Localizing Your Website: How to Simplify a Huge Project

There comes a time in every monolingual website’s life when it needs to look to greener pastures. These days, if your website has any less than 20 localized sites catering for different countries and languages, then it isn’t a truly global website.

Every forward-thinking e-commerce site eventually will be mirrored by a host of localized versions for foreign markets. However, the job of localizing a website is no small task.

If your website has, let’s say, 100 pages, then that’s potentially 100 individual pages that you will need to translate, localize, and optimize for every localized site. If you’re creating 20 localized sites, then that’s 2,000 individual pages to have translated, proofed, and uploaded.

Luckily, though, the mammoth task of localizing every page on your site for 10, 20, or 40 different websites can be reduced with a couple of simple strategies.

Make Sure the Majority of Your Site Content is International From the Outset

Carefully check your English copy to make sure that it will still make sense when translated into any other language. Avoid specific local cultural references and envision your audience as being international from the outset.

Once you have the international version of your site, you can then create a site plan listing every page that will be included in your localized versions.

A good rule to follow here is the Pareto principle, that 20 percent of your site will be used by 80 percent of your users. Figure out which parts of your site are the most used by the most visitors and you can start eliminating pages from your localized versions that are unlikely to be visited in any case (taking care not to delete any crucial landing pages!).

Flag Any Pages Requiring Localizing for Particular Languages or Cultures

Small — but important — elements to look out for when checking for localization requirements include:

  • Use of decimals in numbers (commas or full stops).
  • Date and time formats.
  • Any mentions of currencies.
  • Any region-specific references.
  • Any pages that include payment methods (as different countries prefer different payment methods).

You can then identify the specific pages that will need to be localized for every audience, to ensure that your customers are well looked after, no matter where they’re from. This might include your home page or your About Us company page, in which you can get more detailed with your copy to describe how you cater to customers from each market.

For instance, for your French site’s home page, you might add a paragraph to your generic copy that talks about how your products or services cater to French customers, and on your About page you might add a paragraph talking about how your company has a strong presence in France. You can either write this copy in English and then have it translated by a professional linguist, or have a multilingual copywriter produce the necessary copy for you (which will deliver a better result but may cost more).


Naturally, every single page on each of your local sites will need to be optimized with painstakingly researched foreign language keywords — this isn’t a task you can reduce by going generic. But by following these steps to reduce the amount of content that requires localization, you can make the mammoth task of successfully localizing your website that little bit more manageable.

Join us for SES London 2011, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place February 21-25! The conference offers sessions on topics including search engine optimization (SEO), keyword analysis, link building, local, mobile, video, analytics, social media, and more. Register now.

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