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Five key steps to content marketing in a foreign language (that ensure success)

Facebook is available in 140 languages, Google Search is available in 123 languages, and YouTube is served worldwide (except blocked countries). My friend, each year, the web is becoming more multilingual.

According to the Internet World Stats, 771 million people use the web in the Chinese language, and 312 million people use it in the Spanish language.

One-fifth of the world Internet users are in China, and they are spending close to $1 trillion online, offering foreign companies golden opportunities to crack into a vast and vibrant digital market.

The success of online business in China or in any other foreign country largely depends on foreign language Internet marketing strategies. Localizing keywords and web presence is only half of the work. You need to create an effective content marketing strategy for the specific countries you are targeting.

How can you create a successful content marketing strategy in a foreign language? This is what I am going to explain next.  Without further ado, let’s discuss five key steps to ensuring the success of a content marketing strategy in a foreign language:

1- Research New Territory

The first step to creating a successful content marketing strategy is to research new territory that you are going to target for your products or services.

What would you look for in a new territory?

You need to locate your prospective customers. And creating a buyer persona is an excellent way to do so.

Following are the seven parts that you should include to create a buyer persona with depth:

  • Day in the life.
  • Objectives/problems.
  • Orientations/obstacles.
  • Preferences/questions.
  • Engagement scenario (how you can reach them).

Customer surveys, phone and in-person interviews, and web exit surveys are a few qualitative research methods that will help you find data to create a buyer persona. Your customer support department and sales team can also provide you with lots of useful data.

Once you have created a buyer persona, the next step is to crawl into your customers’ mind.

A customer empathy map is an excellent tool that will come handy to get a glimpse into your customers’ mind.

Originally developed by David Gray, customer empathy map will help you understand what your customers think, feel, see, say, do, and hear. Also, it will give you an idea about your customers’ pain and gain.

Here is how a typical customer empathy map looks like:

To create a customer empathy map, which is a collaborative exercise, you should use sticky notes of different colors and a sticky board. And you should include customer support leads, salespeople, data from user-interviews, and insights from your web analytics (customer action-centric) to create customer empathy map.

A customer persona and customer empathy map will give an understanding of your customers in a foreign land, thereby helping you craft customer-centric content.

2- Overcome Cultural Differences and Beliefs

Needless to say, culture influences consumer-purchasing decisions. So you should invest some time in knowing the culture of a foreign country and the need of people in terms of your products or services to make your content marketing campaigns more effective. Failing to understand the local culture can sometimes lead to embarrassing mistakes in your marketing content.

German leading skincare brand, NIVEA went in the soup for its ‘White is Purity’ ad.

The key to avoiding any such incident is to understand the local culture and beliefs. More people in a foreign country will feel connected with your brand if you include the elements of local culture in your marketing.

The search engine giant, Google, understands this fact and leaves no chance to incorporate local elements in its marketing.

How can you overcome cultural differences to create a successful content marketing campaign in a foreign language?

Here are some ways that can help you:

  • Study the region (Its core cultural events and beliefs).
  • Follow the social media of the foreign country to understand the mood of people around important cultural events.
  • Hire an in-country cultural expert to review your marketing messages.
  • Hire in-country copywriters with bilingual proficiency.

Remember, most people are sensitive to their cultures and beliefs. You should be extra careful when you are creating a content marketing strategy in a foreign language.

3- Keep Your Message Simple

To keep your brand message consistent across countries, you need to translate lots of source content into another language. Therefore, it is important that you keep your message simple.

When you are creating content for another country, here are a few things that you should consider:

  • Use consistent phrases and your brand vocabulary in translated content to create a brand identity in a different language.
  • Most language translations are longer, in regards to the number of words, than the English language – keep room for text expansion.
  • Try to match the tone of translated content with the tone of your buyer persona.
  • Try to use content translated by human – get it reviewed by a translator if it is a machine translation.

You must understand that ranking on search engines is important – don’t forget to integrate important keywords/phrases for localization in line with international SEO.

No doubt, the role of a translator is critical in content marketing in a foreign language. You need to hire a good translator to make sure that your marketing message is not lost in translation.

4- Find Out Target Platforms for Content Distribution

You put lots of efforts in localizing content for a foreign country, so ignoring the aggressive content distribution would be a great miss. You have four channels to distribute your content in a foreign country – owned channels, paid channels, shared channels, and earned channels.

You need to work on all these channels but apportion your efforts based on your current position on a particular channel. If you have a strong position on the shared channel, you should have more focus on other channels.

One important thing that you should consider when using social media for content distribution is you should study networks that your target audience uses in a particular country. Western social media channels might not be that much popular in your targeted foreign country. For example – TENCENT QQ is very popular in China, and enjoys a great popularity in Russia.

Distributing content to online forums and industry-specific websites in a foreign country is a surefire way to amplify content reach and get more eyeballs on your content.

5- Measuring Success

In the end, it is all about the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing dollars. Like any other marketing strategy, your content marketing strategy in a foreign language also needs to be fine-tuned to become successful.

The first step to crafting a successful content marketing strategy is to determine goals.

Here are a few common goals most marketers want to achieve through their content marketing strategies in foreign languages:

  • Build/boost brand awareness in a foreign country.
  • Drive more traffic to a local website.
  • Generate more sales leads in a foreign country.
  • Converts more foreign leads into customers.

According to B2C Content Marketing Trends 2017, 74% marketers want to increase brand awareness through content marketing.

Once you have determined goals for your content marketing strategy, you need to fix KPIs to track the success of your goals.

Here is how you can track KPIs for your content marketing goals:

It is not necessary, or probable that you will have a perfect content marketing strategy in one go. You will need to continually tweak your strategy to fully optimize your content marketing campaign in a foreign language.


Creating a successful content marketing strategy in a foreign language is a challenging task because of the differences in culture and beliefs. But most of the obstacles can be easily tackled if follow the steps above.

If you spend enough time on researching a new territory, overcoming cultural difference, keeping your message simple, distributing your content to local sites, and regularly measuring the success of your content marketing, there is no reason why your content marketing strategy in a foreign language wouldn’t be successful.


by Sandeep Rathore