Did you know that most website visitors prefer information to be in their native tongue?
Having lived in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and now Singapore. I have seen many users seek localized websites despite their fluency in English. Clearly, explicitly localized sites like SG, ID or MY, have the upper hand compared to generalized or international website domains (.com, .edu or .net).
Search Engines like Google work furiously to match their users to the best possible search results depending on their needs. Most of the time, they are often directed to pages that are localized or have originated from the user’s location and language.
If you are not entirely convinced, here are more reasons why local is better.
Benefits of Localizing Your Website
1. Global brands are doing it
People nowadays normally use the internet to purchase goods and services. As corporations start to globalize, e-commerce starts to rapidly grow in Asia as an industry. This provides companies with great opportunities to reach the masses in a relatively easy and cost-effective manner.
A great example is ASOS, a large online fashion and beauty retailer originally from the UK, that has both global aim and local reach in Southeast Asia. Using an E-commerce platform, consumers across different countries like Singapore or Malaysia can purchase their clothing with minimal hassle.
Despite the significant number of Internet penetration in Southeast Asia, only a few global brands make the right effort to compete on a local level. One good example of a global brand making the right moves is Amazon Japan – they allow Japanese customers to shop online and pay later at their local convenience stores. Amazon realized that in Japan, convenience stores are a huge part of the culture. In Southeast Asia, Coca-Cola capitalized on Singapore’s landmark SG50 celebration in 2015 by creating the “#SG50 Share a Coke campaign.” This is a campaign where Coca-Cola encourage their customers to share their coke experiences on social media.
The examples above mean that translating a web page to its localized language from English is not enough to consider as execution of E-commerce or global/local websites. Just because customers in Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore can access your website and recognize a significant part of your content, it doesn’t mean they will choose you over a local competitor who speaks their language and understands the local culture and norm. Every country, particularly in Southeast Asia is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all. To win their hearts, every country-unique content you create requires a different approach. At the end of the day, it boils down to the basics of truly understanding your customer’s needs in the digital space.
2. Native English speakers only makes up 1/4 of web users
Southeast Asia has an amazing collection of languages. The major ones include Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Melayu, Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Tagalog, and Khmer. In a world where English is more or less regarded as the global language of commerce, translating and adjusting your website to local needs seems unnecessary. However, it will pay off in a long term.
Despite this, only some big companies like Unilever and Coca-Cola, understand the need to communicate with their customers in their own language. Statistically, native English speakers account for only 25% of global web users. This means that translating your website into a local language is one of the best things you can do to serve your customers better.
A great example of a company is Danone and their Sarihusada brand which houses products aimed at pregnant and lactating mothers. In Indonesia, certain towns are rife with malnutrition. Sarihusada brands itself as being based on in-depth scientific research, by stating that their products are backed by a century of experience as well as 400 scientists. The company does not only speak to Indonesians using their native language, they also try to address a situation that is a known problem in the country.
3. More customers for your business
Whether you’re setting up a new regional or local website or improving an existing site, it is vital to step up your local SEO (search engine optimization) to get more customers.
A report in 2016 by Smart Insights say that websites ranked number one in Google received an average click-through rate (CTR) of more than 30% while number three drops to a CTR of 12%. This means that reaching the first page of Google may not be sufficient. You have to rank #1 for the keywords that grow your business.
So, what does that imply for your local vs. global business? Without a strong (local) SEO strategy in place, you are halfway out of the competition regardless if you’re B2B or B2C oriented.
4. Attract the “right” local talent
It is important to set up your website properly to attract the right talent for your business. An outdated or Global website might be insufficient for the potential local talent to review the current state of business and consequently might not do justice to your brand on the local scale. For instance, you may alienate the Internet savvy Generation Y, which tends to seek answers to questions via the digital space.
According to Workology, a recent study has stated that a whopping 90 percent of job candidates use mobile devices to look for work. This means that you could potentially lose out on the best talents if you are not taking your recruiting advertisements online, especially in Southeast Asia, whera according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, there is a weakening talent pool despite the volume. Ensure that the best talent pool applies to your company by setting up a local website for recruitment purposes.
Search for your company name in the country you want to set up a local domain on the prevalent search engine (i.e. baidu.com in China and Google in Singapore) and see what the results are for the first 2 pages.
5. Target audiences are different
For multinational corporations (MNCs), recurring tension over the control of company content between the HQ and local business unit could be detrimental to the latter. Keep in mind that target audiences are different no matter what. Giving a significant control to the local offices can provide them with additional opportunities in terms of localized content marketing.
While studies show that big companies are still figuring out the best way to pass the baton to their smaller counterparts, it is clear that companies are recognizing the worthiness of globalizing and localizing their digital materials even as translated content. A good example of this would be multinational FMCG company Royal FrieslandCampina’s dairy brand named Friso.
The brand has localized their website in the countries that they are in and have successfully communicated with customers using a language that they understand. This has worked well for them as their local websites are ranking higher in Google.
A study on EU countries about user language preferences online has concluded that 9 out of 10 web users would access the web in their own language if given the choice. The same study found that 44% of European internet users thought that they were missing information on English-only websites and only about 18% would purchase goods or services in another language.
These are just some of the many reasons why you need to localize your website content. However, knowing all those reasons will only be beneficial if you can implement it well. Here are some tips you can consider when localizing your website content.
Tips for localizing your website
1. Avoid duplicated content from global websites
Sometimes content is translated across websites for different regions and languages. This is perfectly fine – as long as it works. It is strongly recommended to do exclusive content creation for each target group. While filling all pages and variations from the start is not necessary, you need to make sure that you don’t get penalized by Google or your SEO efforts may become futile and you have to start all over again.
There are multiple tools on the web that ensures content exclusivity. We suggest using sources such as SEO Review Tools to make sure you don’t duplicate your content.
2. Make a credible and trustworthy website
Southeast Asian Clients, especially from Singapore and Malaysia, tend to have different needs compared to Western/European clients. These clients might not be so familiar or accustomed with your company (e.g. your company is well-known in the West but not yet in Southeast Asia.). What you can do to enhance your credibility is to showcase localized case studies or testimonials to promote your business and convince clients to join them.
If your company has won awards, make sure to include them on your website. Especially if those awards came from local governing bodies. Do highlight how many years your business if you have been around for a long time now. Customers tend to trust websites that have all of this in them.
3. Plan your Multi-regional website domain
When planning sites for multiple regions (usually countries), don’t forget to research administrative requirements that might come into play first. These requirements help you to structure your business and give you the choice if you want to localize your website domain or have a more general domain.
There are 2 types of domain names in the market:
- CCTLDs (country-code top-level domain names): These domains are fixed to a specific country (for example .sg for Singapore and .my for Malaysia). Users and search engines use this as a strong sign that your website is explicitly for a certain country.
- GTLDs (generic top level domain names): These domains are not fixed to a specific country. Examples of GTLDs are .com, .net, and, .org. Google sees regional top level domain names such as .eu and .asia as GTLDs since they cannot be tied to a specific country. You can set geo targeting for websites with GTLDs using the Webmaster Tools Geographic Target setting.
4. Be the industry “Thought Leader”
Every industry possesses great opportunities to express your thought leadership. One of the low hanging fruits can be blogging and the showing of relevant articles in your particular industry. These blog articles can be read by your employees as well as potential or existing clients.
Another thing you can do is network with other influencers in your field. Be a bit more social and watch as these influencers help you build your own brand and following. Lastly, get heavily involved with social media and attend networking events. Becoming a Thought Leader would require all of your marketing and networking prowess.
According to Thought Leadership Lab, “Thought Leaders are the informative opinion leaders and have in-depth knowledge in their field of expertise. They are generally trusted sources who make a big difference with in corporate or entrepreneurial innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to re-do their success.”
Thought leaders have the uncanny ability to persuade and the power to go to any direction in your expertise. People naturally flock to those who are knowledgeable and a great influence.
Just take a look at one of Unilever’s recent activities. The Unilever Foundry launched a new co-working space in Singapore called Level 3. The huge space brings together start-ups and investors as well as making the whole place accessible to Unilever themselves. The place will hold various events, workshops, seminars, and training sessions. While this is a great way for Unilever to promote harmony between other companies, it is also a great way for them to gain new ways of thinking, fresh communication ideas, as well as learning more about the changes in finance, logistics, and supply chains. This just goes to show that even big businesses feel the need to learn more about the industry through various influencers and thought leaders around the area.
5. Know what your competition is doing
The easiest and fastest way to find out what works and what does not is to check with your direct & indirect competitors in the country where you operate in. Are their websites and contents regionalized or localized? If some competitors already have it, it’s time to take action. If no one has it then you should start leading the trend.
There are some SEO tools that can help you get prized data from your competitors. Google Alerts, for example is a great tool to alert you every time a rival company is mentioned online. You can also monitor certain keywords as well with this nifty tool. Another great example is the Search Monitor, which is a tool that zones in on competitor data and could also monitor affiliates and trademarks.
Scout the competition not only for strengths but also for their weaknesses. Being one step ahead of them by taking advantage of those weaknesses. Make sure you have a good list of all your competitors through good old fashioned research and networking. Try looking at advertisements, local business directories, internet, trade fairs, and information by your customer.
Remember the old saying to keep your friends close but keep your foes closer.
Even if your company has roots that started miles away from your new destination, there are still a dozen ways to localize your website content in the Asian market. Try some of the tips above and watch as your regional presence grow. With such massive pool of evidence pinpointing towards the benefits of localized content, it is great that you have started. If not, then what are you waiting for? If you have any experiences or stories about setting up a localized website then feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.