really do a lot of business online, then you probably will not find localization a cost-effective endeavor.

However, it would also be a mistake to assume you need to be a giant international brand to consider localization.

If you sell any product or service online at all, then you will have access to international markets.

And today, 75 percent of three billion Internet subscribers in the world reside outside of the Americas.

Wouldn’t it be worth your while to try and tap into that massive potential market?

To be very clear – website localization is different from website translation.

Website translation is simply changing the content on your website from one language to another. Whether you do this through an expert human translator or through a machine, the only thing that changes will be the words.

We delve into some best practices for website translation here.

Website localization involves creating a custom and immersive experience; it involves far more effort from more staff and more time in maintenance.

So when choosing between the translation and localization, we’d suggest a careful analysis of your budget, target audience and your business goals.

website localization and translation search and magnifying glass for a website

Now, why is website localization a good idea?

1. You’ll be expanding your market.

Out of over 4 billion internet users, only 25% are English speakers. Asia alone has seven times the number of internet users as all of North America.

The greatest benefit to website localization would be opening up your website and business to people who may not otherwise be able to use it.

90% of Europeans never browse in a language other than their own. And 42% will not buy a product that features a description that’s not in their own language.

If you’re working with an international market, it should be seen as mandatory to make your site friendly to each and every market you’re serving. It’s not just the polite thing to do, it’s simply good business sense.

Globally, while 72% of customers are more likely to buy products or services if the information is in their language, 85% of customers will not buy a product at all if the information is not in their language.

The Localization Industry Standards Association found in 2007 that the potential ROI for localization is  $25 for every dollar spent. Net Media Planet found that brands saw a 20% increase in conversions when website content and paid ads were localized for international markets. When entire websites were localized, that percentage shot up a massive 70%.

Clearly, when you’re speaking the same language as them, people will start to listen.

2. You’ll be improving SEO.

Each localized version of your site will have its own URL. More URLs and more localized SEO campaigns equal better rankings, and eventually more conversions and sales. You don’t have to stuff your content with keywords to achieve this; rather, you should target local keywords.

Here is where local knowledge will come in handy. For example, British people will buy “jumpers” and not “sweaters”. Americans will “rent a car” and the British will “hire a car” while Australians will do both.

Location plays a part as well.

Website localization will take search locations into account. If a browser in Sao Paulo, Brazil is looking for Chinese restaurants nearby, it is hardly useful to offer search results displaying eateries in Mexico.

3. You’ll be increasing your conversions.

56% consider brand information in their own language even more important than price.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. You see an ad on social media, get really excited and click through to the website, only to find that you understand nothing. Wouldn’t you feel discouraged?

Imagine if the scenario was the opposite. You click through and find a beautiful website in a language you understand, with familiar measurement units and currency. Even the images look local. Wouldn’t you feel like “ah, this brand gets me”?

Localization will help you build a stronger relationship with international customers.

4. You’ll be making your site more accessible.

Over half of all Google searches are in languages other than English. Yet 54% of all content online is in English.

When you make your website as accessible to as many people as possible, you’ll be making it much easier for people to find, read and absorb your content. You’ll make it much easier for them to fall in love with your brand.

5. You’ll be avoiding cultural faux pas. 

Localization involves more than just text; you’ll be considering things like images, colors, layouts, and tailoring content for your local audience. Here, localization will help you show respect for your target audience. For example, in the Middle East, people read from right to left. Knowing this, you can then adapt a layout that reads from right to left for your Middle Eastern audiences. For the same markets, skimpily dressed models may cause offense. Knowing this, you can tailor your images; choosing or even re-shooting images that comply not just to your brand but to cultural norms.

website localization and translation woman looking at magnifying glass to translate

What are some things to consider before localizing?

Given that localization is a time and resource-consuming endeavor, you’ll have to do a bit of research to see if it’s worth your while.

While it would be nice if you had limitless resources and could appeal to every market in the world, that’s unrealistic if you’re not already a global giant. So the first thing you’ll want to do is to narrow down your options for which language and region to focus on.

You can do this with tools that are already at your disposal.

Check out your site analytics for countries you have the most hits from. Google Analytics will be able to tell you which languages and countries are showing up in your audience data. You can also track site visits, time spent on your site as well as a stream of conversions. For instance, if you have lots of traffic from China, then it makes dollars and sense to create a Chinese version of your site.

What about inquiries, or even orders?

If you’re receiving inquiries or even fulfilling orders to foreign addresses, then those regions would be a good bet.

Then take a look at your competitors. If they aren’t in a new market yet, you’ll have the competitive advantage if you localize first. If you’re the late-comer to the game, then check out what they are doing and do better, as soon as you can.

Once you know which language and country to target, you’ll need to consider production logistics.

Now, what does website localization actually involve?

You will be adapting content to international audiences, ensuring that your websites are compatible with the culture of the target market. This involves adapting language, images, colours, icons, currencies, measurement units, to suit local audiences. You may consider adjusting the layout and adapting the local formats for phone numbers and dates. There will be significant translation involved and all your content will need to comply with local legalization. You will want to research and use local keywords for SEO purposes. It would also be handy to know local search and buying habits.

Practically speaking, this is a large job, therefore, if your budget allows, you might want to consider hiring an entire team to help you with this undertaking.

You also need to consider that a website is not a one-time deal; you will need to maintain the new version of the site and keep it updated with new content.

Risks of localization

Imagine telling your customers that your brand name is to “bite the wax tadpole”. That’s what happened to Coca-Cola when they first entered the Chinese market.

Pepsi didn’t fare so well either – their logo was interpreted in Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”.

The lack of local knowledge resulted in a gaffe that was disrespectful and insulting to the local culture.

Large brands can afford to make mistakes; in fact, today those mistakes are forgotten, living on only in cautionary articles about how not to appeal to a foreign market.

However, a smaller brand may suffer greater consequences, so it would be wise to apply caution and prepare carefully when it comes to localizing brand assets.

Over-localization can also result in a dilution of your brand. So you’d want to ensure that while you’re talking to customers in their own language, you’d still want to maintain the core values of your brand.

Above all remember that while localizing your site can be seen as a sign of respect, doing a shoddy job is often worse than doing nothing at all.

In conclusion, website localization is a tool that can give you an edge in our wide-open world. It’s a friendly move that opens the door to different markets, helps you expand your market and your reach, improve your SEO and conversions while avoiding offense to a target audience. However, it is a big job and an important one to get right.

So if you’re considering it, remember to let the pros handle it! Submit a project with Bunny Studio today and we’ll take care of all of your localization needs!