International inbound marketing is dead without localization: that should be obvious enough. (If not, read our blog post on why translation is crucial to inbound marketing.) But what are some of the most important things that you, as an inbound marketer, need to know about translation and localization? Here’s a quick list.
1. First off, what is localization?
Translation is a subset of localization, if you will. Localization means that you adapt your content, your website, or your app to local preferences in toto. That is, you’ll need to take care of a range of things such as providing the appropriate currency options and payment gateways, making sure that nothing breaks when you switch to a language with a different script orientation, adjusting images, colors, and tone of voice for different cultures, and so on. You may even need to localize your product to suit local market conditions and preferences.
2. Can I get translation done faster by automating it?
Yes and no. Professional translators use a range of computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools which aid and speed up their work immensely. These tools, along with translation management systems (TMS) used by agencies, help automate several processes related to translation such as preparing files, receiving and sending them, suggesting the use of previous translations where applicable (translation memory), and more.
Machine translation is another powerful technology, but is rarely recommended for marketing content. It has a high error rate in most language combinations and is generally preferred for massive amounts of content with low quality expectations.
Professional translators cannot be replaced, especially when it comes to marketing content and that is not even the aim of translation tools. Remember that context is important to translation, and only human beings can understand context, not machines.
3. How much to translate? And into which languages?
These are some eternal questions that localization managers grapple with. The answer varies from company to company, and can influence, as well as be influenced by, your localization budget, software choice, and resources required. Some companies prefer to localize their main website in more languages than subsections such as the blog, while others will want everything including white papers translated. The content volume decision usually depends more on your budget and timeline, while the decision on languages depends on market entry and customer demand.
4. How much will translation cost?
Sorry to say again that it depends, but in truth, there are indeed a lot of variables that can greatly influence the cost of translation. It starts with what it is that you want translated, how much, how fast, how good should it be (quality expectations), into how many languages, and using which tools.
If you want the highest quality for all of the content in all of the languages you’re targeting, it’s obvious that your bill is going to be high. Auditing and tiering your content can help you understand the different types you have and their purposes. You can then vary the quality expectations accordingly.
Next, your choice of languages can affect pricing. For instance, if you are looking to translate into a long-tail or emerging language such as Bengali, it could be more expensive than high-demand languages such as FIGS (French-Italian-German-Spanish), for the simple reason that more professional translators are available for those languages than the former.
By expensive, we don’t just mean translators’ rates, which in fact, may be low if they reside in middle- or low-income countries. But sometimes, the project may take longer to execute and generally not be as hurdle-free as FIGS language projects. You may have to train translators and reviewers in the use of tools, create and make new resources available to them, put up with work disruptions because of power or Internet outages, and so on.
5. Is marketing content translated in the same way as other types of content?
Different types of content necessitate different translation methods and workflows, but we’ll limit the conversation here to marketing content, as that is your focus. Of course, you know very well that there are a zillion categories of marketing content, too, and you may have to fine tune your translation strategy to suit them. For instance, your homepage, visuals for the website, and tag lines usually have to be transcreated.
If you’re selling a very niche or technical product, you may need the services of a translator with domain expertise. Remember that specialized translators will charge more, so audit and tier your content to use premium services only where required.
Multimedia content like videos can be translated in a couple of ways, too. Voice-overs can be used or videos can be dubbed or sub-titled, the last one being the least expensive option.
6. What tools should I use?
Tread carefully when buying translation technology, as you can easily overbuy or get locked in with service providers that insist you use only their tool. Early on in localization, you may not even need to buy a tool outright, but can easily outsource the localization process. This gives you the time and data to help better understand your localization model — present and future — and make a smart decision when the time comes to buy.
As a global inbound marketer, you will need to evolve into a localization professional. For, you can’t even start at inbound if you don’t speak the language of your customer. And, increasingly, localization is a favor you do to yourself and not the customer.
We will be attending the Inbound conference in Boston next month. If you would like to chat about how you can effectively localize for international markets, please do let us know in the comments section.