When creating content, it pays to think big. Publishing online gives us access to a readership that’s almost too large to imagine. Do it right and your words could be read by people in places you might never even have heard of.
While a global readership might seem like something most of us dream of, with a little know-how it’s something that you too can achieve.
Decide Who You Are Talking To
When you write for the web, you aren’t just pushing out content at random. You are engaging with others, convincing them to buy into your idea or product. With this in mind, it helps to know who you are trying to reach and which parts of the world you want to expand to.
For example, your ideal reader could be a female entrepreneur, or you might want to address a young music lover. Going global makes your pool of readers much larger, so your female entrepreneurs might include women in Brazil, and your music loving youth could be reading in East Asia.
Keeping a tight focus on your target demographic as you go global will let you reach more of the kind of people that interest you. It also helps your budget go further. Are you looking to connect with female entrepreneurs in South America but less so with similar women in China? Then make your content culturally and linguistically suited to the South American readers, instead of spending time and money trying to reach everyone.
Embrace the Multilingual Web
Forget the idea that everyone online speaks English. Although English is often used in the corporate world as a linguistic go-between, internet users are a far more diverse crowd. The web is also more informal and driven by social connections.
Even people in countries who have strong English skills as a second language will prefer to engage with others in their native tongue. In fact, a 2011 survey by the European Commission found that although 48% of non-English speaking Europeans occasionally read English-language content, 9 out of 10 users preferred to visit sites in their own language.
This makes translation of your content a priority. Make good use of your budget by first figuring out which languages need to be top of your list. In our South American example, Spanish and Portuguese would be essential for getting your message across. If Europe is your key market, you’re likely to find German or French better languages to start with.
Take Languages Seriously
If you don’t get serious about translation, your foreign-language readers won’t get serious about your content. They will be too busy laughing at your language slips, if they stick around at all.
We all know of corporate giants who managed to offend or became a laughing stock thanks to poorly-translated slogans. The rest of us needn’t think we will do any better. Unless you are genuinely bilingual and up to date with current usage, you will miss hidden meanings. It’s also easy to opt for what seems the right word choice, when in fact it means something entirely different (for example, in German the word Gift means poison).
Native speaker knowledge will make sure you don’t sound out of touch or leave readers confused. Accurate linguistic choices will also help your SEO by keeping your keywords relevant. Cutting corners here, on the other hand, could leave search engines as confused as your foreign-language readers.
Understand Cultural Differences
The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that while people worldwide are becoming less trusting of what they read, ‘a person like yourself’ has become the most trusted source of information. Your job is to be that trusted person to your reader, no matter where in the world he or she is.
Localization is an essential part of becoming ‘one of us’ in another culture. Using words and expressions that local people use makes your content more accessible. Being in touch with important cultural events or hot topics can be useful too. Of course, offending people is never a good idea and cultural knowledge also can guide us around dangerous topics or inappropriate language.
Show You Care
Now that you’ve opened up your content to overseas readers, make them feel welcome. Avoid anything that places your English speaking crowd above foreign-language speakers. For example, aim to respond to all comments, not just those in English. If you offer a way for people to contact you, make sure it doesn’t exclude certain time zones or languages. Showing you care about all your readers helps you to build a good online reputation.
Write with other cultures and languages in mind and you’ll be saying Wilkommen, bienvenido and yōkoso to international readers in no time!
About the author:
Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, Inc., one of the world’s fastest growing translation services. Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has over 180 employees spanning three continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated over 60 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including the likes of MTV, World Bank and American Express. Follow Lingo24, Inc. on Twitter: @Lingo24. Cont@ct Christian here.