More and more international organisations opt for a website or app that is similar across the different countries, and this has a lot of advantages, such as:

  • A uniform customer journey everywhere in the world
  • A consistent brand identity
  • Less costs spent on CMS development
  • Less costs spent on UX testing

However, there are still some disadvantages to these multilingual ‘copy-paste’ websites. In this article, I will give you a heads-up of the five most frequently made mistakes on international websites - so you do have to make them.


1. Translating your website is difficult

It’s Friday afternoon. You’ve labored the entire week on your latest international campaign. And now your copy is ready to be translated. But is your copy ‘translatable’? If you’ve ever worked with a translator, you’ll know that they sometimes come up with weird sentences. Sometimes that’s due to the translator, but more often it’s because of the copy.

Copywriters love figurative language such as, ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’. Sadly, these types of phrases are difficult to translate.

My advice: adopt some writing rules for your base text. Besides figurative language, also avoid needlessly long and complex sentences. This makes your copy easier to translate and makes your message reach further.

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2. UX-findings of one country are applied everywhere

I’ve heard more than one person say, “we’ve done UX-tests in Spain and this is the best solution. That’s why we want to implement it in all other countries.” But is this UX-test from Spain really the best solution for every country? Maybe. But you won’t know for sure until you do a local test. What works for one country, could have no or even a negative effect in another country.

You can find a great example of this in the article by Jenny Shen.

So it’s always a good idea to not blindly follow UX-improvements that worked in one county. Always test them first!

3. Not doing local keyword analysis

It seems such a good idea for international websites: having your keyword analysis translated.

You do the source language and send it to a translator. Because you use one party, you can negotiate a good price, too. Moreover, you’ve saved time by doing everything at once.

So is an international keyword analysis a good idea? No!
It’s always better to do keyword analysis locally. Why? You’re missing local keywords! After all, you’re only translating the words that are relevant in your source language.


4. The photos don’t match the country

Photos. There the most visual carriers of your brand identity. Photos can cause an immense difference in conversion on your website. Sometimes, the head office sticks to their centrally-chosen images. And that’s a shame. Because what is considered attractive can differ greatly between countries.

This article about the donation page of the Obama campaign was one of the most insightful reads on this area.

Had I - as a Dutchman - chosen the best-scoring image? No. My choice would probably not even have made the shortlist. But I’m not an American. To me, this shows that it’s always better to have a local choose the photos.


5. You don’t listen to the local experts

At most international organisations, talent isn’t limited to the head office. Local offices have very proficient people that continually optimise their site, too, and they often use the latest and smartest methods. However, most head offices are myopic and focus only on their own methods and improvements, neglecting or missing local insights.

A shame, because those local insights can contribute to international success.

“Yes, it takes getting used to. When your local offices suddenly start publishing ‘mystery content. But in the long run, more local responsibility adds to international success.”

Britta Wielaard is a content manager at Crossphase. The last eight years, she has worked as an editor, translator and project manager for international companies, such as Leaseplan, Mammoet and Renault.

The solution for international websites: an international content strategy

How do you prevent these and other problems on your multilingual websites? With an international content strategy. In which the head office delegates some of the content-related responsibilities to the local specialists.

I’m not saying that you should let the local offices handle all local content. But if you want to be successful in the local market, you’ll have to take cultural differences into account. A great international content strategy doesn’t just contain the international rules for your brand. These guidelines should also contain instructions on how your content can be translated to fit each country. Only then can you guarantee optimal and cultural-specific content.

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