The blogosphere is by its very nature a truly global phenomenon. Anyone with an Internet connection can, in theory, access your blog, no matter where they are in the world. But that doesn’t mean they will. To blog for an international audience, you need to make sure your content is appealing and accessible across cultural and linguistic divides.
Target your blog
On the day The Huffington Post launched its French edition, founder Arianna Huffington said, “While we will be importing the platform, technology, and tools from across the pond, Le Huffington Post will be rooted in French culture and will reflect France’s own unique personality, rich culture, and diversity of voices.”
As with the preceding Canadian and UK versions, the news giant has tailored its French content to appeal to a specific international audience. We can’t all have the resources of Technorati’s current top-rated blog, but we can focus our efforts on markets that are likely to pay dividends.
The exact nature of your blog will help determine where you should start. A blog about soccer will have a wide potential appeal throughout much of the world but may have a more select, niche appeal within the USA. Concentrating on the Major Soccer League (MSL) could help reach that niche audience while in-depth coverage of leagues based in South America or Europe could give you inroads into those markets.
Beppe Grille has proved that a relatively narrow topic does not necessarily rule out an international audience. The Italian activist blogs largely about politics in his homeland but his blog – available in Italian, English and Japanese – has gained a huge international following.
Use simple words
Unless you’re writing a blog on the joys of circumlocution (that’s general wordiness for the non-enthusiasts) it’s a good rule of thumb to keep the language relatively simple and accessible. This is even more important if you’re aiming for an international audience. English is still the single most widely used language online according to Internet World Stats. An English-only blog may attract a limited number of foreign visitors. But if they speak English as a second language, simple words and structures will make things easier to follow.
While English is the most widely used language on the ‘net, it still represents only around a quarter of total usage. To successfully cross over to international audiences you will also need to translate your blog. Using simple language in your original posts will help make this easier.
Consider your translation options
Once you’ve decided which markets to target, you need to decide how to translate your blog There are many automatic translation programs available that offer a quick, free solution. The drawback is that even the best machine translation is prone to contextual errors. They don’t deal well with slang, abbreviations, acronyms and other cultural and linguistic variations. All this can leave parts of your blog looking stilted and amateurish or may even change the meaning entirely.
Enlisting the help of native speaking translators is a better option by far. This will help ensure an accurate translation, retain meaning and nuance and avoid any embarrassing cultural faux pas. Of course, it is more expensive, so you’ll want to choose your languages carefully. You could test the water by translating some of your best posts into a few selected languages. If you find you’re attracting interest, you can go ahead and translate more.
When to post a blog
The best time to update your content is in the morning. This can give your blog an up-to-date feel but can also present a problem when crossing international boundaries and time zones. It makes sense to stagger the times when you publish your international content. Make a schedule based on the relevant time zones and publish your content as the sun comes up all around the globe.
Make use of social media
Social media is an ideal platform for promoting your blog. All the big hitters like Facebook and Twitter have international audiences and settings but it’s worth remembering that local competitors can be every bit as important within their own spheres of influence.
The home-grown Mixi is a massively popular social network in Japan for example, while Russian-based Vkontakte (commonly known as VK) claims to be the largest European social network with more than 100 million active users. In addition, there may be local specialist sites, forums and social networks that are worth checking out depending on the theme of your blog.
Create separate (but linked) profiles on all the relevant social networks. Keep them up to date and be proactive. Don’t just put links to your blog and hope for the best; write guest posts, leave comments and join in the online conversation.
Taking your blog to an international audience can be a lot of time and forward planning. Given the huge potential audiences you can reach, it can be worth every bit of effort you put in in building new relationships and driving potential business.