Historically, English has been the single most widely used language online, so it’s tempting to have an English-only website to catch the interest of global users and customers. But a recent Gallup Study for the European Commission found that 42% of European Internet users admitted to never purchasing products or services online in any language but their own. A Common Sense Advisory report goes beyond the European landscape, sharing that translation to 12 languages is needed to effectively communicate with 80% of global online users.
To reach audiences from around the world, companies need to speak to users in their native language; the language they know best and can connect with. And one of the best ways to do this is to develop a multilingual digital content strategy. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few tips to guide you through the planning process.
Identify languages for translation
The first step in developing a multilingual content strategy is determining which languages you want to support. Take the time to dive into any existing data, identifying where current users and customers are, which international markets have potential, and which international markets may be too difficult to penetrate because of high competition or legal barriers. Companies that honestly evaluate their product offerings and position in the industry, and truly understand what their customers and users want will be able to create a successful and effective multilingual content strategy.
Determine what content to translate
One key piece of a successful multilingual content strategy is translating the right types of content. Aside from translating the top level marketing pages of your website like your homepage, product description pages, and pricing page to name a few, you’ll need to hone in on the pages that you think will support your multilingual expansion strategy. You’ll probably find yourself in one of two buckets:
- You already have international users and customers. To support your international audience, you may want to consider translating your help center which can allow your customers to answer their own questions, not to mention provide them with personalized customer service. Translating your blog is another great way to support customers if you’re blogging about helpful, relevant industry information.
- You want to gain international users and customers. If expansion into other languages is one of the main goals of your multilingual content strategy, your blog has the potential to rank in global search engines, driving additional users and traffic to your website. Neil Patel, co-founder of the analytics companies KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and Quick Sprout, shared that translating his website increased traffic by 47%!
Oftentimes, this step overlaps with determining what languages to support, so don’t rush this phase of the process. It’s the foundation for your content distribution success!
Create clear content goals
As with any type of strategy, it’s important to be clear about what you hope to achieve with each piece of content that you’re translating. Keep in mind that your company’s individual content goals will differ from the content goals of other companies, even your competitors, but may include any or a combination of the following:
- Increase product or brand awareness in another country
- Address a need for your product or service in another country
- Provide valuable product or service information to multilingual users
- Increase the number of website visits and overall traffic
- Increase leads, sales, and profit
As you identify your individual content goals, use this opportunity to figure out how you’re going to reach those goals and ultimately measure the success of your content. For instance, creating engaging blogs and sharing them with your social networks might be the best way to reach the goal of increasing product or brand awareness in a particular country. Additionally, counting the number of social shares for each blog post may be one small metric for gauging overall success. Outlining your goals and how you’re going to achieve them and measure success early on in the process provides you with a clear roadmap for the short and long term.
Review your current marketing message
From a marketing perspective, your website or app’s digital content already has its own personality, tone, and catchphrase or tagline. One of the biggest mistakes that content marketers make is assuming that the elements of a marketing message can be translated across different locales, languages, and cultures. If you don’t plan on crafting an entirely unique marketing message and campaign for each locale you’re targeting, the following tips can help you evaluate the global-readiness of your marketing message:
- Use clear language that avoids slang terminology or colloquialisms
- Be mindful of industry or company specific terms that may not translate easily
- Remove specific references to particular geographic areas
You’ll also want to spend time researching whether or not your core marketing benefit will resonate with customers outside your home country. One example of a failed marketing message is from American home improvement retailer, Home Depot. In 2006, the company entered the Chinese market, opening a handful of big-box stores that promoted the American-based motto of “easy, fast, do-it-yourself home improvement projects.” Unfortunately, Home Depot failed to realize that despite a growing middle class and a new generation of home buyers in China, the cost of labor is so inexpensive that people generally outsource their home improvement projects. Home Depot’s main messaging benefit didn’t speak to the average Chinese homeowner, and in fact, went against what most individuals in China were accustomed to.
It’s important that the core value benefits of your marketing message can be tied to the attitudes and customs of the customers in the global markets you want to enter. This way, you can be confident that your marketing campaigns are sharing the strong message you intended.
Select the appropriate content management tools
Having the right set of tools and systems can simplify the translation, localization, and distribution of multilingual content. Today, developers, marketers, and website owners have a number of content management systems (CMS) available to them to create, manage, and maintain digital content across various languages, with the most popular CMS being WordPress for its ease of use (WordPress can often be set up and run with little to no development help). There are a number of language plugins including our own, Transifex Live, which helps to automate the translation and localization process so you can have more time to focus on creating great website content.
Identify channels for content promotion
The final step in developing a multilingual content strategy is deciding how you’re going to promote your translated content and who is going to be responsible for the overall content marketing efforts. Some companies may choose to set up global offices in their target locales to gain insight from native speaking customers and employees in the region, as well as to ensure content marketing efforts take into account the target locale’s customs and buying preferences. This type of expansion can also be done in segments, creating a team in one locale and testing content, ad, and marketing promotion in the area before expanding into multiple locales.
For companies that are unable to support an on-site staff in their target locales, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium can be very powerful, connecting companies with customers from all over the globe and giving your content visibility among audiences that you wouldn’t be able to reach through traditional marketing channels. While many companies share content among multiple social media channels, selecting the channels for your business will really come down to where your customers are, which social media channels they’re most active on, and your company’s overall content goals.
Did we miss any multilingual content marketing steps? Share your thoughts in the comments section! And if you’re interested in learning more about translating your digital content, reach out to a Transifex team member who can answer your questions and help you schedule a free demo.