The 5 Critical Steps to Website Translation

A holistic approach & under-the-hood insights on how to manage your website translation

SINGAPORE – 1998 was the year that Google was founded.

While that seems like a lifetime ago and although Google wasn’t the inventor of the Internet, the company has been and continues to be a major influence on how the Internet functions & what it revolves around, and that is – Websites.

Businesses today tend to focus their attention on social media marketing. The lastest trend that has gripped the Asia Pacific region is social media influencers, and even E-marketplaces have a parallel version in the form of live-streaming ambassadors. However, if we really dive into the technicalities of marketing, social media platforms are not truly owned media. They are in fact, a blend of earned media + paid media (owned/earned/paid media). Social media platforms commonly limit how your content is allowed to be display (e.g. text limit, url addresses disallowed, etc …), and these platforms are mostly not intended to be searched. For social media platforms, engagement with viewers is the key, and selling is very much frowned upon.

Are websites important? Yes, critically important!

Especially for B2B businesses, websites are still at the center of digital marketing efforts today. As a 100% owned media, you enjoy full control on your website in terms of what content that you want to be displayed, when to display it, in whichever form you want, and with any volume of information that you want to share.

Websites are critical for any business as they were designed to facilitate search. Potential customers rely on search engines such as Google to seek out products & services that they are looking for, and the search engine correspondingly displays a directory of search results in order of what they consider to be the most relevant website related to your searched term. Search engine users are said to be having a higher intent to buy, versus users on social media.

While there are many rules (known & unknown) that govern how search engines determine the order/ranking of websites to show you whenever you search for something, your website content is the main deciding factor in search engines’ algorithms. The relevance of your content, content volume, page content structure, and how engaging your content truly is to your website visitors, influence your ranking by the search engines, and these matters are all embroiled within the technique known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Understanding and excelling in all these areas will ensure that your website is search-ready, well-ranked and gets rewarded with the user traffic & sales revenue that it deserves.

The need for multilingual websites

It has been said that if customers do not understand your language, they will not buy from you. Successful companies know this fact and the Internet itself is overflowing with evidence of major websites localised into multiple languages (110 languages for Microsoft, 75 for Toyota, 80 for Google, and so on). While English seems to be a highly popular language, a study of Asia Pacific (excluding Australia) alone reviews that the English being used as the primary language accounts for only 6.7% of the population! A factual study into other regions will quickly and similarly debunk the “truth” that English is the primary language used by majority of people around the world.

From a SEO & website ranking perspective, it is also important to note that being ranked well in a single English country, has no bearing whatsoever on how well the same English website ranks in other geographical markets. It is even worse off for non-English geographical markets – e.g. an English website which is ranked #1 in Australia, will certainly not be offered by the search engine to the user, in the event that the Japanese user based in Japan searches for a Japanese term.

It is essential therefore that businesses develop translated versions of their websites, to extend the value of their website, by maximising global opportunities for themselves.

5 essential steps when translating your website

Translating a website is a complicated process that is contingent on several factors and spreads across multiple stakeholders. Even for companies who have the option & luxury of simply assigning the endeavour to their digital agency, most agencies do not have significant hands-on experience executing website translations in a safe, efficient & exhaustive manner.

Based on our experience translating multiple websites, we now outline the most important (yet often ignored) parts of the process. It is our hope that this framework serves as a useful guide even if you are a company with a digital agency assigned to oversee this process, so that you can make a better assessment on how well your translation process is well-managed by your agency.

Search Keywords
Search engines revolve around search keywords. The careful research & use of the appropriate keywords determines whether your website is destined for high traffic or not. When localising your website, do ensure that the search keywords reflect the local market’s user behaviour, and are utilised when translating your website.
Translation-ready Content Management Systems
Content Management Systems (CMS) such as Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore and WordPress, are software systems that enable your website to be easily developed & maintained. Since 2010, businesses have increasingly developed their websites using various CMS technologies.

According to MediqTrans’ research agency partner Parrot Social, projected growth of the CMS industry appears limitless and is expected to nearly double over five years. Experts predict that the web content management market will grow from USD $4.91 billion in 2017 to $10.63 billion by 2022.

While it is increasingly common for website translation to be supported by CMSes, not all CMS support translation. For those that do, website translation support is not enabled out-of-the-box.

As you prepare to translate your website, ensure that your CMS is translation-ready, meaning that it should be equipped to handle the following:

  • It is internationalisation-ready, and allows you to specify a list of different languages that you want to offer users on your multilingual website. It would also allow the website to contain and display translated content regardless of whether the language set is represented by single-byte or double-byte characters, or is a left-to-right or right-to-left language
  • It allows you to easily export the text content in your English webpages & posts (commonly exported in CSV/Excel/XML/JSON files), and also the efficient import of the translated versions of these files. This is known as the CETI methodology (Content-Export-Translation-Import)
  • Where possible, all multimedia & software features (such as page sliders, contact forms, etc …) are translatable, and are also able to support a CETI approach

If your CMS is not translation-ready and/or cannot natively support a CETI approach, the journey to translating your website is more complicated, and will involve some degree of re-engineering to make it happen.

Assets to be Translated
Any content that is already hosted on your current website should be translated. Exceptions are occasionally made for certain content for commercial reasons such as a particular product not being offered in certain local markets. In such cases, it is usually recommended that the product webpages are completely hidden from those local markets, as opposed to leaving them intact but untranslated. Untranslated content within a translated website is highly detrimental to the user experience and the website/company branding.

There are different classifications of content assets that need to be translated, and they are listed as follows:

  • Branding-related: product names, taglines, keywords, etc …
  • Website pages & posts/articles
  • Labels, including navigation & menus
  • Addresses, names, job designations, currencies, dates, etc …
  • Embedded multimedia (most commonly videos & images with text) and file attachments
  • Content displayed or used by add-on software/widgets/plugins including system-generated response messages such as acknowledgement emails (in the event of registration forms)
Translation Process & SOP
A well-structured and proven process results in a predictable and successful website translation campaign with minimal hiccups. A website translation SOP should be exhaustive & cover all aspects of the translation from planning and preparation, all the way through completion. It should also address of how subsequent content updates are properly managed from a translation standpoint. The following list outlines the key steps of any website translation procedure:

  • Asset identification and collation: As described in the previous point, an exhaustive list of content assets that currently exist in the website needs to be established. Besides viewable content, “non-viewable” SEO-sensitive information such as site/page titles and descriptions for desktop/mobile/social, other meta tags such as keywords, also need to be catered for. SEO principles such as the length of text should be considered during translation.
  • CMS readiness: Our earlier point described the key considerations of your CMS. Your website translation SOP should cater to the translation-readiness state of your CMS, and provision for alternative re-engineering or manual intervention in cases where built-in translation support does not fully meet your translation requirements.
  • Content preparation & export: Apart from simply collating content assets, some level of content preparation is needed to ensure that text export is possible, and that translation itself is possible. For example, editable software files of images with embedded text need to be available, the use of culture-specific terms and phrases need to be minimised, and software files need to have their text strings accessible and not deeply embedded amongst software code and logic.
  • Content translation and re-import: Your website content needs to be translated by suitably experienced linguists for your sector and content subject matter. Adherence to your style guide, approved glossary and industry terminology norms needs to be performed. A linguistic review of the translation by a separate linguist also must be performed to ensure the translation quality of each piece of content. Since the 1990s, translation memory (TM) technologies have existed in the market & are essentially databases from which translations can be captured, recycled for use to achieve communication consistency & cost savings. Your translation SOP should incorporate a TM approach, not just for your website, but extended to include all business collaterals across your organisation as well. Finally, availing screenshots and/or webpage addresses to the linguists allows for better translation outcomes, since they are able to contextualise the text in relation to how and where it is used.
  • QA and Testing: No website translation initiative should be considered as complete without a QA and testing phase to ensure that your localised website functions properly, the same way that the core English website performs. Functional testing is required for key software and automation features such as registration forms, file downloads & system-generated response messages. Linguistic quality assurance is required to ensure that all contents are translated, no contextual errors exist in the translations, there are no text truncations or overflows, and so on. Non-linguistic testing is performed to eliminate errors in areas such as content formatting, hyperlinks, missing translations, and so on.
  • Corrections and Recursion: following QA and testing, errors which have been identified during your translation process need to be addressed and sorted out. Corrections need to be made in the translated content, and another round(s) of QA and testing performed to ensure that identified errors no longer exist in your website.
Cost Management
Translating a website can be a costly exercise if it is not managed properly. There are 3 common strategies to achieve cost reductions when translating your website.

Firstly, ensure that your CETI process is as automated or technologically-assisted as much as possible, as this will help shave off significant man-hours stemming from manual copy-and-paste which is also highly prone to human error. Secondly, qualify whether your existing development team or digital agency has both engineering & linguistic capabilities, as well as experience executing similar initiatives. Lack of hands-on experience will likely result in project delays or poor quality outcomes, both of which are detrimental to your brand reputation. Thirdly, perform all your translation activities with translation databases and recycling as one of your top priorities. Translation re-use leads to effort reduction, resulting in cost reduction.

Conclusion

There are many considerations when it comes to translating websites and it is certainly not a straightforward process. Our sharing today offers a holistic approach and under-the-hood insights as to how website translations can be better managed. This article however, is not exhaustive since there are countless combinations of technologies used, content assets developed, and digital marketing methods deployed. New technologies continue to enter the market resulting in new steps being added to the whole process. Nevertheless, the 5 critical areas described today should form the pillars of any website translation initiative that you undertake.

An experienced and process-driven partner that demonstrates a combination of engineering capabilities and linguistic skills, will help ease a lot of the pain and complexity of translating your website. By integrating best practices, strategy, engineering and language capabilities into a single unified service, MediqTrans reduces total cost of ownership, streamlines your activities, and provides the fastest & safest way to launch your multilingual websites to reach & engage your global audience.

About Parrot Social

PARROT SOCIAL is a data analytics & research firm powered by artificial intelligence. We help companies and organisations look out for emerging business, social and political trends across the globe so that better, more accurate organisational decisions are made. https://www.parrot.social.

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