Blogging is an activity that can transcend borders and physical distances. From Peru to Pennsylvania, anyone with Internet access can potentially find and read your blog. But that doesn’t mean they will.
English is still the single most widely spoken language online but did you know that it accounts for only around a quarter of total usage? With rising internet use in emerging markets in South America, Asia and the Middle East, this figure is set to shrink still further.
Add the facts that many people use English as a second language and that there may be issues with visibility – that they’re unlikely to simply come across your blog by accident – and it becomes clear that a monolingual, ‘one size fits all’ approach to blogging is going to rule out a large potential audience..
Research your target markets
Many bloggers will find that they’ll reach at least a smattering of international readers almost by accident. You can track where your visitors come from with the help of tools like Google Analytics. If you find you’re already attracting readers from certain markets, that can give you a good starting point. To a large extent, the nature of your blog will help you figure out where best to focus your efforts. Some subjects will have a wider appeal within certain markets but even subjects with a seemingly narrow appeal can attract an international audience. Beppe Grille blogs largely about politics in his native Italy but his acerbic style has won him a huge international audience, with his posts being translated into English and Japanese.
The old blogging rule of thumb ‘write about what you know’ still applies. It’sperhaps even more important when you are targeting international audiences. There’s a world of difference between tailoring your content for different audiences and writing about different countries and cultures. Unless you’re offering an outsider’s or tourist’s eye view you should think carefully before writing about cultures you are not familiar with. It’s easy to make mistakes or even cause offence if you do.
Adapt and translate your posts
Once you’ve identified your target markets, it’s time to think about translating your content. While automatic translation tools, such as Google Translate offer a quick, free, solution, they tend to produce stilted, unnatural results and contextual errors. It’s best to use native-speaking translators to avoid mistakes and ensure fluent, readable results.
Research your keywords and optimize content
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an area frequently overlooked by bloggers but it can help drive extra traffic your way. You might be surprised to find that direct translations of your English keywords aren’t always the best ones to use in another language. It’s worth doing a little research to find out what native speakers tend to search for.
For example, although “l’assurance automobile” is a direct French translation of “car insurance”, most French speakers tend to search for assurance auto. Brainstorm keywords with the help of a native translator and run them through Google’s local sites to gauge their effectiveness.
Schedule your posts
It’s generally accepted that early morning on a weekday is the best time to publish new posts. If you have localized versions tailored to different markets however, you should remember that 9am for you might be 8pm for somebody else. Check different time zones around the world and publish fresh posts at the optimum times. Many blogging platforms will allow you to schedule when your posts go live in advance so you don’t have to hover over your keyboard waiting to hit ‘send’.
The working week runs from Monday to Friday throughout most of the western world but for many Israelis the working week starts on Sunday and in many Islamic countries the weekend is Friday-Saturday.
Be proactive and promote your blog
It goes without saying that you should always try to write appealing posts, engage your readers
and be active with fresh and up to date contents. You should also take time to reply to comments and if these are in a foreign language, you should reply in kind. Automatic translation may be adequate for making brief replies and will certainly help you get the gist of what your readers are saying.
Social media sites can offer a great way to promote your blog internationally. All the major players like Facebook and Twitter feature foreign language settings but it may be worth checking out local competitors. Mixi is popular in Japan for example, while the Russian Vkontakte (or VK) claims to have more than 100 million active users in Europe. Maintaining separate, linked profiles on various social media platforms will help you extend your reach and promote your blog across different cultures and languages.