This post is based on Episode 1 of Global Ambitions featuring Paulina Makles, the CEO of Creative Tribe, a content-creation firm that brings localization and digital marketing together. Makles and Antoine Rey sat down to discuss direct content creation for international markets, and what to do if you're ready to start creating international content.
Trends and challenges in the world of international copywriting
There is a trend toward creating content directly in a target language, rather than adapting content. Companies are realizing each market is different, and users are searching for different things. Though direct content creation is more expensive, it's also much easier to identify trends in a target language and content that audiences will find relevant.
Creating international content also requires companies to have a strong relationship with their language providers. Many businesses don't have infinite language resources, so they'll need to transfer decision-making power to the language provider, who should be able to research and develop ideas for relevant content. With this in mind, it's all the more important to select a good language provider.
One thing to watch out for is content-creation companies whose samples feel like marketing pitches rather than actionable advice and information. If you find yourself looking at samples that primarily market a company's services rather than offering value to the client, you may want to find a company whose samples speak to specific client needs.
Pitfalls to avoid when creating international content
First, avoid directly translating preexisting content from another language. This is especially important for keywords and for markets that are culturally different from a source market. Content created for one language market may not necessarily be relevant to another market, and without the research to back it up, it's safest to assume prior content won't be relevant to the market you're translating into.
One example is content created for US and Japanese markets. Japanese markets have a different way of working, and users not only think differently but even use their technology differently. So what's relevant to US users won't be relevant in the Japanese market. It's much better to begin with content creation, to make sure that all content is tailored to the specific needs of its market.
Second, businesses should focus on creating content that is useful and answers readers' questions-rather than jumping on a trendy topic that isn't relevant to users. For example, work productivity and remote work have been a huge focus in the localization and content creation industries. It seems like everyone is talking about these topics, but are they relevant to every company's target markets? If there is a clear connection, please proceed by addressing a trend. But if there's not a clear line between a trending topic and the services your company offers, it's better to create content that is relevant to actual readers. Strong content should be user-driven, not trend-driven.
Best practices for international copywriting: a checklist
When you've escaped the trap of trendiness and are ready to craft strong international content, Here are best practices that will optimize any content.
- Keywords. Everything always starts with keywords. They tell you what you should be talking about and what's relevant to your users. In addition to making content SEO-relevant, keywords are powerful tools for generating content ideas. To get started, research your target keywords, see what keywords your audiences are using, and check out keywords associated with your competitors and with your services.
- Include keywords in URLs. In order for users to see how relevant your content is, they have to be able to find it. A URL with keywords will help search engines quickly identify your content.
- Build keywords into the copy. The first 200 words of copy should include the main keyword, and the <H1> tag should also include the main keyword. Subheaders can include related keywords, but there should always be a primary keyword that leads the piece of content. For each link, aim to use 3-5 keywords within the content.
- Structure content for ease of reading. Breaking content into smaller blocks makes it easier to scan and read. Adding visual elements like videos, slideshows, images, and more will make the content even more engaging, plus they break up the walls of text.
- Link to internal and external content. This is a step that people often forget, but it's essential. Internal links direct users to more content on your site. Having a cross-linked website helps search engines find it more easily, plus links make the content more engaging. Internal links let users follow their interests and stay on your site for longer. Then, aim to have 1-2 external links to direct users away from your page, to your sources, research, or tools you use. External linking increases the visibility of your content, and the more authoritative or better-ranked the sites you link to, the better your own ranking.
- Write meta descriptions and meta titles (the small chunks of content that appear when you search for something). If you don't write anything for these sections, search engines will use the first few sentences of your content-which are less likely to give users a clear picture of what your content offers. Use these spaces wisely to give a short overview of your content, include SEO keywords, and drive users to your site.
- Add alt-text and file names to all visual content. Any slideshows, images and videos should include alt-text and descriptive file names. It's even better if the alt-text contains your keywords since we know that users also search for images. The more places your content uses keywords in relevant places, the easier users will be able to find the content from different angles.