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It’s easier than ever to reach customers in foreign markets thanks to the power of the internet. However, global marketing isn’t universal. Your messaging will need to be adapted to different languages and cultures to resonate with audiences in other areas of the world.
Enter the unifying power of content localization, which is the process of reshaping marketing assets, such as a website, to feel “local” anywhere in the world. Content localization involves optimizing content to create a connection with end-users in a language and format that feels familiar and resonates with them.
However, optimizing content through this process involves more than simply translating text from one language to another. Content localization also includes modifying graphics and design, changing content to suit target preferences, converting currencies and units of measurement, using proper formatting for dates, addresses, and phone numbers, and addressing local regulations and legal requirements.
Overall, it’s an involved project performed by content localization services for brands big and small. However, you can take steps to streamline your source content before localization, which will save project time and expense – and this article will detail everything you need to know about local content writing for localization success.
Before we share the top tips for streamlining your content localization strategy, let’s review why the process is essential for engaging foreign audiences. Content localization is about ensuring your target audience understands your content in the proper context. Language barriers aside, many other factors can affect how content is absorbed, comprehended, and accepted.
Here’s an example to help demonstrate the importance of localization. Imagine you are a US- based company selling potato chips and ready to expand into the UK. Easy to do since both countries speak English, right? Wrong. There are plenty of language distinctions between American English and UK English. For example, in the UK, the word “chips” refers to what Americans call french fries, and they call American potato chips “crisps”. If you tried to market your US potato chips as “chips” in the UK, the target audience would likely think you are selling fries.
Hopefully, this example conveys the importance of localizing your content and messaging to resonate with the audience as intended. By creating a user experience that feels native to the target audience, your content is more likely to be embraced and inspire action. Research has shown that nearly 73% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language. Furthermore, 56% admit that obtaining relevant information in their native language that addresses their locale is more important than price.1
Now that we’ve explained the importance of a content localization strategy for successful expansion into foreign markets let’s look at how to maximize your content localization budget. Since content can include written text, images, videos, and more, everything needs to work together in a cohesive manner – which the localization process will achieve.
Following are some helpful tips for creating “localization-friendly” content, i.e., content created with localization efficiency in mind. Since the volume of the source text determines the localization budget and project timeframe, utilizing these tips can help streamline the process to save time and money.
K.I.S.S. is an acronym long used in the marketing world, which stands for “keep it simple stupid”. It’s also applicable in localization since clear and concise writing is easier to translate. Focus on delivering your message – as intended – in fewer words using these writing tips:
Writing content for localization is not the time to get cute, wordy, or philosophical. Stick to the messaging and intent of the content and write it as simply as possible to avoid complicated translations.
Your brand has a voice, and retaining that voice across borders is essential. Although writing as clearly and concisely as possible will save translation time, it should not be at the expense of your brand’s personality. It’s important to write like a human and use the brand’s unique voice, which may require starting your source content very simply and then building upon it to infuse the brand voice.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Often, an image can replace words to support the meaning of your content. Using pictures over words where possible can shorten the source text length and lower your localization budget accordingly. Using supporting visuals can also reinforce your content’s message. However, be sure to use culturally appropriate images for the target audience.
Context is key to successful translation and content localization. It’s imperative to include context whenever possible to clearly communicate the message’s intent. For example, homonyms are words with the same spelling and pronunciation in the English language but different meanings – like crane, date, or lie. Without context, a localization expert may provide an incorrect translation for potentially confusing words like these.
Professionals in content localization services are often challenged with translating and adapting source text material in a vacuum, which can slow the process down. So aside from providing context, as mentioned above, it’s also helpful to provide reference materials with your material. For example, if you are having a website localized, include screenshots, mock-ups, or other visuals to demonstrate how the content will be used throughout the site.
References can also be as simple as notations in a document or spreadsheet that specify pertinent details, like character restrictions, alternate phrasing for clarity, which text stands for titles or buttons, etc. The more references you provide with your content localization strategy, the easier it is for content localization services to accurately adapt your material.
Keywords for better search engine optimization (SEO) are universal, even if the search engines are not. For example, Google is a top search engine in America, but people in China prefer the search engine Baidu. Although the names are different, the process is the same – and keywords are integral to search engine performance no matter where you are in the world.
A solid content localization strategy should include well-researched keywords and keyphrases as part of the local content requirements to improve reach and brand awareness in any targeted foreign market.
Although idioms and jokes can humanize content, they are not universally accepted. It’s easy to hit a nerve with off-culture commentary, no matter how harmless the message may be in the native language. Local content writing that includes idioms and jokes is also challenging to translate, as the humor is often lost in translation – or worse – perceived as offensive in different cultures. It’s wise to steer clear of jokes and other informal literary devices for the sake of translation clarity.
Becoming a universally recognized brand is a lofty achievement. A recent study by the A.C. Nielsen Company found that only 43 consumer brands have truly achieved this status.2 Therefore, your content localization strategy should consider the target culture’s locally accepted brands, as they can create a connection with the audience when referenced correctly – and have the opposite effect when referenced incorrectly.
The correct translation of locations in local content writing benefits SEO efforts and more. When cities, landmarks, and other location markers are referenced in a culturally recognized manner, a connection is established with the audience. They feel “seen” within their locale.
Money is universal, even if currencies are not. One of the biggest mistakes made in content localization efforts is incorrect currency conversions. An incorrect monetary symbol or a misplaced comma can seriously downgrade your localization efforts.
Properly translating dimensions in content localization is critical. Whether it is a unit of measurement or apparel sizing, correctly identifying dimensions according to your target market’s standards will help avoid confusion. For example, a women’s size 8 shoe in the US and Canada is equivalent to a women’s size 6 shoe in the UK and a women’s size 38-39 in European countries.
Dates are formatted differently around the world. In America, dates are written with the month first. However, European countries list the day first and do not include a comma like America-written dates. Correctly translated dates are especially critical when localizing marketing campaigns with a definitive start and end date.
Americans, especially those without military training, typically refer to time in AM and PM. In the rest of the world, time follows a 24-hour model. Incorrectly identifying the time in your content can be confusing and distracting to the end-user, and it’s an easily avoidable mistake in localization.
There are many moving parts to adapting content for foreign markets beyond simple language translation. As you can see, cultural considerations, language use, and other factors like time and measurement must be examined and adapted to resonate with target audiences in foreign markets. Hopefully, these local content writing tips will translate to saved time and money with your next localization project.
Do you need help tackling global marketing and communication? The experts at Dynamic Language have provided exceptional localization, translation, and interpretation services to clients in the U.S. and globally for over 30 years. We utilize native linguists with subject-matter expertise according to each client’s industry to ensure the highest quality translation and localization across all communication channels.
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