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Website localisation: workflow, pitfalls, technologies and tools

There will come a time where your business will need to reach overseas to progress to the next level. With the right support, foreign markets are a big an opportunity and in most cases, this starts with a website in the target language.


Having too often been called upon to work on a process already well under-way, only to find that things could have been managed a lot better had I been involved sooner, I thought I'd share a few tips on how to manage your website localisation.

Website localisation
Website localisation is a specialist field. You'll find translators who know exactly how to do this.

What to consider before translating your website

Before you bring in a website localisation specialist and get your teams and tools organised, it would be useful to give some thoughts to the following considerations:


Target markets

What countries are more likely to be interested in your products? There may be some geographical, cultural or practical considerations which will make some languages more useful than others.


Target profile

Who is your typical client? Any work you and your marketing may have done on profiling and segmenting your target demographics will be useful to your translator, too.


Tone of voice

In most cases, you will have already looked into what tone of voice and style of writing is most likely to appeal to your target audience. Share these insights with your localisation team and have a discussion about whether they still apply to the local markets.


SEO keyword research

Talk to your IT or digital team about getting some keywords and search volumes in the target languages to help your linguists focus on the right vocabulary and drive trafic to your website. Try and find translators


The team and expertise involved to translate a website

Obviously, you'll want to start with a translator specialised in marketing but there are a few other people in your team which you'll need to consult with.


Your marketing team or agency

Your marketing and your product teams must be involved from the start, as they will have the best understanding of concepts which needs to be taken into account such as target audience, client profile, USPs, pricing structures or order and delivery workflow. These factors will heavily influence essential considerations such as tone of voice, SEO keyword integration or even the choice of which products or pages to push first.


Your IT team or subcontractor

They will have valuable advice on how to organise the multilingual pages (ideally using your CMS) and on the SEO considerations which must be shared with your translator. There is more to a webpage than meets the eye (metadata, keyword research, character counts, links, sitemaps) and everything will need to be localised.


Your website localisation translators

You will need to recruit a native translator for each language which you intent to translate your website into. In many cases, they'll benefit from working together as a team, sharing questions, considerations and glossaries as they go, so any sharing tools you can provide to help with collaboration will be useful.


The art of translating marketing copy whilst adapting the jargon and keeping in touch with the tone of voice, the objectives and all the SEO elements is called localisation. Look for translators used to localisation or SEO transcreation, and ideally with website translation or marketing experience, and get talking to them early in the process as they'll undoubtedly have some good advice. Read more about choosing a translator.


Your proofreaders

It is important to find a native speaker to proof-read the final result, iron out any typos and check that the copy works as intended. Many of my clients use a local dealer or regional sales representative, but your translator may also be able to work with a trusted colleague on this.


The tools to translate your website

No machine can ever replace the translator, but there are various tools you can use to help with consistency and to speed up manual processes.


Your CMS

If you use a Content Management System for your English website, it makes sense to use it for your foreign web pages too. In most cases, you can start by replicating the original structure with the view to replacing the copy with its translated equivalent, or use a WordPress add-on if you already use WP. You can then either extract the content for your translator to work on, or give them access directly to the CMS.


SEO keyword research

This is not specific to local versions of your website. Before writing any content, your marketing team should spend some time on keyword research to identify the best terminology to use within your pages. Specifically, this should include statistics such as search volumes for each phrase, optimal title and tag length as well as character limits.


Computer Assisted Translation software

Not to be confused with Machine translation, a CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) software helps with consistency across pages, which is particularly useful if you're translating multiple web pages. You can either ask your translator if they already work with one (SDL Studio is a common tool used by freelance translators), or look into using a platform such as Lokalize or Phrase which your IT team can integrate with your CMS.


Glossaries

Whether it is integrated to a CAT tool or whether it simply takes the shape of a shared Excel spreadsheet, it is essential to keep a glossary which your translators can update as they go and easily refer to. The chances are, they'll be able to integrate the glossary to their CAT tool for easy reference.


Ongoing local presence post-translation

If your English website benefits from regular updates on social media or frequent blog articles, it would be just as useful to replicate these efforts in other languages. Creative material is best translated by a translator used to transcreation (the art of re-writing content taking into account meaning, branding, local sayings, play on words etc.) or even rewritten directly from brief by a French content writer. Whether you opt for weekly articles relevant to your industry, for a local PR campaign or for frequent social media updates in various languages, make sure your ongoing effort take into account the SEO requirements identified during the research phase.


Can Google translate your site?

Simply put: no. All Google Translate (or any other automated translation) does is gives the illusion that you are a multilingual company, but the result is generally grammatically shaky and incredibly off-putting for your foreign audience. If you want to appeal to humans, you'll have to work with humans.

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