Localised websites are often viewed as translated versions of the original. However, for users, translation is not everything. It is also about the content and the information it delivers; its relevance to the user and the user being able to comprehend the information from their cultural perspective.

In a blog published in the Entrepreneur titled ‘How to create a Multilingual website’ (Dec 05, 2012), Contributor-Blogger Mikal E. Belicove cites from research firm IDC that users are four times more likely to buy from businesses which communicate with them in their own native language. This is an interesting fact because if businesses are seeking to expand into overseas markets, they must consider cultural and behavioural factors impacting user experience with their website and therefore sales. User experience is a key driver of customer engagement as it increases the duration of the customer staying on the website.

Key drivers of Localisation

· Website content

The business needs a primary website which captures the company’s values and ethos. The question is if a new website is needed to address the needs of customers across various geographies. The answer to this lies somewhere in between; Digital marketers know that customisation of content is key process to conversion. However, would a literal translation of the website suffice? My answer to this is ‘No’.

Websites must be localised bearing in mind the cultural practices and beliefs of the target population. Website localisation requires intervention by experts who have an in-depth understanding of local customs and practices to present information to prospective customers in a format which is easily understood and results in actionable activities. For example, while consulting for an export oriented E-Commerce business in Melbourne, the client requested that their website be translated into “Chinese” to target markets in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The mainland Chinese speak many different dialects of Mandarin while the Cantonese spoken in Taiwan and HK also varies. There is in essence no Chinese language and therefore translation and localisation of the website can often prove difficult


Keywords and strings of keywords (phrases) need to be identified and presented in a meaningful way for the user. There are words which carry the risk of being misunderstood, what we call in the industry ‘false-friends’. For example Library in English does not have the same meaning as Libreria in Spanish (a bookstore). The Spanish translation of the English word ‘Library’ is biblioteca. Such cognates risk being misunderstood by non-native speakers. A company needs the intervention of professionals who understand the context and translate it without diluting the meaning in the original language.

· Country specific domains

.com is a universal identifier while .au, .cn, .in, .uk are country specific extensions. Websites which carry country specific extensions are relevant to the demographics of that territory and therefore will gain greater visibility vis-à-vis websites with a simple generic .com extension. Users will most often search for products and services in their native language, using keywords, strings of keywords (phrases) etc. and these must be adequately captured by a Digital Marketeer to enhance the ranking in the results page.

Secondly, users generally search for websites assuming the company to be in their geographic location but sometimes it so happens it returns the invalid search message or “Site not found” message. For example if Company X has no website with the China specific extension .CN and if a prospective customer searches for company X in China they would receive the ‘site not found’ message.

A digital strategy which incorporates consumer behaviour insights will drive sales across geographic boundaries. It is important that small and medium businesses seeking to expand into overseas markets appreciate local language and cultural factors in order to reduce barriers to entering the market and increase customer acceptance.


By Alex Fairie, Director of European Operations and Megh Shetty, Manager- Marketing and Communication for Oncall Interpreters Australia.

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