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How to localise content at scale: 10 tips for marketers

May 12, 2021 Digital channels

One of the biggest challenges facing international marketers is how to localise content at scale. Producing quality content tailored to local audiences across multiple markets involves a high degree of effort. How do businesses do it in a way which is cost effective and doesn’t overwhelm internal teams?


Firstly, why localise at all?

Localising content makes commercial sense. A 2020 study by the Common Sense Advisory, which looked at large, representative samples of consumers in 29 countries, found that:

• 40% won’t buy from e-commerce websites in another language.

• 65% prefer content in their own language.

• 73% want to read product reviews in their own language.

• 30% never buy from English-only websites, and another 30% say they do so only rarely.

In short: international marketers who don’t have a content localisation strategy for target markets are missing out on a sizeable opportunity.


What’s the difference between translation and localisation?

The terms ‘translation’ and ‘localisation’ are sometimes used interchangeably but they are in fact different things:

• Translation involves changing text from one language to another, so its meaning is equivalent.

• Localisation is a much more comprehensive process, which involves making sure your content is fit for purpose for your target audiences in different countries. This goes well beyond translation to take account of cultural and non-textual elements as well as language. Localisation ensures that cultural nuances and consumer preferences by market – for example, in lifestyles, values, beliefs, religion, food, purchasing behaviours and more – are reflected in your content.

Translation is the minimum a business can do when targeting international audiences. But to build a high-quality global customer experience that leads to enduring brand loyalty in your target markets, localisation is the answer.


Ten tips for content localisation

So where to begin? Let’s assume you’re starting from scratch, and break it down step by step:


#1: Understand your best performing markets

Begin by drawing up a list of your priority markets. This will involve analysis of your existing international traffic:

• Use Google Analytics and other SEO tools to understand which markets are driving traffic already.

• This will give you an understanding of which markets to localise into, and what channels to focus on.

• You can take a deeper dive into the specific regions and pages which appear to be driving the most interest and site visits.

• Understanding the order of market priority will help you allocate resource.


#2: Carry out localised keyword research in your target markets

Once you have a sense of which markets to target, it’s time to carry out local keyword research. Don’t simply translate your existing English keyword research:

• How audiences understand, describe, and search for your product is likely to vary by market. Simply translating your existing English keywords may mean you miss the biggest opportunities.

• Find out the level of competition for your localised keywords so you can decide where to focus your efforts.


#3: Understand the digital landscape in your target markets

Facebook and Google are popular all over the world. But so are other social media platforms and search engines:

• Each market has its own digital landscape – involving different platforms and user behaviours.

• Bear in mind that different search engines may require different optimisation techniques, which could affect how you approach content localisation.

• Understanding how your target audience consumes digital media in your target markets will help you decide where and how to publish your content.


#4: Start small – and build from there

Content localisation, done properly, can involve extensive time and resources. To mitigate risk, consider taking an agile approach to testing new markets:

• Rather than localising everything up-front, you could start with some localised paid search campaigns built on target market keywords that link to your English language site.

• When you can see demand, this builds the case for localising a landing page, providing key information on shipping, returns and more.

• In turn, this builds a broader business case for deeper localisation of both your site and other marketing channels.

• Approach localisation in stages – e.g. Priority 1 markets, then Priority 2, Priority 3, and so on.

• Your budget may not allow you to localise everything, and that’s okay – consider what will have the biggest impact in each market and be selective. That said, it’s useful to think about the customer lifecycle – discovery, education, purchase, post-purchase, advocacy – and what content you could create for each stage.


#5: Decide the types and style of content

What types of content are popular in your target markets? Use Local In-Market Experts to guide you:

• What content formats perform best for your target audience – video? White papers? Long form? Short form?

• What content are your competitors publishing? What’s performing well for them? Use SEO tools to provide competitive insight.

• What nuances around tone or humour should you bear in mind? Remember, some languages are more formal than others, and what is considered humorous in one market may fall flat in another.

• What cultural factors affect visual imagery? Images which resonate in one market may not make an impact in another or worse, could even cause cultural offence.


#6: Create a flexible and scalable content plan

Sometimes, marketing teams can create more content than is needed for one market but not enough for others:

• Develop realistic content calendars for each market and design a team structure and workflow to deliver them.

• Content governance is critical – this is where content marketing can often fall down – so it’s worth investing time in defining roles and responsibilities and processes.

• Designing a future-proof multilingual content model for your organisation will probably involve trial and error to get it right.

• Ultimately, it’s about finding the right blend of centralised efficiency with the essential involvement of Local In-Market Experts.

• Whilst respecting cultural nuances, look for commonalities across markets – in subject matter, product relevance, and audience behaviour – to identify content which can be repurposed and republished across markets.


#7: Balance budget constraints with local expertise

No brand has infinite resources. Successful international content marketing is about generating the biggest impact possible within your budget. That said:

• Avoid the temptation to use automated translations. Whilst technology has come a long way, machine translations will still leave you with largely literal translations and could contain embarrassing (and potentially expensive) mistakes.

• Automated translations may be cheaper – but if they result in low-impact content which does not resonate with audiences, then it’s a false economy and money wasted.

• It is always better to use human, native speakers who are based in market – who can make sure that language, visuals, style, tone, and references are all on point.

• That said, if you are already using customer service chatbots on your site, then ensuring these are multilingual is an obvious localisation must-have.


#8: Be authentic to local audiences

Being authentic to your local audiences goes beyond using the right words and phrases:

• Other elements to consider include: imagery, page layouts, how colours are perceived across cultures, check out forms bearing in mind address formats differ, expectations around delivery times and payment methods, how clothing sizes vary by market, legal and regulatory issues, date formats, and so on.

• There are also SEO elements to localise – URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, menu and navigation elements, image alt tags etc.

• It’s also essential to understand the key cultural and retail dates in each market, around which you can base marketing activity. Oban’s international calendar for marketers is a useful free resource you can use.


#9: Prioritise SEO

Although Google is the dominant search engine globally, search engines vary around the world, which has implications for your content strategy:

• Before localising your content, understand the search engine landscape in each of your target markets – not just Google but also Bing, Yandex, Naver, Yahoo! Japan, Baidu and so on.

• Understand the best practices for SEO for the relevant search engines.

• As you localise your content, use these SEO insights to guide which keywords and key phrases you use, and how you structure your content.


#10: Promote your localised content

Once you’ve produced your localised content, you need to promote it. Lack of content promotion is a big reason why so much content marketing fails to cut through:

• Localised content allows you to have an ‘always on’ paid amplification programme across search and social media.

• Again, platforms vary by market – it’s not just about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – a Local In-Market Expert can advise you on relevant platforms in your target markets.

• Work with local media and influencers to generate news coverage, links and citations and create business impact.

. . .

The right content localisation partner can help

Creating locally relevant content can help your business increase conversions and build a valuable relationship with your target audience. Although the task can sometimes seem daunting, the right localisation partner can help make it manageable. To find out how Oban’s network of Local In-Market Experts – LIMEs – can create competitive advantage for your business, please get in touch.

Az Ahmed

Az Ahmed | Marketing Manager

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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