SEO: From translation to localization

Af Torbjørn Flensted, senest opdateret 9. oktober 2013.

We know the term localization from production processes, where products are adapted to local needs or cultural preferences. But in translation? A word is a word is a word, right?

Nope, it’s not.

Here is the thing: there are way too many people out there who call themselves translator. “I have pretty decent language skills – I can translate that text for you”. But unfortunately “just” language skills are often not sufficient. There are fine lines of local communication patterns that need to be taken into consideration whenever you want to not only reach a target audience but to win their goodwill – wherever it might lead you.

So what is the difference, and how do you do it the right – the local – way?

Translation is basically the transferring of a text from one language into another. You can point out different ways of translation, for example 1:1 translation which does not make much sense most of the time (unless you want to decipher grammatical structures) since it does not adhere to any grammar whatsoever. Usually we regard translation as the transferring from one language into the other in a grammatically sensible way.

Localization is the transferring of the text not only into another language but also into a local “code”. Yes, we speak code. And this is less geeky than it sounds. Every geographic region has certain unique ways of communication that differ from other regions. One of the most obvious examples for this is the use of the personal pronoun in Germany, where you distinguish between “Du” (you) and “Sie” (again: you, but more formal or respectful) depending on how well you know the person you are addressing. But localization goes much further and the differences can be much more subtle.

If you for instance want to launch your website on a new national market you should consider the following steps before you start your translation process

  • Get a native speaker on board – in the best case one who is familiar with the target region (i.e. do not use a Spaniard for activities in South America or similar)
  • Get to know your target group and the local communication patterns.
  • Consider how far you want to go in the localization process – Most of the time you can find significant differences between regions within countries, so at a certain point you might have to draw a line.
  • Don’t restrict yourself by trying to stick too much to the original. Local communication patterns can i.e. also influence the way a text is structured (order and length of paragraphs or sentences etc.)
  • Leave your hands off Google Translate! Or do it if you want to make your visitors chuckle. 😉

It can be a long road to localization, but every effort put in this will pay off in the end – and at the end of the day that is what really counts.

In that spirit – Happy Localisation!

BTW – At we are pros in localization. We have a vast network of coworkers and freelancers with profound experience in SEO and online marketing all around the globe. We know exactly what to consider when it comes to localization of texts for any purpose. So if you are thinking about embarking on new online marketing-adventures on foreign markets, hesitate no more – contact us and we’ll bring home the bacon!


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