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Top tips on how to prepare for a website translation

By Josian Phillips, 

Managing a website translation doesn’t have to be a pain or a stress. Here are some key insights on how best to get started on your website translation project. We’ll look at your business and localisation strategies, people and stakeholder management and share some top tech tips.

It might surprise you to learn that the most translated website isn’t Wikipedia’s or even Apple’s. And yet they provide website translations for an impressive 286 and 128 languages respectively.

Nope, as far as website translation proliferation goes, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’s website wins hands down. If you click on the ‘select language’ icon on the homepage today, it offers you a choice of a staggering 962 languages, including a few score types of sign language.

But no matter what service or product you’re providing, if you want to increase customer conversions (here I mean this in the marketing rather than religious sense!), it’s important to provide content in the native language of your target audience. A Common Sense Advisory report, Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: 2014, revealed that 75 percent of non-Anglophone global consumers prefer to buy products in their native language.

So, let’s get down to business with our top tips on how you can best prepare for a website translation project.

1. The business strategy

First thing first. Make sure that, as a business entity, everybody’s clear on the business strategy behind developing a multilingual website. For example, is it to support global expansion in specific target markets, languages and locales? In which case, are these criteria defined, analysed and agreed across the business? You should also make sure you’re clear on the business objectives of the corporate versus global website versions.

2. The brand strategy

You’ll need to conduct – or have sight of – market research to make sure that your brand names will translate in your target markets. Research may uncover cultural issues or trademark conflicts, for example, that may take you down a different track. It’s no good setting everything up only to find you have to pull it – as happened with the Ford Pinto, which flopped in Brazil. You can understand why when you realise that ‘Pinto’ means ‘small penis’ in Brazilian Portuguese slang.

Find out more about brand translation in our blog, Going global: will your brand name translate?

3. The localisation strategy

It isn’t enough simply to translate your website. You need to consider your various audiences and gauge the effect of regional or industry cultures and tailor your website design, images, videos as well as language. Using a native speaker and a translation memory system (TMS) for website translation is essential.

It may seem glaringly obvious, but companies that fail to plan thoroughly often overlook things like localising postcodes, currencies and payment options.

Find out how website localisation is mastered at Airbnb, Canon, Nike and H&M in this blog, Four examples of excellent localisation of a global online presence.

4. The people strategy

When planning a website translation project, it’s important to make sure all the key people are onboard, and responsibilities and processes (such as sign-off) are clearly determined from the start.

Consider stakeholders from across the business to make sure they agree with the website translation objectives and the project scope. Don’t overlook the importance of involving the marketing team, IT, product/service teams as well as in-country staff or partners.

5. The technology strategy

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Have you registered country domain names?
  • Do you have the right technology to support multilingual web operations, for example a global content management system (CMS)?
  • Do you have a multilingual SEO strategy and the resources to execute?
  • Are you building your website with translation in mind?

If you’d like some help or free advice with your website translation project, please drop us a line or give us a call. Email [email protected] or call 01225 580770.

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