Let’s imagine that you’re a big business.
You have hundreds or even thousands of people across a range of departments, and you do marketing in countries globally, so your website (and content) needs to consider all those different languages.
Now, how do you
- create content across multiple languages,
- get it into all the right places, and
- get that content into a global audience’s hands (and in front of their eyes)?
Creating multilingual content can be a challenging task.
Still, it doesn’t have to be, and at NMG, we do this kind of work hundreds of times per month for clients (in Chinese) and ourselves (in Chinese and English).
In this post, I’ll be giving you a breakdown of our process, sharing our tried-and-tested method for creating multilingual content, managing the workflow, and ensuring your content reaches all the right places.
For those of you who’d like a break from reading, or would prefer a visual walkthrough of the workflow process, here’s a video:
I was talking to somebody recently about this and would like to share their story to illustrate my point.
They’re a B2B business selling a technical product and making plenty of sales already.
However, they want to make more of those sales directly, and this means attracting their potential clients directly to their website and resources.
The advantages of this are better control over their branding and the ability to make their own sales, which should reduce their overall expenses.
This business operates across four languages:
- Simplified Chinese (used in mainland China)
- Traditional Chinese (used outside of mainland China)
As some of their websites are relatively new, SEO is also a consideration.
This makes for a rather complex situation.
Within their business, they already have people who can assist with this. They may also call on us, employ a freelancer, or a third-party vendor.
Overall, there are many things to consider but don’t worry. Taking into account all these different moving parts, let’s simplify the process.
Let’s start by breaking the work down into three chunks:
Research refers to any on-the-job learning. You’re an expert in your field or work alongside people with specialist expertise and knowledge.
You may need to search for additional information and conduct additional research, such as surveys.
Overall, you know what you do (hopefully).
Creation is done by a writer (or by the person doing the research) who is responsible for creating the core pieces of content: white papers, blog posts, case studies, videos, etc.
Important: The research and creation of the content only need to be done once. Don’t do it individually for each language.
Transcreation happens after your content is ready. This is the process of translating the content into other languages, as well as adapting it for the readers and the platforms where it will be shared.
The B2B company showed us a long blog post (three times the size of one of ours), which we took and translated into simplified and then traditional Chinese. FYI, it’s easier to convert the simplified Chinese version to traditional Chinese than it is to translate from English to Chinese.
We then go one step further by possibly
- adapting and sharing it in different places (e.g., Zhihu);
- modifying the layout for WeChat;
- using the English content in a newsletter;
- posting a shortened version on LinkedIn and another with multiple images on Weibo;
- sharing it on additional social platforms and websites (ones we haven’t even found yet), and
- generating new ideas to be used as answers on Zhihu.
Using some previous content of our own, here’s an example:
As you can see, there are plenty of options and ways to repackage and use this content. And, this is one of the simpler examples. Some of the content I create will also become a LinkedIN post, many tweets and a Chinese video on six different platforms.
Researching and writing take up a big chunk of the work. You might as well take that and use it in as many places where it will actually be effective. This will maximize your ability to reach your target clients.
So, how do we make this work?
We use the term transcreation instead of adaptation or translation.
When we transcreate content from English to Chinese, our writer approaches the content with the target readers in mind.
It could be a direct translation, but certain sections could pose difficulty, confuse, or be misunderstood by a Chinese audience.
If we feel that the readers may have a few questions regarding the content, we’ll contact the author for additional information or an explanation. For example, the blog post may introduce a new product but doesn’t mention its compatibility with Chinese hardware.
Once this has been cleared up or explained, we’ll add the amended content to the original piece.
This is another consideration.
Do we need to do SEO for all the languages? Are they similar?
When it comes to creating multilingual content for websites, the most significant part of SEO is the actual content creation. However, we do have to ensure that the websites are tailored for the two main search engines (for global SEO)—Google and Baidu.
Everything that’s used on Google is also applicable to Baidu. That being said, Baidu can be a bit “dumber” and requires a bit more care when removing obstacles from the website that could affect indexation.
How to get your websites indexed on Baidu is a big topic itself. If you would like to learn more, check out one of my other videos or posts:
- Baidu SEO Basics – How to Optimize Your Site for Baidu (2020)
- Technical On-site SEO (2020)
- The Baidu SEO To-do List for Google SEO Pros (2022)
After the distribution of the content, we will want to analyze it.
This can be a challenge for global teams when the reports come in different types and end up in different places. Picture this scene:
- One person analyzing WeChat data.
- Website data in Google Analytics.
- Baidu webmaster tools data.
- SEO data elsewhere being ignored by most of the team.
As you can see: Lots of data, all in separate locations. It can get really messy.
To streamline the process and make it easy, we take all these data sources and put them into a single report in Google Looker (previously known as Google Data Studio).
Once everything’s in one place, we can present this data in a meeting and use it to inform our future strategy.
Anybody on the team more focused on an individual data set or type (e.g., WeChat articles or analysis) can, of course, just go into the platform’s backend and analyze it there.
I created a video and a blog post recently about how to use Google Looker (formerly Google Data Studio) to manage your company’s data when it’s spread out across different locations.
Deliver Your Core Content (Yourself)
It’s great if you have a boss or an expert on your team prepared to create content like this.
This is something I do at NMG with videos, blog posts, etc., and it really helps if you have either the founder or somebody considered an industry authority at the front and center of your content.
If you need a popular example, look no further than Elon Musk. He’s Tesla and SpaceX’s biggest spokesperson and promoter and is extremely good at what he does.
Chinese social media, Western social media, and international news outlets, Elon’s present across them all.
Overall, having your CEO or industry expert deliver your content will make the message feel more authentic and emphatic.
I’ve outlined the hypothetical workflow for the company in our case study, but I’m now going to show you an example of the workflow we use for content at NMG.
The above image contains a screenshot from the program management tool ClickUp.
ClickUp allows us to create templates, which makes managing everything easy.
The template you see in the image is for this topic (creating multilingual content) and provides my team with the starting point for the video, which then becomes a written blog post.
There will be many stages and people all working on the same piece of content.
In this case, I had an idea for the content and went straight ahead and recorded a video. This might not work for everyone, and at a larger company (and if it’s not the boss doing it), you would probably have a bit more of a planning stage. However, this method works for us.
In this stage, I create the core points and content in video format and then supply my team with some notes.
From here, our content writer takes the video and writes a blog post in English.
After that, our senior video director, Adam, edits the video to make it more concise by cutting out moments where I may have said something stupid or messed up a little.
How much our team will need to edit depends on the piece of content. In the case of this post, the original video didn’t need much at all.
Next, we need to translate the content into Chinese in a Google Docs file. For this post, we only have two languages—English and Chinese.
Once we have both an English and Chinese version of the post, somebody will design images and visual aids, select screenshots, etc., to support the text.
Then it’s time for our account manager, Nara, to review the final version.
When the review is complete, the document is forwarded to me to check and approve. During this final stage, I answer any remaining questions or comments about the content.
The finished content is then published on our website nanjingmarketinggroup.com; we may also upload it to other platforms.
Most of our articles are B2B-focused; therefore, we won’t publish these on platforms like Douyin or Xiaohongshu.
The content will be adjusted for and published on WeChat. Because the platform’s layout is not the same as a blog post, the information will be broken down and presented in smaller chunks.
By tailoring it to WeChat, we increase the chance of users opening the article and sharing it with others. It will also be laid out and published on Zhihu (easy enough).
The full content we created for this post is as follows:
- The YouTube video.
- This blog post you’re reading.
- The Chinese version of this blog post (still in progress).
- Tweets made before, during, and after the post was completed.
- A post on our company’s, and my personal LinkedIn.
- Our newsletter.
And there you have it, our basic workflow for creating hundreds of pieces of multilingual content per month.
For the businesses we work with, our approach will resemble the process I’ve described in this post.
However, none of this is set in stone.
Not all our tasks follow this format, and the process is just a template, which is adjusted and customized based on the situation.
Every time things are a little different, but following these steps prevents us from forgetting what to do and keeps all our team members (kind of) on the same page.
I hope this has been useful for you. As always, if you have any questions, feedback, tips, or comments, please leave a comment down below.