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You’ve probably heard the saying that content is king. The demise of content marketing has been predicted for a while now but a 2015 poll asked marketers to name the digital marketing technique they thought would make the biggest commercial impact over the year. Content marketing came top for the third year running, getting more than twice as many votes as the second placed technique (leveraging big data) and almost three times as many as the third (marketing automation).

Content can take many forms and can be distributed via many different platforms. Social media profiles, blogs, YouTube channels and other formats can all play their parts but your company website is usually your single most important online asset. It serves as your virtual shop window and is often the first port of call for customers and contacts looking to make a purchase or simply find out more about you. It should also serve as a central hub that links all the spokes of your online presence and the content you present on your website should be both functional and engaging.

multilingual website content

The importance of localisation

If you’re aiming to make an international impact it’s also important to talk to your customers in a language they understand. It’s tempting to think that a single, English-only website will suffice. English does, after all, remain the single most commonly used language online and it does serve as a lingua franca or common language to a certain extent. It still represents only around a quarter of total usage however and in some growing markets, such as China and Latin America, even a basic understanding of English is rare.

Additionally, many consumers who do speak English use it as a second language and it’s generally much more effective to address them in their own native tongue. As Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Numerous studies also back up this thought. A Common Sense Advisory survey found that 60% of global online consumers said they rarely or never buy from English-language sites and that 55% only bought from websites in their own native language. Beyond direct e-commerce purchases, customers also prefer browsing, surfing and seeking out information in their own languages. Localising your website can also boost your visibility and SEO when it comes to local searches.

Not all content is equal

It’s important to understand that there’s more than one type of content and that each type has its own requirements and purposes. Relationship-building content could include social media posts or news and blogs that could be hosted on your site or on separate, though always linked platforms. Relationship-building content could also include ‘bonus’ materials such as white papers and case studies that can be made available for free or as an incentive for taking an action such as signing up for a mailing list.

Transitional content is designed to help customers progress from awareness of your brand to purchasing relevant products and could include product guides, descriptions and FAQs. Transactional copy is aimed at helping the customer to actually make that transaction and usually takes the form of ‘microcopy’ guiding them through the process.

Another type of content is user-generated content (UGC), which is increasingly important. A Nielsen survey of nearly 30,000 worldwide consumers found that more than two thirds (68%) said they trusted consumer opinions posted online.

Choosing the right solutions

Different types of content will often require different levels of localisation and you might sometimes need to balance the need for accuracy and tone against cost and speed. Your home page, for example, is of paramount importance and should be localised to the highest possible degree. This will generally involve working with native translators who might also require a degree of sector awareness and SEO.

You could also go beyond translation to transcreation; the process of adapting and recreating content so that it is suitable for a given target audience. Transitional and transactional content requires a high degree of accuracy and technical know-how, whereas user-generated content and some social media posts might not require quite the same level of care. Machine translation could suffice when it comes to content such as user reviews, especially if a high volume is constantly being generated.

Your website is the main way you represent your brand online and it’s important to get your multilingual content right. This doesn’t mean that every piece of content requires the same approach but each needs the right solution in order to fulfil its own individual function.

*Photo credits: Gonzalo Aragon / Shutterstock.com