Managing Content for Global Websites
One of the biggest challenges of setting up and managing a global website is the organization and creation of the localized content.
It is nice to see content management being taken more seriously now by website owners and the marketers by understanding the various customer journeys and personas rather than to just push out what the business wants their customers to see.
At the same time, many websites just translate the home site content to create the various global sites.
Considering that the content on the home site was often created based on the customer needs and other factors for a specific market, those global variations may be started out with an enormous handicap.
Today, I’m sharing five tips which I use to help in managing content for global websites.
1. Local Calendar
This is a simple calendar showing each of your target country’s holidays and events such as:
- Big sales and shopping seasons.
- School calendars.
- Business fiscal calendar.
- Vacation seasons.
From working with the businesses in different countries, I learned how each country has unique gift-giving seasons, travel seasons, and work calendars.
For example, U.S. schools typically start in August-September and end in May-June, but the schools in Japan typically start in April and end in March.
The Japanese government has the similar fiscal calendar. All their contractors start planning in the fall to get their next fiscal year budget planned by February and March. If any of these contractors are your target customers, you need to be ready with your products and the service information by summer.
If your business provides those services and/or products that are heavily seasonal, you’ll also want to add the content push-pull plan to the calendar for each country. It helps for everyone involved to understand which content to be promoted in what season in which country website.
2. Local Keyword Research
Unfortunately, keywords seem to be taken less seriously lately. I agree that chasing the ranking for certain keywords, which may or may not be contributing to the business, is a waste of efforts.
However, understanding how people in each country are looking for the information about the products and the services related to your business, and being able to reflect the understanding to your content strategy is more important than ever.
Needless to say, it is important to conduct local keyword research as you’d do for your home country.
In addition to the data you normally use, consider reviewing any local specific data such as:
- Customer service chat topics.
- Locally popular items.
- Local competitors’ offerings.
3. Translation & Localization
It makes sense to translate the existing site’s content rather than to create each of the local sites from scratch. That’s fine as long as you remember to localize the sites for each country.
Hopefully, you’ve done the local keyword research prior to the content translation and the localization begins. In which case, make sure that the translators (agency or in-house team) will use the words on your keyword list.
During the localization process, integrate local specific information as much as possible, especially on the site written in languages (e.g., English, Spanish, traditional Chinese) that are spoken in multiple countries.
Local phone numbers, addresses, and currencies are some of the information for the search engines to understand the target country of the website.
The hreflang element is another great way to minimize the wrong page to show up in the search results in the wrong country.
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Keep in mind, Google and Yandex are the only search engines that honor the hreflang information. It makes the content localization more important in some countries, where people using the search engines other than Google and Yandex.
4. Content Management System
Perhaps, one of the horror stories of the global websites happens when the CMS rolls back the local content when the original content is updated. All the locally edited content including the title tag and the meta descriptions are gone.
Because the local teams are typically much smaller than the team at the home country office, this puts a huge unexpected burden on their plate.
Be sure to set up the CMS so that when a parent content is edited, it won’t automatically erase the edited content on children pages.
Another popular challenge related to CMS management is when a new content is created on a parent site, it automatically creates child pages regardless of the need in other countries.
Because it’s not relevant to the local site, it’s often ignored by the local team, and left on the site without being translated. It’s best to take down the pages from the local site.
I also see quite often that the local team is not granted to use all the functionality of the CMS while they are responsible to edit and optimize the content locally.
Without any specific reasons, the corporate managers limit the local teams from editing content, including the title tag, meta descriptions, canonical tags, and even some of the body content (including the links). In this situation, the local team must request the parent site team to make the changes for them, which could take weeks, if not months.
If you’re uncomfortable with the local team’s ability to make the changes, give them the required training rather than to limit their access.
5. Global Content Chart
In addition to the local keyword research, you could find great business opportunities by conducting the local customer study.
Depending on the findings, you may want to adjust the approaches to the local audiences or even to create locally unique content to help grow the business in a specific country.
Sometimes, your target audience changes when you go to a different country. For example, a research we conducted for an exchange student program showed that their target audience was not just the school student but their parents and guardians who must approve the program, and most importantly, pay for the program.
The data helped the web team to convince the company to invest in additional content that was more catered to the parents rather than to the students. With the additional content, they grew the program sign-ups by 300+ percent year over year.
After you conduct the local customer study, apply that to create your global content management chart. On that chart, indicate the content inclusion and exclusion for each country website as well as local unique content. It’s also helpful if you combine the information on this chart with the local calendar data mentioned above.
Organization and pre-planning efforts are key to avoiding confusion and losing control of content management.
By standardizing the content creating, translation/localization, and overall management, you can make the process easier and more efficient for everyone involved.