Localization Depth and Corporate Language Strategy
In 2018, CSA Research examined the language of content on 5.5 million webpages from 2,794 leading brand websites. We focused on 1,348 sites that yielded two or more languages to study the average depth of localization, defined as the percentage of source content translated into other languages. This research revealed that full localization is the exception rather than the norm and is usually something only enterprises with small and simple web presences pursue. Instead, major brands choose what to provide for each market based on economic opportunity and budget constraints.
As in many other areas of the language industry, English stands out. Localizations into English from other languages tend to be substantially more complete than for any other targets, as seen in the figure below. It is also the most frequent language found on major brand sites: The overwhelming majority of major brands translate into English if they aren’t authoring in it.
On the flip side, for the eight source languages where we had sufficient sites to analyze, sites authored in English showed by far the lowest localization depth, as seen below. This indicates that corporate sites from the United States and other English-speaking countries tend to treat translation as an afterthought. Those authored elsewhere, particularly in Europe, see it as a much more important part of their market strategy.
So how do enterprises decide what to translate? Our research finds that most organizations pragmatically start with general brand and marketing pages and then move into product-specific content over time and add support material if and when their market share justifies it. Taking this approach enables them to build brand awareness and develop a customer base in order to demonstrate a return on investment. They can then move on to additional content where there is a demonstrated need. CSA Research’s data can help localization strategists understand which languages to add and how much they should invest in them.
Ultimately the choice of how much to localize, and into which languages, is a critical business question for which different companies will find different answers, but access to data from a broad base of enterprises can help them benchmark their activities and find opportunities to differentiate themselves and identify gaps in their service. Combined with information from the Global Website Assessment Index 2019 and Top Target Languages by Vertical Sector: 2019, it provides a deep view into corporate language selection strategies.
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