Web Marketing Today

3 Language Translation Pointers for Small Companies

Managers at small companies feel more pressure to translate their websites than five or ten years ago. Unfortunately, there is no universal “Translation 101” course where you can learn everything you need to know. To speed up your learning curve, here are three pointers to follow when translating your website.

1. Don’t Rush into Translating Your Website

Once you translate your website into another language, potential customers who speak that language will assume that your product or service is available according to their local business rules. Are you ready to read and respond to email requests in their languages? Can you provide local phone numbers to call for information and support? Do you accept their currency and make it easy for them to pay using their preferred payment methods?

Before you hire your first Spanish translator or engage a language service provider to deliver your site in, say, German and Chinese, make sure that you have solutions to these business-related issues. Translators and web engineers can provide the right guidance for language and technical issues for your site. However, you are responsible for the up-front planning required to adapt your business processes to support international customers. For example, you must establish the appropriate level of local customer service before translators can provide the right text to direct visitors on how to contact customer support.

2. Focus on What to Translate, Not How Much

Many companies, both big and small, become overwhelmed as they translate their websites because they assume that they must translate all of their content. Nothing could be further from the truth. Before fixating on the amount of words to be translated, perform an inventory of your web content. The goal is to determine what’s appropriate for local markets versus what should be discarded, adapted, or rewritten. If you are unsure where to begin, local salespeople and partners — along with your translators or language service provider — can provide valuable input in this area.

If you concentrate on what to translate, rather than how much, you can avoid making classic mistakes such as only translating the first level of pages. From the local user’s point of view, this is usually worse than not translating your website at all. That’s because it gives the impression that your company doesn’t value the local market enough to invest what it takes to provide a good-quality website for potential customers. Local prospects tend to see this level of translation as a half-hearted attempt to meet their expectations. This leads them to question your commitment to their market, as well as the overall quality of your products and services.

Translation interactions

The absence of translated content impedes interactions. Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

3. Provide Instructions, Style Guides, Help

If you were opening a new sales territory for the first time in your domestic market that had the potential to generate 30 percent or more of your revenue, would you hand it off to an outside service firm with no close oversight on your part? Would you neglect to train them on your products or educate them properly on marketing messages for your target audiences? Likely not. And yet, that’s exactly what you’re doing if you hand off web content to a translation company without the proper translation instructions, glossaries, or style guides. Translators also need easy access to someone at your company to answer their questions and to address their issues as they arise. You don’t want them guessing at how to interpret your marketing messages for potential international customers.


As you prepare to translate your website for the first time, or to add another language, aim for the best local user experience you can offer — not just a translated website. Develop a plan up-front on how to adapt your business processes to international markets. Inventory your website content and choose what should be translated, deleted, and rewritten. Stand ready to address translator issues when they need your help. If you do these three things, you will be well on your way to producing translated versions of your website that can turn local prospects into loyal customers.

Rebecca Ray
Rebecca Ray
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