How to Localize Content for International Audiences With Cultural Audits

Nicola Winters

Head of International


When expanding a business internationally, marketers tend to assume that simply translating content from one language to another is all that is necessary when launching a website to a new consumer base. Without thorough cultural audits, focusing solely on translating text and not considering the actual meaning of the words, businesses can alienate audiences, creating barriers preventing users from achieving intended goals on their website.

Instead, all companies should localize their content when expanding into a new international market.

Localization focuses on recognizing culturally specific phrases, traits, and behaviors to win over a native audience. Your team can successfully localize content by conducting a thorough cultural audit of your website. Once complete, the results lead to recommendations for your website that can ensure success in your new market.

In this blog, we define what a cultural audit is and how to approach the audit to build a persuasive website in your new market.

What does a digital marketing cultural audit involve?


A cultural audit is a process where experts assess the market readiness of an existing website by better understanding the digital landscape and user behavior of a new international consumer base.

Countries have differing cultural norms, so what may work in one market may need reassessment in another. Directly translating the existing language on your website can stop users from achieving key conversions. Or worse yet, you could unintentionally offend your new target audience.

Performing localized keyword research alongside a cultural audit ensures that all your text-based or visual content is linguistically and culturally accurate.

What elements of a website can a cultural audit improve?


Cultural audits can be helpful when analyzing on-site content, regulatory considerations, the local digital landscape, and the touchpoints that make up the user experience.


Understand user behavior and expectations


A key component of cultural audit research is analyzing audience expectations and behavior. When expanding into new markets, brands often find that their international customers differ significantly from customers in their original market.

Using third-party tools such as Google Analytics 4international digital marketers can gather specific audience insights, such as a list of terms searched most frequently, the webpages users gravitate to over others, and the channels and referral links leading to the most entries on your website. When combined, all this data allows you to better understand cultural differences and, in turn, if those may affect brand messaging, products, and marketing activity in a new territory. Plus, sorting this data enables you to uncover which audience segments are most interested in your company’s services.


Analyze the local digital landscape


How your target audience uses the internet can vary drastically in different countries and cultures. Through cultural audits, we can gain a more in-depth understanding of which devices are most used by your audience at various stages in the customer journey.

Cultural audits also reveal how people use the internet, where best to target local keyword research, and how to optimize these keywords toward the search engine most familiar to your ideal client type. For example, East Asian countries use Baidu, Naver, and Daum more than Google. Therefore, your keywords and content must target these search engines instead of Google to gain the best results.

Adhere to relevant regulatory requirements


A legally compliant website is crucial, and these legal requirements change from country to country. Cultural audits allow our experts to understand best practices in a new market and discover if there are any mandatory terms and conditions you need to include on the localized site.

You need to understand the local legal framework when launching internationally. Your team should consider:

  • How are copyrighted pieces of work protected in this market?
  • Is it a legal requirement to display cookie information?
  • How is personal data protected in this market? Are you legally required to provide a data protection statement?


Ensure accessible content


Ensuring your content is easily accessible can significantly impact how people perceive your brand and website in a new territory. Content must meet user expectations and market and industry standards if you want active engagement from your new target audience. 

Simply translating your website misses vital cultural differences, such as critical variations in your website or category page structure used by your international competitors. If your team organizes your website with a familiar design that meets user expectations, the page is more likely to convert.

In addition to analyzing the written content on your website, we also look at the visual components in our auditing process. In certain territories, images may need to be changed to avoid anything potentially culturally inappropriate. Your team may need to swap out specific colors with different underlying meanings than those in your native market. For example, while the color white is often associated with innocence in the West, it often represents death or mourning in the East. 

But also, on a more functional level, the cultural audit can identify if users have trouble reading your font formatting for on-screen text.


Embrace trust signals


Buying from a new website is risky for consumers. Trust signals on a website help users determine whether a website is legitimate. A website without the expected trust signals can lead to users leaving without making a purchase. 

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution regarding website security. Despite common elements, many points of differentiation are worth considering when expanding into new countries. The cultural audit reveals when a company should use country-specific signals, such as clients’ reviews and quality seals. These help customers feel secure and at ease on your website, particularly if you need more brand awareness in a new market.

Other points to consider regarding trust signals include:

  • Do users expect brands in your industry to have specific awards or certifications?
  • Are case studies strong trust signals in this market?
  • Are transaction protection certifications an essential trust signal?
  • What are commonly used payment methods and platforms in this market?
  • What is the preferred delivery or collection method in your market?
  • What are the commonly used contact options in this market?

Whether your localized website targets individual consumers or established businesses, a cultural audit ensures it will meet audience expectations, helping your brand build trust within your new chosen market.

To learn more about branching out into new territories through digital marketing, download our free whitepaper, Identifying growth opportunities in new international markets.

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