Jump to content

Understanding the Website Translation Process | How to translate a website in 13 steps

Learn how to make the most of your website translation project. Save time and money by planning your project well, and ensure end quality.

13 Steps to Website Translation Success

When it comes to website translation, a good plan is key.

A good plan helps things run smoothly and on budget. The impact of not planning ahead is that you may end up re-doing things, wasting budget and time. For example, you may translate a page you didn’t need, or need to do development work that could have been avoided by planning better.

This article looks to give you a guideline of what is involved in a website project, what steps you should take to ensure success, and crucially what order to plan your activities.

how to translate a website

Step one: Agree on budgets and timescales

Before you even start translating your website, a good idea is to agree on budgets and timescales with your internal customers/directors/board.

Setting expectations early helps to make sure there are no disagreements later on. How much budget do you have? When are you expecting to launch? What expectations do your colleagues have for lead generation?

If you talk about these things early, it will help you manage expectations and exceed them.

Step two: Decide on a sitemap

Having a clear idea of what pages you plan to have will help inform the next stages.

Are you going to translate your full site? Do you need a careers page in the new market? Revisiting your site is beneficial as if you shed some pages you can save some budget.

If you’re on a strict budget but still want to translate, you could limit the number of pages you translate and add the rest later. For example, starting with just the homepage and some top landing pages, and adding secondary products later.

Step three: Decide on and brief your developers

Your web developers may or may not be experienced in website development for international markets. You may need to use a different developer than your usual one for the project.

Discussing what is involved and getting to grips with whether your supplier can technically handle the project is important. If they can’t, you’ll end up wasting time trying to fix mistakes.

For smaller sites, a translation proxy may be more appropriate, which means there is no development needed, and content is pulled straight from your site. The downside is that adding country-specific content becomes difficult.

This is a good stage to start talking to translation companies, about how they can fit with the systems you plan to use. They should be able to advise you on what options you have, based on your sitemap.

A person doing transcription

Step four: Select blogs to be added to the website

Content is king, and if you’re already blogging you could choose some blogs that would be appropriate for the new market. This will give you a head start on SEO, visibility, and trust with the new market.

Step five: Choose a translation agency

There are so many translation companies out there, which one should you choose?

You need to ask a few key questions:

  • Are they experienced working in the way you plan to translate your site?
  • What other clients have they helped?
  • Do they understand international marketing?

There are many other factors to consider too, such as their experience, specialisms and reputation.

Step six: Send the files to the translator

This is the stage where you need to get your files ready and get them to the translator. Make sure you include metadata, image tags and any other tags.

There are some options. You may want to extract Word files and upload them to your new site manually.

We’ve worked with all kinds of options, from Word files, to in-CMS translations to proxies.

In general one of the best options is to extract html/php and translate it in html/php context, so all tags get carried over.

Step seven: Housekeeping

Since your project is well underway, now is a good time to buy a domain and set up hosting.

Our advice is rather than using your current hosting package and adding the new site, always use a host in the country. This helps with SEO and makes the site quicker.

Your domain should be in-country where possible too, for example in France “.fr”. If you have a big brand like Apple you don’t need an in-country domain because you already have brand visibility, but if SEO is part of your strategy we recommend getting an in-country domain.

Once you’ve purchased the domain and hosting, get your developers working on setting up the site ready for population. The best way is to have it on a development server (i.e. not live to the world), so you can make changes without confusing the search engines!

Step eight: Populating the content

You now need to get the content on your site. If you’ve used Word files, you’ll need to find some resources to upload the content. Most translation companies will be able to offer this as part of the service.

One step which is sometimes overlooked is renaming images for the new market. Image names are a key part of SEO strategy, so you should consider extracting the image names, getting them translated, and changing the image names for the new market.

tagging images

Step nine: In-country proofreading and usability testing

Exciting times, your content is now on your site. Before you publish, now is a good time to test your site with a sample of customers.

The best way to do this is with a focus group. We helped an eCommerce company go into Central Europe recently (2014) and engaged the services of a local market research company on their behalf. The company received feedback on their site and made some changes to adapt to the local market.

If you’re on a budget there are many sites where you can get online users to test your site, or you could try posting in forums or on social media.

Step ten: On-site SEO

This is a stage that is often glossed over by translation agencies. But if you don’t pay attention to this stage, you might end up disappointed with the results.

Many translation companies will add translation of meta tags and image names to the website package and call it “Translation and SEO”.

An excellent translation company should help you with keyword research and adapting the content, tags, and keywords across the site to target relevant search traffic. Not doing this stage is like a stab in the dark, you don’t know what kind of search traffic you’ll get as it’s left to chance. Just translating meta tags isn’t SEO, keyword research and implementation is.

This is a good time to also add any additional internal links if needed, and check for any links without pages, or 404 errors.

Step eleven: Launch housekeeping

Before launching, it’s important to set up Analytics and Webmaster Tools. Analytics will tell you how many visitors you’re achieving, and Webmaster Tools gives useful information on search queries and the general technical health of your site (e.g. 404 errors). If you want to grow your traffic, get familiar with the tools.

Step twelve: The launch party

You’re there! It’s time to publish your website!

Log in to your Webmaster Tools, and submit the site to Google, including all pages linking from the homepage. You can do the same in Bing Webmaster Tools, and any other search engines relevant in the target country.

Within a few days, you should start seeing any 404 errors or things you need to fix, by navigating around Webmaster Tools. And hopefully how many impressions your site has had.

Step thirteen: Ask for feedback and measure

Try and gather feedback at every opportunity. This is especially important in the new market, where things that worked in the US may not work overseas.

german website translation


Overall, website translation opens up new markets and is well worth the investment. But through careful planning, you can save time and budget.

Did you like this process?


Get the latest translation insights straight to your inbox