It is easy to get stuck in the mentality that if you have your website content in English, that’s good enough. After all, many of the world’s inhabitants can understand at least the basics of English, right? But the numbers say different. Localizing your website should be seen as essential if you want to make the most of your global audience and become an internationally trusted and relevant international presence. A localized website involves more than a translation of your website. It must be all-encompassing. And the research supports this.
Trust the research
The Can’t Read, Won’t Buy study is likely even more relevant now than when it was carried out. Why? Because English website content has dominated the internet since its inception, but we now face a hiccup in that users around the globe expect more. Whilst English has been the language of the internet since its inception, this is no longer acceptable. Even those with a good conversational understanding of the English language may not feel confident to make purchasing decisions over the web where the only information and support is in English. We must provide multilingual content to interact and benefit from the interest and buying power of the increasing number of worldwide users who speak little or no English.
The report mentioned above shows an apparent lack of confidence in users for non-localized sites when it comes to buying. Localization is even more crucial for the design of transactional websites. Users are simply not happy to purchase unless they can do so from a site geared to their mother tongue. Google searches in a language other than English account for around half of the overall numbers, with just 25% of the daily four billion global internet users being English speaking. Website localization and support in at least the top major languages could be the international breakthrough your business needs to attract worldwide customers and recognition.
The Clues Are There
If you are already making sales or receiving inquiries from international customers, imagine what could be achieved if you made it even easier for them to understand your service offering or product. However, you first need insights into which countries and languages are most prevalent in your website visitors. Google Analytics will help you identify where in the world visitors are accessing your site and how long each visitor stays. If the patterns are vastly different across the globe for the non-English speaking nations, it is clear you have gaps that localizing your website could well fill. You may already feel your website is performing well in non-English speaking countries, but how much better might a localized site perform? If you have a global product, marketing it globally using localized languages to target the markets they offer fully is now essential.
Watch your competitors
If they have already done it, then that is a good enough reason for you to do the same. Just do it a little better. If they haven’t, then you have the perfect opportunity to jump in first and get ahead. But remember to work holistically. It isn’t enough to localize your website for computer-based searches. A rise in the number of mobile users across the globe has seen sites having to optimize their websites so that they are mobile-first.
Website localization is more than just a word-for-word translation; it involves currencies, units of measure and keywords, even visuals and links. You can certainly expect to see an increased return on investment, raise your brand awareness and appeal to a broader customer base if you carry out localization implementation properly.
How To Master Effective Localization
Keywords and Phrases - these must relate to the country you are trying to target. Keywords and phrases must take into account the different search terms that those in non-English-speaking countries will use. Google Analytics is now more artificial intelligence-driven and the user experience you provide is critical to increasing SEO rankings. Enlisting the help of SEO experts with local knowledge to ensure that your keywords are relevant and not just English translations is crucial. Search phrases are becoming more relevant. With the increased use of voice search and other artificial intelligence monitoring, our search terms and patterns must apply to each country’s culture. If you want to appear on the first page of search results in any language, you must use local phrases and keywords throughout titles and content. A human translator will always offer better results than a machine.
URL Structure - You have three options for choosing the domain structure for your localized website. All of which will influence your SEO slightly differently:
- Top-level domain requires a new website for every new localized country. Website URLs will not benefit from the original website rank but will help with the localized view your site aims to provide. They are formatted as mybusiness.com for the US and mybusiness.es for Spain etc. Remember the importance of annotating to recognize both country and audience and to differentiate between countries speaking the same language (see Hreflang tags below).
- Subdomains are beneficial for indexing pages in local search engines and storage on local servers. They are distinct parts of your original site and include the country designation at the beginning of your domain name.
- Subfolders are localized pages that form part of your English website with the localized pages being designated by/followed by the country code. This choice is perhaps the most suitable to benefit from your previous SEO history as Google will rank your local pages based on the history of your original site. These are also simple information additions to your existing site, which you optimize for localized audiences without venturing into a whole new website strategy.
Hreflang Tags - If this is the first time you have heard of them, it is no surprise. They are only relevant for site localization. They are simple indicators that show your site’s interaction with the different languages. Tagging your page with the correct country and language hreflang tag will ensure that Google knows which version to list in a country’s search results. For example, a page written in Spanish and English should be tagged to identify the language and the audience you are targeting. If you have put the work in to optimize your landing pages, spending time to add hreflang tags correctly will ensure you reach the right local audiences. They are not critical for SEO; however, they will impact it negatively if you implement them incorrectly. As hreflang tags are best for use with Google and Yandex, you should also use language meta tags to ensure that you optimize your website for Bing.
Site Speed - Speed matters. Whatever language or device is used to access the internet, we want results quickly. A slow site load will put users off and see them turn their attention elsewhere regardless of language. 47% of users expect a page to load within two seconds; Google is somewhat more generous, citing a maximum of three seconds, so basically, you don’t have long.
Site speed considerations should be part of your regular maintenance. Changing visuals, ads, or overcrowding the HTML and CSS can see the translated page performance become vastly different to your English version. Even when you are happy with the site’s speed, it is vital to consider the varying internet provider standards and be prepared to offer a simplified version for countries known for slow internet speeds. PageSpeed Insights provides an invaluable tool to measure web page performance and receive suggestions on accessibility, SEO, and performance improvements.
Backlinks - An essential part of an effective SEO strategy. They are equally relevant to localized web pages to ensure you rank highly in local search engines. New local pages must identify local backlinks. You are not likely to get away using the same backlinks across the new page variations. You need to source natural local links from and to your website, following the same keyword and domain authority criteria you give your English version.
If you already have or believe you could have a much broader appeal globally by the addition of localized provisions, then what have you got to lose? If you do the job properly, the answer is not a lot, and there is much to be gained. You must do more than simply translating your English content, though.
Google continues as the leading search engine for most internet users, no matter where in the world they live or what their first language is. Your provision must meet the local market’s needs, wants, and desires, using terms, keywords, phrases, and visuals that they are familiar with. You will likely need to invest in expert country-specific guidance to ensure that you get the best results. Competition for Google’s first page is immense. However, carefully chosen locally optimized content will get you on top if you give it the same attention you provide to your English language website.
Once you create your localized site, you must advertise its presence. Again, this will involve outside sources to promote your marketing efforts within each country. Use social media campaigns and localized media to spotlight your brand and the benefits of using a business that cares enough to bring a product from across the world to the heart of their home, no matter where in the world they reside.