Translating Your Website? Ask Yourself These 6 Questions First
It’s common in our industry for businesses to be multilingual. A tour operator in Puerto Rico often speaks both Spanish and English, while an operator in the Netherlands might speak Dutch, English, and German (among other languages). So it’s no surprise that many tour and activity websites are available in multiple languages.
Translating your website may sound simple, but creating and maintaining a website in a new language comes with many associated costs, efforts, and of course, potential benefits.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you get started.
1. Who are you targeting with the new language?
You probably already have a hunch when it comes to what language(s) you want to translate your website into based on the languages spoken by your guests. But before you devote time and money to your translation efforts, it is best to back up that hunch with data.
- Check where your traffic is coming from: Using Google Analytics, you can see what countries your website visitors are coming from and what channels they’re using to get to your website.
- If you’re in the Acquisition tab viewing users by source, you can add the country filter by selecting Secondary dimension > Users > Country.
- You can also use FareHarbor reports to better understand where your bookings are coming from and what markets you should target. This information can help you decide what language to prioritize to make sure the investment in translating will be worth it.
- Conduct market analysis: It’s important to understand the demographics, preferences, and behaviors of the users you’ll be targeting with the new language. The more you can understand about your target audience, the more your efforts will pay off.
- Do they typically browse on desktop or mobile?
- What search engines do they use?
- What social media platforms do they prefer?
2. Who will be responsible for translating your content?
Effective translation requires more than simply knowing the two languages you are working with, and communicating in a non-native language is a true skill. Literal translations using services like Google Translate just won’t cut it when you want to connect with native speakers. It is important to trust your translations to an expert who understands the nuances of both languages. Here are a few options to explore:
- Employee: If you or someone on your staff is fluent in both languages, translating in-house could be a cost-effective option.
- Remember that being bilingual is not enough — the translator should have a solid understanding of writing in the target language and how natives speak.
- Consider that translation is time-consuming and your employees may have other responsibilities to prioritize.
- Before publishing on your website ask a native speaker in the target language to review the final content to ensure that it translates well.
- Translation Agency: While this can be a be a more expensive option, using a professional service ensures that you get a quality translation done by an expert.
- Bonus: This is typically the fastest option as well.
- Freelancer: Find a freelance translator on a website like upwork.com, freelancer.com, or fiverr.com.
- If you decide to go this route you may have to do some digging to get an idea of the quality of the freelancer’s work.
3. What are users searching for in your target language?
Your current website content is probably optimized for SEO, but that doesn’t mean that your translated content will be. You’ll need to do keyword research in your target language/countries to understand what queries users are searching for and incorporate the appropriate keywords into your copy.
Pro tip: When implementing your translations, don’t forget about the metadata! Be sure to translate title tags and meta descriptions to ensure success in the SERP.
4. What’s the difference between translation and localization?
While translation focuses on simply transferring your content to a new language, localization takes into account the specific cultural subtleties of the country you’re targeting. If you’re broadly targeting users all over the world who speak the language, you may not need to localize the content. But if you’re targeting a specific country or region, localization is key.
For example, Spanish speakers in Spain use a different form of the plural second person (vosotros) than Spanish speakers in Latin America (ustedes). If you’re targeting users in Spain, you should localize your content so it speaks directly to them. Localization also considers technical aspects like units of measurement — an English website in the US would use the US customary system (inches, feet, miles), while an English website in the UK would use the metric system (centimeters, meters, kilometers).
Consult with your translator and make sure you tell them exactly who your target audience is so they can understand how to localize the content.
5. Where will your translated website live?
Whether you translate your entire website or start with a few key pages, you’ll need to decide how to segment the URL structure. A clear URL structure will help both search engines and users understand and easily navigate your multi-language website.
You have a few options for segmenting your website:
- Country code top-level domain (wesbite.fr, website.uk)
- Subdomain (fr.website.com, es.website.com)
- Subdirectories (webiste.com/en, website.com/es)
Read about the pros and cons of each option in our guide to SEO for multi-language websites.
6. How will you support your efforts in your new target market?
Translating your website is only the first step toward success in a new target market. You’ll need to pair this with additional strategies to reach your desired audience.
- Staff and tour guides: If your website is available in a certain language, customers will expect you to offer customer service and tours or activities in that same language. Make sure you’re prepared to meet customers’ needs.
- Marketing and advertising: It takes time for a new site to rank, so you won’t see organic search traffic to your newly translated website right away.
- Support your new target language by running PPC ads, posting on social media, and other marketing tactics.
- Content and blogging: As you perform SEO research in your target language, you might find search terms that you’re not currently addressing on your existing pages.
- Consider creating new pages and writing blog posts to reach your target audience.
- Maintenance: Just like your existing website, you should regularly check the performance of your newly translated site to find places where you can improve and learn from what’s doing well. Regular content audits help you keep your content relevant and up-to-date.
Pro tip: If you make any updates to your website, such as a new phone number, new hours of operation, or a change in your offerings, make sure you update your translated pages accordingly.
Once you’ve answered all these questions, you can start translating your site to a new language! Learn more about the technical aspects of multi-language sites in our SEO guide.