Imagine you’re a SaaS offering your service to an English-speaking audience in the US.
You ask yourself: “Since my product is online, why shouldn’t I offer it to people from countries besides the US?”.
Reaching a wider audience is a great idea and can have a significant business impact, but you first need to get the word out to make your SaaS known to your desired audiences.
Generally speaking, there are many tactics to follow, but when it comes to content marketing, one of the best ways is to craft what we call an international content strategy.
After all, crafting a content strategy for an audience in a specific country is one thing, but targeting various countries is a whole different ball game.
Different languages, cultures, markets, and competitors are some of the most important things to consider when targeting multiple countries.
That’s exactly what we’ll be covering coming up, plus anything else you should consider.
Meaning and Importance of an International Content Strategy
To put it simply, an international content strategy is the methodical planning, creation, and management of content for diverse global audiences, considering cultural and regional variations.
By “variations” we mean all the differences that we mentioned earlier, such as language and culture.
But why is an international content strategy important, and why should you care about it?
Let’s have a look at four main reasons, at least the way we see things here at Minuttia:
Reason #1: Diversification of traffic and acquisition sources
This might be obvious, but the most important benefit of an international content strategy is the fact that you diversify your traffic and acquisition sources by targeting multiple audiences.
By default, we usually target English-speaking countries and create content for them, because this can reach the widest audience—which makes sense.
But what about non-English-speaking countries, where there is usually not as much competition?
For instance, let’s assume we’re a video editing tool.
Obviously we’ll want to target our English-speaking audience by creating a page on the keyword “video editing software”, which has a high monthly search volume and KD; 37K and 93, respectively.
However, since a language like French is also spoken widely, there might be a chance to target French-speaking users for the term “logiciel montage video” (translation according to Google: video editing software).
As you can see below, it has a decent search volume of 8K and a KD of 19 (which is significantly lower than 93 for the English version of the term).
From the above, we can conclude that there’s a great opportunity in multiple languages besides English to diversify your organic traffic and acquisition sources; something a well-designed international content plan can help you with.
Reason #2: Lower CAC
Another benefit worth mentioning is the fact that you can lower your customer acquisition costs (CAC) by targeting counties with less competition.
A great example is the term we saw earlier in English and French, where, although both versions had a relatively high search volume, the French version had a significantly lower KD and CPC.
Although this is just one of the countless examples, it shows how creating content on an international level can lower a company’s CAC, due to the competition in most countries not being as high as in the US or UK, for example.
Reason #3: Cohesive experience for website visitors
By implementing an international content strategy, you also get the chance to offer your website visitors and general audience a cohesive experience.
In a nutshell, by providing a unified experience that’s seamless across multiple languages and adjusted to different audiences and cultures, you not only reach more people but show expertise and consistency too.
Let’s have a look at our list’s fourth reason.
Reason #4: Culturally appropriate content and inclusivity
Last but not least, an international content strategy helps you ensure culturally appropriate content and inclusivity.
In other words, by creating content that caters to a wide variety of languages and cultures around the world, you not only acknowledge them but also inform, entertain, and educate them, depending on your type of content.
So far, it’s quite clear that investing in an international content strategy has many benefits.
This doesn’t mean you should create content for as many countries and languages as possible, but for those that make sense for you business-wise, either now or in the future.
This is why the importance of being proactive is worth mentioning.
As Fabrizio Ballarini (head of organic growth at Wise) said in an episode of our podcast, The SaaS SEO Show:
So a company like Wise, that’s focused on reaching global audiences through its content, is choosing to be proactive by creating content for languages and countries where it doesn’t yet operate.
But when it does so in the future, all the strategy and content will already be in place.
Let’s now see the different ways you can approach such a content strategy.
3 Key Ways to Approach an International Content Strategy
When it comes to how you can practically approach your international content strategy, there are generally three ways to do so:
And it’s important to choose the right one based on your goals and overall strategy.
Let’s go through them one by one.
Way #1: Translation
The first way is translation, which refers to purely translating a piece of text, such as a blog post.
For instance, a good use case would be to convert a blog post from English to Spanish while leaving all other elements unadjusted (such as links, visual graphics, etc).
A good example of this tactic is from Mailchimp, whose website has been translated into 5 languages.
To give you an idea, it has an English blog post on the meaning of a CRM:
Image Source: Mailchimp
And the same blog post has been translated into Italian:
Image Source: Mailchimp
However, as you go through the guide, you notice that only the text content has been translated, while the visual elements have remained in English, which is their original format.
This makes it clear that this is a case of translation, as we explained earlier.
We also mentioned that, apart from images, internal links are another element that tends to remain unadjusted when translating instead of localizing.
For example, the project management tool Trello has translated its website (including the blog section) into several languages.
So in the following blog post, which is in French, we notice that most internal links…
Image Source: Trello
…lead to pages in English instead of French…
Image Source: Trello
…which is a sign that Trello has translated the content instead of localizing it.
If it had localized the content, all links would lead to French pages.
In general, we would say that while translating might not be the most effective solution, it can save a great deal of time when handling multiple pieces of content in different languages.
However, if you want to take things a step further, localizing is a great choice.
Let’s dive deeper into this.
Way #2: Localization
The second way is localization which, as we mentioned, goes a step further.
In the same example of converting an English blog into a Spanish one, besides simply translating, we’d have to:
- Replace US-centric examples with Spanish ones
- Change dollar references into euros
- Adjust outgoing links accordingly to pages that have been localized too
And anything else that would make the content culturally relevant for a Spanish user not to notice it had been converted from another language.
A good localization example is from Ahrefs, which has had its website (and, to an extent, its blog posts) localized into 13 languages, including English.
In fact, most of its translated blog posts have also been localized.
Just to give you an idea, the main blog page has been translated into German…
…and they even have videos in German, for which they have a dedicated YouTube channel.
As well as all the countries and languages they’re interested in targeting as part of their international content strategy.
Plus, if you click on any blog post that’s not in English, you’ll notice that apart from the actual content, other elements have been translated, such as the author’s bio.
Another factor that proves that Ahrefs has been localizing instead of simply translating is the fact that elements such as visuals have also been converted from English to other languages:
And links point to pages that have been localized as well.
Another good case of a website that follows the localization tactic is Semrush, which actually runs webinars in different languages, and users can select the one they want:
Image Source: Semrush
From English and Spanish to Italian and German, which strongly supports their international content strategy.
Let’s have a look at the third tactic.
Way #3: Internationalization
Last but not least, we have internationalization.
Although the previous ways refer to creating content in one language and then translating and adapting it to other languages, this case is different.
It entails creating new blog posts that are universally understandable, meaning that you have to create content in the context of the countries/languages you’re interested in targeting.
And, of course, the blog’s codebase needs to be able to accommodate various languages, date formats, currencies, and so on.
In essence, each language should have its own content strategy, meaning that different keywords should be targeted.
For example, the term “saas metrics” would make sense when targeting an English-speaking audience since it seems to have a decent search volume…
..but the same term in German (which, according to Google, is “saas metriken”) doesn’t seem to have a good enough search volume to target, assuming your goal is to attract organic traffic.
This means that a different content strategy should be followed in the context of each language; not only when it comes to search volume, but through the approach in general.
For instance, different countries have different competitors that you should take into account, as well as policies and ways of doing things.
To give you an idea, one of the many languages Shopify creates content in is Brazilian Portuguese.
As you can see below, it has a guide whose title translates to: How to buy on AliBaba to resell in Brazil.
Image Source: Shopify
As you can imagine, it includes information that only applies to people in Brazil, so a user living in Germany, for example, wouldn’t get much value from this guide.
Everything is specifically tailored for Brazilian readers, from CTAs…
…and product information with the right currency.
Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense to translate or localize a piece like this into another language because the information is country-specific.
So with the internationalization method, a guide like this should almost be written from scratch for each language.
While it’s definitely more time-consuming and not ideal for mass pieces of content, it’s almost necessary for such cases where information is country and/or audience specific.
Let’s now dive into the process of an international content strategy.
The 6-Step Process of an International Content Strategy
From our point of view, there are 6 steps in the process of conducting an international content strategy.
Let’s start with the first one.
Step #1: International keyword research
The first step is to conduct keyword research, which is all about identifying keyword opportunities based on existing content in the website’s main language, as well as new opportunities.
So, in a nutshell, there are 2 ways to approach international keyword research:
- Based on existing content and pages
- Based on new opportunities
The former refers to leveraging your existing content, as well as the keywords your competitors have visibility for, while the latter focuses on uncovering new keywords in order to gain visibility in the countries you’re interested in.
Of course, there are several things to pay attention to when it comes to international keyword research, so let’s dive deeper into them.
- First of all, you should identify your actual competitors in each country you’re interested in and not base them on assumptions.
- Don’t assume your competitors are perfect; validate all keywords they rank for to identify the best ones for each country and go beyond what they’re doing.
- Direct translations of keywords (such as from Google Translate) aren’t always accurate; take into account local slang, idioms, and colloquial language.
- Don’t ignore country-specific search engines such as Yandex for Russia and Baidu for China; they can be a great source of opportunities for new pages.
- Since some countries have regulations about certain content types, ensure you’re aware of them before creating content that might potentially violate a rule.
- Keywords don’t have the same search intent in all countries; make sure to identify the right one before going on to create a page.
In fact, regarding the last point, in a recent episode of The SaaS SEO Show with Laura Paskauskaite from Surfshark, she mentioned that:
This means that you can’t simply translate all of the pages and leave them before making sure that the intent behind them is right.
In the case of Surfshark, this is the English blog post on the term:
Image Source: Surfshark
As you can see from the title, it aims to inform people about how a VPN can protect you on public Wi-Fi.
However, if we have a look at the Polish version with the same term:
Image Source: Surfshark
And translate the title with the help of Google Translate:
We notice that it aims to inform users about setting up a VPN on their router, so it would be wrong to write it based on the English search intent.
This means that we have two different intents for the same keyword.
Step #2: Prioritization
When it comes to prioritization, it happens on a country and keyword level.
This means that you first need to identify the best target countries for you and then identify the best keywords in those countries.
After all, there’s no point in reaching a global audience if it isn’t done the right way.
In order to find the countries that have the most value for you business-wise, you can use various tactics such as Google Analytics, which allow you to see what countries people visit your site from, like in the screenshot below:
As well as Google Search Console, where by clicking on your top branded keyword in the performance report, you can see which countries search for it the most:
This method can show you which countries your brand already has traction in and is a good starting point, considering you have a head start to grow your business in them.
After you decide on the countries, you’ll also have to prioritize the keywords you’ll target for each one.
Ideally, you should start from the ones that have the most business/commercial value for you and are the most depictive of what you do.
For example, for an email marketing platform starting its international content strategy from scratch, it would make sense to prioritize keywords like email marketing tools and email marketing platforms in each target country.
Maintaining a logical order can be crucial for the process to run smoothly, which is why it’s important to prioritize your actions.
Step #3: URL structure
Next up, we have to select the right URL structure.
What we suggest here is keeping things as simple and evergreen as possible because things can get messy rather fast.
Let’s have a look at a few best practices:
- Use hyphens, although underscores aren’t necessarily wrong.
- Use subfolders instead of subdomains, because with subdomains you’ll need to have different robots.txt files and XML sitemaps, so this adds many levels of complexity to your international content strategy.
- Use language identifiers (for example, “fr” for French).
- Use locale identifiers, depending on the region/country/area you’re targeting to make things more specific (after the language identifier).
All in all, try to keep your URLs as simple and clean as possible.
Step #4: Technical SEO
Technical SEO is a vital part of your international content strategy, so that it can be quite challenging.
Although it extends to many advanced areas, we’ll cover some of the most important things to keep in mind:
- Canonical tags: Use the rel=”canonical” tags to prevent duplicate content issues across different languages or website versions.
- Hreflang tags: Ensure the correct use of hreflang tags for language and regional URLs to guide search engines (such as hreflang=”fr” for French and hreflang=”es” for Spanish).
- XML Sitemap: Include all international versions of your website in the XML sitemap for better indexation or create language-specific XML sitemaps.
- Schema Markup: Implement structured data markup (schema) correctly and consider language and regional variations to enhance your website’s visibility in search engine results.
As we mentioned, although technical SEO can become very advanced, the above are some of the most important things to take into account as part of your international content strategy.
Step #5: Content localization
When it comes to content localization, there are five main things to keep in mind in order for things to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible:
- Avoid several changes at the same time to avoid mistakes in your process; roll out languages one by one.
- Although it’s tempting and easy, don’t work with translators. Ideally, work with native speakers who preferably live in the countries you’re targeting since they’ll have a better understanding of the language, culture, and slang.
- Prioritize high-traffic, high-conversion, or strategically important content in general for your initial localization efforts.
- If possible, create region-specific social media channels. This allows for greater audience segmentation and targeting of localized content.
- Implement a feedback system to learn from local users and continuously improve your localized content based on real user experiences and suggestions.
Of course, none of the above are absolutely vital to make your content strategy work, but we suggest you take them into consideration to make your plan as efficient and effective as possible.
Let’s move on to the last step.
Step #6: Design
Last but not least, we have design.
After you’ve identified the right keywords and the right URL structure and have taken care of technical SEO and other elements, you should make sure that the content is accessible in all those different languages.
In essence, you’ll need three things:
- A language selector
- A language prompt
- Additional elements
When it comes to the language selector, you should make sure it’s in a visible place on your website, so users can choose their preferred language easily, just like in the case of Ahrefs we saw earlier.
Although language prompts are optional, they can be helpful to inform users that a certain page is available in a different language as well.
Image Source: Canva
A good example is Canva, where in the screenshot above, you can see how it informs users about the availability of the content in other languages.
When it comes to a few additional elements, here are some to consider:
- Different languages take up different amounts of space, so make sure your design can accommodate them without any technical issues.
- Keep in mind that some languages (such as Arabic and Hebrew) are written right-to-left (RTL), which may require significant design adjustments to ensure a good user experience.
- Consider cultural sensitivity because colors, symbols, and imagery may have different cultural connotations in different regions.
- Pay attention to date, time, and number formats, to make sure your content is aligned with each country’s audience.
Those are all things that will help you perfect your international content strategy and ultimately reach your content objectives.
Let’s wrap things up with some final words.
Now Over to You
Crafting an international content strategy is by no means an easy task.
There are many parameters to take into account, and even one small thing can change things drastically, so the right foundations need to be laid.
This is why we suggest starting with one language, learning from your mistakes, and then rolling out more languages.
Plus, avoid simply translating, but localize your pages (starting with the most important ones first—homepage, feature pages, pricing page).
And last but not least, many things can go wrong with a localization project so work with experts to avoid mistakes.
So if you’d like any help with your international content strategy, don’t hesitate to book a call with us!