For companies looking to expand their reach in a global market, digital marketing and advertising provides the ideal vehicle. The digital world is global by nature, crossing borders and breaking down barriers to communication, and the arrival of new technologies has made true multilingual marketing more possible than ever before.
The discipline of digital marketing encompasses a number of crucial activities, with content marketing topping the list of must-implement strategies. Within content marketing, an effective website is a critical asset for any company large or small that wishes to attract their share of the world market and expand their global business online.
A website is the face of a company on the internet. It is often a consumer’s first experience with a company and sets the tone for the relationship between the business and the customer. It can either build or lose trust, create or damage credibility, enhance or detract from authority and inspire or discourage a profitable relationship. With so much responsibility, a website has a challenging job to do! That’s what makes effective website translation and localization an important brick in the foundation of marketing for businesses interested in attracting customers overseas.
But translation is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many factors to consider when localizing a website and it begins with understanding technology, workflow, technical requirements and limitations.
When a company embarks on website translation and localization, the obvious activities are the linguistic ones: translating content from one language to another. However, there are other critical activities beyond the task of “translation” that must take place, and these are arguably more vital to the success of a project than mere linguistics.
These key activities are often unforeseen by companies new to navigating the waters of global expansion, but they must be taken into consideration during the project planning phase if the result is to be a successfully localized website. These activities include:
We’ll address each of these and provide insight into how each affects a company’s ability to create and manage an effective multilingual website.
This set of activities covers the technical considerations and IT effort required to create, store and publish all the new pages translated from the original site, including new navigation, linking between foreign language pages, the user interface, forms, and other functionalities. Each of these website components needs to be replicated from the original website into one or more languages as part of a localization effort, and doing so requires attention to a number of special considerations.
For example, one of the often overlooked considerations is the capability of a company’s CMS (Content Management System) to handle the storage and deployment of multiple language pages. Even with a CMS capable of handling multilingual needs, there may be limitations that need to be noted before beginning.
Even in a technologically perfect world, there is also a human element. Specifically, does the company have sufficient human resources on its IT staff to support the technology? And do those IT professionals have the knowledge to work in a multilingual environment?
Taking these factors into consideration before engaging in a localization effort can mean the difference between a successful project and one that is both time consuming and a financial drain, without ever truly achieving its goal.
These activities comprise the detection of changes and additions to pages at the original site, extraction of content to be translated, controls in the translation process and return of translated content to be published for use.
This is one of the most critical elements for success. The workflow has to be clear, fast and organized. If not there could be translations that never make it to be published on time.
The workflow process requires seamless coordination between the website developers and the translation partner.
The same activities performed for the English site that make it findable and attractive in search results must also be implemented for the portion of the website in foreign languages.
SEO is a challenging discipline in any language, as the guidelines published by top search engines and their algorithms change. Multiply this effort across multiple languages and it’s easy to see where planning plays a tremendous role in effectively implementing a search marketing strategy.
For example, some of the factors that must be considered across languages include keyword research, linking campaigns from directories and websites in the local market and in the foreign language targeted, Pay Per Click (PPC) in the different languages, translation of meta tags, variability in local search engines and much more.
Even one of the most basic of SEO tasks – keyword research – requires not only the research itself but a deep understanding of the target language because often a simple translation from English is not sufficient to capture the essence of meaning in another language. Users in non-English speaking countries use different colloquialisms, different phrasing and have different search habits that are impacted by culture and language. Effort must be made to determine the right keywords for the product and services in the targeted language and locale.
In a nutshell, both on page and off page SEO activities will be required for the translated website to start ranking.
Add other considerations, such as URL structure, domain name and hosting, and it’s evident that thorough planning with the right localization partner is essential.
The goal for this set of activities is keeping all versions of the translated sites synchronized with the original site. This requires not only attention to the technology and logistics, but to the synchronicity between the company’s IT staff and localization team.
Multilingual website maintenance decisions are related in part to the storage capabilities of a company’s CMS and in part to the company’s overall website and digital marketing needs. Questions to address include: How often is content changed or added to the master site? How quickly can the company publish translated pages when the master version of the site changes? How will the company handle user generated content? How will changes in layout and design be managed insofar as they affect the content and ability to store and publish these changes? Does the company have human resources with knowledge of working in the multilingual environment?
And significantly: Does the company have a translation partner with experience to help on the journey?
This last is so important because a localization effort is never truly “done.” A website is constantly evolving to meet changes in a company’s product or service line, the needs of consumers, and a shifting technology landscape. Website maintenance and synchronizing efforts consistently and effectively across languages is an ongoing process that requires professional and expert attention to detail.
The complexity of this phase is multiplied by the number of languages, technology used to build the site and various elements of the website such as blogs, videos, news, forms, local maps and functionalities to name a few. Decisions made during the planning phase about the approach to follow and technology to select are best guided by analyzing the ease of maintenance and cost implications.
As we mentioned earlier, translation is only a fraction of a localization effort. There are many other considerations, including the planning process, technical aspects, and understanding the solutions and technologies that are available.
The features and requirements of each website are unique. The needs and resources of the website’s owner are also unique, and important to consider when selecting an approach and technology to implement for website localization.
Some characteristics of websites that will affect the approach include the technology with which the site is built, the quantity and frequency of changes, the set of languages needed, time and resources available from the company’s IT and marketing teams, and more.
These elements impact the activities required to perform successful website localization. For example, a website with many languages will have a more intricate maintenance process. Likewise, a website with a high frequency of updates has more transactions for content extraction, translation and publication that require a great deal of labor and control.
The technology in use might limit or complicate the activities of integration. A poorly internationalized site might require work before beginning translation. For example, images that have translatable text may need to be included in the code of the site.
As these components and the website requirements are analyzed, an approach will begin to emerge that is best suited to the circumstances.
Approaches to website translation and localization range from being completely manual to completely automated with points along the continuum that comprise a hybrid approach. Each organization has to evaluate its options by weighing costs, benefits, resources, requirements, limitations and return on investment.
We’ll address each end of the spectrum and share some of the benefits and limitations of each.
A manual approach to localization entails a webmaster who creates the structure, navigation, linking and pages of the multilingual version of the site, and coordinates with the translation team during manual file exchange.
The manual approach is viable for small websites with very few or no changes. It is a straightforward process that requires minimal investment.
As a hands-on approach, it is prone to errors due to copy and pasting of translated content to recreate new pages in the target language. It is also labor intensive during initial development and maintenance. Since the workload grows as the website does, it is a complex approach for medium and large websites and creates difficulties for version control.
In this approach, an initial effort is required to integrate the website with the translation process to generate a seamless translation workflow. This task is executed by the webmaster working in tandem with localization engineers. Automation also includes automatic detection of changes in the website controlled by programs that trigger the translation workflow without human intervention.
The integration with the repository of website content is the base of the localization process so file exchange is done in a controlled, automated and autonomous way.
In the space of automated and integrated solutions for website translation, there are two ways to produce the integration of the website with the repository of information or CMS, and that will define the workflow needed for translation. We’ll briefly touch on the two options here.
In this option there is full integration with the CMS. There are programs and software connectors to facilitate the communication between the CMS, or the content repository of the website, and the translation process.
The integration process handles both the sending of new or changed content for translation and the returning of the translated content to be published. This option maintains versions of the website per language stored in the server.
This is an automated option were the translation is handled separately from the original website.
This option does not require integration with the original website and no storage of translated versions since those are handled and hosted by the translation proxy.
It is a turnkey solution that requires no IT support for the multilingual area of the site. The marketing and IT teams focus solely on the English version of the website since no exchange of content is needed. Everything is handled seamlessly by the Translation Proxy Server.
Automation of the translation workflow can be an effective option for handling complex websites with a high frequency of changes.
The most significant benefit is a website localization process with more control, fewer errors, less effort and fewer resources tied to the process. Moreover, an automated and integrated approach favors maintenance of websites, and reduces costs in the long term while speeding up website updates.
In the case of the translation proxy server workflow, the company’s interaction with the multilingual sites is eliminated, meaning that its human resources are freed to focus on other tasks. This workflow also offers less time to market.
This approach requires an investment in thorough localization planning, plus understanding the limitations of a company’s time and budgetary resources. Startup time may be longer for long term benefits to be realized.
Navigating the waters of website localization and multilingual internet marketing is essential for success in the exciting adventure of reaching consumers overseas. Selecting an experienced and knowledgeable partner to streamline website localization and deliver customized solutions is an important decision in equipping your company with the right partner for success. Search for a translation company that has the technical, linguistics and managerial-strategic skills to complement your drive for international success.
With the right translation partner, you can have your global digital marketing cake – and grab the biggest slice, too.
JR Language is a Translation company that offers advanced solutions to facilitate the translation and localization of multilingual websites. We offer customized solutions for clients based on their needs, website features and budget. We have at your disposal a translation proxy solution called Atlas, and a Global business connector named GBC Server, to facilitate the integration with CMS’s and other repositories of information.
For more information about how we can help you achieve success in a global digital marketplace contact us online or call us at 888-711-4825.