Content marketing — the use of relevant and valuable content like blog posts, infographics and other resources to advertise a brand — has quickly become a popular technique for marketers. The strategy is often cheap, scalable and useful for brands of all sizes, making it particularly attractive as an advertising method across industries.
Even highly effective marketing strategies can run into challenges, however. Going international complicates just about every aspect of a business — from handling money to paying employees to shipping goods.
Content marketing also becomes more complex when you start targeting audiences outside your home country. Barriers like dialect, regional product differences and varying standards or legal codes may mean that content which is both highly valuable in relevant in one country may not be useful or accurate even a few dozen miles away.
Fortunately, an international content marketing strategy isn’t impossible, and these challenges don’t make the approach cost prohibitive. Instead, slight tweaks to your domestic strategy can prep your marketing team for international content marketing.
Start With Audience Research
A quick review of your current customer base is always a good step, but it’s particularly important when you’re advertising to a global audience.
This information will inform just about every aspect of your marketing — like what languages you publish content in or which national legal developments you keep track of.
Once you’ve finished this research, you should identify how well your current strategy is meeting audience needs. Are there languages or dialects you aren’t publishing in? Are there countries or regions whose consumers have unique needs that you haven’t addressed in your content so far? Reviewing audience satisfaction and engagement along with location may help you answer some of these questions.
You may find that, for example, customers in certain regions may be much less likely to engage with your content, or more like to bounce after arriving at your website. Both statistics may suggest that your content marketing strategy isn’t being revived well by customers in certain areas.
If you are looking for ways to expand beyond your current market, this research can also help you identify areas where consumers have demonstrated interest in your brand’s offerings. You may have an easier time expanding into those areas.
Knowing Your Audience
Once you’ve identified the international audience you want to target, you should start researching cultural differences that may have an impact on your marketing’s effectiveness. Are your brand colors associated with the same values abroad as they are at home?
Knowledge of local holidays and celebrations may also help you more effectively organize promotions and create seasonal content. While some holidays — like Christmas — have been exported around the world as a kind of semi-secular consumer holiday, appealing to local holidays may make for more effective content.
Translating Your Content
Once you’ve broken down your audience into segments based on location and language, you can begin determining which languages to target. Generally, the largest groups of consumers will be the best to target, but there are exceptions to this. You may find that certain consumer segments, despite being smaller than others, have more money on hand and typically spend more than their counterparts in other countries. Targeting these wealthier segments may be a good idea, even if they’re not the largest audience grouping that you’ve identified.
When translating content, some elements should stay the same no matter the context or dialect — or, at least, they should be translated with care. Brand names and terminology, for example, should be kept consistent where possible.
Other elements will need to be tweaked both for readability and marketing. Your SEO strategy should be adapted both based on different language as well as location. For example, if you have international physical retail locations, local SEO can help build awareness about those stores.
If you are targeting consumer segments in countries that speak the same language as your home audience, you may be tempted to consider their needs met. After all, if you have any existing content, they can almost certainly read it without difficult.
For almost every language, however, speakers aren’t guaranteed to be talking in the exact same way. You also need to account for dialects. Figures of speech that read perfectly well in American English, for example, may make little to no sense to a reader in India, Britain or Nigeria.
While you can adopt an international dialect that sounds mostly correct to a given audience, no matter where they are, it may come across as a little dry.
If your brand voice is highly professional and polished, a formal, international dialect may feel appropriate. For some companies, however, the stiffness and careful language of this speech may work against brand voice or values. For a company that’s adopted a playful, witty, or down-to-earth persona, an international dialect may come across as somewhat aloof or unfitting.
An international dialect also won’t account for issues like differing standards or product availability. A piece of content for a certain audience may need to mention region-specific concerns to be fully informative and relevant.
If your business can afford it, consider hiring content creators who are fluent in the dialects you want to target — especially if you have large audience segments grouped in countries with highly distinct dialects. Providing your content team with information on your audience’s location can also help them more effectively research and develop content with information that’s localized for target countries or regions.
You should also keep this idea in mind if you are translating content for audience segments that speak the same language but different dialects. For example, it’s worth accounting for the differences between European and American Spanish or Portuguese.
Lastly, watch out for formatting in translated pages. Your content may be significantly longer or shorter in some languages. Your company’s content team may need to tweak page designs and infographic layouts to compensate.
Using the Channels That Matter Most
Once you’ve localized or translated your content, you’ll need to determine where and how that content will be published. A significant portion of your content will likely be hosted on your website. For this reason, it’s important to have options on your site that allow users to select their country or language. You could also consider site script that automatically detects consumer location based on IP and adjusts language settings to match.
Social media, PPC ad campaigns and other marketing methods that offer targeting features can be useful here. Often, it’s possible to use these platforms to very specifically target international customers. With the right options, you can serve ads to consumers in specific countries and further specify your audience based on other information, like income, age and interests.
International customers, however, may use different channels than consumers at home. While a social media giant like Facebook is generally a good idea if you want to reach the most clients, it’s not guaranteed to be the best option. Chinese customers, for example, don’t have access to Facebook and prefer to use platforms like Qzone and Weibo. Russian consumers also use their local social media platform, VK, more than Facebook.
Even if your customers don’t use different platforms, they may still have unique preferences that affect how they look for information. A study of search habits among Lithuanian and Turkish students, for example, found that while both groups were likely to use search engines to research products, Lithuanian students were much more likely to use blogs and forums than Turkish students.
When deciding on how you’ll publish and advertise your marketing content, quickly review your audience data. You may find that customers in certain regions prefer some channels much more than others — giving you the opportunity to use the platforms and advertising methods that will be most likely to succeed.
In some cases, if you have a particularly large audience segment outside your home country, creating additional social media profiles for different countries or regions can help you reach that audience. International social media profiles can also help streamline customer service operations.
How to Measure Success and Update Your Content Marketing Strategy
Once you’ve created the base of your international content marketing strategy, you should regularly review its success.
Web analytics data will help you know if your strategy is effective. Statistics like bounce rate and session time segmented by audience location can show you if your approach is encouraging international customers to stay on your site. A noticeable increase in traffic from a target international audience may also be a good sign that your content marketing technique is reaching consumers outside your business’s home country.
Surveys of customers in target regions can also provide extra insight. If your content team has overlooked a major cultural difference, or if content hasn’t been translated or localized effectively, the answers your customers provide to quick email surveys may give you some notice about these issues.
Preparing Your Content For International Audiences
An international audience can make a content marketing strategy harder to implement. Barriers like word choice, cultural differences and varying legal standards can all make content less valuable to visitors outside your business’s base of operations.
These challenges, however, don’t make content marketing to international audience impossible. Instead, you’ll need to work with your marketing team to develop content that appeals across borders. Localization, translation and the right marketing channels can all help you prepare content for visitors from around the world.