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How to Blog for a Global Audience

In this post Liz from Pocket Cultures shares 5 tips on how to develop a blog that is friendly to those from around the world.

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First of all, why do you want to blog for a global audience? Well, the world is getting more connected, and people in more and more countries are becoming active online.

PocketCultures.com had visitors from 83 different countries over the last month (note from Darren: here on ProBlogger Google Analytics tells me that visitors come from over 200 countries and territories) – some of you will have even more international readers. In December 2008 there were more Chinese than Americans online for the first time in history.

These trends are set to continue. So what does that mean?

You can keep up with the changing web demographic and increase your reader base more successfully if you take steps to adapt your blog for a global audience.

Here are 5 things you can do to make your blog more friendly to people from other cultures:

1. Use clear English

Most English conversations in the world don’t involve a native speaker, likewise many of your blog readers might not be native English speakers. Think about whether you have written clearly, or whether you can use simpler words and constructions.

For example, before I publish a post I go through it, asking myself for every idea, ‘is there a clearer way to write this?’

As a reader of ProBlogger you probably write in English but of course this applies if you blog in another language as well. Just substitute ‘English’ with your choice of language.

2. Offer translation options

Other languages on the web are rising fast. If you only publish in English you are missing out on a lot of potential readers.

The Italian actor and comedian Beppe Grillo publishes his blog in English, Italian and Japanese. As a result he is one of the most widely read bloggers in the world.

Let’s face it; most of us can’t go as far as translating our blogs, but an easier option is to put a translation tool (such as Google translate or a translation plugin) in a prominent place.

3. Write culturally aware

In other words don’t assume all your readers behave like you do. This is probably the most difficult point, because it’s hard to imagine what can be different in another culture when you haven’t experienced it yourself.

Increase your global awareness by reading blogs written by people in different countries – it’s a great way to find out about what’s different in other cultures. International films are another good way to get insights into other places and points of view.

4. Meet people on their own terms

With blogging and social media some people are more comfortable sharing personal information than others. Also, different cultures encourage different levels of sharing – what’s normal in one culture may be too much or too little information in another. People in some countries can even get in trouble for their opinions, including what they say online.

This means that some people you meet online may choose not to give away personal information and may seem guarded until they get to know and trust you. That doesn’t mean they are unfriendly, just that they feel comfortable taking things at a different pace.

5. The weekend is not always the weekend

In many Middle Eastern countries the weekend is on Thursday and Friday (including Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria) or Friday and Saturday (including UAE, Egypt and Israel). For maximum impact release your best posts on Monday or Tuesday, that way you can be sure the whole world is paying attention.

How about you? What do you do to make your blog more accessible to international readers?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. This is great! I think I will look into putting a translator plugin on my blog. See if the traffic goes up.

    Thanks,
    Nate

  2. tim says:

    Interesting topic.

    My blog is sort of new still but one thing I’ve noticed is that I have an audience which is scattered (some are friends and relatives from across the country and others just have similar interests) but I haven’t done such a good job gaining a local audience.

    I’m currently looking into ways of marketing locally and maybe even aiming SOME content to local topics of interest.

    Eventually I’ll start reaching more globally, as I grow.

  3. Are any of these translation plugins any good? Given how poor free online translation tools are I have reservations.

  4. Great topic! Something that I tend to find a little frustrating is when someone writes about events and such that I’d really like to attend but doesn’t tell me where they are. Sometimes it’s easy enough to guess that a writer is likely on one coast of the US or the other, or that they’re probably in Australia. If I want to know if I can attend your book signing, it’s helpful to know if you’re a car ride or a plane flight away!

    And I think you’re right about #3 being the most difficult, but it’s also the one I find myself most impressed by when people do it well.

  5. Mark Avey says:

    Interesting you should write this now, as I’ve been considering my blog translation options over the past couple of weeks.

    I did use Global Translator on my main blog for some time, but then started reading that it had a pretty bad affect on your SEO – bad internal linking etc. I therefore removed it, but am now starting to think I shouldn’t have! Anyone have any thoughts on that?

    I do like the Google Translation service, but their widget is just so “old” looking! Is there a more modern looking alternative?

  6. Isaac says:

    I don’t blog on weekends, but my best posts have been coming mid-week (Wed. or Thurs.). Number 5 is a good point.

  7. Pamela Miles says:

    Helpful post, thanks. I’ve traveled a bit and lived in India for 2 years, so I understand what you mean. Still, there’s only so much time to research this concept, so I’d love more detail on the salient differences among cultures. Any resources?

  8. My blog is quite new with 2+ months. I have considered detailed plan targeted international readers but I choose English because it is a common language.

  9. You nailed No 5, it’s a must!

  10. This is a good post, I like the statement of being culturally aware, it is a good tip to have.

  11. My blog is focused on introducing Chinese culture to global audience. This post is helpful to me. I will consider to include a translation feature and improve my english skill. Thanks

  12. I like how you spoke of the weekend being different in other countries.

    So many people don’t put up posts on the weekends because they think it’s a waste due to a decrease in traffic, but if you have readers from those countries that have a different weekend than you… a post you put up on a sunday could be their monday morning reading material.

    Think about it!

  13. Anthony says:

    Being the author of a multilanguage translation plugin I must say i’m quite disappointed to see such an old link from lorelle as it dates back to 2007 and most of these plugins are not supported anymore or not supporting WP2.7 and doesn’t talk of new plugins being built since then (such as mine).

    Appart from that, I will agree with all points but would advise not to use google translator as a real option. Provided translations might looks good but speaking 3 languages, I can tell you most of the time, translations are not making any sense, if not saying the opposite of what you wrote.

  14. I have always liked the translation features that I noticed on on other blogs and have wanted to add it to my blog but just didn’t. If blogging earlier in the week will help to bring more traffic, then it is something worth consideration.

  15. RhondaL says:

    So far, most of my readers are English-speakers, but I was surprised when I started getting international readers on my blog. I know that I shouldn’t be. After all, if there’s anything without borders, it’s the Internet. :) And horse lovers live all over the world.

    One thing I should watch more is that my writing “voice” is conversational and uses American idioms. Plus, I have to watch about using regional American expressions, too.

  16. Dave says:

    Definitely going to try and implement a translation plugin on my site. Being based in Japan and writing an English language blog makes me wonder if I can tap into the Japanese-language market. It’s a tough thing to do considering the popularity of Livedoor blogs and the reluctance to change in Japan but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  17. Blog Expert says:

    I think it is difficult to Blog for a global audience. If it was me I would just recommend people going for a set group of demographic. It makes more sense because it is easier to target that set of people. Otherwise, there are way too many people you are targeting and it may cause you to do things that is good for some of those people but not another part of the group.

  18. Serena Dorey says:

    Speaking as a professional translator, I think caution should be taken when offering translation options as described under #2.

    Business bloggers should definitely consider hiring a qualified translator to translate their posts. Free machine translation tools are fine for when you simply want to get the gist of a text but if you want to provide quality content in multiple languages, you need the quality translations to match. When your blog is part of your marketing strategy and has a direct impact on your company’s reputation, quality is everything. You wouldn’t dream of publishing marketing materials that were anything less than perfect in your language, so why take a risk with them in a foreign language?

  19. Andrew says:

    I really like the advice on Number 5. I noticed that a feature post I published on a Friday didn’t traffic nearly as much as one I released on the following Tuesday. Both were of similar content and promoted equally, but the Tuesday post was much more successful.

  20. Interesting! Thanks for the info! ^_^

  21. Benny Lewis says:

    I’ve had a video blog (travel and technology related) that I have translated entirely into SEVEN languages; English, Irish Gaelic, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Esperanto. I use a WordPress plugin called “gengo” that detects the browser’s default language and redirects to that site language if available. Otherwise there is a selectable menu.
    It works out great because my entire blog has good coverage for different continents and even though it’s the same content, I am multiplying my audience theoretically by seven! For example, my latest video got on the front page of meneame, which is the Spanish version of Digg, so I got 7,000 views in a few hours. Ironically, the languages that are least spoken are my most popular pages (Irish Gaelic and Esperanto) – even though my blog idea (travelling and Internet related videos) isn’t so unique, I really have a niche by doing it in those languages.
    In this day and age, being as international as possible is so important and I am surprised that there are not more translated blogs like mine. On the other hand, it’s a LOT of work (I do it all myself; as a translator I speak those languages), so I only post about once a month.
    I am definitely not a fan of automatic translation in blogging. Who would want to read that? There’s no room for discussion if the blog writer can’t even understand the comments, and the likes of Google Translate is quite good to get the gist of a foreign text, but definitely not for actually gaining regular readers. If you don’t speak the language and you want to diversify your blog, you should consider hiring a translator, or at least trying to learn the language yourself :) It’s not as hard as you might think! I use my blog (and my 7 twitter accounts) to practice these languages to keep my level up.
    Interesting topic!

  22. Liz says:

    Thanks everyone! Great comments.

    Keith – As you say, translation plugins are not perfect. Maybe we should be pleased about that – at least it means humans aren’t replaceable yet :) Sometimes they are the only option though, and I guess it’s better than nothing if you don’t speak the language.

    Mark – I read that translations can damage SEO too. I don’t know enough about SEO to comment – anyone else can comment on this? Actually I don’t think it makes sense because translations can add a lot of value. Maybe the search engines will wake up to this one day!

    Pamela – I read a lot on this subject. If you’re interested why don’t you send me an email and we can chat more about it?

    Chung – well, English and Chinese are the most common languages on the Internet now, so blogging in English is a good choice if you want to reach an international audience.

    Anthony – Surprisingly there isn’t much recent discussion on that. Good post idea?

    RhondaL – you’re right, idioms are one of the most difficult things in a different language. It’s a question of how to keep your conversational style and being more accessible to non-native speakers isn’t it?

  23. Very useful tiny tips darren. I particularly liked #3… Understading each other’s culture is vital to be successful in blogging as it preaches about freedom of speech and seemless collaboration.

    I have found many leading bloggers not being very accommodative when it comes to answering questions or reacting to people from different cultures.

  24. Eddie Gear says:

    Hi Darren,

    This is a nice article, these are some of the basic guidelines for a technical communicator.

    Cheers,
    Eddie Gear

  25. Matthew says:

    I try to keep any international readers in mind while writing my blog posts. According to my stats, I’m my main international reader (studying abroad this semester) so that does help. :D

    The tip about the weekends is a good one that I need to think about. Currently I post Mon, Wed & Fri, and am planning on doubling that, Mon-Sat. Maybe I’ll have to shuffle that schedule around some.

  26. Hate Master says:

    The thing is some blogs are not meant to be for a global audience, this is where many blogs lose readers. It’s important to grow a community to a global scale instead of focusing on writing only about what people in your area or company or country are interested in.

  27. Jonathan says:

    alright, i’m Brazilian and in short i’m addicted to RSS, most of my daily readings are in english, i find your tips very interesting , but i want make an observation about tip number 2.

    IMHO It’s interesting to keep an optional translating choice, but little people actualy read or can bear reading a machine translated text, its mostly unintelligible and meaningless, but there’s an option just in case.

    What i find unforgivable is using low quality machine translations as “official versions” of your blog, i’ve seen sites where i was automagically set to a machine translated page, to me its almost insulting, and lowers the quality of the website.

  28. Robin says:

    I took global translator off my blog for about a week, but put it right back. I get a good amount of search engine traffic in other languages. Heck I don’t even know what many of my top search terms are…lol. I actually, got a comment recently, that took me about a dozen attempts to finally translate, before approving. It meant pretty much what I expected, but in an entirely different alphabet, you can never be too careful. It ended out being in Hebrew.

  29. Liz says:

    Benny – awesome idea! I don’t think I’ve seen anyone blog in 7 languages before. There is definitely demand for more languages on the Internet, as your experience shows. Of course it helps if you speak loads of languages…

    Matthew – good luck with that! Who knows, maybe you will meet some more international readers on your travels.

    Jonathan – I agree with you, machine translation is best kept as an optional. Like Benny wrote, hiring a translator or learning a language yourself is always a better option if it’s practical. One question: if your feeds were available in (good) Portuguese would you prefer that? Or are you quite happy to read them in English?

  30. Eulalia says:

    Hi everybody
    If we non English speakers read your blogs, is because we do understand English. IT would be great for me to read PROBLOGGER in Spanish of course, but better than that I would like an opinion of best practices of blogging in Spanish, I mean for example, if your principal audience is not coming from US or CANADA , are you sure monetizing would be the same thing??
    Thank you for any advice

  31. Eric says:

    Do you have a translation widget on your page?

  32. Albert says:

    What are some universal translators that you are suggesting.

  33. Martijn says:

    The most interesting bit about a blog is writing and discovering that the majority of people reading it are living in a different part of the world for you.

    If you write in English the USA is of course a huge audience but for me so is India.

    As a Dutchman living overseas and posting in English.it just reinforces the lack of national borders in the Internet. The only real border is the language barrier.

  34. Martijn says:

    The most interesting bit about blogging is writing and discovering that the majority of people reading your posts are living in a different part of the world from you.

    If you write in English the USA is of course a huge audience but for me so is India.

    As a Dutchman living overseas and posting in English it just reinforces the lack of national borders in the Internet. The only real border is the language barrier.

  35. Jay says:

    Very interesting stuff. I especially liked how you pointed out that the weekend is not necessarily the weekend everywhere. I do post on the “weekend” so I guess I am ahead of the game. Thank you for the tips!

  36. The weekend aspect of this post is dead on. Sometimes holidays in one country are normal days in other countries. Blogging and expressing passion for your niche should continue rain or shine at whatever pace your comfortable with. Great Post!

  37. Yes I saw many blogs have good content and looks as well. But they published in their local language. I tried to use Google translator as well. But that one deliver the funny wordings and not at all readable.

    Like Darren he is recognised everywhere in those communities which want to make money from internet. Infact their first step starts from here.

  38. @ Keith Collantine

    I have tried many plugins for many language but unfortunately no one worked fine even close to that.

  39. I strongly disagree with point 2 and would warn commentators who now want to rush to install a translation tool. Either write posts in the languages you have mastered or just stick to English. But DON’T USE translations tools.

    As a German native speaker who is fluent in English I have first-hand experience with the sort of hilarious gibberish that translation tools create. Unfortunately, technology still isn’t advanced enough to create meaningful translations.

    If you use those tools you should be aware that the posted nonsense reflects badly on your judgement and your blog. International readers won’t take you for real.

  40. Hi, I liked the post, but I have one query, how do you develop a genuine voice on your blog, writting as the person you are when you are tailoring it for an international audience?

    I would argue that you should be aware of cultural differences but blog in yoru own voice to add variety to the mix.

    I love the poitn about posting your best pieces on Tuesday and Wednesday, I just presumed the weekend was the same in all countries.

  41. Luke says:

    Some really interesting comments on this article and some cool stuff in the article too! Definitely given me some ideas to test out…

    My site is relatively new and gains most traffic from the UK, due to content, however I was happy to see visitors popping up all over the globe (45 countries last month).

    It’s exciting to think that people all over the world are viewing content and using it in different ways. I think that translation tools are really useful and could see vast improvements in the future!

  42. Formula-193 says:

    Great idea! It seem the loyal global visitors will happy if you can implement this tips.

  43. Agent SEO says:

    Wow…this is a very interesting post that raises issue that I’d never thought of before.

    Are there any WordPress plugins that could help with translation? I am in the process of re-designing my blog and am looking for ways to reach a global audience.

    Thanks…

  44. Paul says:

    I am using the Talian WordPress theme on a few of my sites that includes a translation box in the upper left corner of the sidebar. It works fairly well for translating the pages, but I like it because it shows all my readers that I am interested in them.

  45. Mikko says:

    But please, please don’t offer any automatic tool for translating from English to Finnish.

    The results are almost untelligible and I doubt any reader would prefer an unintelligible translation to clearly written original. At the very best, the translations are hilarious.

  46. Kerry Dexter says:

    more than half of my readers come from outside the US. som of this traffic I’ve worked to generate, while the rest of it found me. most subjectts are both local and international, wise points to remember however you choose to tackle that.

  47. Shweta says:

    Great point here Darren. I do not think many people think on these lines when posting or even in the bigger picture.
    These ideas must also be incorporated in the audio files and video blogging. Speaking slowly and clearly is very important if you want the non-native speakers to understand you well.

    And as always it is always better not to add jokes or slangs that might be hurtful to other cultures.
    For a global audience and following bloggers must use mindful writing and expression.

    Thanks for your tips!

  48. I live and blog from the UAE (Dubai) and yes, I do make it a point to post relevant posts on Monday afternoons in time most of my readers are going to office or waking up opening their PC’s. I do set the time of posting later in the day for the same reason, for my global audience.

    It’s a little bit strange that most of my readers are not from the UAE but elsewhere!

  49. @Mikko

    I totally agree with you – see my comment posted today 8:11. But its seems like our objections are being ignored here. It seems strange, though, since this is a blog post about the issue of how to reach a global audience…

  50. Caleb says:

    Yea, I notice I’ve been getting more India traffic and although I haven’t quite figured out why, it did prompt me to step up my translator plugin.

    I even got a reader who speaks Hebrew and wanted to know since search engines read from left to right, would they also be able to read right to left ensuring that his site got properly read?

    My response to this is here for those who’re interested….