The Easy Guide to CMS Localization and Why It's Important

March 22, 2022
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Do you need to localize your content management system (CMS) to reach your global markets? CMS localization is hard to get right. But it's well worth taking the time to do it properly.
There are various benefits to having a well-localized CMS. These include better search engine optimization (SEO) in your global markets, better engagement with your target audience, and more international sales.
CMS localization means more than translating the words on your website.
It's not usually enough to just install a plugin to your website and leave it at that. Full CMS localization requires a strategic approach. You need to know why you are translating your content and which aspects you need to localize.
Here's an easy guide to getting started with CMS localization…

What is CMS localization?

CMS localization is the process of configuring or adapting the content held within a content management system to reach particular global markets. It involves both translating the content into the target languages and streamlining other aspects of content creation for the associated locales.
When we talk about "CMS localization" it's worth noting that we are talking about localizing the content held within the CMS, not localizing the CMS software itself.
It's important to remember that localization is about more than just translation.
Translation only involves changing words and language. Localization involves changing everything that is different in the target market, including currencies, time formats, images, iconography, and many more properties.
For example, to translate a blog post from Standard American English into Mexican Spanish, you would only need to convert the written content of that post. A simple multilingual plugin for your CMS could handle this.
However, to localize your entire blog for a new market, your CMS would need to support a range of dual content types, including images, user interface elements,, and more advanced functionality like payment systems.
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You might even need to change the entire flow of the website for some markets.
Arabic, one of the internet's fastest-growing languages, is read from right to left. English is read from left to right. If you were localizing for an Arabic-speaking market, both your CMS and your design would need to be able to support this complexity.

What so many companies get wrong about CMS localization

"We're all set for localization. We have installed a multilingual plugin."
This is a mistake that many global companies make when thinking about CMS localization.
There are many free and paid website translation plugins on the market. Many are targeted at the consumer end of the market for CMSs like Wordpress. While they can be handy for small passion projects and personal web pages, they are usually completely inadequate for large global companies.
Enterprise CMSs, like Adobe Experience Manager, ContentStack, or Optimizely often have good support for localization features. However, using these features properly requires knowledge and experience.
The key to CMS localization is to set it up correctly from the start. The content in a CMS can get out of hand very quickly, especially when you are serving multiple markets. Each language multiplies the number of content objects and the room for error.
When you optimize your CMS for localization early and follow the right process, you reduce the chance of problems later.

5 important CMS language translation requirements

What should you be looking for in localization-friendly CMS? Various requirements make a CMS suitable for localization.
Here are just 5 of the many requirements that you can look out for:

1. Ongoing multilingual support

The first requirement is multilingual support. Clearly, your CMS needs to support multiple languages. Content pieces in one language should be intrinsically linked to the same content in other languages.
There are many CMSs with this capability and even more plugins for those CMSs that don't support it natively. As your content is a living entity that will grow with your company, it's a good idea to choose a CMS that supports frequent updates in multiple languages.

2. Intuitive content authoring format

You can make your life much easier by authoring your content in an easy-to-use format. This also makes it easier to incorporate your CMS with your Translation Management System, which needs to be kept up to date.
For example, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) is a content-authoring format specifically designed to aid content reuse. DITA is also great for localization, especially for technical content.
Another alternative is a headless CMS which is equally great for localization when used in the right way.

3. Handles your locale conventions

Your CMS must be able to handle the particular locales that you are using. This includes non-language properties used in your chosen markets.
For example, many locales use the comma (,) as the decimal separator in numbers and a period (.) as the grouping separator. This means that 10 million is written as 10.000.000,0 rather than 10,000,000.0 as it is written in the U.S. English locale. In the Indian market, this same number would be written as 100 lakh or 1 crore.
Some CMS configurations don't support even this simple difference between locales.

4. Accounts for your audience preferences

As well as the language and locales, there are also wider differences between your audiences and their habits. Your CMS and its configuration will also need to reflect many of these differences.
For example, in North America, desktop and mobile usage is about equal — people are as likely to view your website on a computer as on a mobile device. In India, for example, mobile usage is over 3 times higher than desktop.
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In many emerging markets, choosing a desktop-first approach or using a CMS configuration with inadequate mobile support would be a grave mistake.

5. Supports your payment and ecommerce needs

Another vital aspect of CMS localization is payment options. If you can't get paid in your target market, it makes no sense to localize your content for that market.
Some companies think they can just use an online payment system (such as Paypal or Google Pay) and this will be sorted for them. However, different markets prefer different payment options.
In the People's Republic of China, for example, consumers prefer mobile payment platforms like WeChat and Alipay. Your CMS must be able to support such platforms if you want to do good business in these markets.
Related to this are political influences on payments. For example, in early 2022, the international SWIFT payment system placed restrictions on payments to Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine.

Finding the right CMS localization services for your company

There are plenty of CMSs on the market. Some of them might make localization easy. Others might be impossible to localize in any usable way.
If you look at a list of "best CMSs" you could easily become overwhelmed. It's much easier and more efficient to get advice upfront rather than trying to navigate the complexity alone.
There is one way to ensure that your CMS localization will be both successful and easy — consult with a translation provider that is experienced in CMS localization.
You can find information about our CMS localization services on our services page.

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