How to localize your Drupal website for Chinese market

If I have an English website running in the US, and I want to localize my website for the Chinese market. What should I do?  

This is a real situation our clients ran into over the last few years. We have helped our clients to localize their website for Chinese market.  Below are a few tips we learned from our experience:

Know how to promote your website before website localization

This is the first question we should answer even before we start the website localization project.

We should consider the website as a medium to promote your business. If you don’t have a plan to promote your website, most likely you will not have traffic after launching your website.

Before getting into the details of website localization project, ask yourself what is the goal for localizing your website and how you will promote your website in the local market. Doing market research for your market in China will help you answer those two questions.

As soon as you can answer those two questions, you can start to get into the details of the website localization.

Localize your social media

Every local market has its popular social media. When we localize the website, we will use local social media. Below are some Chinese social media services you should not miss:

  • WeChat. This is the most popular and powerful instant messenger in China. You can do everything inside WeChat. If you can only choose one social media, WeChat is the one.   
  • Weibo. Unlike WeChat, Weibo is a public social media platform. If your business is more B2C-driven, Weibo should be on your list.
  • Youku. Consider it as Youtube in China. When you localize the website, you should replace YouTube videos with Youku videos.
  • JiaThis. It is a social share buttons service for the Chinese market, like ShareThis in China. Localizing share buttons on your localized website will make it easier for visitors to share.

Basic SEO for Baidu

Google is the biggest player in the world, but not in China. When you localize your website, you need to optimize your website for Baidu.

  • Use Chinese in page title, meta description, and meta keywords. If you have done SEO in your original website, you might have optimized page title, meta description, and meta keywords on your web pages. To optimize your website for Baidu, you need to use simplified Chinese on page title, meta description, and meta keywords.
  • Drupal SEO module. If you haven’t done basic SEO on your website, you should start to do it right now. There are several Drupal SEO modules to help you with this.
  • Baidu Analytics. The biggest advantage of online marketing is you can easily collect data online. When localizing the website, you should add Baidu analytics service to your website. Unlike Google Analytics, Baidu analytics is specifically for Baidu search engine. It will help you to understand how your website performs under Baidu search engine.

Translate your content into simplified Chinese

The official language in China is Chinese. To make Chinese visitors understand your website content, you need to translate your original content into Simplified Chinese.

  • Drupal multi-language feature. It is easy for Drupal to have a multi-language website. But the real question is should we have a multi-language website. The answer is it depends on your marketing purpose. If you want to emphasize that you are an international brand or you want to target English-speaking people in China, it is better to have a bilingual website.
  • Drupal back-end in Chinese. When we localize Drupal website, we should consider replacing original language with simplified Chinese. It will help local webmaster to manage website easily.
  • Don’t use google translate. We don’t suggest using google translate on your website. Due to firewall, Google translate might not work or slow down your website. Also, the translation will not be accurate. It will make your website look unprofessional.

Optimize your website for Mobile

Responsive web design has been a major trend in the last few years. It also applies to the Chinese market. Most Chinese people use mobile devices to go online. A mobile-optimized website is a must in the Chinese market.

  • Responsive website. It is easy to have responsive website for Drupal. Drupal can be integrated with several popular front-end frameworks, such as Boostrap.
  • WeChat-friendly Since most people use WeChat in China, they might view your website in the WeChat browser. When we optimized the website for mobile devices, we also need to consider WeChat browser compatibility.

Host your website inside or outside China

If possible, you should host your website inside China. But there are some requirements to do that. In general, hosting your website in China will have the best page speed for Chinese visitors. Also, your website won’t run the risk of being blocked by the firewall. More importantly, it would be easier for your website to implement local online ads, which requires a website hosting in China, or have better SEO results.

  • ICP. If you want to host your website in China, you need ICP license.
  • Aliyun. Aliyun is the biggest cloud server service in China. If our clients don’t have special reasons for a specific service provider, we will suggest Aliyun.

If you have to host the localized website outside China, there are still some options you can consider.

Eliminate services the firewall will block

No matter if you host your website inside or outside China, you should stop using the services the Chinese firewall will block.

With blocked services, the Chinese visitors won’t reach the services on your website. Also, the blocked services will slow down your website and bring unpleasant user experience.

Localize your online payment system

Like social media, China also has its own online payment system. Unlike the rest of the world, PayPal won’t be the first choice. Below are the three major online payment systems in China.

  • Alipay. It is the biggest online payment platform in China. Most people use Alipay.
  • WeChat Pay. With WeChat popularity, more and more people are using WeChat payment. It has a very good user experience. Unlike Alipay, WeChat Pay is a mobile-only service.
  • UnionPay. It is used with traditional bank systems. Most people still need to deal with banks in China. That is the advantage of UnionPay.

Test for local browsers and IE

Unlike the rest of the world, China has its own popular browsers. Also, there are still many people using IE browsers. When we test the localized websites, we always use Chinese mainstream browsers, e.g. UC, 360 browsers, to test.   

In conclusion

Localizing the website for the Chinese market is not just to translate the original contents, migrate your original website to China, and replace local elements. Those are actually the secondary steps. You need to understand your market first.

The first step is to identify your goals for the localized website and to have the marketing plan to promote your website. Most people miss the first step. Once you take the first step, your localized website will be on the right path.

A website is not just a website. It is a medium to promote your business.