Website localisation

Posted on 19 Sep 2017
Reader Question:

Nihao ma Doctor Digital, I want to make our tourism business website more appealing to Chinese businesses, where should I start?

Doctor Digital Says:

Nihao! Great question and with the increase in Chinese mainland tourists to Tasmania, a little localisation is definitely going to seriously enhance your communication and conversion prospects. Let me unpack localisation first before we jump in to some tips and tricks. Localisation is a comprehensive task – but with a few pointers you will be on your way to being an excellent ambassador for your business.

For a country like China (but really any non English speaking country you want to do business with) you need to understand the digital communication conventions that make your target country different and adapt your site for those differences. They can be obvious things like language, and more subtle things like menu size and placement, design and style, and type of information. Don’t expect SEO to be the same in a different country either. In China, Baidu is the major search engine, and has a completely different set up to Google, and importantly different keywords.

To start, its great to have a localised URL. For China that would mean a .cn, this will really assist with your site being found locally. Does your whole website need to be localised? It may be better to simply create a new landing page and the critical parts of your site that pertain to your international visitors. It really helps if you understand the experience of being somewhere that you have absolutely no capacity to communicate. Don’t assume that your potential guests can read any of your language, and make sure that you give them a clear and simple pathway to discovery on your localised site that speaks actually and culturally to their needs.

Get an experienced business to localise your language, there are a few companies around that offer this service, like www.sinorbis.com who have an customised localisation website builder for China with all of the back end SEO and analytics built in. If you are simply translating your site, make sure you use a professional translator who understands your industry and sector and has experience writing web copy, rather than more formal translation. Using a language and cultural expert will mean that you don’t make any inadvertent cultural slip ups that might put customers off, this can include colour schemes and symbols. If you are choosing a Chinese name for your business, this is also very culturally sensitive, and having the right characters can make all the difference to how you appear to your audience.

Have a look at some popular Chinese websites, and note the differences in the design, menu placement, density of information and placement of text and images. Follow the lead of what works and is popular in China with your target demographic, and create an experience for your customers that they will be comfortable using. You need to make sure that the CMS you are using supports multilingual sites too. Make sure you integrate your website with WeChat and any other Chinese social site you are using, which will also help with your SEO and your backlinks.

If your website is built on a Google back end, it will not perform well in China, so having a site built for, and hosted in China is a better solution. For a tourism business, using a Chinese booking service like Ctrip is also a good idea. If you are serious about growing your Chinese customer base, you also have to consider how you respond to enquiries, and you might want to employ a bilingual first language speaker. Happily, there are a lot of Chinese students in Tasmania who are perfect to do some part time work and help with your customer service response to emails, and can help you get a better understanding of your customers up close.

While the digital experience is important, don’t forget to make the terrestrial experience easy too, and put multilingual signs and helpful info in your venue. Undoubtedly one of Tasmania’s charms for the new wave of Chinese tourists is its difference to their own culture and environment. Experiencing that difference is what you want to provide as a cultural exchange, with a gentle and seamless transaction to make your visitors into raving fans rather than exhausted by dealing with language barriers.