Introduction

Too often, people only think ‘Translation’ when they talk about ‘Localisation’ but this is only one aspect and on its own will not lead to the intended outcome. The goal of localisation should not be to provide a copy of the website to people in their native language, it should be to get more people in a chosen region to find the website and to interact with the website in order to achieve a particular goal (like increase revenue). While the translation aspect is likely to get people to interact better with the website, it will not help much with the website promotion and getting people to the website in the first place.

Even the translation itself, is not just about mapping words into a different language, you will see in this article that Localisation is a complex field of SEO and there are a number of aspects that need to be considered.

Also, there are two different types of localisation that clients may ask for. And it is important to distinguish these at the start.

Types of Localisation

Contracting the Market

This is when you want to target a particular area or a particular region. The region could be a selected State in America or one or more Counties in Ireland.

I can almost hear you saying who would ever want to contract their market? Surely everyone wants to grow their Market and hence their Sales. However, if you are a small operation that provides a service which requires you to visit the clients, then you may not want to be contacted by people outside a defined zone. In this case, you may be able to grow the number of customers, improve your service and increase your revenue by only offering your services to clients in your region of interest.

Expanding the Market

This type of localisation is more common and is all about expanding the reach of a website to other countries or regions. It is common for on-line sales and on-line services or for large companies who want to increase revenue by targeting other countries.

This form of Localisation is more complex and can be difficult to achieve without a focused project and a good understanding of all the elements that will lead to the intended results.

This article deals with ‘Expanding the Market’ only, though there may be pointers that are relevant to ‘Contracting the Market’.

Localisation Key Aspects

Translation

Localisation is all about targeting a website for a particular audience in a chosen region. Content Translation helps capture the attention of visitors and helps you to connect with the customer across a common base. It also establishes trust and credibility in the target region and clients are more likely to engage with a site that is written in their language. However, translation only scratches the surface when it comes to localisation of content.

The Content

While a common language is important, there is a lot more to content localisation than just translating content for the audience. Localisation of content also involves localisation of the meaning, the tone of the content and the ideas presented. Therefore, the content has to speak to the audience in the right way in order to get them to engage.

Localised Keywords

Before an audience can engage, they first need to find the content. The words used in searches are likely to be very different in different locations. It therefore is important to target the words that people are likely to use in searches in the location for the content. This means that you may need to have different wording in for each of your targeted regions if you want to promote your website in the region.

There is a distinct advantage to having different content for each region as this prevents duplicate content between the sites.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is a major consideration when embarking on any Localisation project. Google and other search engines are very clear about the importance on not submitting Duplicate content and provide clear guidelines on how to avoid duplicate content penalties.

You may argue that a product is the same whatever country you are in and it may be impossible to provide different content for the same localised product. This is where it is important to ensure that the metadata on the page is correct.

Meta-Data

If you have multiple versions of a page for different regions or languages, it is important to tell search engines about these different versions. Not only will this ensure that content is not marked as duplicate, it will also help Google to point users to the content that is targeted to their region or language.

This applies whether you use sub-domains or sub-directories for your localised content.

Sub-Domains or Sub-Directories

Website domains can be configured in different ways and this provides a range of different ways for the implementation of localised content. Localised content may be included on different pages on the same site or on separate stand-alone website. These stand-alone websites can use the same domain or different domains. Each approach has it’s own advantages and disadvantages and it is important to decide on the most beneficial approach at the start on any localisation project.

Identification of the parts of a URL

If separate websites are used for each localised content then this can take the form of independent domains each with their own country code top level domain (ccTLD) or one domain name with the country code as the sub-domain name. The latter case is referred to as a sub-domain approach.

If different pages on the same site are used for the content and a directory structure is used to identify the region then this is referred to as a sub-directory approach. The final approach which is less structured may be to include the country as a parameter in the query. We will refer to this as the query approach

Approach Example UK Example Spain
Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) mysite.uk mysite.es
Sub-Domains uk.mysite.com es.mysite.com
Sub-Directories mysite.com/uk/ mysite.com/es/
Query mysite.com?lang=en mysite.com?lang=es

Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. For example, ccTLD’s are more expensive as each ccTLD has to be paid for every year while there is no extra subscription cost for multiple sub-domains. ccTLD’s and sub-domains are more difficult to maintain because each region will be an independent website while sub-directories are easy to maintain.

In addition to these points, ccTLD’s and sub-domains can have their own dedicated instances on independent hosting infrastructure which also can have significant advantages.

Infrastructure / Hosting

The speed of a website and the location of the hosting are known to be important factors for ranking (SERP) and consequently for being found on the web.

The speed of a website is related to the hosting infrastructure and the location of the hosting relative to the client. While websites may appear to load fast enough for browsing, search engines measure speed in milliseconds and any improvement is an opportunity to rank better. Therefore, a good hosting provider based in the same country as the target audience will always be an advantage.

Search Engines are able to identify the location of the hosting server and this location is used as an indicator of where the website is based and hence of the region for the search engine to target for local searches. In other words, if you are hosting in Ireland, then you are more likely to rank better in Ireland than in the UK. This is another reason to consider you infrastructure and hosting if you are using ccTLD’s and sub-domains for your localisation.

Search Engine Resources

It is in the interest of major search engines Google and Bing to provide users with the tools that help to identify your target market for search. Tools like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools allow you to define your location and Google My Business and Bing Places for Business can be used to identify the regions that you serve, office hours etc.

Local Testimonials

Testimonials are always a good means of showcasing your business as trustworthy and getting credibility in your field. This applies strongly applies to locality. Testimonials from people in the target region are a powerful means of getting new customers to engage with you.

Leads and prospects can be turned into customers by testimonials from companies that you have served in the region. Therefore, if you can get testimonials for each region then these should be added.

Contact Information

One of the most important pointers to localised content, not only for engagement but also for search engine optimisation, is the contact information (address and phone numbers) used on the site. These are an immediate give-away for where you are located.

While physical location is a reality that can’t be changed, perception is important and local contact numbers and addresses should be used if this is viable. For example, if your main office is in the Ireland but you have a Sales office in the United Kingdom, then your UK web site should include the UK Sales office contact number and contact details and not the Irish numbers.

Summing Up

Localisation is a complex area and translation is only one component in ensuring that you are able to engage with customers in different regions in order to grow your market.

While perception is important to get visitors to your site to engage with you, we strongly advise against the use false or fake information to convince potential new customers that to deal with you. It is a lot easier to lose credibility than it is to develop credibility in a new location and once credibility is lost, it is almost impossible to regain it.

This article has covered the main topics without getting into too much detail. There are links in this article that take you to more specific in-depth information on each area if you want to find out more about localisation.

Of course, there are other aspects to consider, that have not been covered but I am confident that this article provides sufficient information to ensure that you know what to ask for if you embark on a localisation project.

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