Adapt Or Die: How To Best Approach Web-Localization Efforts

Adapt Or Die: How To Best Approach Web-Localization Efforts

Adaptation is all about survival. If a website is to survive and succeed, it needs to adapt constantly – the alternative isn’t an option.

But what happens when a company has multiple websites, each of them serving a specific local market in its native language and with its’ own local peculiarities? Simple – the company’s adaptation effort multiplies exponentially.

Many companies wrongly believe they are prepared for the exponential content and management growth resulting from localization. The first clear sign of this error is that a company’s website localization strategy is not, directly or indirectly, managed by a localization professional. Frequently, organizations give website localization oversight responsibilities to a marketing team that has very limited knowledge of the particular challenges of localization.

If there is no localization manager on the team yet, consider hiring one. This person will be able to determine the best content translation approach, engage with the right vendors, establish quality metrics, and ensure a fair price for any translations. In addition, having staff assigned to this specialized role will help the company’s localization model mature more rapidly.

Additionally, when analyzing the local or regional markets to target, companies often consider translation to be imperative. Due to the peculiarities of some industries and countries, and depending on whether the company is in a B2B or B2C category, English might be the language used (and expected) by the target audience in that specific market.

Companies that do not speak their customers’ language risk losing their business
For example, Ciena recently ceased providing full support for Arabic in the Middle East region after discovering that, due to the fact that many users of Ciena content in that market were educated in British and North-American universities, English is the preferred language of business for that region. Companies that do not speak their customers’ language risk losing their business.

How is this sort of information uncovered? Quite simply, metrics tattle. Trends change, users evolve, and industries move. An agile organization keeping pace with the market needs mechanisms to identify what is happening in that market so it can react accordingly.

This is especially relevant when translating marketing materials. The right use of the appropriate metrics can provide each market with their own content preferences. For instance, they can reveal which markets prefer videos over print collateral, and – even more specifically – if a voiceover is preferred to subtitles on those videos. Ciena learned, for example, that its Japanese and Korean Web users are more comfortable reading subtitles than watching videos with audio in their local language – just the opposite of users in the CALA region.

Targeted metrics will also help identify which products or services most interest Web users, allowing companies to focus their translation efforts more accurately and thereby utilize their budgetary resources more effectively. Additionally, because user behavior is not static, metrics can let companies know when to modify their localization approaches when needed. As the case in point, Ciena will resume full support for Arabic again if research indicates a need to do so.

Finally, organizations should consider the quality of the translation provided. The main challenge here for many companies is that sometimes it is almost impossible to control how good translations are when dealing with highly populated and evolving websites. However, if the company considers its websites an important asset within a complete global marketing strategy, quality cannot be left aside.

The best way to tackle this concern is by dividing the Web into different tiers based on the level of visibility. For instance, the homepage and one-click-away pages would be Tier 1, two-clicks-away pages would be Tier 2, and the rest would be Tier 3. Based on this approach, the company should focus all quality efforts on the Tier 1 content, as these pages usually represent the highest percentage of Web visits. Quality on Tier 2 could be managed using random quality spot checks, and Tier 3 pages, which are normally a residual percentage of total visits, could be completely ignored.

Additionally, companies should return to their metrics to identify and fully customize these tiers on each local website, as some pages will definitively be more relevant than others depending on the market. This approach will allow the most efficient use of all translation quality mechanisms, avoiding unnecessary checks of non-visited and irrelevant pages.

In short, to keep all Web pages from becoming irrelevant, businesses should use all their available metrics to get to know their global users and customize the localized content accordingly.

This article is featured in the ‘Global Marketing’ special edition of Brand Quarterly produced in association with the Brand2Global conference 2014.  View the full magazine with further insights from thought leaders, marketers and globalization/localization experts.