How to Increase Your Global Reach: 7 Multilingual Website Best Practices to Follow

by Han Mai
11 Minute Read

An increased global reach offers potentially rich rewards for businesses. It can provide access to larger markets, increased revenue, and diffused market dependence. Yet successfully making the transition global poses challenges, and targeting new locales is no easy task. 

Your business may already be on the journey to building its global presence, or you may be considering embarking on it in the future. In either case, progressing effectively means using all means available to their maximum advantage.

There are, of course, multiple ingredients for global business success. For example, you’re likely aware of how critical it is to improve app store ratings for your online business. But, as this article will outline, your website may be one of the most crucial pieces.


The Growing Significance of the Online World

To begin, it’s important to acknowledge the central role of a business’ website in 2022 when reaching out to global markets. Long before the arrival of COVID, there had been an increasing shift toward digital business activity, and the pandemic has only intensified this trend.

First, it made working from home more common. Many of us will have experienced this personally, with our houses and apartments becoming our virtual offices. Businesses have had to adjust to this new reality as well by investing in remote work software, for example.

The pandemic has affected commerce more generally, too. Since it started, more customer activity than ever before has moved online. Globally, people's engagement with a brand is more likely to be solely online now than previously, with customers all over the world more able to explore, research, and purchase on the internet.

As its online window to the world, a business’ website is consequently more significant than it’s ever been.

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The Rise of Localization

Simply being present on the internet isn’t enough for global success. With the pandemic driving more activity online, competition is growing, and businesses must work increasingly effectively in this space to stand out.

It’s imperative to ensure customers, whoever and wherever they are, have access to salient information in a form that’s relevant and sensitive to context. That's why many of the most successful global brands have turned to localization to help increase global reach and provide all users with equivalent experiences.

Facilitating positive, localized, digital-first customer experiences has become critical. In fact, Lilt's State of Localization 2021 survey showed 72%  of companies reported an increase in the volume of localized digital content they’d produced across the year.

Successful global expansion requires effort on many fronts, but you must never overlook the fundamental importance of your website. For example, while you might have the best Shopify inventory management system going for global sales, you still need to make sure that your global users can take advantage of your site in whatever language they speak.


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Seven multilingual website best practices to follow

So, you’ve now decided to increase your global activity. You’ve done the basics. You know who you're selling to and where they are. Next you’ve identified target languages. Now onto your website!

While not exhaustive, the following tips will nonetheless be useful when building or optimizing it.


1. Provide an obvious gateway to multilingual content

First off, make it simple to access your website in your target languages. A small globe icon at the top right of the screen is a standard choice (as seen on the Coca-Cola and Dell Technologies websites). Clicking this button should open a drop-down box where the viewer’s preferred language can be chosen.  

Note: Using a generic globe logo rather than a more literal picture of the Earth (showing continents and oceans) is preferred as it avoids bias toward any particular territory.

When listing the languages available, be sure to present them in their own tongue. For example, Italian should be displayed in lists as ‘Italiano’.


2. Select the right multilingual content for your business

Making your entire website and all its content available in all your target languages at the start may not be realistic. It entails ongoing pressure to keep this updated as new content is added.


Instead, prioritize. Identify the most important information multilingual customers need access to. You can then develop consolidated mini-sites for these other languages. This will involve a smaller cost, a more manageable commitment, and allows you to localize content more easily (see below).   

Consider this alongside a broader content strategy. Over time, websites can become bloated and content obsolete as market conditions change and businesses evolve. An effective audit and content pruning strategy will help streamline your website while identifying salient content for a multilingual audience.


3. Choose the most appropriate translation approach for your business

Business content should be carefully crafted and localized, so it's important to understand your options for translation and what fits your needs best. You must be especially wary if health and safety issues could arise from this.

Consider the whole customer journey when looking at vendors as well, as some focus more on the entire global customer experience as opposed to just editing machine-translated content. Remember - localization goes beyond moving words from language to language, so it's vital to work with a partner that can help build, grow, and scale to meet your needs.

Once your preferred approach is adopted, develop workflows so relevant content – including new content – can be translated efficiently. It’s worth considering the experiences of other businesses that have tackled this issue and learning from them.

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4. Localize

Be culturally aware too. Localize your multilingual content to ensure better resonance with your target audience. For example, a literal translation of the text will often not be enough as words and phrases can carry various cultural connotations in different languages.

It’s not only text you need to consider here either. Images are loaded with just as much culture-specific meaning. Are yours appropriate for each of the markets you’re targeting? Colors, symbols, everyday objects, and even facial expressions and weather can all convey different cultural messages, so different images may be needed for each locality.  

Tread carefully to avoid causing offense and alienating your markets. Just as it’s good practice to make a call plan to get the best from sales conversations, you must plan diligently for communicating with a new market. To navigate this successfully, consider hiring professionals who understand the culture of your target audience.  


5. Create templates and a style guide for coherent branding

Your business should project the same message to all its potential customers, wherever they are. Yes, the details may need to be localized and the messaging subtly tweaked, but the overall impression your brand conveys should be consistent in its entirety.

Using carefully constructed content templates across your website can support this. These allow consistent branding while still providing scope for localization. A library of templates can also make workflows more manageable.

Once translated from English, the copy may expand and take up more space. Allow for this when creating your content templates and when designing your user interface (think about the UX). Also, avoid creating website graphics that include embedded text. Instead, ensure all text is included as editable elements in your templates.

Finally, develop a localization style guide spelling out your global brand voice to be used across your multilingual content. This will be an invaluable tool for your content tailoring teams.    


6. Link your multilingual website with the broader customer journey

You’ve got people to your website. Great, but what happens next? Do they fill out a form? If so, ensure these are provided in their language. Do you intend they ring you? If so, make sure you’re able to support and provide assistance to non-English speakers.

You need to consider a range of additional issues when reaching out to other territories. Obviously, you’ll have to display pricing and delivery details adapted to that locale. Likewise, a local address, date and time, and unit of measurement conventions should be used on your website. Make it easy for customers to commit. 

Think the entire journey through for different segments of your multilingual user base. A customer journey mapping exercise may be insightful. Use this to identify any pain points (whether these involve the website or something else).    

Aim to offer as seamless a journey as possible. Stepping back from reviewing your website alone, an effective Salesforce phone integration may be beneficial. Ensure your teams have the tools needed to offer a more personalized customer experience, wherever and whoever those customers are. 


7. Think about search engine optimization

Having created an amazing multilingual website, you want to ensure it’s findable. People tend to search online using their own language. Indeed, Google reports more online searches are being carried out using local languages than ever before.  

As an online business, you’re probably already carrying out search engine optimization in your native language. Now, you need to do this so your website ranks highly on results pages for all your target languages. After all, if your multilingual presence isn’t discoverable, what’s the point? 


Plan for greater global reach

Your website is, of course, just one aspect of increasing your global reach. There’s a bigger picture. For example, you may need to consider your telecommunication systems - services like magicJack may be suitable for smaller operations but struggle as you scale up and reach out to global markets.

But getting your website right is certainly one of the most crucial elements. Ensure your multilingual website is easy to access, easy to discover, and accurate for your target audience. Think about how templates and workflows can be adapted to make the process more manageable, and consider using a professional service that understands the local language and culture to ensure content is suitably pitched.

Do all of this, and you’ll be off to the best possible start.

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Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern business communications platform that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Jessica Day also published articles for domains such as Unstack Inc. and HeyCarson. Here is her LinkedIn.