If you’re thinking about expanding internationally, your online presence is something you can’t afford to overlook. Recent reports published by Statista, state that the worldwide eCommerce market is seeing steady growth, predicted to reach $4.5 trillion in 2021. In addition, with the increase of mobile sales, North America alone saw a 16% increase of ecommerce sales to $500 billion. The message is clear – the internet offers brands huge opportunities to reach new markets and increase sales. But how do you stand out in an already crowded online world?
From compelling onsite copy to blog posts, digital content is a powerful way to optimize your site for key terms, build brand advocacy and drive sales. This guide answers 3 core questions about creating digital content for international business expansion. It’s also available in a downloadable eBook which you can access here: Digital Guide to International Expansion
The Business World is Going Global
Just looking around you makes it clear that then business world has gone global. From your US-made Apple iPhone to your Swedish-made Ikea office furniture, the days when all of your possessions were made in US are over.
In the early 1950s, Peter Drucker was the first person to introduce the notion of ‘globalization’, which essentially refers to the way in which technology, such as the internet, has allowed the world to become increasingly interconnected.
Throughout the 1980s, this interconnectivity made it possible for companies to operate internationally on a previously unseen scale. Globalization shaped the economic landscape, creating global markets geared for standardized products – and there were huge rewards for companies that successfully infiltrated them.
However, at the beginning of the 21st century, there was a backlash against these standardized strategies and the perceived cultural imperialism they represented.
Big brands realized that they were alienating overseas customers, and in response, they developed strategies that took cultural differences into account, such as Coca Cola’s “think global, act local” marketing strategy.
The message of this story is simple. Globalization and the internet have dramatically lowered the barriers to entering new marketplaces. However, if you don’t communicate with customers in their voice and take cultural differences into account, you risk losing out to local competitors – and this is just as true when it comes to digital content
Is Your Business Ready for Online Expansion?
This is the first thing you need to consider before investing in a multi-lingual site. After all, there’s no point in taking this step if there’s no overseas interest in your products or services, or if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with overseas customers.
Do stats and analytics indicate that your site is of interest to an overseas audience?
Does your product travel well, or will it need adapting for different markets?
Do you have the infrastructure to deal with overseas business?
A gradual ecommerce roll-out, or testing online sales before you invest in a physical presence in the country, can be a good way to test the water. For example, we’ve seen some of our bigger clients partner with other companies, before going it alone.
Can you maintain good customer service for overseas customers?
You should offer the same standard of customer service to foreign language customers as you would to English-speaking customers. For example, will they be able to speak to a customer service representative as quickly and easily as someone in the UK?
K International offer infrastructure consultancy and telephone interpreting services to help you maintain customer service standards, no matter where your customers are based.
Do you have the financial resources to expand your business?
Taking the time to consider these issues, will help you to avoid problems further down the line.
What to Consider Before Investing in Multi-Lingual Content
As previously mentioned, digital content is a great way to optimize your site for key terms, build brand advocacy, drive sales and reach customers who may not otherwise discover your products and services.
However, producing content that will resonate with your different international audiences is about much more than sticking it into Google Translate.
Do you understand the cultural barriers within which you and your business operate?
A content strategy that works well in the US could have a completely different impact elsewhere, possibly even causing offence. For example, in traditional Japanese culture, sarcasm doesn’t exist (at least, not in the way we understand it) – so your witty, sarcastic blog post could leave a Japanese audience stumped!
An in-depth understanding of local culture, assumptions and biases is essential.
Do you have procedures and developers in place to manage the alternate language variations?
If you’re planning to regularly update your site with multi-lingual content, having the correct procedures in place, as well as a developer who can manage the process, will keep things running smoothly and avoid any SEO pitfalls.
Do you understand regional laws?
Digital content is, essentially, a form of advertising. So, it’s important to understand regional laws relating to advertising and sales tactics and how they could affect the content you produce.
For example, in some parts of the world, advertising related to certain types of products (a common example is pharmaceutical products) is subject to approval by various governing bodies.
Sales promotions tactics, such as contests and premium offers, are also often regulated.
Do you require complete site translation?
Depending on your business, you may not require complete website translation. In some circumstances, translated microsites and landing pages can be implemented to serve foreign language regions, enabling you to keep costs down, while still targeting foreign markets.
Do you need specialist support?
Creating digital content for an international audience is a big undertaking, with many complex considerations. K International can offer specialist support and advice on legal, cultural and procedural issues.
Essential Ingredients for a Successful Multi-Lingual Content Strategy
Great Content Speaks in the Language of its Audience
#1 Website Translation and Localization
You’d be surprised how often we get asked “can’t I just use Google Translate?” The answer is: of course you can, but the shortcut you’ve taken will be painfully obvious. Google’s a smart company and Google Translate is a smart tool, but that’s all it is – a tool. It can’t take into account your target audiences’ culture and it can’t re-interpret the nuances of what you’ve written, so that the original message is faithfully conveyed.
Remember the example of sarcasm not existing in Japan? Put a blog post containing sarcasm into Google Translate, and what comes out will seem odd to a Japanese audience.
This is where specialist translation agencies, such as K International, come in. Our expert translators are all native speakers, with an in-depth knowledge of the local culture and legal regulations. This means that they can break your message down, understand the external influences in the target region, apply relevant legislation and put it back together again – a complex process that tools can’t perform in isolation.
Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business. In simple terms, your brand is your promise to customers, telling them what they can expect from you and your services, as well as differentiating you from your competitors.
Therefore, a successful multi-lingual site is about more than just translating the content in line with the target audiences’ culture – your brand values need to be faithfully recreated in every sentence. This involves carefully considering factors such as tone and imagery, something that an experienced translator will be trained to do.
Consider whether you can commit to adopting the same approach for all updates to your multi-lingual content
#3 Multi-Lingual SEO
When you’re creating any digital content, search engine optimization is something you can’t afford to overlook. It essentially involves optimizing the site, so that it appears higher up in your target audience’s search results – and this makes it easier for them to find it.
There are a number of recommended SEO actions for multi-lingual content:
Determine URL structure and where site variants will be hosted
For example, where “xx” is the country code, do you want www.domain.xx, xx.domain.com or www.domain.com/xx? We usually recommend the latter, and that you physically host each variant of the site in the country you’re trying to attract visitors from.
Build links from local domains
Link-building plays an important part in improving rankings, as it informs the search engines that your site is of value to others. The higher the quality of the site that links to you (usually in terms of its Domain Authority), the more valuable their vote of confidence is.
However, bear in mind that many SEO experts believe that links will start to count for less in the future, with other factors, such as the quality of content, becoming equally as important.
Monitor local keywords
All great content speaks in the language of the audience it’s written for – and this is essentially what keyword optimization achieves. Keyword analysis tools offer an insight into the language your target audience are using to find content, and using similar language will help them to find your site, as well as making the content itself more resonant.
Optimizing for Google isn’t enough
When it comes to multi-lingual SEO, bear in mind that the most popular search engines may differ to those in the US. For example, in Russia a popular search engine is Yandex, while in China there’s Baidu.
Make sure your content is mobile-friendly
Mobile search is growing. According to HubSpot, in certain parts of the world, mobile queries are now surpassing desktop. Plus, in 2018, Google introduced Mobile-First indexing, meaning that the mobile version of content is predominantly used for indexing and ranking since the majority of users search through mobile.
#4 Recreating Your Message for Different
Demographics aka. Website Transcreation
Although there are some similarities, localization and transcreation are distinct processes. Transcreation takes the idea behind your English-language content and re-creates the message to meet the specific needs or desires of the target audience.
The key word here is recreates. The process involves a greater degree of creativity than translation and localization, and it will often be necessary to go back to the original brief, or even completely redesign the campaign to target a different demographic.
Transcreation is often consumed by advertising and marketing professionals, with the translation industry providing local-language knowledge, in-country management, translation memories and workflow technologies.
We’ve utilized this process for everything from taglines to copywriting – and while it can often take several days to transcreate a couple of words, the benefit in terms of the cultural resonance of content is priceless.
Get content professionally translated by local subject matter experts
By this point, this should go without saying. There’s no substitute for local knowledge and, even within a country, there can be regional differences in language and cultural norms. An expert translator will be able to advise you on things like local colloquialisms and humour, as well as steering you away from any potential pitfalls.
Understand your audience and what topics or imagery may not work
When you’re creating content for a multi-cultural audience, the little details matter. Imagery, colors, holidays, religions, sports and superstitions all have the ability to alienate your audience.
For example, in China white is associated with death, so western wedding imagery may fail, while football is played differently in America, Europe and Australia.
Make sure you have an in-depth understanding of your audiences and the kinds of topics that won’t resonate with them all. If you have the resources, carrying out detailed cultural profiling is recommended.