Localization KPIs: How to Track Translation Metrics

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How do key performance indicators (KPIs) apply to the process of localization?
As a global company, how can translation metrics help you to reliably track your localized content?
It’s fair to say that data is a vital component of any modern, global business. As one Deloitte report explains, modern business intelligence uses data to focus on increasing the value of business operations, helping you to get more from every investment you make in your business.
But, what about localization KPIs?
It’s traditionally been hard to track the performance of translated content. For many global companies, it can sometimes feel like you are throwing money into translations without knowing whether they are really giving a return.
With the right approach to localization KPIs, you can gain a valuable window on the performance of your localized content.
In this article, Susannah Eccles, Rubric’s Managing Director, explains how you can get started tracking translation metrics.

KPI: What does it mean in relation to localization?

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a metric, or measurement point, that a company uses to track its progress towards a particular result. KPIs help a business to make better decisions and take actions that help it achieve its desired goals.
With regards to localization, KPIs help you to answer the question: Are we localizing the right content in the right way?
You can think of translation metrics from 2 perspectives:
  1. KPIs relating to the translation process — Your translation provider can help by tracking these. They help you to improve the efficiency and quality of your translation process.
  2. KPIs measuring the effect of localized content on your business — This information likely resides within your business so you have to track it yourself. But, your provider can help you to identify which metrics will be best for you to track.
You need to consider both of these perspectives if you want to get a clear picture of the performance of your localized content.
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Who is responsible for tracking localization KPIs in your business?

Tracking localization KPIs is both your responsibility and the responsibility of your translation provider.
As Susannah explains:
“For clients, we can only present one side of the spend as the language services provider. They need to look at our metrics alongside what they are gathering on their side.”
As the provider, we can track KPIs such as:
  • Volume of translations per locale.
  • Translation Memory (TM) savings.
  • Cost of translation per locale.
  • and various other translation-related metrics.
Susannah adds:
“To have the full information, you then have to ask questions and gather data on your side. We’re able to make suggestions about what the client might gather on their side to give themselves the full picture. But, we can’t present the full picture ourselves.”
Questions you can ask of your translated content include:
  • What’s the click-through rate for the particular piece of content that we’re translating?
  • How many times is this video being viewed?
  • Has translation helped to reduce training and support costs?
  • and other such questions.
With these two combined perspectives, you can get a better idea of whether you are spending your money wisely on localization.
Together with your translation provider, you can then use this data to make more strategic decisions about which content to translate and how to translate it.

What you need to know to apply KPIs to translation

A common challenge is knowing which business metrics to track. There are hundreds of data points that you could track but only some will help you achieve the goals of your global business.
Chasing the wrong KPIs can lead to worse business performance than tracking no metrics at all.
How do you ensure that you are approaching localization metrics in the right way?

Get your translation provider involved

While it’s possible to track localization KPIs on your own, you will see the most benefit when you work in collaboration with your translation provider.
The sooner you involve your provider, the sooner you can start getting that full picture of your localization performance.

Look at more than just TM savings

Probably the most over-promoted metric by translation providers and creators of translation software is “TM savings.”
Translation Memory (TM) is a feature of Computer-Assisted Translation tools. The TM is a stored database of your company’s past translations. The software checks all new translations against this database and uses it to automatically translate any already-translated phrases.
This produces an incremental saving over time. The saving is important, of course, but it is only one metric among many.
Susannah explains:
“All good language service providers should include TM savings in their cost model. However, what we should be trying to measure are KPIs that answer the question: Are we leveraging the TM effectively?
“For example, are your TMs being updated before each next project starts? Are you translating content in the correct order? Are you breaking content down into batches so that leveraging is most effective?
“We make sure we provide our clients with feedback to ensure their content is well-authored so that TM leveraging can be effective.”

Proactively identify areas for improvement

Localization KPIs are not just a tool for showing that you are getting your money’s worth from translation.
You can also use metrics to proactively identify areas of your translation process that might require improvement.
Susannah describes an example from one of Rubric’s clients:
“One of their products is a monthly magazine. When we took over the translation of that, from the beginning we tracked the KPIs of how many words translatedturn-around time, and TM savings. But, we also tracked the average number of changes by reviewers per 100 words.
“Over each year, the average number of changes by reviewers allows us to very quickly identify where we might have languages with problems. We can then quickly identify the problems and delve in to find solutions.
“We then have discussions with the markets to ask: Do we have the right translators? What are we missing? Do we need better glossaries? Could we improve the style guide? Does there need to be a conversation between the reviewer and translator? Do we need to change the translators?”
This type of proactive approach can be very powerful.
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Don’t assume it’s all about translation
Not all problems that you uncover by tracking localization KPIs will be related to translation. You might also identify problems that are more related to how the source content is authored before translation.
Susannah says:
“When tracking average number of changes by reviewers sometimes the problem is that the source content wasn’t appropriate for certain markets. So we had lots of edits for a particular market.”
In such cases, we often go back to the creators of the source content. We help them to improve their content creation processes so that the translation can be done more effectively.

Use data to check your assumptions

Often, working with translated content can feel very subjective.
A huge benefit of tracking localization KPIs is that it is an objective process. When you track metrics effectively, you can use the data to either prove or disprove your assumptions about the translated content.
This removes the guesswork often associated with translations and helps you to get the most from your translation budget.

What’s the first step for tracking localization KPIs in your business?

What action should you take first when you want to start tracking translation metrics?
A good first step is to talk with your translation provider about what KPIs they are already tracking around your translations. This can provide you with a kick-start and should offer some historical data that you can use to decide on other KPIs that might be useful.

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