In Part 1 of this post, we identified some internal and external drivers that can help underpin your global web strategy. This follow up post covers how a content audit can set the foundation for implementing that strategy, determining what content you should localize, and how to localize it.
The word ‘audit’ is one of those words that strikes fear into most of us, much like tax, interview, evaluation, or TPS report. It’s easy to procrastinate and find excuses to avoid making the needed changes that an audit uncovers. A content audit—the process of reviewing your website’s content in preparation for localization—is no different. But as Olin Miller said,
“If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.”
So let’s dive in. Like any good process, it all starts with planning.
- Plan your strategy
To lay a solid foundation for your content audit, develop a thoughtful plan that’s phased, iterative, and includes all content owners.
You may want to consider taking an agile approach to your content audit. If planning ahead for website user requirements is difficult, an agile approach will be especially helpful. For example, you could identify a focused sample of specific web content and test it to represent the implications of a broader audit.
If you have very complex sites with multiple constantly-moving parts, consider working with an Information Architect. They can help you develop a long-term, systematic auditing approach.
- Build a content inventory
A content inventory gives you a good sense of what content you currently have on your site. And it can actually be a lot of fun to create. Ideally, you’ve been maintaining a content inventory on a regular basis. But if you haven’t, it can be as simple as listing your pages and their respective URLs, images, videos, etc. Referring to your sitemap—assuming it’s well formed—can also help show you what’s on your site.
During this process, you should structure the inventory so it matches your website and lists each item by content type: form, image, video—and don’t forget the metadata. Metadata includes essential SEO components, like meta-descriptions. These should also be included in your inventory.
If you have existing localized content, now is a good time to take stock of what you have in each language and locale—and to add it to your inventory. You may have certain content types on your site that are stored elsewhere, like product descriptions or data. This content should still be part of your inventory as it will be served up to your website users.
Remember, at this point, you aren’t making decisions about your content. That’s for the next step.
- Examine the content in your inventory
The logical next step is to begin the circular process of auditing, evaluating, and recording your audit results.
Elicit: Invest a good amount of time here to truly dig into the needs and requirements of your global users and stakeholders. Through this process, you’ll determine whether the content you identified in step 2 is truly appropriate for your target markets. You can use the findings we covered in Part 1 to frame your content discussion. You could also set up workshops, brainstorming sessions, or surveys to gather input.
Rate your content: An easy way to get a sense of the ‘value’ of your content is to use a rating system. Your rating system can include a few different types of information. It can track performance analysis. You can investigate quantitative measures, such as content page views using Google analytics. Or, you can use more qualitative measures, such as how your in-country review teams perceive the content’s in-market value and relevance.
Measure content continually: Once you’ve set up your content rating approach, you should continue to measure your content to make sure it’s meeting your business goals.
The biggest question to answer before moving to the next step—and perhaps the toughest part of the process—is deciding whether or not your content should be localized at all.
Through the steps above, you may have determined that you have gaps in your content, too much content, or under-performing content. Poor-performing or unused content won’t pay off or help you meet your business goals.
- Tie your findings back to your business needs
Once you have a handle on your content’s web value, check in with your in-country review teams and align each content piece back to your underlying website goals.
- Localize your content by choosing linguistic processes strategically
Your content audit has, so far, brought you to a place where you can begin to think about localizing your web content.
At this point, you understand your content’s local relevancy, and you’ve prioritized it to determine what content should be localized. Choosing the right linguistic process—or combination of processes—is important because it saves you time, money, and ensures an appropriate level of quality and cultural relevance.
You’ll have to make an important process decision. Will you standardize your English content and translate it? Or will you provide original, creative content for each targeted locale? You can also choose to have a mixture of the two.
A blog article, for example, warrants a customized approach so the message and topic resonate with readers. Conversely, product descriptions with no local variation would be best approached with standardized translation.
Different linguistic processes: Defined
The pyramid below illustrates linguistic processes as they relate to content levels and their costs.
Machine translation is best used for large amounts of low-priority content. It’s a cost-effective way to translate content that would otherwise be too expensive for a human translator.
Real-time machine translation can be used for customer support chat sessions or user-generated forum content. And machine translation with human post-editing is a strong solution for large content volumes that require a good level of quality but might still be too expensive for a professional translator.
Higher-priority content requiring marketing finesse, adherence to style and tone, and a global brand voice should be translated by professional human translators with passion for and experience with your brand, products, and messaging. Top-priority content that’s essential to your brand should always go through human translation.
Placed at the top of the pyramid, transcreation or original copywriting are approaches used when unique, local-language content is required for a locale. This could include a corporate brand name, a campaign tagline, an original blog post, or local promotions.
There’s no silver bullet to selecting the right approach—or combination of approaches. However, you should have a quality management system (or one you can adopt from your language service provider) to ensure that your content is performing as expected.
Remember, it’s all about your customers
In closing, website localization is no easy endeavor. But by spending time auditing your content and tying audit results back to your audience’s needs, you can drive real, measurable business value through your website.
Similarly, using the most effective linguistic process for each content type can reduce cost and deliver more effective content for each targeted locale. Your internal and external customers will thank you for your user-friendly website and thorough approach to translation. And they’ll identify your website as part of a culturally-sensitive brand, which is what going global is all about.
> For more tips on how to prepare for website translation and localization, download the ebook, The Definitive Guide to Website Translation.