10 Localization Best Practices for International Success

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Localization transcends borders, transforming products into culturally resonant experiences that foster deep user connections worldwide – from linguistic nuances to regional norms. Explore 10 essential best practices for cultivating an international audience through localization.

Business is no longer bound by geographical boundaries. As even the smallest of companies and early-stage startups strive to tap into the potential of international markets, effective localization has emerged as a low-overhead tactic with a great ROI.

Imagine a world where every interaction, every interface, and every touchpoint feels as if it were made just for you. That’s the power of localization. It transforms the unfamiliar into the familiar, and the foreign into the familiar. The result is a deep sense of connection and trust.

Whether it’s a website that seamlessly mirrors local linguistic quirks, a mobile app that effortlessly integrates cultural symbolism, or a product that intuitively aligns with regional norms, localization ensures that your brand resonates on a profoundly personal level, regardless of where your audience resides.

This article explores 10 essential localization best practices that can help you cultivate lasting relationships with different locales, and propel your brand to new heights of success beyond your own borders.

1. Develop a Clear Localization Strategy

Before diving into the localization process, it’s important to develop a clear strategy that aligns with your business goals. This involves:

  • Determining target markets and languages based on factors like market size, growth potential, and competition. For example, if you’re a software company, you might prioritize localization for markets like China, India, and Brazil due to their large online populations and rapidly growing tech sectors. If you’re an independent game developer on the other hand, you might aim for one flavor of international Spanish to cover that major language region.
  • Setting specific, measurable goals and KPIs for your localization efforts (e.g., increased traffic, engagement, or revenue from target markets). These could include targets like doubling website traffic from Spanish-speaking countries within six months, or achieving a 20% increase in conversion rates for localized product pages.
  • Creating a localization style guide and glossary to ensure consistency in terminology, tone, and brand voice across all localized content. This should cover things like preferred spellings, date and time formats, tone (formal vs. informal), and any industry-specific terms or jargon for localizing your website, product, service or software.
  • Establishing a realistic budget and timeline for your localization project, factoring in costs for professional translation services, tools, testing, and ongoing maintenance.

When you take some time to define these elements upfront, you’ll have a viable roadmap to guide your efforts and measure success. It’s also a good idea to involve stakeholders from different teams (marketing, product, engineering, etc.) to ensure alignment and buy-in across the organization.

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2. Prepare Your Website and Software for Localization

To streamline the localization process, it’s a good idea to design your website or software with localization in mind from the very start, adhering to website localization best practices. This generally entails:

  • Using a content management system (CMS) or code base like Node.js that supports multilingual content and can handle different character sets and writing directions. Popular CMSs like Ghost, Craft, WordPress, Drupal and Kirby offer multilingual plugins or extensions to facilitate this.
  • Avoiding hard-coding text in images, buttons, or other design elements, as it makes localization more difficult and time-consuming. Instead, use alt text for images and keep text in the code separate from your design elements.
  • Leaving extra space in your UI and layout to accommodate text expansion, as some languages like German may require up to 30% more space than English.
  • Enabling support for different character sets (e.g. Unicode) and writing directions (e.g. right-to-left for Hebrew or Arabic). This may require adjustments to your code and design to ensure proper rendering.

By preparing your digital assets for localization, you’ll save time and effort down the line. It’s also a good idea to conduct a localization audit early on to identify any potential issues or areas that need to be adapted.

3. Utilize Translation Software

Investing in translation management tools can significantly improve the efficiency and quality of your localization process. A translation management system (TMS) allows you to:

  • Centralize and automate workflows between translators, editors, and reviewers, streamlining communication and collaboration.
  • Maintain a translation memory (TM) to reuse previously translated content and ensure consistency across projects. This can save significant time and costs, especially for products or services with frequently updated content.
  • Use glossaries and style guides to enforce correct terminology and brand voice, helping maintain a cohesive brand identity across languages.
  • Integrate with other tools in your localization stack, such as your CMS or design software, for a seamless end-to-end workflow.

Popular TMS options include Smartling, Memsource, and SDL Trados, each offering different features and integrations to suit your specific needs in website localization. Of course, when you opt to work with a professional, you likely won’t need to worry about a TMS at all, as they’ll either help you with integration in your tech stack, or bring their own TMS with them.

Which brings me to…

4. Work with a Professional Language Service Provider

Whether you’re hiring a regular employee, an entire team, outsourcing to a freelancer, or bringing on an outside contractor to help with a particular project, you’ll want to work with localization experts who understand the nuances of the native language, culture, and technology. And your product! Doing so not only gives potential customers and users an overall higher-quality localized experience; it can also spare you a lot of backlash or even legal troubles down the line.

Some tips to consider include:

  • Hiring native-speaking professional translators who are subject matter experts in your industry or field. For example, if you’re localizing medical content, you’ll want a linguist with experience in healthcare terminology and regulations for different regions.
  • Working with a dedicated localization engineer to handle more intricate technical adaptations required for different locales. This involves granular tasks such as coding for bidirectional text, implementing multi-calendar support, enabling complex script rendering, separating UI resources for localizability, and generally ensuring that functionality remains intact across different language regions, input methods, and peripherals.
  • Using in-country reviewers to double-check translations, or consulting a culturalization expert for feedback on cultural appropriateness. These local experts can catch nuances or idioms that may not make sense in their region.
  • Considering partnering with a localization service provider who can manage your end-to-end process of localization while providing specialized expertise. Agencies like Lionbridge and Welocalize offer comprehensive B2B localization services for corporations from a variety of industries, while boutique service providers like Modilingua provide localization management solutions geared to smaller businesses and startups.

By investing in professional translation and localization services, your content can resonate better with local audiences to meet their expectations.

5. Localize All Relevant Content and UI Elements

Comprehensive localization touches every facet of the user experience for a much more native, culturally attuned product or service. This encompasses:

  • Translating all customer-facing website content, product descriptions, user manuals, help docs, and marketing assets to ensure a consistent experience across touchpoints.
  • Localizing user interface (UI) copy, buttons, error messages and other interactive elements to facilitate usability and avoid confusion.
  • Adapting graphics, colors, and images for cultural suitability and to avoid any offensive or inappropriate content pitfalls. Classic example: using images with hand gestures that may be considered rude in certain cultures.
  • Localizing SEO elements like keywords, meta tags, and alt text to improve visibility in local search results and provide a seamless user journey.
Content TypeExamples
WebsiteHomepage, product pages, blog posts, FAQs, meta copy
Software/AppUI text, error messages, help documentation
MarketingBrochures, emails, social media posts, app store copy, press releases
LegalTerms of service, privacy policy, disclaimers

View localization as a holistic endeavour. When your content and UI are fully – and suitably – translated, your users in each target market will enjoy a much more seamless experience.

6. Conduct Linguistic and Functional Testing

Testing is often overlooked, yet it’s a critical step in the localization and translation process to ensure quality and functionality across different languages. Key things you’ll want to check for include:

  • Linguistic testing to check for correct translations, adherence to any glossaries and style guides, and of course proper grammar and syntax. This can be done by professional proofreaders, editors, or in-country reviewers.
  • Functional testing to ensure all localized elements display and work correctly, including any special characters, writing direction, links, forms, and interactive features. Automated testing tools like Sauce can help catch issues efficiently in both software localization and website localization.
  • Verifying the correct implementation of locale-specific formats for dates, times, currencies, addresses, and phone numbers based on established standards or guidelines.
  • Conducting user acceptance testing (UAT) with native speakers to gather feedback and identify any cultural or linguistic issues that may have been missed. This is a great way to get qualitative first-hand insights, and a method I frequently employed throughout my tenure at Tumblr.

Thoroughly testing prior to any launch is one of the most important localization best practices, and making regular QA testing part of your agile localization workflow helps maintain a positive user experience.

7. Optimize for International SEO

If you’re localizing web content or even just app store copy, your goal is to maximize visibility and traffic in your target markets. To achieve this, you need to optimize your localized content or multilingual website for international search engines. SEO is complicated, and with the emergence of Google’s broken generative AI search results, there’s even a lot of dispute amongst SEO professionals themselves as to where the future of search engine optimization is headed.

a photographic collage of national flags, landmarks, and cultural elements from around the world, representing diverse global markets with cultural symbols and icons

Generally speaking though, Google’s not the only search engine out there and you’ll want to cover a few basic bases at a bare minimum:

  • Researching relevant keywords and phrases in each target language and incorporating them naturally into your localized content and snippets. Tools like Lowfruits are inexpensive, easy to use, and can significantly help with this research.
  • Optimizing meta tags, headers, and other on-page elements for each localized version of your website, bearing in mind there are best practices for other search engines that might be different (e.g., Bing, Yahoo, Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia).
  • Using hreflang tags to specify the language and region of each localized page and avoid duplicate content issues, which can negatively impact search rankings.
  • Building local backlinks from reputable websites in your target markets to improve domain authority and search rankings. This could involve guest posting, directory submissions, or local PR efforts. Abstain from engaging in link exchanges. It’s also worth noting that following Google’s latest update, the jury’s still out as to whether or not backlinks matter anymore. I personally think they do, but I don’t believe you need to spend thousands each month trying to build them.

Even if Google as we know it were to completely die out, it’s still worth implementing some basic international SEO best practices in my opinion. For one, your website will be correctly indexed. Second, you stand a better chance of reaching and engaging target audiences in each locale through organic search from other old school search engines. Ultimately, we don’t know how AI Overviews and Perplexity Pages will evolve over the next couple of years, so I wouldn’t throw caution to the wind.

8. Consider Cultural Differences and Expectations

Moving beyond language versions, translation quality and translated text, localization is also a process of adapting and that means acknowledging cultural differences and expectations. Whether you’re translating your website, looking to expand your app’s reach by addressing a more global audience, or gearing up for a massive global launch with the assistance of a large localization company, you have to keep culture in mind. These practices will help:

  • Researching the cultural norms, beliefs, values, and sensitivities of each target region and adapting your content and messaging accordingly. This can be as simple as avoiding idioms or references that may not translate well or could be offensive, or it can entail revamping entire content strategies due to subject matter that is considered illegal in some places.
  • Adjusting the tone, formality, and style of your content to suit local communication preferences in different languages and avoid offending or alienating users. Some cultures may prefer a more formal or casual tone than others.
  • Being mindful of taboos, offensive gestures, symbols, or colors that may have different connotations in different cultures. For instance, the color red is associated with luck in China but it can represent danger or prohibition in Western cultures.
  • Localizing payment methods, customer service options, and other business practices to meet local expectations and preferences. This could involve offering popular local payment gateways or providing support in multiple languages.

Here again, working with a culturalization consultant can help you build trust and credibility with local audiences. With their guidance, you’ll be in a better position to demonstrate cultural awareness and sensitivity.

9. Implement an Agile Localization Process

The digital landscape is shifting more and more rapidly these days, so it’s all the more important to implement an agile and continuous localization process that can keep pace with frequent updates and new content. Consider the following:

  • Integrating localization into your agile development cycles and workflows to ensure timely and efficient translation of new features and content for different regions. This could involve having a dedicated localization team or resource embedded within each sprint.
  • Adopting a continuous localization approach that allows for faster updates and shorter time-to-market for localized versions of your products or services. The right tools can propel continuous localization workflows.
  • Automating file imports and exports between your CMS, TMS, and other tools to minimize manual effort and errors. APIs and integrations help streamline this process.
  • Having your localization project manager establish a workflow to ensure new content is translated and reviewed as soon as it’s created, rather than waiting for large batches of content to accumulate.

10. Measure Success and Improve Your Localization Process

Finally, it’s crucial to measure the success of your localization efforts and continuously improve your process based on hard data and real feedback. By regularly measuring and optimizing your localization efforts, you’re in a far better position to set yourself up for success and a solid ROI in your new markets.

  • Track key performance indicators (KPIs) like traffic, engagement, conversions, and revenue by language or region to understand how your localized content is performing. Put Google Analytics and Search Console to work. You can connect them with more exhaustive tools like Semrush later on as needed.
  • Gather feedback from local users, partners, and in-country teams to identify areas for improvement and optimize the localized user experience. Surveys, user testing, and feedback forms can help collect this data.
  • Analyze data and insights to identify trends, gaps, or opportunities for further localization or market expansion. For example, you may notice higher engagement rates in a particular language or region, indicating potential for further investment.
  • Continuously refine your process based on best practices, new technologies, and lessons learned to improve efficiency, quality and results. This could involve adopting new tools, adjusting workflows, or providing additional training to your localization team.

It’s also a good idea to establish a process for reviewing and updating your localization strategy on a regular basis (e.g., annually) to align with changing business goals and market conditions.

Localization Best Practices in Conclusion

Standing out in today’s marketplace takes more than a one-size-fits-all approach. You need a localization strategy that is both meticulous and visionary.

By working with the 10 best practices outlined here – from developing a clear roadmap and enlisting professional expertise, to comprehensively localizing every touchpoint and rigorously testing for quality assurance – you can unlock the power to transform your brand, app or product into a seamless, culturally attuned experience that transcends borders.

Whether optimizing for local search visibility or navigating the nuances of regional norms, a commitment to an agile, data-driven localization process is also worthwhile. Each iteration, each insight, and each metric will bring you closer to creating experiences that feel as if they were tailor-made for the unique perspectives and preferences of your particular audience.

Jenna Brinning Avatar


A localization consultant, writer, editor, and content publisher with over two decades of experience in tech and language, Jenna holds an M.A. in journalism and communication science from Freie Universität Berlin, and is a certified PSPO and PSM who loves helping startups and small businesses reach international users.


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Modilingua is a boutique consultancy dedicated to helping startups, IT, SaaS, marketing and e-comm businesses gain greater international reach, conversion and growth.

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