This post is part of the Ten Golden Rules of Global Content Strategy series.

The first rule of any content strategy, whether it is single-language or multilingual, is to make sure that you know all of the different places where your content is being created, stored, used, reused, and consumed.

Locating, cataloging, and organizing all of your source language content can be an onerous task. Nowadays, there is more content, located in more places, being created by more people. Tracking all of those moving parts is a full-time job.

When you add multiple languages to the mix, the task is exponentially more difficult and exponentially more important. Here are some of the things you need to do when you audit global content:

Locate the content that you are responsible for.

It is really important for you to start out by knowing your stuff. What content goes to localization and translation? Where does it reside? Who created it?

Create a catalog.

A catalog is where you track all of the content. Some content management systems include robust tools for tracking and managing content. Some people use an Excel spreadsheet for this purpose. Use whatever tool is the most convenient and will be the easiest to update (because you will be updating this puppy a lot).

In addition to the customary tracking criteria (filename, URL, etc.), global content has additional tracking needs:

  • Is the content localized? translated? transcreated? some combination?
  • What are the languages?
  • Who is the translation vendor? (could be more than one, so make sure you check)
  • Who is responsible for reviewing each translation?

Know who all of your translation vendors are and what content each is responsible for.

I have customers who engage three, four, five, even six different translation vendors. They all have their reasons and I’m sure at the time they brought on vendor number five it made some sense. Personally, I think having more than two vendors is difficult to track and manage.

That said, you may have specific translators for specific languages. For example, your local French, Italian, German, and Spanish (FIGS in translation-speak) vendor may not be able to handle Kanuri, Songhay, or Nubian.

Regardless of how many vendors you have, make sure that you know what content is being translated by each. You’d be surprised at how difficult this might be to do.

Locate, identify, and have possession of your translation memories.

I cannot state this point emphatically enough: You Must Own Your Translation Memories (TMs). They are yours. You pay for them. They are the golden nuggets that make all of your translated content sing.

Beware of translation vendors who won’t give you your TMs or who tell you that you don’t need them. That is bunk.

If you only have a single translation vendor, you don’t risk much by not owning your TMs. However, if you have two or more translation vendors, and you do not have a single TM in a single repository, each translation vendor will create its own TM. The different TMs will contain different source and target language pairs, different translations for the same segments, and unique entries that would be considered “matches” if all of the language pairs were in a single database.

Having multiple TMs, each used by a different translation vendor results in:

  • The same segment being translated differently into the same languages. This is wasteful, as you paid twice to have the same words translated into the same languages. And, you got different translations to boot.
  • The same segment being translated differently into different languages. This causes all kinds of branding and reuse problems because you have French and Spanish translations in one TM and Swahili and Hindi in a different TM. Now, your translations are way out of sync.
  • A lot of extra expense because of lost fuzzy matching and reuse opportunities.
  • Branding issues because you have two Punjabi translations of your latest marketing message, but the translations do not match and neither does your marketing message.
  • General confusion that wastes time and money because you lose track of what has been translated by who and where those translations are stored. It takes more time to find the translations than to re-translate the segments. So you retranslate the segments and…see the two bullets above…lather, rinse, repeat.

So, I will state it again. You must have your translation memories. My personal preference is to store the TMs centrally in a location that is accessible by all of your translation vendors. Every time a new translation is finished, the newly translated segments all get funneled into the same, single database. Now that’s global content management at its finest.

Identify content that is being translated by other groups in your company.

You would be amazed at the renegade translation activity that takes place all over a company. Wasteful, wasteful, wasteful. I have customers who have no idea that other content, created by other groups, is being translated into other languages.

Even if you are not responsible for localization and translation, it is really important for you to become buddies with the other groups in your company that are translating. In an ideal world, the entire company corpus (EVERYTHING) is translated using the same TMs and the same couple of translation vendors. By collaborating with other groups, you will:

  • Find significantly more opportunities for fuzzy matching and reuse.
  • Spend significantly less money because of fuzzy matching and reuse.
  • Enjoy more consistent and better quality translations.
  • Preserve branding and messaging, because the same translators see the same messages and translate them the same way.
  • Cut the amount of time it takes to have your content translated.

Identify content that is created in other geographies by native speakers who work for your company.

It is inevitable. Your different geographies are going to create their own content in their native language. Your Japanese sales team is going to put together its own presentation deck. Your Yugoslavian professional services group is going to create its own best practice guides. Don’t try to stop it. You cannot. In fact, in-country content creation can actually be a very good thing. After all, who knows better how to attract customers or quickly solve problems in a particular geography than the people who already live there and speak the language?

Instead of trying to stop them or even trying to control them, make friends with them. And then, just ask them to put you on the review list. That way, you can at least see what they are producing. Sure, you won’t be able to read it (do NOT use Google Translate, you will fail). But, at least you’ll be aware of the additional content and every once in a while you might be able to provide some constructive criticism.

On the other hand, you can try to pull them into your official process. You can back-translate what they create. In other words, take the Japanese presentation and have it translated into English. Then you can go about your normal review and edit procedures, making sure that the message is on target and on brand.


So, let’s summarize the important things to keep in mind:

  • Know where all of your content is.
  • There are three different ways that content can be created and translated
    • By your team, managing your translation vendors.
    • By other teams, managing potentially different translation vendors.
    • By people in each geography, writing in their native language.
  • After you find all of your content, catalog it.
    • Include all of the localization and translation information you need to track.
  • Own and manage your translation memories.
    • I think I’ve beat that one to death.

Once all of your content comes home, hopefully by curfew, you will be able to:

  • Better manage the content
  • Save money on translation
  • Guarantee adherence to corporate brand and style
  • Improve the quality and consistency of content in all languages
  • Have happier customers
  • Sell more to foreign markets
  • Save yourself a lot of headaches (which is really what this is all about, no?)


Val Swisher
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