Content and Culture: Localization for Global Businesses

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Okay, so you’ve decided to launch fully localized, multilingual versions of your company’s website – that’s great news. And you’ve even painstakingly researched all the correct keywords to properly optimize each website for its target audience – even better.

The key thing to remember with any website is that it should be regularly updated with fresh content and, ultimately, it should be current. So the last thing you want is the top item in your ‘news section’ to be a story about some event that happened twelve months ago.

If you’re going to have news and blog sections on your website, then you have to ensure they’re updated – not only does Google like fresh content, but it will give a much better impression of your company, as one that’s in the loop and up-to-date.

Indeed, the last thing you want is to simply Google Translate news from your English website that a) won’t be relevant to your international audiences, and b) is translated poorly by a machine that knows no better.

This, of course, raises the issue of how you update content when you have multiple platforms covering a number of languages. And there’s no getting around the fact that for each language-version of your website, you should ideally have at least one-employee native to that language who can check everything’s properly localized and who can take responsibility for updating the local site. But it can be easy to overlook this in some markets.

Language Differences


As one of the so-called BRIC countries alongside Brazil, Russia and China, India offers fantastic opportunities for companies looking to go global. And crucially, given that English is widely spoken in India (it’s one of the official languages alongside Hindi), you can network and build relationships easier than, say, in China or Russia.

But this shouldn’t hide the fact that India has an astounding 1652 languages, 350 of which are spoken by over ten thousand people. Moreover, thirty Indian vernaculars are spoken by at least a million people.

And then there is also what’s known as ‘Hinglish’ – a sort of ‘halfway’ language between ‘Hindi’ and ‘English’ – which is on the rise across the country, slowly spreading into rural and remote areas via television and digital mediums.

So whilst it may be easier to have a single English website for Indian audiences, you may find that your results are better if you launch sites in Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil or Telugu. You need to compartmentalize your audience by offering fully localized websites, so if you know your particular product or service will be of particular interest to a certain region, then you need to localize your website text for that region’s vernacular and talk to them in a language they understand.


Even if we look at Europe, Switzerland, for example, has three main languages – French, German and Italian, whilst Romansh is an official language too, spoken by over thirty thousand Swiss people.

Again, there may be a temptation to use standard French or German for Swiss markets, but this can backfire, as there are a number of very distinct French and German dialects.

Here are a few examples of how the French varies between France and Switzerland/Belgium.

Furthermore, in French-speaking Canada, they tend to use literal translations of English terms for many phrases, such as fin de semaine for ‘weekend’ (literally, ‘end of the week’), whereas France use le weekend instead, importing the term directly from English.

Brand names

If you’re launching a new product, or trying to sell an existing product, to international markets, your brand name is also important.

For example, whilst US consumers tend to prefer grand sounding names for products (e.g. cars: ‘Mustang’, ‘Eagle’ and ‘Dragon’), Asian markets tend to prefer alphanumeric codes, that sound more technologically stylish. Kia Motors’ Forte, for example, is known as the ‘K3’ in Asia, and the Optima is known as the ‘K5’.

And Canon too has realized the power of localizing its language – the Canon EOS 400D in Japan/Europe was rebranded as the Digital Rebel XTi in the US.

Furthermore, Rolls Royce’s local research paid off in the 1960s – it changed its ‘Silver Mist’ model to ‘Silver Shadow’, after realizing that ‘Mist’ is the German word for manure: Germany was a key market for its classy brand of car.

SEO and Language

So even the best international SEO initiatives can come unstuck if businesses don’t pay enough attention to localizing its language for their key target markets. If a surfer finds a company online only to then discover a whole host of linguistic lapses and cultural faux-pas, then all that good groundwork will be for nothing.

Christian Arno
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 200 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over forty million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24 on Twitter: @Lingo24.
Christian Arno
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  • Millinet

    I'm from Belgium, and in Belgium as in Switzerland, we don't say “huitante”.
    In Belgium, we say “Quatre-vingt” and in Switzerland, they say “octante”.

    Thanks for the article 😉

  • Millinet

    And we don't say “case postale” but “code postal” 😉

  • WebHosting Guru

    If you are thinking of localizing your business, it is best to concentrate on one region. Get the widely spoken language, beside English on that region. Getting all languages is not advisable as it entails cost to hire local SEO professionals to do the job for you.

  • McGarrell Reilly

    For Chinese market, you better not rely on those so called 'professional' translation component, because, Chinese is one the hardest language in the world, 1 word means nothing in Chinese, even Google make a lot of mistakes when they try to translate a chinese webpage into english. So the best solution is get a local guy/agent/company that have decent level of english and help you to translate.

  • asset protection

    I'm opposed to globalization, and I think that the only ideas worth promoting in several languages via the internet are things like music and pure concepts. Well-written post.

  • AffiliateTips

    Some really good ideas given here I've been thinking of launching some of my sites in different languages for sometime now. This post really helped get my mind more focused on getting my idea done. Thanks.

  • Liam Curley

    The marketing plan takes an enormous amount of work when launching into an international market! I agree with all of your points, launching into foreign markets needs a great deal of thought and strategy in order to achieve success. Just getting a website translated, even by a professional translator, is unlikely to deliver results.