Blogging on the World Wide Web: Content Marketing for an International Audience by @SEOCopy

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The Internet may have made the world your marketplace, but taking your content marketing efforts to a global market isn’t without challenges. When you need to reach past your cultural norm and market to a different part of the world, what do you need to change about your content marketing efforts?

Take it from someone who speaks five languages and has lived in over 10 countries, there’s a little more to effective marketing in a different culture. Hopefully the following tips will get you started on the right track.

Know the Language

If you know your content is going to a particular market, make sure you know the language and its nuances well. Consider, for example, the difference between American and British English. There are terms in each language that don’t translate well into the other. Either learn to avoid them or know the voice that will translate correctly to your readers.

Hire a Native Writer

Look, when dealing with large sites I won’t even consider handling the translations. It’s just not a smart business move. Furthermore, even if you know the vocabulary of the intended reader, the tone and style used can be equally important. If you can’t learn the language or grasp its tone well, consider hiring someone who knows it like a native. You can have someone familiar with that culture edit your content or even write for you. The end result will present the message you want to deliver, while avoiding confusing language or problematic wording.

Check Literal Translations

If you want to take a branding phrase to a new market, make sure it translates well. Sometimes, word-for-word translations end up meaning something entirely different in a different language and culture.

Consider these examples:

  • “Got Milk,” the largely successful slogan from the Dairy Association, when translated into Spanish for the Mexican market, meant “Are You Lactating?”
  • When Coors tried to take its “Let it Loose” slogan to Spanish markets, they essentially told their readers that drinking their beer would give them “loose bowels”. Probably not the message Coors wanted to deliver.
  • The word “latte” in English means coffee of the coffee shop variety. In Italian it refers to milk. In German it has a sexual connotation. Not knowing this could be disastrous to your marketing of a “morning latte”.
  • When Pepsi turned their soda machines into an attractive light blue, it drew attention, but in Southeast Asia that attention was not the kind the soft drink company wanted. Unfortunately, Southeast Asian cultures view light blue as the color of death, and people were not willing to purchase the drink from those machines. Who wants to drink a tasty can of death, after all?
  • Finally, the Chevrolet Nova didn’t sell at all well in Central or South America. That probably had something to do with “no va” meaning “doesn’t go” in Spanish.

These are just a few rumored examples (some I’ve witnessed personally) of marketing translations gone wrong, but they point to the need to know not only what the words say, but also what else they may imply, when taking your marketing efforts to a new global demographic.

Know the Weather and Holidays

If you’re sending an email around Christmastime, don’t assume it’s going to be snowy at the target destination. In the southern hemisphere, for example, countries experience their “summer” around the December holiday season. If you’re going international, make sure your content reflects an awareness of the weather and holidays in the country you’re marketing to.

Don’t Try Too Hard

It’s tempting to work too hard to fit your content into a specific culture. While you’ll want to avoid statements that are too culturally specific, you need to remember that people are people, no matter where they live. If an article is effective to a U.S. audience, it’s going to be effective to a European audience Asian audience, in most instances, unless it’s culturally specific.

Remember, your goal is to stay consistent, but relevant. Take the time to learn your culture, but don’t work too hard at it. If you’re consistently providing value to your readers, your content marketing will be able to extend outside of your current culture to a new one.

Offering professional services in a language or culture to which you’re not native is a great deal more than simple translation (don’t even think about trying to get away with Google Translate). In order to provide value, you need to be thoroughly familiar with the considerations of the region’s international:

  1. SEO – search is handled differently in many regions of the world. Ranking algorithms, local listings and even technical capabilities can vary significantly.
  2. Copywriting – providing effective web copy for an audience in another culture is much more than proper spelling and grammar. Different cultures respond to different marketing styles and calls to action, and a perfectly acceptable word or phrase in one region might be very inappropriate in another.
  3. Lifestyle – the differences in local culture, predominant religion, climate, political situation and more all enter into the mix. A faux pas can damage your brand’s credibility, sometimes irreparably so.

In conclusion after having done over 100 International SEO audits and marketing campaigns, I can tell you don’t underestimate the importance of “sensitivity” to the many differences that exist between regions and cultures when practicing international SEO or marketing. It’s not a matter of what seems important to you – it’s that audience that matters.

Want more SEO tips? Check out Level343 Blog for awesome insights from Gabriella, or you can follow her on Google+!

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About Gabriella Sannino
For the past fifteen years Gabriella has held positions as a consultant, web developer and creative director until she decided it was time to open Level 343, an SEO and copywriting company. She fancies herself an Italian rocker, rebel and SEO geek. She loves singing in the shower and keeps a notepad next to her bed.

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