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Since Tim Berners-Lee published the first webpage back in 1991, the internet has gone on to transform all areas of modern life completely. From e-commerce to email, streaming media to secure banking, the internet has become the world’s most influential medium and has come to dominate all market sectors.
In recent years – and with the increased competition online – many companies have begun exploring the potential for targeting foreign markets over the web as a way to increase sales, typically through a process called localization.
What is website localization?
As its name would suggest, the world wide web is global and can afford companies unprecedented access to a diversity of markets in a way never before possible. However, to take full advantage of this global marketplace takes time and dedication and goes far beyond just adding translations to your existing site (although this is still a great starting point). Rather, localization takes a holistic approach and ports an entire site into a format best-suited for a particular foreign market.
The importance of SEO in localization
Most companies these days already run Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on their English-language website – a technique by which rankings in search engines are improved, thereby increasing website traffic. If you’re to capitalize from localization truly, you’ll need to do the same with the new site. Google accounts for around 92% of all search-generated traffic, so it is the platform you should target most heavily.
However, unless you have specific language skills or knowledge of SEO, trying to optimize your site for a foreign language can be well-nigh impossible. Thankfully there are global SEO specialists who can help and will look after every stage of the process. In truth, if you’re to gain the most benefit from the localization process, you should consider working with an expert.
Key steps to fully localize your site
Localization involves overhauling an existing website – everything from the URL (web address) to the site keywords. So, for example, if you wanted to expand into France, you would first look at buying a .fr French URL then work on the following key areas.
Tips for buying a foreign domain name: Many countries have specific regulations regarding owning domain names – in most cases that you need to have an address or a company registration in that country. This can prove problematic for many ventures, but there is a way around it. These days, domain name brokers can purchase site addresses for you in any country, regardless of your location. Check online for recommended companies and be sure to shop around for the best price.
Use the right translation software: Almost all Content Management Systems come with plug-ins that will duplicate pages into foreign versions to save you missing important content. Choosing the right translation software is an essential part of localization – again, check online for recommended apps.
Remember the ‘hidden’ tags: If your original site has been designed correctly, you will already be employing hidden tags within your pages – e.g. the ALT tag on images or header META tags. Just as with the English version of your site, these small snippets of code are essential for foreign search engines to get a better understanding of your site content. Good translation software will prompt you to change the most common SEO tags making your site more likely to achieve higher rankings.