Only 26% of Internet users speak English. At Embarque, our international team knows this all too well: Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, Indonesian/Malaysian, Portuguese, French, Japanese, Russian, and German, account for 51% of internet users worldwide. And since we are also always looking for new ways to help our customers succeed in this globalized world, we thought: why not use our mother tongues to create a service dedicated to content localization?
That's how I came to write this article: to present to you what localization is, why you need it if you are an international company, and how to go about it as simply as possible.
What Is Content Localization?
Localized content marketing is about taking marketing assets you already have―like blog posts or copywriting―to make them relevant to another audience located in a different country or region of the world.
It’s not a surprise to know that people around the world are very different. We all have different cultures, meaning we stand for different values and follow different habits and rituals. Not everyone shares the same daily routine as a US citizen, and obviously you need to take this into account when you sell a product to someone. That's what marketing is all about: to understand the customer’s needs to better address them.
Why Content Localization?
Four words: more quality organic traffic.
Take a look at our SEO work with TWISPER, a travel recommendations app.
Here, you’ll notice that many pages that are garnering search volume are essentially translated versions of the content we have published in English!
Translating your website in different languages is a fool-proof way to easily garner quality search traffic, especially when you’re in a hyper-competitive niche in your own language.
Targeting local markets is a way to increase your number of potential customers, so content localization helps you generate more revenues without reinventing your company’s whole business model. All you have to do is take existing products and adapt them just enough to fit other cultural norms, increasing your marketing return-on-investment.
Case in point, here's how difficult it is to rank for this query in English.Take the query “what is nft” for example:
86 in Keyword Difficulty is almost impossible to rank for, unless Google comes to trust you as a topical authority in NFTs. The same query in French tells a different story:
8 in Keyword Difficulty, much easier. While the search volume is significantly less, the traffic potential stays close. The quality of the traffic will also balance things out, as French people searching about NFTs, which are not as popular in France as in the US, are most probably engaged early adopters: it’s worth it!
Talking someone else's mother tongue goes a long way to create trust, loyalty and a long-lasting relationship. If you've ever done some traveling, you know the power of even just a few half-correct words. Creating content that is culturally-relevant increases engagement and improves conversion rates: a CSA study shows that 40% of consumers won’t buy in another language, and 65% customers prefer content in their native language.
Last but not least, we live in a globalized world. Things move fast, and things are expected to move faster. Businesses must constantly foresee and adapt to new market opportunities to stay relevant. In this race, content localization is an almost unfair competitive advantage, providing high returns and unique market insights in the long run.
What Is a Localization Strategy
A localization strategy tells you how content localization will serve your business goals, as well as the processes and tools to reach them.
- First-mover advantage: start today
Content marketing compounds. The earlier you start, the more returns you will get down the line. It will take weeks, if not months, for your SEO to show significant results. But what matters most is the first-mover advantage you will obtain by starting today, resulting in higher domain authority.
- Content prioritization: keep it simple
We all have constrained marketing budgets. To improve the likelihood of your content localization strategy to bring benefits, you might want to prioritize your content marketing activities instead of aiming in the dark.
You probably use marketing analytics tools like Google Analytics or Plausible to monitor your audience. Starting with an audience you already have will make your first experiments much easier, so head to your analytics dashboard, look at the breakdown of your visitors per country, and pick the biggest segment you are most familiar with, or the one that fits your business goals best:
Then, pick the content that resonates most with this audience, and make it a priority in your localization strategy.
- Translation: invest in quality over quantity
In SEO, you want both depth and breadth. If your budget is limited, focus on depth―quality. Quality will attract more readers and result in more customers. You do not want to compromise on that, so using Google Translate is out of the question to perform this step: hiring a translator is a no-brainer. Nothing screams “UNTRUSTWORTHY” as much as bad copy.
- Understand cultural context
It is vital to understand that localization implies more than mere translation: you need to account for the cultural context to make your content relevant. Take the query “film à la demande”, the grammatical French equivalent of “movie streaming”:
In reality, French people are more likely to search “film streaming”, mixing French and English. Cultural context matters a ton to get high quality traffic:
Examples, metaphors, and colors must also be adapted to the local context to create a memorable impression on the reader. Narrative values and structures vary too, depending on the community you are crafting a story for: while in the US the underdog individualistic narrative will probably create strong emotional responses, South-East Asian countries might better consider stories emphasizing the importance of family and community.
- Local keyword research
A good translator will not focus on a word-per-word translation of your content, providing grammatically correct variants instead. It’s always a good thing to bet on the quality of the text.
But a great translator will also act as a marketer and prefer terms and expressions that are relevant both grammatically and business-wise, stemming from serious keyword research.
Similarly, you cannot assume that Google is the de facto search engine used by your target audience. Local search engines need to be taken into account as well, which also influences your keyword research.
- Technical SEO: metadata and link building
You need to change a few things in your content management system or website builder for your business to meet the search engine requirements to localize content. All the aforementioned elements will be worthless without these technicalities.
First, the language of your web pages needs to be specified for search engines to effectively understand the nature of your content. You can do this with the modern lang attribute in your main <html> tag.
Then, you need to carefully consider three options to prepare your website for localization: using a subdomain, a subfolder, or a country code top-level domain (ccTLD).
The ccTLD option requires you to buy a new domain for each country you’re targeting. It’s the most expensive option, and your top root domain’s traffic will be diluted, but it makes everything easier to maintain since each localized website has its own digital identity. You will also get a local SEO boost from search engines. FInal caveat: you won’t be able to take advantage of your other domain’s SEO juice to rank fast for related queries.
Except if your technical setup doesn’t allow an easier option, avoid subdomains. Your traffic will be diluted among all subdomains, while adding complexity in terms of naming convention without any of the benefits of a ccTLD.
Lastly, the most common approach is to use subfolders to divide your website per country. This method is free and keeps your traffic concentrated in a single top-level domain (a .com, for example). It creates a single point of failure, however, as all the content lives on the same domain. With TWISPER, we used this route and had an incredibly easy time ranking on other languages, with the subfolders structured like this:
- Twisper.com → Main domain
- Twisper.com/language/blog (e.g., twisper.com/es/blog) → translated content pages
In all cases, you will also need to add appropriate metadata to your XML sitemap, and indicate alternative pages in your navigation links using the rel=”alternate” and hreflang attributes.
- Analytics: measuring success
You cannot have control over your marketing returns if you do not measure them: you will need an analytics tool to keep track of your audience change and see what works. Luckily, you can use Google Analytics to track how much traffic you’re getting from specific countries.
You can also check out our article on 6 local SEO tools to help you with this.
- Finance & Legal: consider local options
Payment methods differ between countries too. If your content integrates monetary call-to-actions, you do want your readers to be able to pay in the first place. Paypal in the US and Alipay in China, for example.
The same goes with legal specificities. Your content marketing practices cannot be the same in the US and in Europe, where GDPR regulates cookie and consent policies. Uber got into lots of troubles because of its aggressive expansion strategy: check in with the locals first!
Localization Strategy Example
Netflix is a great example of localized content marketing done right:
- First-mover - If I tell you “video-on-demand”, you immediately think of Netflix. That’s because Netflix has been around since 1997, while Disney+ arrived in 2017, Apple TV in 2019, and Amazon Prime in 2006. Netflix has a strong domain rating with traffic from multiple French-speaking countries:
- Content prioritization - When you look at how Netflix handles its production costs, you can see that local productions are always the first to go: Netflix always prioritizes high-quality content with the highest probability of success (popularity), as stated on the website:
- Quality translation - Netflix proposes alternative languages and subtitles for most movies, as well as quality website copy for most countries in the world, going as far as launching in 130 new countries overnight.
- Cultural awareness - Your Netflix movie feed adapts to your country. Indians are offered Bollywood movies in their recommended tab, while French are given the local production Lupin:
- Local keyword - One look in the source code of the French version of the website gives us a list of local keywords used by Netflix to boost their search rankings: “regarder films, films en ligne, regarder TV, TV en ligne, séries TV en ligne, regarder séries TV, streaming films, streaming séries TV”―but Netflix still fails to rank for queries with higher traffic potential, probably resulting from poor translation efforts:
- Technical SEO - Netflix uses subfolders for each region and language combination of the world, allowing for geo-targeting and organic SEO boosts from the main domain to the local versions:
- Finance & legal - As a French user, I can see Netflix has a satellite company in Paris to deal with all issues related to GDPR―which ultimately establishes trust with locals:
Hire Embarque for your content localization needs
Convinced? If you need any help with your content localization strategy, Embarque can help you figure it out. We have dedicated specialists for French, Spanish, and German markets, but we also know how to quickly source people to adapt to your content needs. This is our specialty.
And it's pretty simple too. Just buy a monthly content package and we will handle everything for you: no difficult hiring process, no coming and going between different people with different skills, just tell us what you want and you’ll get it!