Thinking global as a local company? 7 tips for going international with your website #Inside SaaS

Interacting with a global audience has never been easier. Still startups and small teams primary struggle to compete for attention with the big players in digital business.

Knowing your customers is vital, when setting up your global website. Hence, customer driven design can be the key to success. In this blog post I am talking about my learnings from planning to take a website international.

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Usersnap and LingoHub have teamed up to share the most helpful hints for taking your business to global success. This blog post is part of our #InsideSaaS series and follows a comprehensive article on the role of languages in web development teams.

More than text translation

Considering translated content to be just another version of a website is a common mistake when it comes to website translation. Many people still primarily associate website translation with simple text translation. Preparing a website for a new language is no small feat. Thus, there’s way more to consider besides text translation.

That’s exactly what we at LingoHub have recently experienced when planning to translate our website. So I’ve summed up the topics I came across when planning to take LingoHub’s website international and outlined my learnings.

#1 Be relevant and know your target market

Knowing your target audience is crucial. A detailed analysis of your target audience results in a basic concept of your multilingual website. Your website’s analytics tool provides you with a ranking of languages your visitors speak, so you can prioritize languages best to be translated.

Search engines like Google favour relevant content for target audience. Hence, location is incredibly important. We have 3 different options to let Google know that e.g. lingohub.com/de is the part of our website that’s for German visitors.

  • Insert a HTML link element in the header of lingohub.com
  • Use a HTTP header when publishing non-HTML files
    <https://lingohub.com/de/>; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”de-de”
  • Submit information about different language version as a sitemap to Google Search Console

When targeting different countries that share the same language, e.g. you offer a website for US and UK, make sure to tell Google that content is “canonical”. So you’ll avoid penalties in search rankings for duplicate content.

#2 Choose your domain wisely

Virtually 1 billion website have been registered by 2014. It’s no secret that search engine optimization (SEO) is the key to users among this flood of digital content on the internet.

Google favours content for each language on a separate URL. Choose to whether use top level domains, subdomains or sub-directories. We at LingoHub will use sub-directories as it works best with our Google Analytics setup. That way all language versions will be considered as part of our top level domain lingohub.com.

Using an international domain name is no problem. Use UTF-8 encoding to translate parts of your URL (lingohub.com/website-translation → lingohub.com/de/webseiten-uebersetzung).
For more information on the topic I’ve recently set up a handy SEO guide for multilingual websites.

#3 Collect customer feedback

As I’ve stated in the introduction website translation is more than translating simple text. Translations may cause changes in your layout due to increasing text volumes in the target languages.

Supporting RTL (right-to-left) languages, like Arabic, turns your layout upside down. For all of us not fluent in Arabic it’ll be hard to detect layout inconsistency. How shall we check our translated website for line breaks, alignment and position of images, buttons and more? Our solution: integrating customers and natives in the design process by setting up a streamlined feedback process. Bug tracking tools, like Usersnap, facilitate systematic customers feedback collection and speed up the development cycle.

Usersnap connects designers, developers and customers and integrates them all perfectly in the web development process. When working with Usersnap we experienced how handy and easy collaboration with colleagues and clients can be. We just needed to insert the code snippet to our website and were ready to take off.

bug tracking with Usersnap

#4 Use Alpha/Beta testing for different website versions

As stated above customer driven design is a way to distinguish from your competitors. For us, this means that our website needs to meet our customers’ preferences. A/B testing is a great way to learn about predilections, which we’ll use for our pricing page. In line with launching our new website, we decided to redesign the layout of our pricing page. While most SaaS providers order prices low to high, we turned it upside down.

LingoHub pricing page

#5 Bring your source content to perfection

The entire translation process starts with the source language. Hence, it is essential to optimize your source text in terms of spelling, grammar and diction. Double checking avoids that mistakes are multiplied through translation. Professional reviewers can check your source content to make sure there are no mistakes included.

#6 Localize your content rather than translating text

Translating your source text to another language is not enough. Consider that your target audience may use different spaces, formats (time, measurement, date, etc.). This might sound self explanatory, but don’t exchange the currency symbols and keep the prices the same, as currencies have different conversion rates. Moreover, some currency symbols are listed before, like £, some after the price, like €.

Also consider the differences between English speaking countries. Besides spelling and grammar American English differs from its Australian or British counterparts in many ways.

While Americans are used to the Imperial Measurements ( yards, pounds, Fahrenheit, …), Australians use the Metric Measurements (meters, grams, Celsius, …) since 1970.
These two countries use different date formats too. Americans structure dates in the MM/DD/YYYY order (month, day, year) while Australians prefer the same structure as Europeans DD/MM/YYYY (day, month, year).

To become a truly global champion it is important to localize even the tiniest part of your content. Hence, telephone numbers shouldn’t be left out. To best service your locale customers offer country specific phone numbers. Consider to use e.g. the American standard of (123) 456-7890 for your U.S. English website or the common standard of every other country your website targets.

international website

#7 Remain consistent in branding but adapt the environment

Being remarkable and memorable is the key to every successful brand. Thus, it cannot be denied that a consistent appearance of your multilingual website is crucial. Consider the languages you want to translate your website to when creating the design. Any possible misconceptions you bear in mind during the design stage will minimize your localization effort.
For example, don’t use a picture of the A-OK gesture when planning to expand your website for the Brazilian market as the gesture is considered extremely bad.
Think about the colours you’re using and make sure to know their meaning for any local readers. While Europeans link red to masculinity, Japanese link it to life and Indians to purity.

Content marketing is about building your audience and breaking down the wall between companies and clients. The voice and personality of your company is communicated through your writing style. To build up a global brand marketers often struggle with a consistent brand voice across different languages.

To best assist marketers in taking their brand global LingoHub partnered up with some of the world’s leading translators. Professional translators working in their native language know how to best express your brand in a different language. Ensure your content resonates with your local readers.

Summing it up

At this point, the cost of translation is far surpassed by the cost of not translating. So today translate or not to translate shouldn’t even be a question.

There are already some great tools for growth hackers like us out there, facilitating website translation in many different ways. Fortunately, we can cast for “fish” in this sea of tools.

About the author:
Anja Obermüller is responsible for marketing at LingoHub and currently doing her master’s degree in digital business management. Connect via Xing or get in touch on Twitter.

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