At first sight, multilingual content marketing sounds like a dream come true. Yet another target market where folks just happen to speak another language. More people = more brand awareness = more business, right? 

Since you found this blog post, you probably already had a feeling that multilingual SEO is not that easy. Maybe that instinct was accompanied by traumatizing memories of your Spanish teacher trying to hammer into your brain why the moon is female and the sun is male.

If that’s what kept you from adapting content localization so far, fear not. We won’t be able to unriddle grammatical genders for the languages of the world, but we’ll give you all the tools you need to let your brand break down the language barrier, whether in Switzerland or Sweden.

How Localization Can Multiply Your Content Strategy’s ROI

Before you dust off your old dictionary to prepare yourself, let’s take a moment to understand your benefits of a multilingual content marketing strategy, not just those of your potential customers.

Better Target Audience Definition

If you gobble up your market research like Hershey Bars, good for you! It shows you’re committed to personalizing your marketing content and serving a diverse audience. But what if someone told you that parts of your global audience have never heard of a Hershey Bar or Twizzlers, but they do know Kit Kat?

What sounds like basic competitive research for a chocolate bar manufacturer actually translates to your references and content marketing opportunities across different regions. This type of analysis is a huge part of multilingual marketing. Your target audience may not have heard of a famous comedian, a building or a recent law. So putting in the time protects your brand from investing in global marketing campaigns that would bring results in your market but don’t translate well.

Conversion Optimization

As you show empathy with potential customers throughout the copy, your conversion rates will naturally improve. However, that means you’ll need to play to their specific local interests in their native language.

Maybe you’re already doing that in English, swapping a “color” for “colour” and researching local ranking factors. On an international scale, it’s an entirely different game, though.

A Mexican lead might pay more attention to you changing “coche” to “carro” or “móvil” to “celular.” One German lead might be worried about complying with the GDPR. Maybe they’d read an English blog post, and the thing hurting your conversion rate the most would be skipping your privacy policy. But that doesn’t mean you can assume that for every German reader. The Bavarian might speak English just fine, whereas the client in Brandenburg, statistically speaking, could struggle even to understand English.

All those details should ideally feed into an adjusted version of your digital marketing, from local reference jokes or dialects to an emphasis on the topics each client cares about the most. 

Enhanced Customer Experience

Imagine walking up to the counter in your favorite deli and the clerk suddenly addresses you in Polish. They may be incredibly helpful, but you’d probably be eyeing the exit, pondering whether you can get your beloved tuna sandwich at the store next door.

Yes, it’s true, English is a world language, but 75% of the world’s population doesn’t speak it at all. Localized content and customer service are the best ways to broaden your reach, enrich your brand and show awareness of those customers.

Increased Brand Reach and Credibility

Picture this. For years, you’ve told a close friend about your passion for baseball, and when they show up at the door for your birthday party, they hand you … a guide about knitting. 

Nobody would blame you for deleting those friends from your contact list. And granted, you don’t invite your favorite brand to your BBQ party, no matter how “spicy” their social media marketing is. However, it does feel good when someone just gets us, brand or friend.

If your enterprise understands how to react to recent trends in local culture through effective multilingual content marketing, you can immediately build credibility and rapport with your followers and fight less of an uphill battle to convert them.

Search Visibility and Higher Engagement

If you do know a second language, you’ll be aware that translating word by word will convey basic meaning but not feel like you and your opposite are exactly in sync. It’s the same in a website translation.

The keyword for which you’re optimizing your English marketing material may simply not exist in another language. Maybe three terms carry different connotations or you can’t use it in a headline because that would make it too long for international search engine optimization. Welsh and English speakers can’t even agree on a scale from black to gray. Imagine how that problem scales once you get into something as technical as a “content management system.”

With the proper research on your competitors’ language use and customers’ search patterns, you can determine how local markets evolve and adjust your international SEO efforts accordingly, thus boosting engagement.

Accurate Research Insights

Thorough research can make or break marketing translation, and in some cases, even predict the success of your product in local markets. Let’s say you’re currently advertising to private schools in the U.S., and now you’d like to reach across the Pond to see how your offering does in European schools.

While many pain points will certainly remain the same, adding a new flag to your animated video probably won’t do the trick. The students in Italy may not wear uniforms, and the school in Germany may not even have a flagpole to begin with. They might go by bike or be brought by car, rather than take the bus.

If not showing a diverse student body might feel unrealistic or offensive, describing a pain point teachers just don’t have is simply bad business. With accurate research, you can safeguard your marketing strategy and avoid those missteps.

Learning From Content Marketing’s Most Famous Translation Fails

Now, you may think, “That all sounds bien, but how do I know you’re not just making that up?”

Lucky for you, there’s an endless list of brands that have already made those mistakes within their multilingual marketing strategy. 

As we mentioned, literal or word-by-word translation can lead to clunky results, and one of the most famous examples of that would be Pepsi, whose marketing department translated “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.” 

And if that sounds like biting off more than you can chew, KFC turned its renowned “Finger Lickin’ Good” into “Eat your fingers off” in its Taiwanese campaigns.

Another very common issue, especially when translating into non-European languages, is choosing the closest approximate sound to the already registered brand name. What made sense from a business perspective for Coca-Cola and probably saved money on localization services caused the company to choose “Bite the wax tadpole” as a Chinese brand name.

If you think we’re just bashing American companies, don’t worry. The Swedish appliance manufacturer Electrolux successfully ran its “Nothing Sucks Like Electrolux” campaign in the UK and then found that U.S. audiences weren’t quite as appreciative of the marketing stunt. It even got picked up by musicians for their compilations. Not the type of publicity you want!

Similarly, Mitsubishi flopped with the introduction of their Pajero in Spain. We won’t provide any translation services for that example because there might be kids around.

And to round it off, Clairol probably scratched their head for a while before they noticed they had tried to introduce their recent curling iron into the German market as a “manure stick.” 

It’s easy to point the finger and laugh, thinking of these as others’ epic fails in multilingual content creation. As you can tell, though, these are not young startups that couldn’t afford the research. They fell into the most common trap: Assuming that translation and local markets are an afterthought and that campaigns will “just work” internationally.

If you’re trying to be edgy, like Electrolux, you’re at least aware of the risk. But the reputational damage of errors like these can be immense. Good news for you, though, because now, you know what not to do. Let’s see how you move from your brand looking up a timid “¿Habla inglés?” to picking up on inside jokes for successful multilingual content marketing around the globe.

Best Practices for Your Multilingual Content Strategy

Relax, we won’t torture you with declension tables. As you may already guess, content marketing localization goes beyond language. It’s about cultural competence. What does that entail?

Ensuring Cultural Sensitivity

Avoiding accidental cultural faux pas can save your brand from awkward moments or, worse, international embarrassment. Remember, it’s not just about the words or sounds; it’s about understanding the cultural context behind them.

Leveraging Local Influencers, Writers and Publications

Who knows the local scene better than those who live and breathe it? A mention in Forbes is fantastic, but collaborating with local authorities can add an authentic touch to your content and help you connect with your target audience on a deeper level. Plan your social media management and link building strategies for your multilingual website, accordingly.

Developing KPIs Tailored to Local Goals and the Overarching Brand

One size does not fit all, especially in the world of multilingual content marketing. Customize your key performance indicators (KPIs) to reflect the unique goals and nuances of each local market while staying true to your brand’s overarching objectives.

Defining Local Brand Identity If Necessary

While your brand’s core identity should remain consistent across markets, it’s essential to adapt and tailor it to resonate with local audiences. This might mean tweaking your messaging, visuals or even brand personality to better align with local preferences and values.

Researching Popular Marketing Platforms in Local Markets

Every market has its preferred social media platforms, search engines and communication channels. Conduct thorough research to identify the most effective platforms in each local market and tailor your content accordingly.

Avoiding Assumptions (Researching Competitors’ Strategies)

Assumptions can be dangerous, especially when it comes to understanding local markets. Take the time to research and analyze your competitors’ strategies to gain valuable insights and avoid common pitfalls.

Building Authoritative Local Links

Building a strong backlink profile is crucial for improving your search engine rankings and establishing credibility in local markets. Seek out opportunities to earn high-quality, relevant backlinks from local sources to boost your authority and visibility.

Leveraging AI Translation Tools or Translation Agencies

While technology has made translation more accessible, it’s essential to choose the right tool for the job. AI translation tools like DeepL or Google Cloud Translation (not to be confused with Google Translate) can be useful to streamline translation workflows. You should still let seasoned editors or native speakers check the output, of course. If you feel uncomfortable with using AI for translation or you simply can’t for strategic reasons, consider working with a professional translation agency or a content marketing agency like Brafton that offers multilingual content.

Understanding Different Languages’ Effects on SEO

The best strategy for your catchy headline might be to rewrite it, rather than translate it literally. Your target keyword might make your meta description too long to observe SEO best practices. Observe those challenges as you move along and document them to create your brand- and industry-specific guidelines.

Managing Expectations for Language Proficiency During Customer Service

While speaking the local language fluently is ideal, it’s not always feasible for every employee. Manage customer expectations by providing language support options and clearly communicating what they can expect on various channels. 

Navigating Credibility and Editorial Standards Across Languages

You may find that some languages are less strict about spelling variants or grammar rules than others, putting more responsibility on your marketing team to maintain editorial consistency. Develop clear processes for each language and its variants (if necessary) to ensure your efforts contribute to a consistent brand experience.

Creating Multilingual Glossaries and Style Guides

If you’ve ever talked to a bilingual person, you may have heard them say they’re more chatty or open in one language than another. The same has to apply to your messaging, so it’s best to create comprehensive glossaries and style guides to ensure that your campaigns remain on brand within each region.

Appreciating Culture Beyond Language

Culture goes beyond language and directly influences consumer behavior and preferences. Familiarize yourself with cultural research models to better understand cultural nuances and differences that can impact your marketing strategy in different markets.

Differentiating Translation and Localization

Translation is just one piece of the puzzle. Localization goes beyond language, adapting content to the cultural, linguistic and regulatory requirements of specific audiences. Sometimes you’ll even have to combine those efforts with additional techniques to adjust content for multiple locations within the same region or across the globe, as we did for Crews Control. Try to grasp the difference between the two to clearly communicate strategic decisions internally.

Technical Factors To Consider

Technical considerations like Hreflang tags and automatic translation features on social media platforms like LinkedIn can play a significant role in fine-tuning your strategy and the user experience. You won’t always be able to control your brand’s messaging in the target language, but the goal should be to do so wherever you can. Consider the auto-translate features readers might use on the other end to assess where potential customers could theoretically misread your content and run a cost-benefit analysis of translating content for that market.

Content Creation in Multiple Languages Can Be Easy, Einfach or Semplice – With the Right Strategy

These days, you don’t have to look far to find a brand that presents itself as diverse and cosmopolitan. The question is, are you willing to put in the work to prove it? We truly hope you are, because you’ll no doubt see tremendous growth opportunities while enriching your brand story.

Entering global markets is no easy feat, but with the right resources and thorough research, it can teach you something about your own industry while multiplying your revenue. Happy localizing!