Website Localization: A Beginner’s Guide

Alexander Bulat
26 Jan 2024

9 min. read


If you run a successful business, deciding to expand it internationally is just a matter of time.

To raise the chances of successful expansion, learn how to localize your website. Why? Simply because localized websites bring more local traffic, leads, and, ultimately, customers.

Numbers don’t lie: As much as 60% of web shoppers prefer localized websites. Clearly, website localization is the ticket to global success. Industry leaders have been using localization to drive international traffic for decades. And with our simple guide, you can do it too.

What is website localization?

what is website localization Website localization is the adaptation of a website's content, design, and functionality to a new locale. This process goes beyond mere translation and requires a deep understanding of the target audience’s culture, values, and preferences. Content requiring website localization includes product pages, service pages, and, sometimes even blog posts.

Website content localization requirements

Website localization works with every aspect of your content, including:

  • Language: Translation is a crucial part of localization. To get it right, turn to professional translators with subject matter expertise and, preferably, experience in your business niche.

  • Tone and message: Localization also requires finding an approach that will resonate with your target audience. Is the purpose of your campaign to persuade or educate them? Choose the right tone and message.

  • Imagery: What is appropriate in one country can be offensive in another. For instance, while the thumbs-up sign is suitable in the US, it’s better to avoid it on Greek or Italian websites.

  • User interface: Website or app navigation should adhere to your audiences’ cultural and language expectations. For instance, right-to-left languages, like Arabic or Hebrew, require right-to-left page design.

  • Date, time, measurement, and number formats: In the US, the date follows the format of “July 4, 2024,” while in the UK, it is “4 July 2024.”

  • Pricing: Adjust your pricing strategy based on the local demand and market competition.

How to localize a website

Set goals and KPIs

Set specific goals depending on what you are trying to achieve with your localization project. For example, you might want to:

  • acquire new customers

  • build demand for your product

  • get more sales from existing traffic

  • get free organic traffic overseas

  • increase brand awareness and authority

The more specific you are with your goals, the easier it will be to understand what part of your website requires localization and how to approach it.

For example, to acquire new customers, you might need to localize blog posts with the highest search traffic potential. To get more sales from existing traffic, it might be enough to localize landing and product pages.

Depending on your goals, your website localization KPIs might look as follows:

  • Number of visits for localized pages

  • New leads from localized pages

  • Product demos in the target market

  • SEO keyword ranking in the target market

  • Conversion rates on localized pages

Conduct market research

Conduct thorough market research to discover markets ripe for expansion. The research will also help you understand the competitors and how to surpass them. It goes like this:

Analyze your traffic

Analyze your website’s traffic to discover audiences that come to your website from overseas. This analysis can also help you understand the type of content they prefer.

For starters, analyze organic search traffic:

  1. Open Google Analytics 4 and go to Reports

  2. In the Users subsection, click Demographics

  3. Choose the Demographic details option

Google Analytics 4 Demographic details section Now you can see the breakdown of your website’s organic traffic by country. For more details, use the Region and City filters.

The next step is to examine pages that bring the highest volume of international traffic.

  1. In the Reports section, click Engagement

  2. In the Landing page tab, review landing pages

  3. Click + Add filter and select the dimension Country

  4. Choose the country

Google Analytics 4 Landing page section The pages bringing the bulk of international traffic should be your highest priority for localization.

Analyze competitors’ traffic

Chances are at least some of your main competitors have localized their website. It’s also a safe bet that they already derive traffic from it. If that’s the case, then you can analyze their approach and glean valuable insights.

To analyze competitors’ traffic, use SEO tools like Moz or Ahrefs. Here’s how to do it using Ahrefs:

  1. Open Ahrefs and go to the Site Explorer section

  2. In the search bar, enter a competitor’s website

  3. Apply the location filter to examine traffic in different areas

  4. Click Show results

Ahrefs’ location filter Now you can see the estimated number of visitors for each location, paid keywords, organic keywords, and much more.

Define your target audience

Understand the people you want to localize your website for. Are they business owners? Perhaps they are industry professionals looking for specific advice. Or maybe you are localizing for a diverse mix of individuals. These answers could be different for each target market.

Note how simple it is. But if you want to go beyond answering a few simple questions, create a buyer persona. To this end:

  1. Interview potential customers in the local market

  2. Organize and analyze your data

  3. Segment buyers by use cases, pain points, and company size

Conduct keyword research

To ensure your localized content is favored by Google, conduct keyword research. Later, at the translation stage, incorporate the discovered keywords into the content.

To perform keyword research, identify the keywords you want to rank for. Then, use SEO tools like Ahrefs to gather additional information about them. Particularly, pay attention to the keyword metrics:

  • Terminology: What terms do people use for online search? Terminology differs from country to country, even in English-speaking locales. For example, Americans might search for “vacations in Florida,” whereas UK residents tend to google “holidays in Florida.”

  • Search volume: How many people are searching for a keyword per month? For example, the keyword “vacations in Florida” garners 1, 500 monthly searches. “Holidays in Florida,” on the other hand, yields 1, 200 monthly searches.

  • Keyword difficulty: This characteristic indicates how difficult it is to rank in the top 10 search results for a specific keyword. The higher the difficulty score, the more backlinks you’ll need to rank high in search results.

  • Search intent: What people mean when entering a search phrase differs across locales. In some places, searchers want to make a purchase by entering “solar panels” in their search bar. Whereas in others, the same keyword has an educational intent.

Ahref’s keyword explorer In addition to Ahrefs, use Google Keyword Planner to gain additional insights into local keywords. The tool allows you to find related keywords for any term you enter. It can also be used to get keyword suggestions for your website. The best thing? Google Keyword Planner is absolutely free for basic research.

Here’s how to use Google Keyword Planner for international keyword research:

  1. Choose the target location in the billing section

  2. In the main menu, click Discover new keywords

  3. Enter a keyword describing your services

  4. Enter your website URL

  5. Click Get results

Google Keyword Planner keywords discovery feature The next step is to translate keywords and check them once again using SEO tools.

You might discover that some translated keywords don’t have enough search volume. You might also realize that some keywords are related to a different content topic and require the creation of additional content. Take your time and double-check the relevance of all translated keywords.

Translate website content

Website translation is not a one-person job. If your budget allows it, hire an experienced website localization team. The barebones team should have at least one localization manager who will collaborate with freelancers to translate your website content. Alternatively, opt for language service providers.

Whether you go for in-house translators or an agency, use translation management software (TMS) to streamline the website localization workflow. In either case, the use of such software will save you time, money, and spare you unnecessary hassle.

Among the most popular translation tools, Centus stands apart as a reliable TMS with almost no learning curve. Its extensive integrations with content management systems (CMS) and developer tools substantially reduce the manual effort involved in website localization projects.

Here’s how to translate website content using Centus:

  1. Connect Centus with WordPress or other CMS

  2. Import content to Centus

  3. Delegate the translation process to your team, translation agency, or MT engines

  4. Export translated content back to your CMS

Centus’ dashboard

Localize UX and UI

The process of localizing a website goes beyond content translation. The design and layout of your website should also be tailored to the preferences of your intended audience.

For example, when marketing to Middle Eastern audiences, it's essential to use images that respect local customs and traditions. Specifically, use images of modestly dressed people and avoid images of alcohol or pork products.

The image below shows IKEA’s website localized for Jordan. IKEA's website screenshot Source: IKEA

Nike offers another example of properly tailoring website imagery to a local audience. The company uses traditional Chinese colors and symbols on its localized website. screenshot of Nike's website Source: Nike

When performing UI/UX localization for your website, keep these tips in mind:

  • Adjust website colors
  • Use culturally relevant images and symbols
  • Adapt website fonts
  • Adjust website for locally-preferred navigation
  • Adapt currencies and numerals
  • Adjust forms for locally-preferred user input
  • Adjust calendar formats to user expectations
  • Set the appropriate time zones

For more information, refer to our UI/UX localization guide.

Test before launch

Once you've localized your website, it's crucial to conduct thorough testing to ensure accurate translation, proper functioning of the user interface, and the absence of technical issues.

Website localization testing involves checking both functional and linguistic parameters.

Functional testing of a localized website includes:

  • Hardware compatibility
  • Names, time, date, weights, measurements, etc.
  • Upgrades
  • Entry fields
  • Hyperlinks
  • Image appropriateness
  • Broken strings/design
  • Form functionality
  • Shopping cart
  • Payment processing
  • Loading time
  • Downloads

Linguistic parameters you should check before website launch are:

  • Spelling and grammar errors
  • Punctuation errors
  • Cultural appropriateness
  • Misuse of keywords
  • Readability and appeal of a message
  • Untranslated strings

You can conduct website localization testing using a variety of methods, including

  • In-person testing to observe user behavior and ask questions.
  • Remote user testing to observe user behavior remotely.
  • Method of comparison to compare the performance of two versions of your website content.

Additionally, it is beneficial to have a knowledgeable native speaker for the specific market with good skills and expertise in localization to assist you in the testing process.

Promote your website

Once the target language version of the new website content is up and running, it's time to promote it to reach your intended audience and increase traffic and conversions. In other words, you need to focus your marketing efforts on the result taking into account the impact of culture, context, and language on your promotional strategy. Here’s how to do it:

  • Localize your digital marketing campaigns
    • Adapt your email marketing and social media campaigns.
    • Use appropriate images and tone of voice.
  • Leverage local influencers
    • Partner with local influencers.
    • Ensure their content resonates with your international sales aim.
  • Participate in local events and sponsorships
    • Consider sponsoring local teams or community events.
  • Collaborate with local businesses
    • Partner with other local businesses to increase visibility and reach.
    • Participate in cross-promotions, joint events, and referral programs.
  • Use localized content marketing
    • Produce blog posts, videos, and infographics that address local concerns using the same language as your audience.

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