The localization process has significantly evolved over the years. As a Russian translator and localization specialist, I have had to personally go through this evolution to truly understand how to best meet my customers’ requirements and help them grow their business with my services.
Most website owners and marketing managers I spoke to are unaware of what localization is. 90% percent of them consider it to be just merely a kind of translation. As a result, when they get their websites translated, they are entirely unsatisfied, as the translated content does not bring new customers. And their investments into website translation become just pointless endeavors.
Therefore, understanding current trends in the localization industry and the history of its development will allow managers to choose the right language service provider and save costs.
Before I share with you the most relevant definition of localization for website owners and managers, I first want to highlight some of the significant changes I have seen in the industry over the twenty years.
Birth of new translation technology
In the 1980s, desktop computers were introduced to the world, and computer technology started to make its way to our lives. The international expansion of software companies triggered the need to localize the products for international markets.
One of the first companies in the world to offer localization services was INK, a Dutch translation agency established in 1980. It was also one of the first companies to release desktop translation support tools for professional translators, called INK TextTools.
In 1987, a German translation company called TRADOS started reselling the INK TextTools. A year later, they presented their Translation Editor plug-in for TextTools – TED. And from that time, TRADOS continued to establish itself as the industry leader in TM technology throughout the 1990s.
At that time, the term localization was used to more generally describe any changes to adapt a product to the needs of a particular group of people in a specific physical location. In short, to make local as the dictionary suggests.
Achievements in localization industries in the 1990s
The localization service industry reached a sky-high result during the 1990s. In 1990 the Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) was founded in an attempt to bring together the IT industry and localization service providers. The result of this attempt was a successful development of the Translation Management System – a powerful tool to maximize the efficiency of translators.
In the second half of the 1990s, the localization industry began to consolidate. Localization service providers either teamed up with each other to outplay their business rivals or added extra services to the business to reach a wider scope of clients. Examples of these are Lionbridge and SDL International, which were left to dominate the market.
At this time, localization was defined as the adaptation of a product, application, or document content to meet the language and cultural requirements. As a rule, these customizations related to numeric, date, and time formats, use of currency, symbols, icons, colors, graphics containing references to objects, actions, or ideas which, in a given culture, may be subject to misinterpretation, etc.
Generally speaking, the goal of all these customizations is to create an enjoyable, non-confusing play experience for the end-user by accurately observing specific cultural context. Therefore, as the results of different research reports show in the 1990s, localization is one of the best ways to keep users engaged and triggered.
These days, regardless of the comprehensive researches in this field, there is still a significant percentage of customers who are unsatisfied with the localization process. And this brings us to the thresholds of new studies in localization.
Localization trends after the 2010s: multilingual websites
With the e-commerce growth in different sectors across the globe and rapid technology development overall, localization studies are gaining different perspectives.
According to recent surveys, many business owners and marketing managers are not satisfied with the website localization. The reason is that they expect localized content to bring new customers to their multilingual websites through Google search results. But what they get is translated content with standard customizations.
At the beginning of the 2010s, language service providers (LSP) started to develop new strategies to meet the market demands and find the best ways to localize websites. At this time, since I began to get more requests to translate websites, I got involved in more than 20 special SEO case studies to make website localization services better.
Each SEO case study involved two phases:
1) just simple translation and cultural adaptation of a website;
2) website localization with SEO keyword research in the target language with the help of Ahrefs and Semrush.
The results of the research were terrific. Multilingual websites that contained localized keywords doubled their traffic within a few weeks, bringing new users from the target market. From time to time, I keep carrying out experiments. The companies which participate, get website localization into Russian for free. If you are interested, you are welcome to apply. Check more details about my free website translation and localization case studies.
Therefore, it can be stated that localizing a website involves more than just translating the language and adapting content according to cultural requirements. In the first place, it should start with keywords localization, which will help customers reach their goals and avoid useless website localization.
Conclusion: what is localization
Within these more than twenty years, localization has significantly evolved due to technology developments and market demands. Today, localization can be defined as a complicated process of adapting a product or a service according to the goals of business owners and requirements of the local markets.