Good old content! Everyone’s favourite topic in 2013, developing content strategies, producing engaging and original content and getting it shared is consuming more and more of a marketer’s time. So thinking about doing all of that in numerous languages can be pretty daunting.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Creating decent content in multiple languages is going to take time and cost money, but doing it right will bring rewards. Of course, you could pay a visit to Google Translate (don’t do it!! Ever) or use an agency to blanket translate everything you’re ever written but that is unlikely to help you achieve the results you’re aiming for. I’ve taken a look at just some of the things to think about when creating or localising content for different countries and audiences.
No surprises there! Clearly if you’re creating content for multiple markets, you need to be doing it in multiple languages. Whether its website copy, an infographic or a video, it’s going to have more impact if it available in the native language of your target audience. They’ll find it more easily (as they’ll generally be searching in their own language) and they’ll be more likely to engage with it and share it with their networks. While it’s true that many people (especially in a B2B context) can speak English, they still prefer to view content in their native language and it will certainly give them more trust and confidence in your brand. This is also true for speakers of the same language – there are significant differences between UK and US English and the Spanish spoken in Spain and Mexico. Each might understand the other, but they will consider it less relevant and won’t feel it’s targeted at them.
You might have heard me mention this once or twice before, but considering culture and local relevance is just as important as language. A piece of content might be perfectly translated but if the information in it has no meaning or relevance to the user, it will be useless. For example, education, healthcare and tax systems vary hugely between countries, so any content on those topics would need to be modified to reflect the local regulations, systems and structures; popular celebrities, sports stars and TV shows aren’t the same in each country; even the stores on the high street vary.
It’s not just cultural references that need to be considered. Have prices been converted to display in local currency? Are measurements showing in the correct units (think imperial or metric)? Are miles or kilometres the local way of showing distances? Failing to localise the content appropriately for each market you’re targeting will reduce the credibility of your brand as a local player and lose the interest of prospective customers.
Having local offices in multiple countries is quite common, particularly in larger organisations and these teams should be part of the content creation process. They are working in the market every day and will have a better understanding of what your audience there is interested in, as well as the specific terminology used for your products. Involving them in the process will not only give you a local perspective to help create more appealing content, but also ensure your content efforts are aligned with their activities and that they won’t object after you’ve produced it. (This happens a lot!)
When producing local content, you need to keep in mind the whole user journey. It’s all very well crafting a landing page for Japan with all of the relevant local signals and content, but if the user is then taken to a generic English page to make a booking or enquiry, you’ll dramatically reduce your chances of converting. It might not always be possible to localise every element of your website, but if you’re guiding potential customers on a certain route, think about what they’ll experience at each stage. It may be that you have an in-depth research report that you’re promoting in multiple languages but that is only available in English. If it’s not possible to translate it to other languages, make it clear at every stage so the user is aware and doesn’t feel disappointed or cheated.
Although I definitely advocate localising and creating content for each region you’re targeting, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to create local versions of every piece of content and every web page you have. Especially if you have limited resources, consider what will most useful and interesting to each target audience, and which content would be most likely to lead them to perform the desired action, be that enquiring, downloading, buying etc.. For example, there is no point in localising all product pages, if you aren’t able to sell all products in all markets and a research paper that focuses on Asian countries might not be particularly relevant for people in Latin America. Failing to think about what it is your audience actually needs from you, could result in you wasting a lot of time and money for no return.
One final point to mention is duplication, as this is a question that often comes up. If you’re localising existing content, such as your website, the different language versions of each page will not be considered as duplicates by the search engines. So while you need to make sure the content is adapted for the local audience, you don’t need to re-write or re-structure the message and the meaning of the page for the search engines.
Just like any element of international marketing, there isn’t a one size fits all solution to content creation. While you can – and should – utilise existing content where possible, you need to think about each target region individually to ensure you’re delivering content that will mean something to them, engage with them and ultimately help you grow your business.