Globalization vs. Localization: What’s the Difference?

You’ve probably heard globalization and localization talked about alongside one another. You’ve probably even heard these terms misused when discussing translation and other languages services. But while these services may have similar and related functions for an international business, there are critical differences that need to be understood when creating content, especially website content, to serve international markets.

If you want to put your best foot forward in international markets, you’ll want to use both globalization and localization to build effective business websites. Here’s a look at each of these services, how they differ from one another, and why they’re most effective when paired with one another.

Understanding Website Globalization

Website globalization involves a lot of changes to a website that aren’t necessarily visible to the average viewer. While it’s important to translate content that is read by online visitors, businesses should remember that search engines read a lot of content that is hidden on your website—but which plays a crucial role in your search page rankings.

If this content is in a different language than your website’s user-facing content, it can negatively impact your search engine optimization, reducing website traffic and overall website performance.

Website globalization looks at meta descriptions, meta tags, file names, website URLs, dialog boxes, and other text-based elements are all translated properly. It also ensures that the user experience of your website is accommodating to foreign-language speakers, such as by featuring fonts that support all of the characters of the languages being used on the site, and that responsive website design is able to accommodate changes in text size and shape when translated into the target language.

The average visitor may not recognize or appreciate the impact of website globalization, but they will appreciate the smooth experience that results from a properly globalized site.

Why Localization Matters

Localization is primarily focused on website content and elements that directly engages with your website visitors. The process of localization begins after language translation is completed on Web pages. It involves a close examination of written and other forms of content, with the goal of optimizing that content for the native language being targeted, as well as the region and communities being served.

Website localization is focused more on the cultural and contextual elements of language and communication. This can include everything from idioms and jargon that might not be understood by the target audience, to images and even color schemes that create cultural or other types of connotations a business may want to avoid.

While audiences in Mexico and Spain may each speak Spanish, for example, they live in completely distinct cultures and require much different approaches to website localization of business content.

How Globalization and Localization are Different From One Another

The difference between globalization and localization is that globalization tends to focus on behind-the-scenes and technical considerations for a translated website or mobile app, while localization is focused on modifying content to suit local culture and other contexts.

Localization is concerned with the way content is experienced, while globalization is used to ensure the technical aspects of a website’s operation are being addressed and optimized even when that website is translated into a different language.

The Importance of Using Globalization and Localization Together

While businesses may be tempted to choose between globalization and localization in a cost-cutting move, it’s important to remember that these two services complement each other, but offer very little overlap in terms of the functions they provide to your business.

If a website is localized but not globalized, it could experience poor organic traffic, reduced marketing value, and an impacted user experience due to technical issues stemming from the translation process.

Similarly, a website that is globalized but not localized may succeed in driving the organic traffic you’re looking for, but its content won’t have as much resonance with your audience. There is also the risk that a lack of localization could result in content that accidentally offends your target market, creating a negative brand experience just as you’re trying to build your business in this region.

Conclusion

Because of the complementary nature of globalization and localization, it’s best to have these processes handled by the same agency—provided each specific process is managed by qualified translators and linguists.

When you’re building your business in a new market, your website will serve as one of the first impressions you make among your target audience. By investing in globalization and localization alongside your website translation services, you allow your organization to put its best foot forward, maximizing your business opportunities among a new client base.

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