In today’s increasingly digital and global age, more than 52 percent of internet users say accessing information in their own language is more important than cost – and 75 percent of the world’s population doesn’t speak English. It’s no wonder, then, that most successful global companies have embraced a critical strategy for capturing new markets worldwide: content localization.
What is content localization?
In short, this is the process of taking any content produced in your native language (specifically, the language you use to communicate with your primary market) and transforming it to be understandable by other relevant markets. Localization is often confused or used interchangeably with translation, but in reality, translation is only a part of a good localization strategy.
Translation takes content in one language and renders it to another, in a process meant to convey a near-equivalent meaning. Localization (or l10n, as industry professionals commonly abbreviate it), on the other hand, is the process of addressing and integrating cultural, linguistic, and other contextual components to best adapt the text to a local market. Here are a few examples that show the subtle but vital differences between the two:
- Translating the phrase “What is your name?” from English to Italian results in “Come ti chiami?” (literally meaning “How are you called?”).
- Translating the word “localization” from English to Spanish and back to English gives you “location.”
- Localizing the word “sweater” from American English to UK English results in “jumper.”
- Localizing the word “color” from American English to UK English results in “colour.”
So, localization takes pure translation one step further by ensuring the language is adapted and formatted for a specific market, and to best align with the overall content, product, and flow of the brand.
Developing a content localization strategy
There’s a lot to consider when investing in this kind of globalization. Here, we’ve broken the process down into three key strategic phases and the important elements of each that successful global companies should keep in mind.
1. Select target markets and languages
Understand your top-performing markets. Always begin with your strongest markets – the places across the globe where you have already established an audience – from which you can grow. Upon conducting research, many companies find that there are some surprising markets trying to engage with their content and their business.
Start with a couple of languages (and quality translators), then go from there. As a rule of thumb, a good best practice is to start with two or three languages from markets where you have historically seen the most growth, and scale from there. This gives you a chance to not only test out the global waters, but also get accustomed to implementing and refining your workflows. And of course, this means partnering with nop-notch localization companies and services that will help you bring your content and vision to life in a way that best resonates with your target markets.
Get to know (really know) your international audiences. As you develop your long-term global marketing approach, make sure you keep a running database of cultural nuances, local industry jargon, and other market-specific phrases and images by way of glossaries and style guides. (For example, if you are optimizing a game for the Indian market, you will want to think carefully about any interactions in the game regarding cows; and even if you are localizing from American English into UK English, the UK market will respond better to “coloured jumper” instead of “colored sweater.”) This will help you not only more accurately and authentically localize your content and imagery, but also avoid breaches in cultural sensitivity that could compromise your credibility.
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2. Identify content to localize
Know that all your content can be localized (you just have to choose where to start). With the rapid pace at which localization innovation is developing, increasingly accurate tools are available for all of your content, from video subtitles to web and mobile apps. In order to fully take advantage of all these tools, you must first prioritize where you’ll begin.
Start with your top-performing content. Start by leveraging your existing content that has been best at engaging your audience to date. Dive into your marketing dashboards and determine which apps, products, and content are attracting the most attention – then start localizing.
Leverage international SEO insights. To optimize for international SEO, start by investigating market-specific search engines (not everyone uses Google or Yahoo) and use that to inform your keyword research. Beyond the content research from above, international SEO research will guide you in understanding how relevant certain topics will be in their respective in-country environments.
3. Choose the right tool
Invest in the right localization services. There are lots of translation companies and tools out there. Choose one that is not only great for accurate translations at scale, but that can also easily work with your current developer, translator, and marketing workflows.
Make sure it’s agile and continuous. Localization doesn’t stop after your first project. Successful businesses in today’s digital era must constantly adapt and refine their messaging to keep up with the ever-evolving demands of consumers. By investing in an agile platform like Transifex (a favorite amongst agile teams of top global companies like HubSpot, SoundCloud, and Waze), you can translate your content as quickly as you produce it.
Integrate with your existing apps and repositories. With a robust localization platform, your team can easily connect your content repositories to enable localization at scale. For instance, you can use the Transifex Bitbucket integration to easily connect a Transifex project with a Bitbucket repository and keep your localization efforts seamlessly synced across platforms.
Today, nearly three-quarters of Fortune 500 companies actively invest in localization to expand globally and drive revenue from international markets, and other companies of all sizes are following suit. From engaging and converting international prospects to building a global brand supporting strong relationships and loyalty, localization drives global business across the board. And with the right tools and strategies, you can harness its powers to reach audiences worldwide.