In short, manually translate all key pages into Mandarin Chinese written in Simplified Chinese script, the universal language used across the mainland. Make sure your language is concise and persuasive – good copy matters just as much in China as it does in the West!
Besides just translating, make sure to adjust the content of your website for Chinese users. Learn what they want, then add or edit content that addresses their concerns.
There is a range of effort you can put into localizing your website for China, so choose depending on the size of the opportunity and cost. We’ll start with the basics and move into more detail from there.
Never use an automated translation tool to create text for your website! The resulting translation will be awkward at best.
Intellectually, pretty much every experienced marketer agrees that words matter a lot. They will put a lot of effort getting their English landing pages and ads written just perfectly. Yet, when they get the opportunity to run a campaign in China, somehow this logic often gets thrown out the window.
It’s hard to say why this is. Perhaps most people rely on their own feelings, and if they can’t understand a language, they neglect it. That is likely the reason for Chinglish signs across China written for tourists, and for Justin Bieber’s Chinese tattoo.
If that’s not enough, consider this one last bit – Chinese Internet users have access to translation tools of their own, so giving them machine-translated text doesn’t do anything they can’t. There’s no benefit.
While it’s important to have a real live human translate the text of your website, it’s also expensive. So just how much content should be translated?
We recommend that you translate all the content that is essential for helping Chinese readers understand your business and then take the next step. That next step may be a purchase on-site, contacting you via a lead form, following your WeChat account, etc.
To start, all you need to do is create a list. Just ask yourself these three questions:
We’ll also offer a list of some common pages to translate:
After you have a general idea of what you want translated, you can move on to the next steps – choose who to do it and the details of how to get it on your site.
Human translations are leaps and bounds above machine translation, but you still need to decide on the final quality level you need, and who can deliver that.
The first option is the Chinese-speaking staff within your company. This is a good choice for small and simple sites and may be free (if they have some free time). However, if they don’t have experience with translation or writing, it might take them a relatively long time to create each page, and the quality is likely to be so-so.
A professional translation company is also a good option. Quality will vary. Translation companies are often under a lot of pressure to do work quickly and for low-cost. There is a trade-off between quality, speed and price, so be careful.
A bi-cultural marketing company is the best option, but also the most expensive. A marketing company should be able to provide content that is written to drive results such as our company does. Our process is more thorough than a translation agency, and our goal isn’t just to translate content accurately but to meet business objectives – such as to get more leads or increase a website’s sales revenue.
Compared to a great bi-cultural marketing agency, a great translation agency is faster and cheaper. For that reason, we recommend using a marketing agency for key pages and then using a translation agency to work on the bulk, such as on sites with hundreds or thousands of pages.
Translation agencies often charge between $0.08 to $0.15 per source word.
Our costs are higher. Basic content creation is $0.15 per Chinese character. However, we often invest more effort crafting the homepage, landing pages and/or other key pages, so we charge $500 to $2,000 per page.
That’s a larger investment, but in the range of what strong marketing agencies would charge you for writing English content.
Here’s the super simple process that we recommend:
That’s about it. There are some additional steps for the agency to handle – for example, agencies will normally have proofreaders review the content before providing it to their client. Those specific processes are outside the scope of this post though.
Baidu is the Chinese search engine with the biggest market share and having Chinese content on your website will majorly affect your traffic potential from it. In fact, Baidu often doesn’t even index websites if they don’t have Chinese content.
It’s important to understand which keywords people might use to search on Baidu. Choose keywords that are relevant to your business and integrate those into key spots on the page. But, always write for people first and search engines second, do not write spammy content just for SEO purposes.
A website hosted in mainland China will usually be more reliable for users in mainland China.
However – the benefit may not be worth the cost. There are several costs to consider, including:
Almost all websites nowadays are setup on a content management system such as Wordpress. These systems have plugins available that will (hopefully) allow you to easily add multi-language functionality to the website.
Then somebody just needs to go on your site and add the content.
It is often that simple, but not always. To know for sure: ask your web developer.
One tip we can provide is that it is easier for the translator/writer to ensure quality if they can login to the website on their own and make the edits. If they were to submit Word files to somebody else to upload to the site, it often results in errors or delays.
Website design in China can be quite different, and usually not for the best.
In 9/10 cases we recommend keeping the design consistent across English and Chinese versions of a website.
It’s common for Chinese businesses to create overly complex websites. When you ask them why, they say “because it’s what everybody in China does.” That’s a bad reason.
We are here to tell you that we recommend simple, useful websites. All our prior experience shows that that type of design creates a better experience for users and a higher conversion rate.
There are some minor changes to make however.
These types of changes can generally be made without the need for any changes to the website theme/template.
Once your beautiful Chinese website is active, make sure to analyze the performance over time and make improvements.
Ask some of your Chinese customers to give their opinions on your content. We advise that you don’t ask them how the quality is, because they might not know. Instead, ask questions about their experience, like this:
Use analysis tools like Google Analytics, Baidu Webmaster Tools and Baidu Tongji. This will help you see how people behave on your website, how they found your website and even which keywords they searched for to find you.