Say you want to produce two different versions of your website, localized for visitors from two different countries, which speak the same language. For instance one site for Canada and for the US.

How would you go about it, without running into duplicate content?

In my opinion, IKEA does a great job at that, so we’ll examine this case in detail. But all of the lessons can be transported to most other websites, to B2C and B2B sites alike.

Why would you Localize Content?

There is a good piece from searchengineland on why to localize content and what the difference between global and local SEO really is. Put short, the better you localize, the better you are able to target specifically your customers, the better you target, the better the usability and user experience for your customers is, the higher your conversion rates and revenues will be.

And customers do care about local content. They even care about whether you spell things in American English or British English.

What’s the Result of proper Localization?

The result of proper localization should be very simple: Wherever the visitor comes from, whoever he is, he should get to see the “right” content. So in our case, someone from Canada Googleing in English should get to see the Canadian English version of your website.

One essential ingredient of this is some equivalent of a global gateway (see my previous post on proper ways of building one), or any form or redirect, language selector etc.

But that’s only one of the ingredients. That’s only taking care of the visitors who enter your website from some other place than search engines.

If your website is like most of the websites out there, then most of the visitors will enter through search engines. So it’s equally important, to get the right localized web pages into the right search engines. That means in Google.co.uk you want to have the UK version of your website, in Google.ca you will want to have the Canadian one and so on.

And that’s exactly the part where IKEA performs exceptionally well.

So now that we know why and with which goal we localize, let’s examine the case.

The IKEA Case

Looking through the “hierarchy” of the IKEA.com website, I picked out three interesting levels of pages. On IKEA.com there is a global gateway. Below that level, everything is localized to the core.

  1. The home page (e.g. www.ikea.com/ca/en) has lots of places to localize content as you’ll see below.
  2. The product overview pages e.g. the “Bedroom” page (www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/categories/departments/bedroom/) have one specific potential to localize, namely by showing the individual product portfolio and local special offers. This offers less place space to localize but still enough for most companies.
  3. The product pages, e.g. the page for the MALM (http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/S79009502/) bed have the least “natural” space to localize, but IKEA still manages it nicely.

I picked those three types of sites, home page, overview, and product page because I think those types of pages are relevant for most types of business (be it B2C or B2B). And the strategies IKEA uses to localize can be applied to most other businesses as well.

IKEAs Home Page

Let’s compare

Here is an overlay picture of both sites. On top the Canadian version. The four highlighted parts are the some of the localizations made by IKEA.

There is much space to localize pretty naturally:

  • (1) Secondary navigation. The secondary navigation is completely localized, both in wording (“Login or Sign Up” vs “Log in”, “My Account” isn’t present on the US version, and so on…)
  • (2) Main navigation.  IKEA chooses to display the “OFFERS” page on the Canadian website while on the US website they display the “NEW” page.
  • (2) Main navigation. IKEA localizes the wording. The Canadian top navigation has a category “Bath” while the US version has “Bathroom”.  They exchange “Baby & Kids” vs. “Children’s IKEA”.
  • (2) Main navigation. IKEA chooses to design specific pages for each country and include them in the navigation. Canada has “New Lower Price” and the “Market Hall” while the US has “Back to college” and “Summer” as new specific pages.
  • (3) Newsfeed. The news feed contains the localized news and events.
  • (4) Social Icons. The social Icons list is only present in Canada while in the US it has been dropped.

How do you figure out which things work best for which country? Some good brainstorming sessions, a lot of testing & running A/B tests and some qualitative studies.

Next the product overview page.

IKEAs Product Overview Pages

Again here is the overlay of the two versions,

 

The localizations.

  • (1) Tertiary navigation. The next navigational level is changed to accommodate the specific product portfolio as well as different wordings.
  • (2) Title. The title is probably optimized using A/B tests.
  • (3) Offers. Local offers are displayed right on that page
  • (4) The paragraph following the title. The paragraph following the title is customized; Where in the Canadian version we have much more links we only have a large & comfy text present in the US version.

IKEAs Product Detail Pages

Finally, let’s compare the same product in

 

The localizations.

  • (1) Price. Of course, prices should incorporate offers, but as you can see here, the actual “offer” is displayed in very different ways (big red on the Canadian version) on the two versions (of course this is also due to the fact that the offer in it’s nature differs here).
  • (2) Reviews. The review option is only thee in the Canadian version.
  • (3) The description of the bed differs slightly, the wording is localized again.

The Result

The result is best summarized in a picture. The Search term is “IKEA MALM”. We get the right URLs and even currencies. The perfect user experience.

Some Further Resources Worth Checking Out on the Topic