The ranks of entirely-local businesses have thinned in recent years.
This is due to the internet offering boundless possibilities. Convenient shipping infrastructure makes it viable for small businesses to sell overseas. Plus the pandemic is heaping further damage on brick-and-mortar retail. If you run a small grocery store, you may be fine sticking to your region. Otherwise, your future revenue depends heavily on winning over the broadest audience you can reach.
This is where the topic of localization becomes so significant. Impressing that broad audience doesn’t call for a broad-creative approach. Instead, it tasks you with understanding the diverging interests of your chosen demographics. Paying particular attention to how people’s needs and preferences vary based on location.
Does that sound confusing? To clear things up somewhat, this post will run through the vital basics, covering images and content localization in particular. Let’s get started.
You can get an easy start with automation
The biggest reason why so many businesses avoid localization is that they see it as a brutal and wearing task.
Cultures and languages are immensely complicated, and you could study for decades without fully grasping the fine disparities between regional identities. Do you really want to invest your time and hard-earned money in something so difficult? How can you reasonably expect that effort to pay off in a meaningful sense?
That perspective is far from reasonable, and it’s particularly bad these days due to the prevalence of automation options. You don’t need to get everything done manually. Much of the website localization process can be handled for you through a suitable service — and while you’ll need to get involved eventually, your focus can be running final checks instead of doing the really time-consuming work such as translating large stretches of copy.
Cultural nuance can make or break a business
The mention of images in the title might seem odd. After all, images surely don’t need to be changed for different locations. Don’t they use a universal language?
But the truth is that the impact of a featured image can be drastically different in one location than in another (and that matters enormously due to the significance of a brand’s visual identity). Such images are often picked for their clear implications: a photo of someone giving a thumbs-up, for example, suggests positivity, enthusiasm, and agreement. At least, it does to some.
In other parts of the world, a thumbs-up gesture might mean something else entirely. Iranians, for instance, will perceive a thumbs-up in the same way that a westerner might perceive a raised middle finger. And there are various other issues with gestures you should learn about before using any of them in featured images.
You can extend this in so many directions. The colors you use will mean different things in different areas. The shapes, the patterns, and even the models will convey different things depending on the people seeing them. When you’re trying to extend your business into another country, the first impression is immensely important. Only through a commitment to localization can you avoid making any major faux pas.
Local research is a mission-critical concern
Due to everything we just noted, it’s imperative that you do more than just read up on the cultures you’re trying to reach. You need local research.
That realistically calls for getting locals involved in a consultation process. The fastest way to tell if your drafted piece of tentpole content will reach its targets is to run it past a native for some genuine feedback.
Thankfully, due to the proliferation of freelancer marketplaces and social media platforms, it’s much easier than ever before to get in touch with people who have the insight you need. And if you achieve a promising start in a new location, you can hire someone who lives there to oversee your ongoing localization effort and flag up any problems they spot.
Content updates must be combined with SEO
Localization is fundamentally about updating your content, of course. If you correctly tweak your homepage copy and imagery, taking cultural elements into account and achieving exactly the desired level of polish, you’ve done most of the work.
But note the keyword there: most. There’s actually more to your international campaign than you may have thought. And it comes down to the often-awkward matter of SEO.
Most website visits stem from search engine traffic. Failing to invest in SEO leads to countless businesses wasting the potential of their high-quality content. Spreading your wings internationally through localized versions of your website will end in failure if you don’t understand how the versions of the site fit together and how they’ll rank in foreign-language versions of Google search.
Before you aim fully at creating localized versions of your website, then, you should read up on SEO for multilingual websites (this guide is likely to prove particularly useful). You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know how to keep the versions distinct, get them indexed correctly, and prevent them from competing for traffic.
Unless you have a pressing reason to keep local, you should plan to expand your operation overseas eventually. The advantages afforded by reaching more people are obvious. But if you’re going to make it work, you’ll need to understand how to localize your content and your brand in general. Use the notes we’ve set out here to proceed carefully, and you’ll stand an excellent chance of being highly successful in different parts of the world with your images and content localization skills.
About the author
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business.