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Kathy Badertscher Headshot Posted by Kathy Badertscher April 24, 2020

Why localized content matters now more than ever

Some predicted 2020 would be known as “the year of localized marketing,” back before COVID-19 crowded every other topic off the table. As global companies are hit hard by the pandemic, though, this very crisis drives home the fact that establishing effective content localization can be extremely important to business continuity.

Especially in this new digital-first era, content localization can create relevance in the eyes of each market’s consumers, and strengthen bonds of engagement and brand loyalty that are invaluable during periods of both disruption – a.k.a., right now – and normalcy.

For maximum impact, though, a content localization strategy has to consist of more than simply translation. Delivering true, resonant relevance to each market and its consumers demands hyperlocal execution on a number of fronts, from the technical to the cultural.

Content localization: Translation is just a tactic

It used to be that “localization” might consist of simply producing in-language content. That’s certainly crucial when we consider how only 20% of the world speaks English. Research shows that 55% of consumers prefer to buy exclusively in their native language, while 72% would prefer to read user reviews written in their own tongue.

There are plenty of language service providers (LSPs) capable of churning out high-volume translation of your content, and these translations may be of extremely good quality and accuracy. That, however, doesn’t mean an LSP can be expected to deliver an engaging user experience, because translation alone doesn’t take cultural context into account. It’s one tactic you should deploy among many, not a substitute for an end-to-end content localization strategy aimed at imparting a deeper sense of authenticity.

Just within the confines of the U.S., you can find countless examples of how important it is to understand the dynamics and specifics of adjacent, seemingly similar markets. Los Angeles and San Francisco may both lie in the same state, but the differences between the two are profound; a marketing message depicting sun-drenched beaches or “bro” culture would be wildly off base in the eyes of a San Franciscan.

So an actual content localization strategy needs to move beyond language, and address the other factors which make your digital marketing efforts ring true with local consumers. Like just getting the time zone right, which isn’t as easy it seems at first blush. Or when you use a phrase like “the first day next week,” that may mean Sunday in the U.S., but in the U.K.? It starts on Monday. In the Maldive Islands? Friday.

What’s more, localization will become even more mandatory as the web makes inroads into more and more markets. A Common Sense Advisory study found that a global marketer wanting to reach 97% of the total online market would have to have content available in 31 languages. By 2027, that will rise to 37.

Marketing advantages of content localization

From a macro marketing perspective, then, here are just a few of the key advantages of a solid content localization strategy.

It customizes user experience: By implementing a sound localization strategy, your digital content is much easier for your target consumers to understand and navigate. Simple measures such as using the proper currency and date format, or using the correct local dialect, and designing pages so they’re aligned with local language – so your Arabic, Farsi, or Hebrew content reads right-to-left, for instance – makes content more familiar and acceptable to the locals. That, in turn, drives greater trust and engagement.

It lowers barriers to entry: There may be any number of hurdles in your way in trying to gain traction in a new market, and proper localization can help you get past them. A local may have even heard of your brand, and would be enthusiastic about buying it, but only if you’re able to show you’re committed to engaging on their terms, not yours.

It entrenches your brand in local culture: See the point about “familiarity” above; consumers often take tacit ownership of a brand, at least in their own hearts and minds, if it resonates with them. SPAM’s success in the Philippines is one example. They’ll stay supportive of your brand even during downturns, so long as you’ve taken the trouble to cater to their attitudes and cultural markers. From the language you use in your consent notices to the images on your homepage, you’ll want to provide a consistent experience across all of your digital channels.

It improves SEO: The more informative the content, the higher the search ranking it will get; we all know that. But if you’ve failed to localize content properly, your web page may see high bounce rates, which won’t impress Google. By converting your content into scrupulously localized versions, you’ll improve rankings a couple of ways: you’ve not only created quality, sticky content for local users, but if you’re localizing across multiple markets, you’ve increased the overall number of informative pages you’ve published, which absolutely benefits SEO.

It powers greater reach and acquisition: All of the above adds up to broader reach for your digital marketing, improved traffic to your localized websites or other digital channels, better engagement with audiences who prefer that engagement to transpire in their own language, and more sales and customer retention as a result.

Finally, along with any solid marketing strategy, make sure you have the right technology in place to ensure your global brand thrives at a local level. Then, you’ll want to iterate and test along the way, paying attention to your regular site KPIs, A/B testing results, localized SEO keyword rankings, and what your customers are telling you. Done right, having your organization stick to a solid content localization strategy opens the door to market opportunity: significantly increasing audience reach, customer satisfaction, and conversions.