Guide to Website Localization in China
If you are planning to expand into the Chinese market, you must localize your website. Of course, the first thing that may come to your mind is to translate your content into the Chinese language.
This is an important first step and a no-brainer. However, if you want to succeed in China, a lot more is required. Chinese website localization goes beyond simple translating and requires accurate planning and a good understanding of your targeted market.
For instance, which language will you use for the translation? Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese? Will you keep the same page layout, or you should change it? How are you planning to get your website to rank on Chinese search engines? Will you host your website inside or outside of China?
These are just a few of the things you must consider in order to succeed in the Chinese market.
In this guide to website localization in China, we will give attention to the most important steps in making your website ready for the Chinese market.
What Is Website Localization?
Website localization is the process of adapting an existing website to a different market or geographical area. Even though translating the content into the local language is essential, to localize a website, more is required.
It involves adapting your message, images, user experience, multilingual SEO approach, as well as all other necessary items to make your website perform well in a given geographical area and to appeal to a specific audience.
As you localize your website, you must maintain the image of your site and your branding.
Why Website Localization Is of Utmost Importance in China
In the case of China, to localize an existing website requires understanding cultural differences and technical issues that are not common in the western market.
For instance, web design trends in China differ in many ways when compared to the West and this requires a diverse user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). The marketing approach is different also and this will affect the way you present your product and the marketing channels you will use.
Moreover, the internet in China is controlled by the government and many resources like Google, for example, are not available in the country. This affects the technical side of your website which will need to be adapted and optimized to rank in China.
Without a doubt, Chinese web localization requires professionals who have a good grasp of the local culture, Chinese consumer behavior, and technical issues that are related to the local internet environment.
Steps to Conduct Website Localization in China
In the following, we will point out some of the most important steps for effective Chinese website localization.
Translation and Localization of Content
Google translate and other robots may be very useful in many situations, but not when you need to translate your website into Chinese. The Chinese language is very complex and a word for word translation is not effective. Therefore, if you do not use a professional translation service and instead choose to rely on a robot, the translation will certainly be awkward and not appealing to local customers.
Moreover, depending on where your audience is located, this too will determine which direction your translation will take. If you are mostly targeting mainland China and Singapore, you must use simplified Chinese. If instead, the users are in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau, Traditional Chinese is the right language to use.
Besides translation, you must also address the nature of your content. Your message must be crafted to the local audience, addressing their specific needs and queries. What motivates a Chinese user to buy a product or service may be totally different from your customers in other parts of the world and, generally speaking, the Chinese user needs to be educated about foreign products. These differences will likely require your content to be rewritten altogether if you do not want to limit your success.
Adapt the UI and UX
When you visit Chinese websites, you may quickly notice that the design is at times very different from what we see in the West. These differences are the result of various factors.
Chinese characters, due to the quantity of strokes they have, can easily make a webpage very busy. Moreover, the complexity of the Chinese language can make it more difficult for search engine algorithms to work efficiently. For this reason, many webmasters prefer to provide several links on the homepage. It may look cluttered, but the user experience is enhanced.
Recently, we have seen more websites switching to a more minimalistic design. However, if you want to generate revenue in China, it is important to understand the habits of your audience and adapt your user interface to provide them with the best user experience.
Avoid Blocked APIs
To make your website totally functional and useful for your users, your existing website may have several APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). However, many of these will not work in China.
For instance, all Google related services are blocked in China. Therefore, your Chinese website localization strategy must include an analysis of which APIs are blocked in the country and substitute them with those that work in China.
Hosting your website within China is a critical step for your localization strategy. You can still operate your website from a hosting service outside of the country, but you must be ready to deal with several downsides.
A website hosted outside China must go through the scrutiny of the Great Firewall. The filters imposed by this massive control system will slow down your webpages, as well as diminish and minimize the pure performance of your site. Some of your resources may even be banned and not visible at all inside China.
In addition, local Chinese users tend to more easily trust the websites that are from within China and have been approved by the government. Therefore, even though hosting a website in China may be challenging, it is a necessary step to make your presence in China smooth and effective.
Best Practices for Chinese Web Localization
Besides the major steps highlighted above, there several other practices that will contribute to a successful website in China.
QR codes are amazingly popular in China. You see them everywhere from TV ads, billboards, and flyers to every website. Popular social platforms like WeChat have contributed greatly to the rise of QR code popularity to the point that, nowadays, the Chinese use them for basically everything. A typical Chinese user utilizes QR codes to scan URLs, transfer money, make payments and a lot more.
People in China love QR codes, which have now become a critical marketing tool. Chances are that your existing website does not already have QR codes embedded, therefore, they must be added to please your Chinese customers.
Page load speed is as important in China as in any other part of the world. We have already mentioned how important it is to have your website hosted in China to improve its performance.
In addition to that, you must also make sure to remove from the Chinese version of your website any plugins or elements that are not necessary. For instance, Google fonts and tags, Amazon S3, CDN and any other resources that are blocked in China. If you don’t take this action, your pages will never load fast enough to provide your audience with a stunning UX.
To increase load speed, you must consider using a CDN service that is not blocked in China.
Mobile is the primary way the Chinese access the internet. To have a website optimized for mobile usage is so important that many Chinese websites do not even care about the desktop version. Therefore, when you localize your website in China, make sure that each and every element of your site is optimized for mobile users.
Give Attention to Language Differences
We already mentioned how important is to have an accurate translation that is not simply correct, but that resonates with local culture.
Another important difference has to do with the typography. While English relies on 24 letters, Chinese has over 20,000 characters. Therefore, you cannot use different fonts as easily as with other languages, otherwise your pages could load too slowly.
To get around this issue, many web designers use images for static elements on the pages or web font CDN that perform well with Chinese characters.
Popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter are not allowed in China. For that reason, your social marketing strategy must take a different direction. The most popular social network in China is WeChat and you should include it in the Chinese version of your website.
WeChat offers you unparalleled options to market your products and services in China. You must consider opening a WeChat Official Account and developing a WeChat app or WeChat mini program.
Optimize Your Website for Baidu
As you may well know, Google is not available in China. As a result, your SEO strategy must focus on making your website likeable to Baidu. The SEO techniques that you use to boost your website on Baidu are not the same that you use for Google. You can refer to our guide on how to implement SEO in China for some valuable insight.
Moreover, there are several Chinese search engines that can bring traffic to your website and you must try to take advantage of them also.
Chinese website localization is a time and energy consuming task. There are so many variables to consider and many of them are not at all like foreign websites. However, when your website is optimized for this geographical area, you will see a dramatic improvement in your website’s performance.
QPSoftware is a leading web agency in China and we offer professional translation and website localization services. We have been operating within China for over 10 years and we can transform your existing website into a perfect resource optimized for Chinese users.
Contact us today and get your website off to a good start in China.