Content localization 101 + free strategy template

If you come across content that’s not in your language, chances are you won’t even click to open it or continue reading.

65% of individuals prefer content in their language, even if it’s poor quality. 

When you’re looking to buy, use, or just read something, you want it to be as easy as possible. You don’t want to have to translate in your head or make the extra effort to copy and paste content into machine translation tools. 

The customer journey should feel effortless. But for 74%% of potential customers, it’s not. 

Less than 26% of internet users understand English, but nearly 64% of all websites use English as their content language.

If only they knew that localized content has 12 times more engagement than non-localized content, perhaps they’d be persuaded to adapt their their content.

Before you get buy-in for content localization, you need to understand exactly what it is and how to build a case for content localization. 

Already know what content localization is? If yes, skip straight to the part of building your content localization strategy.

    What is content localization?

    Content localization is the process of adapting content to fit different cultural contexts, languages, and regions. It’s not just about translating content from one language to another. It’s about making sure that everything works together to deliver content that resonates. 

    Idioms, humor, even colors and symbols can mean vastly different things across the globe. If something doesn’t feel or sound quite right, it will be hard to build trust in new markets. 

    What are the business benefits of localized content?

    Building brand trust and loyalty in new markets is a big one, and probably one of the main benefits, but it’s also a long-term game. That alone ain’t gonna convince stakeholders to invest in localization. Sure, it connects to a lot of the tangible outcomes, like increased engagement and sales. But you’re better off focusing on the quantitative benefits first when it comes to planning your content localization strategy:

    Improved SEO

    Once you’ve translated your content into different languages for your target markets, you should start ranking for keywords in the target language. Take a look at ‘baby clothes’, for example. In Germany, the majority of searches are in German, as you’d expect. If you haven’t translated your content for the German market, the chances of ranking for the German keyword are low and you miss out on a huge volume of traffic and potential sales.

    Comparing the search for baby clothes in English and in Spanish in Germany, and how the search volume is a lot higher in the localized language.

    Increased traffic and engagement

    Localization can potentially increase search traffic by 47%, which tells us people prefer to search in their language. As for engagement, local Facebook pages get as much as 50% higher engagement.

    From social media shares to comments and likes, your audience is more likely to engage with content they can relate to and understand.

    Increased sales 

    Whether it’s signing up, making a purchase, or joining a community, localized content helps build trust which means customers feel more comfortable buying whatever you’re selling. Calculate potential sales after localizing content by estimating your increased market share.

    Improved customer experience

    One of the main goals of a content localization strategy is to create a tailored customer experience no matter where customers land. Whether they’re reading your blog, navigating your product, or communicating with your sales and support teams, the experience should feel local from start to finish. Use CSAT or NPS scores to measure customer experience before and after content localization. 

    And the qualitative benefits…

    Break down barriers 

    By making content localization part of your go-to-market strategy, you can adapt your content to cultural norms and tastes. It’s how you blend in and break down barriers of communication. When content speaks directly to your audience, you’ll foster deeper connections and loyalty.

    Avoid brand harm and inconsistencies

    Content that hasn’t been localized or has been poorly localized can damage your brand. Your message might translate well in one region but cause confusion and offense in another. Take KFC for example. When KFC first opened in China in the 1980s, its famous slogan, “Finger-lickin’ good” was translated to “eat your fingers off.”

    When content misses the mark culturally or linguistically, it can alienate your audience, erode trust, and tarnish your brand’s reputation. People might question your credibility, or worse, they might simply tune out. Reliable content localization helps retain brand integrity and consistency across markets.

    Competitive advantage

    It’s important to analyze your customers’ language preferences and what your competition is doing in different markets to find localization opportunities and strategies that could give you a competitive advantage. For example, if you’re based in the US, you might think that having content in English is enough. But the US Hispanic population represents nearly 20% of the US population, so it’s important to understand whether this group of potential buyers prefers to consume content in Spanish or English. 

    What types of content can you localize?

    You can localize all types of content, from customer emails and paid media ads to product UI and packaging. Below, we’ve focused on the most popular types of content you can localize.

    Content localization touchpoints, spanning marketing, sales, product, and support content.

    Marketing collateral

    Marketing localization is a strategic decision. By adapting your go-to-market collateral to resonate with local audiences, you demonstrate a commitment to understanding their needs and preferences. 

    This involves aligning content with cultural nuances, idiomatic expressions, and regional sensitivities. 

    At the same time, you need to stay consistent with your brand’s tone of voice, and messaging. You might also need to localize videos, images, and designs. It really depends on your approach. Do you want to adapt messaging or an entire experience? 

    Maybe transcreation is enough or you decide to create native content or locally driven campaigns from scratch.

    A quick note on transcreation: In transcreation, you take an existing piece of writing or marketing collateral and transform it into something that conveys the same message, but has cultural references more relevant to the target market for which it was translated. 

    Product UI, packaging, and more

    In an ideal world, you should be thinking about localization from the product design stage

    Design-stage localization is a powerful way to continuously release fully localized products like mobile apps, web apps, and games. 

    When you design with localization in mind, designers can create their prototypes and mockups in Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD, populate them with different languages, and check how the design will look with different translations early in the process. 

    That means your designer can adapt the design and UI to suit different locales before a single line of code is written. You’ll catch any potential bugs or design breaks before they happen. And understand customer preferences, from payment to text directionality (right to left or left to right) and design preferences.

    Take a look at how Spotify redesigned its Diwali hub, after realizing their Indian audience preferred lighter design themes to better celebrate the Festival of Lights.

    Spotify's redesign and content localization for their Indian audience.

    Sales and support content

    Sales and support localization span customer emails, transactional emails, surveys, help documents, and chats, adapting language tone, formality, and idiomatic expressions to local communication styles. 

    Localization complexity varies based on the content type, whether personal, like chat support, or impersonal, like help docs. But localizing sales and support content brings many benefits, like fewer tickets and more self-serve, improved resolution times, higher customer satisfaction scores, and more sales.

    Legal & financial material

    When expanding to new markets, localizing legal and financial content is essential. This includes terms and conditions, data security regulations, payslips, contracts, etc. Merely translating this content is not enough because legislation, employment benefits, and formats vary between regions. 

    You’ll need financial and legal localization experts in each region or country to ensure compliance with local regulations and standards. 

    Right, Content types out the way, let’s get into the nitty gritty of creating a content localization strategy.

    How to build a content localization strategy?

    Your customer’s experience spans the entire journey. It begins the moment they discover your company and continues across all touchpoints and interactions. So, a successful localization strategy should involve every team. 

    Everyone should have a shared understanding of what localization means for the business, how it’s going to be done, and what will not be done. If you have a content localization strategy, you can answer all these questions.

    Don’t have a strategy to align all your stakeholders and guide their decisions? It’s never too late to develop one. 

    We’ve created this outline to help you craft an effective content localization strategy. Follow the steps below while filling out this content localization strategy template.

    1. Set up your localization strategy team

    Since you need to involve individuals from different teams to effectively execute localization, you should designate a team member from each department to own the strategy. This will improve collaboration and process alignment across the organization.

    Who should you include?

    • Designers, so they can design defensively and choose culturally relevant images.
    • Developers, so they understand the code implications for multiple languages.
    • Marketers, so they can craft campaigns that work across markets.
    • Product managers, so they can stay on top of deadlines and markets.
    • Business leaders, so they can see how localization fits into their tactical perspective.

    2. Define objectives and make sure they align with each team’s goals

    Clearly outline your goals for content localization, making sure they align with each team’s goals, work methods, and standards. For instance, align localization efforts with broader company objectives, such as boosting sales or enhancing brand awareness in new markets.

    3. Identify target markets

    Identify target markets where localization efforts will yield the greatest return on investment, considering factors like market size, growth potential, effort, competitive landscape, and cultural affinity with your brand. 

    How to identify which markets to localize content for. Based on localization potential, expectations, and effort.

    You might group markets based on the degree of localization your target customers expect (more on this in the next step). So you can also set expectations with stakeholders and sponsors around the efforts you put into supporting market entry and growth.

    4. Define the degree of localization for each market

    The degree of localization needed can vary significantly across markets and languages and must be balanced with customer expectations. Localization expectations vary by touch point and target market, so you need to find a way to balance these. 

    The expected degree of content localization by market.

    A good question to ask yourself is: 

    What’s the extent of content localization that would be enough for [add your target market here] to buy the product?

    Write down your observations, make assumptions, and come to conclusions, to understand the degree of localization that’s necessary. For example:

    • Observation: In some non-English speaking countries conversion is very similar or even higher compared to English-speaking markets 
    • Assumption: High levels of education and income are highly correlated with English language proficiency → High overlap between our target segment and English-speaking population in some countries
    • Conclusion: Localization is beneficial in countries with a low level of English but high level of education and income 

    Once you’ve come to conclusions for each of your target markets, you can start to map out the degree of localization needed for different touchpoints.

    5. Choose which content to localize

    Identify content pieces that warrant localization based on relevance, audience engagement, and market demand. Consider the extent and purpose of localization, taking into account factors like language, visuals, and video content.

    You need an intuitive way to explain to stakeholders what’s being localized and why. For example, you might decide not to localize any content that doesn’t directly increase sales or customer satisfaction, is expensive to localize, and has a short shelf life.

    The challenge is to decide to which degree you want to localize existing content. For example:

    • To introduce your product, you might translate the copy but keep the visuals in English. 
    • To reassure the audience that they’ll be able to use the product, an effective way to do this is to show a picture of the localized product. 
    • If you want your audience to believe that your product is really easy to use, you might need a localized video to prove this.

    6. Prioritize content 

    Keep in mind your budget. The more elements there are to localize, the more skills are needed to do it, the longer it takes to coordinate all the stakeholders to get the final product, and the more their collective time will cost.

    Remember, you don’t have to localize everything straight away. Estimate the profitability of your localization efforts and prioritize high-value, low-effort initiatives.

    Maybe you decide to start with the easiest markets that are not necessarily the most profitable, so you can gain experience and maximize your chances of success when you enter markets that need more complex localization. For example, it’s a lot easier to translate from English into Spanish than into Arabic because you don’t need to change the layout across all customer surfaces to accommodate for the fact that the language is written right to left.

    Localization efforts should also consider customer segmentation which, if you’re a product company, you might want to align with the stages of product adoption.

    7. Build a localization kit 

    Localization is challenging and you’ll encounter many hurdles along the way, some of which you’ll be able to foresee. The easiest way to future-proof your content localization strategy is to identify challenges early and document everything so your team knows how to tackle these challenges when they arise. Prepare any documentation, outline processes, create QA checklists, and anything else that will make localization processes a lot smoother. 

    If you don’t already have a brand style guide, create one. This is fundamental for marketing, product, and design teams, as well as translators. 

    • It should include information about:
    • Your tone of voice and whether it’s friendly, formal, or something in between
    • Common industry or company terms, acronyms, and phrases and what they mean
    • Examples of competitors you like or dislike and why
    • Specific conventions and elements of grammar to avoid, such as contractions.
    • The personality of your company and what it’d be like if it were a person
    • The colors and design elements you use and how

    Since multiple translators, marketers, and designers will likely work on a single project, you need to make sure everyone is on the same page.

    You should also document your website structure and any best practices with mobile versus desktop coding and browsing. 

    Different markets engage with the internet differently, so be aware of how you want your brand identity to look and feel everywhere, and make sure that the foundation of your website can handle multiple sites in different languages.

    8. Outline how will the localization process work

    Localization is often an iterative process. Translations aren’t just done once and delivered. They often go through one or two rounds of feedback. If you’re translating the UI, translations happen as the product is being developed. This means that once new iterations are released, content localization teams will need to work simultaneously on the changes happening in the product.

    So you’ll want to make sure your workflow is flexible, and adaptable, and you’re actively communicating with team members.

    Outline the localization process within your organization, including how you’ll weave localization into your current processes. Answer these questions”

    • Will you use agile methodologies? 
    • Which tools will you use? Will you use a translation management system for example?
    • Will you use AI translations to speed up your translation process?
    • What about quality assurance measures to ensure accuracy, consistency, and cultural sensitivity in localized content?

    There are various approaches to a localization workflow, but the four most common steps are:

    1. Uploading or importing the source to the translation management system (TMS).
    2. Translation.
    3. Review, which may be omitted in small-scale projects.
    4. Delivery of the translated content to end users.

    The process involves a lot of steps, but much of the communication and handoffs can be automated with the right tools. Lokalise, for example, provides you with integrations and advanced automation tools that allow you to weave localization into your workflow.

    9. Create a content localization roadmap

    Managing content localization is no small task, especially if you’re handling large volumes of content in multiple languages. Planning, timing, and coordinating all the preparation activities and estimating when localization can or should start, can be very challenging. 

    That’s why localization preparation needs its own roadmap.

    Content localization roadmap

    You have so many areas to work on and align and you’ll most likely manage content across central and local teams. Having a roadmap helps plan your localization process properly, while making sure it aligns with wider company goals.

    10. Estimate the success of content localization

    You’ll need to look beyond the cost of language services and translation management systems, and consider all the capabilities needed to support localization. You need to factor in the skills and the teams across the organization that localization would rely on, and the roles you’d need to introduce in the future.

    Knowing all the capabilities you need, you can then estimate the overall cost of supporting localization based on an estimate of how much content you’d localize and to what degree.

    Then, you can estimate the extra revenue that localization efforts would generate, and you have a business case. 

    Tip: keep a separate spreadsheet for all the related calculations and assumptions which you should adjust when you have more information, or when your assumptions change.

    Here are several key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to estimate potential revenue increases:

    • Predict incremental sales based on current revenue in target markets 
    • International SEO keyword ranking and organic traffic volumes are likely to increase. Estimate the monthly number of visitors you can expect from your target market based on current average positioning and click-through rates. 
    • Conversion rates — estimate how many people who visit your site will purchase the product or service, or sign up based on current conversion rates.

    Once your content localization process gets going, you’ll be able to measure and track your actual localization ROI.

    To learn more about how to define and refine your content localization strategy, check out this localization strategy guide created by Tatiana Ryabinina, a localization consultant who has helped over 60 companies localize their products and services.

    Final thoughts

    Content localization is a complex process and everyone involved will need to be 100% invested to make it work. 

    By building a concrete localization strategy, you’ll be able to make a business case and make sure that everyone knows what they’re doing and when. 

    Challenges will undoubtedly arise but with the right content localization strategy in place, you’ll be able to overcome challenges and move forward.

    Build your content localization strategy today to get the ball rolling on localization.

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