Even though I don’t usually accept guest posts, and I get asked by a lot of people if they can do a guest post on this blog, I’ve made an exception for this one. Why? Because it wasn’t your typical post about SEO, keyword research or blogging tips and tricks. Nope, it was all about the importance of language when it comes to blogging. I touched on this subject a couple of years ago when asked the question, Do Yo KNow Your Niche’s Language.So, when Christian approached me with this particular post I decided to make an exception. I accepted it because I felt it covered a very important subject, one that I feel is somewhat lacking online. So, without further ado I give you….
How to Blog for International Audiences
Want to grow your blog readership? Then listen up. There’s a whole world of potential readers for you out there. The Internet is being transformed at a rapid pace. Look south: Brazil is the world’s second largest country on Twitter (by number of accounts) and 58.5 million Brazilians have Facebook accounts. Or east: last year Asia already represented 44.8% of global web users. Chinese is now close behind English as the Internet’s top language, with the languages of tech-savvy nations such as Japan, Korea and the Arab countries all in the top 10. It’s time for bloggers to stop limiting ourselves to ‘people like us’. Not only does this mean including other languages, it also has an effect on what we blog about and how we present it.
Identify Your Audience
The first step is to narrow down your market, and narrow it down you must. You can hone in on your target audience by demographic and niche interests, for example craft-loving women, or young male gamers. From here you can research the international markets that look most promising. Is your blog’s topic something that would do well in India, for example, or does the local culture and economy make it irrelevant? Ask these kinds of questions for each potential market. This research will give you an idea as to which languages and regions you will need to include in your strategy. If there’s too much home-grown competition in a region or if it’s unlikely you’ll find an audience there, focus your efforts on markets that offer better results.
Use the Right Keywords
Keywords are the way to let non-English speakers know your blog exists and is relevant to them. Translate your tried and trusted English keywords, and then use a keyword research tool to check that these terms are actually being searched for by speakers of that language. There could be better alternatives. Native speaker input is often invaluable here to be sure your keywords have the right meaning and are the best choice.
Impress with Your Translation
Which of these bloggers gives the right impression to speakers of other languages: the one who refuses to use any language but English; the one who has sloppy translations that confuse readers; or the one whose translations are polished and read naturally to the target audience, without being too formal or inappropriate? I think the answer’s clear. This isn’t just about being grammatically correct or using a dictionary. Hitting the right note is important. You wouldn’t use the same style of language to an Asian 20-something male music-lover as you would to his cookery-loving grandmother. If you want to fit in, you need to know what level of formality to adopt and what the local buzz-words are for your niche.
Be Interesting… Everywhere!
Do your readers in South America or the Middle East want to read about your Thanksgiving plans or the gossip about some minor celebrity from a national TV show? Now that you’ve gone to the trouble of translating and optimizing for overseas readers, give them some content they can care about. That might mean using a global trending tool such as Trendsmap for Twitter or the Trends Dashboard on YouTube. Participating on regional social media can also give you insights into what interests your overseas readers.
Make Connections via Social Media
Speaking of social media, it pays to have a presence on major sites in each key language for your blog. Resist the urge to tweet or post in multiple languages though. This will only confuse and annoy your network. All of the major social media players cater to international users and languages, and you are more likely to make valuable connections overseas by breaking out of your English-language bubble. For your major foreign-language markets, also take a look at new social networks emerging there. For instance, in Japan if you are not using Line you are already behind the times! Asian social media fans also enjoy image-heavy sites such as Pinterest and Instagram.
Design for Global Users
Korean Coke Site
The benefit of translating your blog is that you can also localize the different versions to suit cultural preferences. There can be a marked east-west split here. Asians, for instance, equate a busy, complex site with rich content and would find a minimalist Western style lacking. Culturally, bright colors and cute themes will perform better across Asia than in Europe or North America. Have a look at McDonalds’ German site with lots of clean white space and text. On the other hand, McDonalds China is a riot of colour, with animations embedded on the landing page and less text information for its visitors. The same can be said about Coca Cola’s Swedish site, simplistic design and only two further pages to choose from. Coca Cola Korea has plenty of images and a video ready to play, quite the opposite approach but does the job in Asia. After all this work, you need to know overseas users can view your blog the way you designed it. In the east, you are far more likely to come across old versions of Internet Explorer as the browser of choice, alongside local equivalents such as Maxthon. At the same time, high usage of mobile devices means you need to be mobile-friendly too. Identify and test for the browsers used by your target readers in order to reach as many of them as possible.
Christian Arno is the founder of translation agency Lingo24, Inc.
Launched in 2001, Lingo24, Inc. now has more than 180 employees spanning four continents and clients in more than 60 countries. Follow Christian on Twitter: @l24ca.
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