How to conduct website localization: step by step guide

You’ve probably heard of Dr. Oetker before. It’s a German multinational company that sells baking products and frozen pizzas for many local markets in Europe. However, when they decided to approach the Italian market, they knew it would be challenging. After all, the mission was to sell frozen pizza with a German name in Italy— the land of pizza.

But Dr. Oetker managed to overcome this obstacle and became the highest-selling frozen pizza brand in Italy with one simple move. They changed the brand name to Cammeo (later turned into Cameo), which is a more Italian and easy-listening word. 

Although it might sound simple, it worked because it was one part of a very effective global marketing strategy: localization. You might have heard the term before but you might not yet be aware of all the benefits it can have for your business.

A brand name is certainly important, but in this article, we’ll cover an even bigger part of the localization process: website localization. By understanding what it is, how it works and how to actually do it, you can implement it in your business strategy. Let’s walk you through website localization step-by-step and cover everything you need to know to unlock more business opportunities. 

What is website localization?

Localization (also referred to as l10n in some business contexts) is defined as adapting a product, service, or offering to meet the needs of those from a particular market or locale. 

Website localization (also known as l10n) is essentially the process of adapting your original website through language, design and cultural elements to provide a relevant user experience for your new target audience.

What is the difference between globalization, internationalization, localization, and translation?

Localization is also called l10n as it is one of many language services used by businesses looking to expand their reach globally. It collectively falls under the acronym GLIT (globalization, internationalization, localization, and translation).

  • What is globalization? Globalization is the increasing interconnection of the world through trade, communications, and travel. Think of how you can buy products “Made in China” anywhere in the world, or how no matter where you travel, you’re almost certain to find a McDonald’s.
  • Internationalization (i18n), on the other hand, is the strategy of developing products and services to be as adaptable as possible across different cultures. For example, this might mean:
    • Creating marketing materials without written text so they can be understood wherever they’re offered.
    • Building user interfaces that have enough space to accommodate the different script styles of the world’s languages.
    • Building electrical products with transformers so that they can be used in any of the world’s different electrical systems.
  • In contrast, localization (l10n) is the strategy of adapting products and services for specific locales and cultures. A single localization project for a software company might include:
    • software localization (localizing the user interface of a software for a new audience user base)
    • simple written text localization (like personalizing a product page’s copy for a certain language), 
    • localizing mobile apps for better user experience
  • Finally, translation (t9n) is the conversion of written, spoken, or signed text from one language to another for a target audience with a different native language.

As you can see, the GLIT family are not independent of one another. Translation, internationalization and localization go hand-in-hand as part of a successful approach to globalization and global marketing.

The main goal of localization is to adopt a look and feel created specifically for your new target market, keeping in mind their native language, local culture, and religion. 

The various aspects of website localization

One of the main ways you can communicate with local markets in different countries is by translating your content into your target languages. But localization is not just translation. While translation plays a key role in the localization process, there are also other crucial aspects for a localized website like:

  • Adapting images, videos, graphics, and even emojis 😉 to resonate with the target culture
  • Fine-tuning content to suit cultural, religious, or general preferences 
  • Modifying website design, layout, and formatting to allow for translated texts that read from right-to-left
  • Offering local currencies and units of measure
  • Localizing date formats and phone numbers
  • Using the correct naming conventions, as different languages put first and last names in different orders
  • Adhering to local regulations and legal requirements

Essentially, a successful localization workflow encompasses all the steps taken to optimize the user experience of a given consumer group in a specific locale.

The main goal of localization is to give your content the feeling that it's been created specifically for your new target market

Why should you implement website localization?

Localization helps you communicate with your new audience on a meaningful level, rather than simply through translation. This leads to deeper connections, more loyalty, and greater customer satisfaction. Localization helps you do the following:

1. Enter new markets 

Not every product or service, in its original form, is an automatic good fit for new markets. If McDonald’s had not prioritized chicken and paneer burgers, it would have struggled to enter the Indian market, where the majority of consumers don’t eat beef. Starbucks weathered a costly failure in Australia by not paying attention to local coffee tastes.

By paying attention to the needs of your new target audience and using good localization practices, you can hit the ground running in new markets across different countries. Good localization means you’ll avoid potential cultural misunderstandings that could impact your brand.

Localization stats

2. Gain a competitive edge 

Businesses that localize their offerings are more successful than those that choose to ignore local cultural norms and needs. With localization, you can ensure your business stays dynamic and competitive in a crowded market.

3. Improve User Experience

No one likes going to a website only to find it full of missing characters, text displaying awkwardly, and graphics in a foreign language. Visitors used to English pubs will be confused that they can’t order at the bar if you open a branch of your Chinese bar chain in the UK. Shoppers interested in your clothing line will be put off if they don’t understand the sizes you’re offering.

Localization offers you the chance to ensure that, wherever they are, your target audience will always have a positive user experience with your brand, which leads to…

4. Build Customer Loyalty

People are most loyal to businesses and services that they feel care about them and their needs. An interaction with “Faceless MegaCorp (TM)” won’t inspire loyalty; but an interaction with an E-commerce brand that understands local customs, holidays, and other quirks, will feel much more right and encourage customers to return again and again. And this ultimately leads to…

5. Increase your revenue 

With the right content localization strategy, you’ll have no trouble selling in new markets, to new and potential customers. This helps you optimize your business and grow your revenue.

After all, the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) even released a study showing that on average, every €1 spent on localizing your website yields €25 in return.

Prerequisites to website localization

Understanding your audience

The website localization process starts with understanding why you’re doing it. Sure it sounds like the smart thing to do and everyone else seems to be doing it, but why?

First, you need to understand that just because international customers are a click away, doesn’t mean that they will buy from your website. 

According to Nimdzi, 9 international internet users out of 10 will ignore your product if it isn’t in their local language. And this isn’t simply because they can’t understand what’s being said.  Even 60.6% of people with high proficiency in English would rather look up something online in their native language.

Moreover, content localization shows potential customers from foreign markets that you acknowledge them and you’re putting in the effort to communicate with them. This commitment is very effective in building trust which is a very needed factor for doing online business. It’s so effective that the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) found that on average, every €1 spent on localizing your website yields €25 in return.

Statistic by Localization Industry Standards Association

Start Planning Ahead

The world is a big place and your website gives you access to target audiences across different countries. Although this is a huge opportunity, you might get lost if you don’t plan ahead. So start by analyzing potential foreign markets and understanding what you should optimize for different cultures. Where do you have higher chances to sell?

If you’re not sure where to start, look at your website visitors. Take the French eyewear brand Jimmy Fairly for example. They realized that 19% of their site visitors were English and other language speakers even though their website was only available in French. They decided to take advantage of this and create a multilingual website. Within a month, their international sales were 4 times higher and 8 months later, they were 6 times higher!

By analyzing your target markets, you can identify how many different languages you need to add to your site, who are your competitors etc. Then you can start working towards having a high-converting localized website. 

BONUS: If you’re looking for a detailed content localization strategy you can check out our guide to get you started. 

The localization process: 4 steps to a multilingual website

Step #1 Content detection 

Goodbye spreadsheets, hello automation! One of the first time-consuming parts of translating a website is manually detecting all the content on your site. 

In theory, it sounds easy. But, not every page of your site is visible in the site navigation. This can cause you to miss big parts of your website from the translation process. This in turn can be damaging if these are key transactional pages. 

With a website translation tool like Weglot, this step is done for you. It automatically detects and picks up every word on your site (even images and dynamic content) so you can be confident that everything has been detected. Even better, you won’t need to perform this task manually. 

If there are pages and areas of your website that don’t need to be translated, you can easily exclude them from your Weglot Dashboard.

Excluding pages for translation in Weglot

After detection, all your translated text will be in your Weglot Dashboard where you can manage them how you like. No more spreadsheets! 

Manage translated text from Weglot dashboard

Weglot also allows you to export and import translations as XLIFF files. This lets you and your localization team review translations outside the Weglot dashboard. So with that in mind, it’s on to the next stage…

Step #2 Translation rules 

A smooth website localization process wouldn’t be complete without a set of rules. 

By rules, we’re referring to glossaries, style guides, adopting appropriate formats and so on. Glossaries are important to a website localization project because there will be numerous brand or product terms that you won’t want to translate.

Add glossary rule in Weglot dashboard


These rules can be ‘never translate’ a certain word or ‘always translate’ a certain word. This makes handling your translations smoother as you’re removing repetitive translation tasks. 

Step #3 Translation method 

So, if you’re using website translation software Weglot, why are we talking about choosing a translation method? In case you didn’t know, Weglot gives a first layer of machine translation! 

Not everyone is comfortable with leaving machine translation as it is (we’ve written a detailed guide all about that so head on over to learn more about how it can actually be your best ally). That’s why you need to think about the standard of translation quality you want for your website visitors.

Having a first layer of machine translation removes a lot of the initial work for those that review and edit your translations afterward. You may want the help of a professional translator to fine-tune your translations (especially for popular pages or transactional pages). You may even have your own multilingual localization team or linguists that you can add to your Weglot Dashboard. 

It’s very easy to make website translation errors which is why Weglot gives you the option to integrate your own translators, invite teammates or even order pro translators directly. You can also see changes made to the machine translation in real-time and keep an eye on your website localization project process.

Real-time changes seen in Weglot dashboard

Step #4 Launch a multilingual website 

Guess what, that’s it! You’re now ready to launch your multilingual website. 

Of course, there are many finer details that you may wish to look into further down the line, like translating images etc. to be appropriate for your target audience. But, when it comes to having a fully multilingual website in terms of the words on your website – you’re good to go! 

You may be asking yourself what about the technical side of things? Using Weglot means your translated words are displayed under language-specific subdomains or subdirectories (depending on your CMS) automatically. Hence, there’s no need to worry about managing multiple websites for different languages. 

And, with this workflow, you haven’t had to take away any precious time from your website developers!

Read more: How using hreflang tags in your content localization strategy can improve your SEO. 

“Weglot removed the pain of having to manage multiple stores for multiple locals. The integration was easy and the support is incredibly helpful. I highly recommend Weglot to anyone looking for a simple and cost-effective solution to translate their stores!”
Mike Robertson, Director of Sales Operations, Nikon

Website localization – get started with Weglot

Website localization doesn’t need to be scary. With the right tools by your side, the process can be a lot quicker and more efficient than you thought!

With Weglot as your localization solution, you can enter new non-English international markets and scale faster. Thanks to its automation, you can say goodbye to manual work and juggling excel sheets. Weglot helps you with content localization through easy website translation management, automatic content detection and localization of all relevant formats. The best part is that you don’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your pocket or hire expensive linguists. All you need is the URL of your website to get started!

Read further for pro tips on localization 

We’re not done yet! Here’s some important further reading to help you take your content localization strategy one step ahead:

Ready to get started?
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