4 Localisation Strategy Secrets

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Mawdoo3.com has gone from “just an idea” to the top Arabic-language website in the world in only six year’s time. But what are the secrets of the site’s success? Are there lessons that can help your own organisation design a killer localisation strategy?

In 2010, two medical students from Jordan were hanging out in a cafe. As they discussed the lack of quality Arabic-language content available online, they decided it was time to do something about it. Mawdoo3 was born.

The site, which is an Arabic version of popular English sites like Ask.com, Ehow.com and Wikipedia, has skyrocketed in popularity since then. In February, it had 23 million unique users. That makes it the most popular Arabic-language website in the world, according to USNews.com

Expanding into international markets is exciting but can be fraught with difficulty. Here are 4 essential lessons in localisation strategy from the rise of Mawdoo3.com to help you take your business global.

Localisation Strategy Secret #1: Find a Need and Fill It

Want to give your business an edge as you expand to serve customers in new languages?  Figure out what kind of business-related content your target audience needs, and then produce content in their language that meets those needs.

Of course, that’s the best strategy for content marketing in any language. But in underserved languages like Arabic, you have an advantage. There’s not as much competition. For example, 4.5% of the world’s population speak Arabic. Meanwhile, only 1% of the content on the web is written in Arabic. But what about multilingual sites like Wikipedia? Regional organisations like Lebanon-based investment firm WAMDA say that foreign language versions are often an afterthought:

“Arabic Wikipedia content doubled from 2010 to 2013, but with 85 million monthly page views, it still lags behind 18 billion monthly page views in English, said WAMDA. Low quality content was a concern for 49 percent of youths and 66 percent of industry leaders polled, it said.”

How can you identify “content gaps” to fill in other languages? Mawdoo3 has a simple but powerful strategy that most organisations can copy:

The portal attributes its success to its unique strategy of directing professional Arabic writers to create articles that address the most queried topics across global search engines. This enables the portal fill the gap between users’ need for Arabic content and the available Arabic language content on the internet.

Localisation Strategy Secret #2: Accurate Translation is Key

It’s not enough to speak your target audience’s language. You must also speak it well. Translated content must be accurate and sound natural in the target language. So, don’t think you can get away with using Google Translate.  If your customers want awkward, clunky, machine-translated content, then by all means use Google Translate. But companies that invest in quality translation will win out.  As Wadoo3 cofounder  Mohammad Jaber told Euronews.com, people are sick of poor-quality translations in their native languages:

“As a doctor, I must use foreign sources for work. In other fields, I can’t be sure that there will be useful information. The easiest way to learn something is in your mother tongue, but if there is no high quality information in your language, the information will be translated with mistakes,” says Jaber.

Localisation Strategy Secret #3: Don’t Just Translate, Transcreate and Localise

In many cases, merely swapping out words isn’t enough to make your content resonate in other cultures. Accuracy is important, but it’s only half the battle. Localisation is key. Understand the culture, and customize your content accordingly.

Localisation can involve changing images and design as well as editing content so that it appeals more effectively to your target market.  Advertising and marketing in particular may need to be “transcreated,” or rewritten and redesigned to evoke the same emotional responses in the target language as they do in the original.

Localisation Strategy Secret #4: Don’t Forget Quality Control

Mistakes happen…but it’s better when they happen to other businesses, not yours! If your customers can’t trust your content, they probably won’t trust you, either. To ensure accuracy, all articles on Mawdoo3 are reviewed by subject matter experts and editors for quality control before they are published.

Likewise, you should seek expert help as you take your business global. Translation is an investment that really does impact your bottom line! Sure, people in all cultures might be forgiving of mistakes as long as the price is low enough or the product is amazing enough. But why start off with a handicap? Look for a translation company that has a reputation for excellence and robust quality control procedures so that any mistakes are caught before they reach the consumer.  For more tips on how to do that, see How to Choose a Translation Company. 

At K International, our team of translators and international marketers is ready to help develop and implement business translation and localisation strategies that engage current customers and attract new ones from around the world.