Website Localization: What It Is – and Why You Need It

globe at night representing website localization

Skyrocketing internet usage around the world

Nowadays, when most people want to buy a product or service, find information, or connect with other people, they immediately turn to the internet. Statistics show that the percentage of adults using the internet has skyrocketed[1]. So having a website isn’t optional for most organizations – it’s a necessity.

Studies have shown that even if people are able to speak another language, they prefer to consume content and conduct transactions in their native language[2]. For this reason, it’s essential for companies that want to be successful beyond their own borders to consider converting their web content into the language of their intended audience – a process known as website localization.

But what exactly is localization and what does it entail? And how can you ensure your localization project is carried out correctly and meets all of your needs and objectives? We take a closer look at the process and provide you with the steps and best practices you need to be aware of to ensure the success of your localization project.


What is website localization?

When a website is localized, it is adapted to meet the linguistic, cultural, and technical requirements of a specific country or region. It involves not only translating the website’s content into the language of that region or country, but also adjusting, as necessary, the images, design, and other elements to meet local customs, norms, and regulations. When done well, a localized website will appear to have been created in the language of the specific region or country. This will provide a seamless experience for users and increase brand engagement – and ultimately sales and revenue.

The process of localizing a website starts with translating the website’s content. This is typically done using a translation tool that allows the translator to leverage the translation memory (i.e., use the same or similar sentences that have been translated previously, thus reducing effort and expense) and a terminology database to ensure consistent terminology.

While the process is similar to a standard translation project, it is also necessary to ensure that the translation is culturally appropriate as well. This may involve making modifications to the text to meet local expectations. For example, in many European countries the street level of a building is called the ground floor and the floor above it is called the first floor; in the US, the street-level floor is usually called the first floor and the floor above it the second floor.

The localization process also involves adapting non-text elements, including:

  • Measurements
  • Images, photos, and graphics
  • Date and time formats
  • Currency formats
  • Number formats


Localization also includes tasks like modifying the website’s user interface (UI) and optimizing the website for local search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial aspect of a successful website, but it isn’t enough to merely translate the keywords from the source language. Instead, original keyword research must be conducted in the target language to gain maximum visibility for the localized site. Having a localization partner that can perform multilingual keyword research is essential.

Localization also needs to consider any space limitations on the website. This may include buttons or sections with size restrictions. Some languages, such as German, can expand by as much as 35% when translated[3]. For example, the English word “settings” has eight letters; the German equivalent, “Einstellungen,” has 13. Text length is also an important consideration for user experience (UX).


Steps in the website localization process

Now that we know what website localization is, let’s take a look at the complex process of localizing a website. It typically involves the following steps (though individual steps may vary by project):

  1. Preparation: First, conduct a thorough analysis of the website’s content, target audience, and localization goals. This step also involves creating a localization strategy and identifying any cultural, legal, or technical requirements for the target market.
  2. Translation: Translate the website’s content, including text, images, and multimedia, into the target language. It is crucial to use translators who are native speakers of the target language and are familiar with the relevant culture during this step.
  3. Localization: Adapt the website’s design, functionality, and images to meet local cultural standards and regulations. This typically also includes adapting the website’s UI, modifying images and graphics, and performing SEO.
  4. QA and testing: Thoroughly test the localized website to check its functionality, performance, and cultural appropriateness. The site must be user-friendly and meet the needs of the target audience.
  5. Deployment: Now that all of the previous steps have been completed, it’s time to publish the localized website and make it available to the target audience. This may also involve ongoing maintenance and updates to keep the site up to date and relevant to the target market.
  6. Evaluation: Monitor and evaluate the localized website on a regular basis and make any necessary changes or improvements. Localization is an ongoing process – you can’t just set it and forget it.


Website localization best practices

Follow these industry-standard best practices to ensure the success of your project:

  • Rely on native speakers of the target language: It’s important to use native speakers who know not only the language, but the culture as well.
  • Consider cultural differences: Website localization should take account of cultural differences and nuances in addition to linguistic elements so that the site will be culturally appropriate and relevant to the target audience.
  • Use translation tools: The use of translation tools and technologies, such as translation memory software and terminology databases, can streamline the localization process and help ensure the accuracy and consistency of the translated content.


Adhering to these best practices will ensure a successful localization process that meets all of your requirements and prevent you from having to make changes later on.


Benefits of website localization

There are several benefits to localizing a website, especially for businesses and other organizations (such as nonprofits, museums, and other cultural institutions) looking to expand their audience in other regions and countries. These benefits include:

  • Increased global reach: Localizing a website allows businesses and other organizations to reach a wider audience by removing language barriers.
  • Improved user experience (UX): By providing localized content and a user-friendly interface in the target language, businesses can improve the user experience for customers in different regions.
  • Increased website traffic and conversions: Offering a localized user experience, businesses can increase website traffic and sales conversions, as customers are more likely to engage with a website that is written in their native language.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Businesses can improve customer satisfaction and build brand loyalty by localizing their web content.
  • Compliance with local regulations: By localizing a website, businesses can ensure compliance with local regulations, such as data protection and privacy laws.
  • Competitive advantage: Offering a localized user experience allows businesses to differentiate themselves from competitors and gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.


All organizations looking to expand or increase their reach need to consider their audience when doing so. And localization is an excellent way to achieve this in a linguistically and culturally appropriate manner.


Choosing a partner

Website localization can be a powerful tool for businesses looking to increase brand awareness and reach new audiences globally. By following best practices and partnering with a reputable localization provider, businesses can successfully localize their website and tap into new opportunities in the global marketplace.

When choosing a localization partner, it’s important to look for a translation company with extensive experience in your field and with the relevant tools and processes. GLS was founded more than four decades ago and has helped customers in a wide variety of fields, including major pharmaceutical groups, financial institutions, tech companies, and nonprofit organizations.

Contact us today to see how we can help make your website localization project a success.

– Jim Cohen