Have you thought of having your website translated but you don’t really know how it all works? In this blog post, you will discover 10 things to keep in mind when translating websites.

What exactly are the points to consider when you’re having your Common Sense Advisory shows that 72.4% of your potential customers are more likely to purchase something if the information is available in their own language. And more than half of your potential customers value the information being available in their language more than they do the price.

A tailor-made experience and translation; that’s what it’s all about. What are the best options for your website? Ask yourself the following ten questions.

1. Multilingual website or multiple websites?

First things first; you have two options when having your website translated. A multilingual website (one website with one CMS containing all languages) or a separate website for each country. The disadvantage of having multiple websites for multiple countries is that you require a separate CMS for each language and therefore a separate login. In general, companies find this less manageable.

Do you opt for a multilingual website and therefore one CMS? That would be a good decision where your domain authority is concerned as you’ll only use one domain for all your “websites” and languages.

Plugins for multilingual websites.

Extra tips; translating websites with the help of plugins is definitely a possibility. Are you using WordPress? You could then use the WPML plugin. This plugin allows you to add about 40 languages to your website. It will be easy for your visitors to switch between the different languages, because they appear in a menu on your website.

Do you work with Drupal, Joomla or Magento? There are similar plugins and options available; Language Switcher Dropdown for Drupal, Language Manager for Joomla and Magento Inline Translation for — you’ve guessed it — Magento. Ask your web designer if your system supports multilingualism.

2. Determine which content to translate.

Your website or webshop has been designed in the current language. Do the same when you translate your website. So think carefully about what content you want to translate. Consider;

  • Domain name.
  • Menu items.
  • Web and product pages.
  • Product descriptions and features.
  • Meta descriptions.
  • Buttons.
  • Images.
  • All titles, meta-information and alt texts.

What people tend to forget when translating a site is search engine optimisation. The likelihood of being found abroad via a Dutch word, for example, is pretty small. So collect all unique meta-information and keywords to optimise the SEO for your translated website. You can read more about this under tip 4.

Determine whether you want your website or online shop translated all at once or whether you want to split up the work. If you have a large webshop, you probably have a lot of content and it could be good to divide it into smaller(er) pieces. Tip; translate the most important pages first! For example, the pages that are performing best right now or a page that is very relevant due to a season, public holiday or vacation.

Then ask yourself if all your content needs to be translated. Some of your blog posts might not be relevant at all to the audience you are reaching with your translated website. Examples would be a blog post about Trooping the colour, Eton mess or a temporary discount. Also make sure that your foreign visitors are not hindered by translating your webshop or website piece by piece. A good user experience is essential for returning visitors. Therefore, have your webpage translated by someone who really knows what all it entails.

3. Tone of voice; the tone of your company’s voice.

A copywriter has probably written some good copy for your website. With here and there a pun, a playful reference to your company name or a serious link between an English custom and your product or service. Exactly what you had in mind. Your translated website has to be just as well-aimed. So put together a style guide, including a clear briefing:

  • Describe the writing style and tone of voice (e.g. predominantly short sentences and a personal, approachable, informal tone of voice).
  • Specific technical terms you want to use.
  • Terms you don’t want to use.

All your wishes can be included in a style guide, so that the translator can produce the best possible result.

4. SEO; local keywords, local successes.

Before hiring a translator, find out what keywords score well in the language of your choice. With search engine optimisation (SEO translations) the digital world is at your feet. If your English keywords don’t work in another language, very few people will read your translated web texts. You could already have differences between texts in UK English and US English. In the UK we put “petrol” in our cars, in the US they call it “gas”. Where in the US they order “a burger with fries”, in the UK we’d order “a burger with chips”. For an American, “chips” are what we refer to as “crisps”.

In addition to looking for the right keywords, it’s also advisable to look into the search engines used by your target audience. Google may be hugely popular worldwide, but in Russia it’s Yandex that helps the average searcher. In China, Google isn’t ‘your friend, but Baidu is. Each channel requires a strategy. Yandex especially loves high keyword density and is not so thrilled about incoming and outgoing links.

It’s important to have your SEO in order, because search engines will then list you higher in the results. This makes for more visitors and therefore more conversions and turnover. Native translators are aware of the customs in their country and know better than others how to make you findable. Exactly where you want to be found. A striking example: “Location Vacances” is found 135,000 times a month in France. If you translate this literally into English, only a maximum of 90 people will find you per month. Good translators will come up with a synonym that does work.

5. Ranking the stars, by which we mean the URL structure of your website.

SEO is about more than just incorporating keywords into your translation. The URL structure also affects your search engine optimisation. There are several options for URL structures; country code top-level domain names (ccTLDs), subdomains and subdirectories.

  • Country code top-level domain names; e.g. mywebsite.en, mywebsite.fr and mywebsite.de
  • Subdomains (gTLDs); en.mywebsite.com, fr.mywebsite.com, de.mywebsite.com
  • Subdirectories; mywebsite.com/en, mywebsite.com/de, mywebsite.com/fr

The advantage of subdirectories is that it’s easy to implement and everything remains under one domain. There’s no need to build up your domain authority for multiple (sub)domains. Weigh up the pros and cons and choose the option that best suits your website and business.

6. Translate or localise text?

Having your website translated means the conversion of all your website content. You replace the original (source) language with a word-for-word translation into the target language.

Localising text and websites goes far beyond that. A translator makes your content even more effective by adapting your website to a specific target audience. Imagine you’ve written a blog post about the traditional English snack “Pigs in a blanket”. Not because you sell this food, but because you wanted to create content about a tasty snack. In the UK you would have a relevant blog post for a large target group. But if you translate this for your website in Mexico, no one will drool over it; no matter how well the text was translated. A good translator who localises your text will understand this. He or she will adapt the blog post by, for example, writing about enchiladas. And not by substituting the words “Pigs in a blanket”, but by creating a substantive blog post that does connect with the Mexican target audience.

Localisation is also about nuances. Symbols, humour, traditions, politics, economy and religion and units such as euros, pounds, kilometres and miles. Telephone numbers are also converted in such a way that the correct area code appears in front of them, so that your target audience can call you straight away.

You can imagine that localising texts is a more specialised job and therefore takes more time and requires a higher investment. So think carefully about whether your texts need to be translated or localised.

7. Translate your images and videos as well.

Have you heard the story about the thumbs up gesture? In Europe and the United States it’s a well accepted symbol. In Asia and Australia it’s considered an insult. One thing’s for sure; your image or turnover won’t benefit from it. This is a very telling example, but of course there is more to it than just a thumb pointing the wrong way.

In Asia, for example, people attach great importance to a colourful visual whole, but what about Germany? Or with a website translation into French? Check all your photos, diagrams, images, cartoons, interactive elements and — whether or not in consultation with the translation agency — carefully consider how, and if, you want to use them. Have you checked all your images and videos (including subtitles!)? Thumbs up!

8. Take the layout into account.

It would come in handy if you’re aware at the start that at some point your website will be translated. You could then take this into account when working on the design. Because your English text translated into French is often one and a half times longer. And if you translate into Japanese, it’s important to have more space available length-wise. If the design of your current website or webshop can’t cater for this, do cater for it in the layout of your foreign-language pages or (sub)domains.9. Exporting content.

Once you’ve gone through all the previous steps, it’s time to start the actual process of translating your website. You need to export the content so that a native translator can get started on the translation of your source texts. You have a number of options for submitting your content, such as .po, .xml, Excel, Notepad, TXT and HTML. Common methods that we will briefly familiarise you with are listed below.

Translations of .csv files.
Does your website run on Magento or Joomla? Then it’s easy to export your website as a .csv file. A good translation agency can import this into translation software and ensure that the format coding is retained. After completion you upload your translated .csv file to your CMS and you’ve added a new language to your website. You can specify which parts of your website you want to have translated in the .csv file.

Translations of .xliff files.
Exporting a website from within WordPress is not a standard option built into WordPress. Here’s our tip; purchase the WPML plugin. After installing WPML you have access to a translation management page, where you can indicate which languages your website must support. There is also the option of exporting your website to an .xliff format. You will then have a bilingual file containing all your website texts and space for the translator to add the translation. If you submit the website to be translated in this way, a translation service, such as ourselves, will load the file into translation software.

Translating .doc and .docx files.
Do you only have a small amount of website or webshop content to translate, or just a single blog post? You can also deliver it in a Word file (.doc or .docx).

Your choice of export method depends on your CMS and your own technical skills. Do you want to do this yourself or do you have a web builder at your disposal who can take care of it? A good translation agency will of course be happy to help you out.

10. Take operational factors into account.

In addition to translating the content of your website, it’s important to think about the operational factors. Within the EU alone, for example, there are many differences when it comes to issues such as product liability, safety, public health and labelling. What local customs, laws and regulations must you take into account? Here’s three for you.

Clear Terms of Sale.
Make sure that you publish clear terms of sale on your website. You’re probably familiar with the E-commerce Law, but other countries may have different regulations. So draw up terms and conditions that familiarise consumers with payments, delivery, (digital) invoicing and returns. Remember to make your terms and conditions available in the correct language and have them legally verified if necessary.

Translating your website? Don’t forget the payment system!
In the UK, payment is mainly done by debit or credit card. The same applies to Spain and France. The Dutch, however, are avid users of iDeal, so do include that in your Dutch translation. In Germany people mainly use SEPA Direct Debit and to a lesser extent Sofort. Mister Cash is popular in Belgium, and there are many more payment systems to be mentioned. Find out which payment system is best suited to your online shop.

If you don’t know how to integrate a payment system, we highly recommend that you contract a Payment Service Provider (PSP). A PSP will ensure that your webshop offers various payment methods and will also take over a large part of your financial administration.

Invoices and costs.
Be mindful of your invoices and costs when doing business abroad. Some countries have different invoice requirements, transport arrangements and VAT rates. And don’t be caught unawares by customs fees either!

A translation agency sharing its thoughts and ideas with you.

In short; there are a lot of things to take into account when translating your website or webshop. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it all by yourself; there are translation agencies that are happy to share their thoughts and ideas with you. Euro-Com is such an agency. Would you like more information and to find out what your options are? Requesting a quote from us is completely free of charge and without obligation. And you will receive it quickly — a competitively priced proposal will be on your digital doorstep within two hours.