Now you’re speaking my language: 3 ways to add localised content to your university's website

Now you’re speaking my language: 3 ways to add localised content to your university's website

The English language has clearly already established itself as the lingua franca for reaching out to international audiences. Especially in non-English-speaking countries, the English-language version of the website is most universities’ key tool for providing information that is tailored to the needs of readers around the world. But how can you use your website to meet the needs of readers in specific countries or regions without spending a fortune translating your entire site – or creating too long pages on admissions and visa procedures for specific nationalities?

Globalised vs. localised content

Prospective international students, for instance, can use the English site to find information on application procedures, the institution’s local and national context, rankings, etc. – all as they relate to non-domestic applicants. This kind of content is what we call “globalized” – that is, written or presented in a way that it is relevant and can be understood by a wide range of international readers. However, what’s happening more and more on university websites is special pages or sections providing “localised” content – that is, adapted to readers in a specific geographic location.

Of course, the countries/regions you choose to create localised content for will depend on your institution’s strategic internationalisation goals. So, there’s no real “right answer” on which countries or languages to choose. But there may well be a best model for the kind of content you provide on each localised “country page”, which will depend on your institution’s goals for each target country.

Three models to keep in mind

In surveying the different ways that universities provide localised content on their website, three general models start to emerge:

1. Language-only localisation of institutional “snapshot”

Even if a prospective international student speaks your country’s language, other important audiences may not – such as students’ parents, friends, and professors, or international university staff. To meet the basic information needs of these audiences, institutions can create a relatively minimal and standardized page or set of pages that serve as a “university snapshot”, and translate that into multiple languages. To give just one example, the University of Groningen has the same text providing information about the university, city, and the Netherlands in 12 different languages.

2. Localised admissions information

Perhaps you’ve noticed that students from certain countries frequently misinterpret your admissions process, or have difficulty understanding your admissions prerequisites as they relate to qualifications they earned in their home country. Or maybe you want to highlight scholarship opportunities available only to students from certain countries. Providing pages with customized admissions information for certain countries – in English, or translated into the target language – could help reduce the number of incomplete applications or questions asked during the application process. Manchester Metropolitan University’s “Your Country and MMU” pages provide tailored information about admissions, fees, scholarships, student life, and more for over 35 countries.

3. Localised marketing content

When you’re getting really proactive about attracting students from certain regions – perhaps as part of your institution’s internationalisation strategy – it might be necessary to go beyond just basic facts in other languages or admissions policies for certain countries. These marketing-focused pages can be in English or a local language – but what distinguishes them is that there is content created specifically for a regional audience . The University of Alberta, for instance, has pages featuring facts about and videos of students and alumni from certain regions, research at the university related to that country, “activities to feel closer to home”, etc.

The examples above are just a few among many that already exist on university websites around the world. And naturally, any of these models can be as simple or as detailed and complex as you want them to be. Sometimes just one page in another language can make a big difference! In any case, make sure you find the easiest and simplest way to impact your recruitment outcomes and reach your country-specific goals.

Also check my previous blog post on the importance of your university’s website in international student recruitment. If you want to improve your institution’s international website and learn more about building, measuring, and maintaining a website for international audiences, join the Autumn EAIE Academy course ‘How to optimise and maintain an international website’ in Riga, from 20-21 April 2015.

Laura Montgomery is an EAIE Trainer and Senior Marketing Consultant.