4 Essential Tips to Increase Your Site’s Global Impact
Do you think the Internet is just America?
It sounds ridiculous. However, that’s how a lot of publishers think.
Maybe they think a little bit about Canada and the UK, but you see very often that the rest of the world is totally forgotten.
That’s a big loss! Take into account that only 8.7% of Facebook users are based in North America, while 50.2% are in Asia. Over 60% of YouTube views come from non-English speaking countries.
You can’t afford to ignore this traffic. It’s not so hard to tap into an international audience. In this article, I’ll show you some simple, actionable principles to get you on your way to a global site.
- Don’t get lost in translation
The most obvious way to reach an international audience is to publish in other languages.
Americans especially have a tendency to think the whole world runs in English, but Anglophones aren’t the majority. Not by a long shot.
English is only the fourth most spoken language worldwide. Mandarin Chinese takes first place, with 1 billion native speakers, followed by Hindi and Spanish. There are 50 million Spanish speakers just in the US.
In fact, one-fifth of US residents don’t speak English at home!
So it might really pay off to start offering content in other languages.
Of course, you should be sure that you’ll have an audience in the language you choose, before you go to the trouble and expense of translating or producing new content in that language.
You might start off by just translating key pages and content, to see if there’s enough of a response to go full-scale bilingual.
When you translate any text, find a native speaker or hire a professional translator. This is something that has to be done well or not at all. You might be tempted to just pop it into Google Translate, but it will be immediately obvious to someone who actually speaks the language.
Your foreign-language content should be just as informative, engaging and enjoyable to read as the text in English.
The design of your website should also facilitate translation. For example, leave extra space around your call-to-action: you might need as much as 40% more space than normal. And try to avoid images that include text – you’ll have to swap it out when the content is translated.
- Write what’s interesting to your audience, wherever they are
Translation is a good place to start but it’s not everything. After all, just writing in English isn’t enough to get a great following among US readers.
Your international readers have different interests and reference points than your local audience. If you don’t know much about their culture, do some research or find someone who can give you tips.
Holidays and global sports are always a good place to start. (Pro tip: almost everyone loves soccer!)
Beyond that, people from other cultures might have very different priorities. Maybe your American readers are interested in the social aspects of your product while the Europeans are more concerned with its health benefits. Maybe one group wants concrete, practical advice while others are looking for more general information.
The only way to find out is to explore your foreign audience on their own terms and find a way to balance all their interests.
- Watch your (idiomatic) language
Any writing that’s fun to read is full of idioms and personal color.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate so well.
When you’re appealing to an international audience in English, try to tone down your local idioms. Sports references, for example, are peppered all over American English, from “home run” to “blindsided” or “down to the wire.” They’re clear to you but baffling to most readers overseas.
By the way, I wouldn’t recommend trying to use foreign idioms if you’re not very familiar with them. If you’re American and you try, for example to pander to readers across the pond by using British phrases, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the subtleties and come off as more of a “dumb American” than if you didn’t use idioms at all.
Pop culture references don’t translate so well either, and neither do many jokes.
In general, straightforward, neutral language is the safest way to go.
Keep in mind that some terms will vary for your different audiences. For example, the US Sales Tax is called the Value Added Text (VAT) in the UK. In these cases, it will help your readers to include both.
Finally, be aware of seasonal references. While it’s hot and sunny in the Northern Hemisphere, your Southern Hemisphere readers are shoveling snow off their driveways.
If it’s feasible, you might add a “localizer” to your team: someone who will “translate” local references into their foreign equivalents for your global site.
- Optimize for global traffic
Once your content is ready for the world, make sure your site is too.
The easiest way to get your site out to international audiences is to use a content delivery network like CacheFly, Cloudflare, Amazon CloudFront or Verizon’s EdgeCast. These will accelerate the delivery of your global site, as well as speed up your domestic site.
You can also use specialized tools to enhance international SEO. They will help you track and increase your visibility in your target regions. A few of the best are:
It’s very important to keep an eye on this data so you know how effective your measures are and what you need to improve.
I hope this gives you some ideas of how to start reaching a wider audience.
Things get more complicated when you start taking international traffic into account. You have to pay a lot more attention to your writing style and – most importantly – your underlying assumptions about your readers.
Basically, you can’t take anything for granted.
This is actually one of the best things about making your website go global. Not only do you reach more people, you have the opportunity to learn more and understand your readers better.