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Localization, SEO, and Uberflip: How and When Should I Localize Content?

Gone are the days of doing business in a bubble. Now, it’s more common than ever to work on a global scale. However, the compelling product pages, procedural articles, and other pieces of content that work in a company’s home market may not make sense in others. 

Effectively localizing content—translating it into a local language, with consideration to cultural expectations and local users’ needs—can help a brand improve its SEO results and relate to its audience in each unique market.

However, these changes get expensive quickly. Careful planning and prioritization is required to identify when it’s time to develop an efficient strategy, start localizing content, and execute localization that actually works in the target market. 

What is Content Localization?

Content localization is the process of modifying blogs, articles, and other materials to make them appropriate for prospects in other markets. This often includes not only translating content into another language, but also editing references to things like currencies, measurements, and cultural idioms so they’re appropriate for foreign consumers. 

In some cases, localization might require creating entirely new materials to address factors that aren’t relevant to a business’s home market. In others, it might mean simply reformulating a product’s marketing. 

Take the example of a U.S. company localizing content for its cloud-based service in Vietnam. Many U.S. businesses have used cloud computing, which started taking off in 2006 after Google and Amazon popularized it. In Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, though, cloud computing has seen much slower growth, and businesses are less familiar with the technology. The marketing content would need to be adjusted  to take this lack of familiarity into account. 

Content Localization and SEO

It’s important to remember that localization has another baked-in benefit—SEO. And SEO value is definitely worth working on:

Users prefer local content in many circumstances, so Google provides it. We’ve all seen a local map that we didn’t expect on a search engine results page.

Plus, content localization is all about UX—and so is Google. The more often users have a great experience with your content, the more engaged they’ll be, and that engagement can do wonders for your rankings and traffic. Roughly 85% of consumers, for example, will not buy from a website if information is not easily available in their native language.

Most importantly, though, true content localization targets user needs. That focus on addressing customer questions that are unique to a market will have major SEO payoff, as these user-need-based strategies are the only way to win in organic search.   

When to Localize Content?

The decision to localize content depends not only on the business’s goals and desired outcomes, but its capabilities in the new market. A commitment to a new market is a big step, and requires ensuring the right infrastructure is in place to handle conversions.

Once engaged, a prospect should be able to navigate the sales funnel like someone in your home market. That means having a technically optimized and easy-to-use website, gated webinars or other assets, CTAs, and on-hand sales staff, all of which is available in a prospect’s language. If the organization isn’t prepared to take advantage of conversions, sales leads, and demo requests, it will waste its investment in localization.  

Knowing when to localize is just the first step. Next is developing a plan for how to get started.  

How to Plan a Content Localization Project

Before you can focus on content, there needs to be a framework to build out project constraints and to help prioritize which pieces to localize. That framework starts with a budget. 

Look at the company’s goals in each new market. Then, scale resources for each market to align with those objectives. 

Let’s revisit our example of the U.S. company selling its cloud computing product. It’s looking to expand primarily in Vietnam, dedicating about 20 percent of its global budget to the push. But it’s also pursuing a smaller expansion in the U.K., dedicating about 5 percent to that market. 

Clearly, marketers will have to localize content for both of these new locales to varying degrees. These figures from the global budget serve as a great starting point for determining the corresponding localization budgets for each market. So roughly 20 percent of the budget for the Vietnamese market should be allocated for localization while five percent of the U.K. budget can be set aside for localization. 

Once you have a budget locked in, it’s time to tackle the content itself. 

Content Localization: Translate Existing Content or Start from Scratch?

As you consider which content to localize, it’s important to remember:  

  • You don’t have to translate everything. Some content isn’t necessary in a new market if it’s not relevant to foreign customers. Plus, depending on the nature of the product and market, some content can remain in the original language. English, for example, is an accepted language for many technology products. 
  • You don’t have to rewrite all content. A straightforward translation, or even manually reviewing automated translations, can be perfectly appropriate for procedural materials.  

That said, it’s generally best to focus the highest-quality resources on copy that will position a product in the new market. After that, you can aggressively prioritize and invest in only what already works or is critical. That means analyzing content that is currently performing well in terms of leads and conversions. If it’s appropriate for your new market, prioritize it for localization. 

To create novel content, analyze foreign customers’ buying journeys, from exploration to purchase. Study how prospects find and consume content at each stage; then be sure to have the right materials localized and available. 

In these cases, it’s often wise to work closely with local partners who are deeply knowledgeable about the market and product, and can speak the language. Reach out to people like:

  • Sales leaders
  • Support managers
  • Marketing managers
  • Product managers 

Leveraging these relationships can help your team identify where content isn’t working and highlight any gaps in coverage that you’ll need to address.

Quick Tips for Content Localization

Clearly, content localization projects have many moving pieces and require coordination on several levels. Teams can keep localization efforts manageable by keeping these questions in mind: 

  • What’s the goal? Review the company’s market-specific goals to help prioritize and keep the project within scope.
  • Can the company sustain the effort? Make sure the content team has the skills and resources to maintain localized content on an on-going basis. Often, management sees localization projects as one-time investments in new market expansions. Make sure stakeholders appreciate the need for follow-up investments to keep content fresh and relevant in all languages.
  • What assumptions are you making? Don’t automatically assume you’ll need to create all-new content for a novel market or that you’ll need to translate all existing content. Look through existing content and prioritize aggressively.
  • Are you using content that works? Prioritize only what works. Look at content that’s already earning leads and conversions and localize those pieces. 
  • Has a local team member or partner reviewed the content? Sometimes translations aren’t enough. Lean on local partners to review all content. They can help identify important local context that pieces might need. 
  • Are the user needs right for this new market? Partner with a local agency that can perform keyword searches appropriate to the market you’re pursuing. And be aware that finding new keywords isn’t enough. It’s critical to map those keywords to the specific needs that local buyers have. Those needs might not exist for customers in your home market, so identifying them will help address gaps in content coverage.   
  • Does your content platform automatically present the right language? The need to manually toggle among language settings is bad UX. Selecting a content platform that supports a hub locale setting ensures that both language and regional settings are correct. 

If your business is in international markets, it’s time to think about localizing content. Start by making sure internal teams and systems are prepared to support the growth, and then make sure you have a platform that can handle the content itself.

Localization plays a significant role in a company’s rankings in international markets, but it’s worth noting that optimizing for search is mission critical for content in any market. A safe bet for a busy content marketing team is an SEO-certified platform like Uberflip that not only creates a content experience, but sets your localized content up to win in organic search. 

About the Author

Nate has helped companies like Atlassian, Badgeville, PennyMac, and Marketo establish dominant leadership positions in their niche—and define entirely new categories—with high-impact SEO strategy and execution. Organic search offers more exposure than any other marketing channel, and modern SEO is how companies compete for that high-value visibility. He is the founder and CEO of Profound Strategy, a results-oriented SEO consultancy trusted by forward-thinking companies, including some of the world's largest B2B and technology brands.

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