Having a robust multilingual content strategy in place means giving continuity to your global presence whilst being as impactful as possible at a local level. It means adapting your content into local markets to give a message that’s both globally cohesive and locally relevant. Achieving this feat requires careful planning and a strong vision – as well as real knowledge and understanding of local markets.
Planning the implementation of your global campaigns for local audiences requires that above all you identify your specific audience accurately. At local level, it’s important to have robust customer personas in place so that you really understand local needs and expectations.
This should include an understanding of their personal challenges and obstacles, their aspirations, likely network etc. You’ll need to work out an engagement scenario that’s tailored to how your personas live their lives, where they are and what channels they are in.
Empathy needs to be high on your list of priorities. Achieving customer empathy in each local market helps you engage with that specific audience. Use that understanding of their worldview to create customer-centric content that drives engagement in that market.
It’s important not to be deceived by the term ‘multilingual’. A more appropriate term might be ‘multicultural’ because you’ll not only want to adapt the language of your campaigns but also tailor them to ensure they have the right cultural fit with local audiences.
This means reflecting the values and expectations of local markets as well as their language.
Your brand needs to spend time achieving cultural empathy in a market before you start producing content for that market. It’s the only way to achieve effective content that really engages that audience.
Not only is it more cost-effective to create content that really engages with its audience, it should also help your brand avoid making embarrassing and gauche mistakes that could potentially alienate it from its customers.
Having local subject matter experts, such as in a fully-staffed local office, is hugely advantageous. They can ensure content is tailored to local needs, either by creating it themselves or intelligently repurposing global content for their local audience.
If you’re not able to get boots on the ground locally, you can help insert yourself into the mentality of the market by following trends on social media. You should also consider hiring local translators and copywriters that have market exposure and can relate to the audience.
Getting multilingual content marketing right isn’t easy but neither does it need to be complex. Some of the most effective campaigns have been simple ones – Apple’s long-running ‘shot on an iPhone’ is a good example. Strongly visual campaigns like this tend to be effective, as well as fairly straightforward content to adapt into local markets.
Successful international campaigns like this one are united by a common campaign tagline. It’s important to be consistent with the brand phraseology you use, even when your content is in translation.
On a practical level, you may need to think about how the tone and length of your brand phrasing could work in translation. For example, Apple’s “Shot on iPhone 6” tagline has only 13 characters in English. In France, the campaign tagline “Photographié avec l’iPhone 6” has 25.
Winning at search
From a search perspective, it’s usually best to have separate websites for each local market. Each will have a country code top-level domain (eg .us) as appropriate for that market.
These should have country-specific content such as landing pages tailored to that market and the local search strategy. This is a better choice than just having local content in subdomains (or worse, subfolders) on your master site.
Google doesn’t seem to penalize you for content that’s duplicated but in multiple languages. That’s good news if you’re translating content into different languages but it doesn’t mean that translating your content into different languages is all you need to do to ace international search.
If you’re optimizing for multilingual content you’ll need to do dedicated keyword research for each region, and refine and localize your targeting in each geography. The main site content should be written for each market so it’s tailored to local needs and expectations.
Remember also to localize your metadata, including meta titles and image alt tags etc. Paying attention to details like this will demonstrate that you’re taking this market seriously.
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Users will be more inclined to click through from search results pages if they see tailored meta description text. Using targeted keywords for that locality in your metadata will also boost your search performance.
Research by the Content Marketing Institute found that the majority of global brands said increasing brand awareness was their main content marketing aim. There’s a huge number of brands battling for customer attention, making it even harder to get your brand’s name out there.
The best way to compete is with a well-crafted content strategy that’s deeply embedded into each market you’re active in. It’s an ongoing challenge and one that requires you to listen and learn in each market you’re trying to reach, as well as pumping out a stream of high-quality content all the time.
Having a robust multilingual content strategy in place is the only way to achieve content goals at both global and local levels.