More companies are translating more content into more languages every day. According to the Common Sense Advisory, the translation industry is estimated to be worth $34 billion globally and continues to grow at 5.13% per year. That’s a lot of translation going on. [Tweet “translation industry is worth $34 billion globally, continues to grow at 5.13% per year”] RadarWhy is it, then, that so few companies have a well-planned strategy for dealing with their global content? Perhaps it’s because globalization has come rather slowly, one or two languages at a time. Perhaps it’s because everyone in the company thinks that globalization is someone else’s problem. Or perhaps it’s because no one is thinking about it other than the localization group. If you are unsure of whether or not your company needs a global content strategy, read on.

You translate into more than four languages.

If your company is translating into more than four languages, it is very important to have a strategy to manage your global content. It is important to keep track of which content is translated into which languages. It is important to know who is responsible for translating the content into each language. When you get above four languages, it is difficult to keep this stuff in your head or even in an Excel spreadsheet.

You translate more than 250,000 words per year.

If you translate 1,000 pages or more, your translation word count is probably around 250,000 words. That’s a lot of words to translate into a lot of languages. Even if you only translate into four languages, that’s still 1 million words. At an average cost of $.15 per word, you’re looking at close to $150,000/year on your translation spend. Once you start getting into “real money” spent on translation, you’d best have a strategy for managing all of that global content.

You have lost track of your global content. 

It might sound far-fetched, but if you do not have a strategy for managing your global content, you can easily lose track of it. Just think of how difficult it is to manage your current website, for example. Keeping the content fresh and on-message can be a daunting task in one language. Updating illustrations or PDF files that need to be modified can be cumbersome. There are some websites that have several hundred pages – and that’s just in English. When you start adding languages to your website, the things you need to track and manage grow exponentially. There are so many decisions to make. Here is just a subset:

  • What should you translate, localize, or transcreate?
  • How many pages down should your global website continue in each language?
  • If you are not translating the entire site, what will the user see when they get to the last translated page? Will they go back to English?
  • Can you keep track of the multilingual search terms, even if the pages they take the user to are in English?
  • What is your strategy for translating video and other types of embedded files?
  • Do your illustrations need to change? Do they include embedded text?
  • Is your site culturally appropriate for every culture that you are targeting?

The list of things that you need to think about is seemingly endless. You need a plan.

Your regions are rejecting the translated content you send them.

If you keep paying for and sending translated content to your overseas counterparts, and they keep sending it back to you as insufficient, ill-targeted, inappropriate, or just poorly translated, you need a plan. You need to understand the problem, take corrective action to solve it, and then have a strategy so that it doesn’t happen again.

You find out that people in other regions are creating their own content and you don’t know about it.

It can be perfectly reasonable for people in other regions to create their own content. It can even be preferable. But, if you don’t know about it, it can be potentially disastrous. At worst, the independent content can violate trademarks or cause other legal issues. In the “not terrible, but not preferred” category, the independent content can be off-brand and off-message. At best, the content itself is great, but you are already creating and translating similar content. And now, you have a duplication of effort and a lot of wasted time and money. Part of your global content strategy should include knowing who is creating what content, in what language(s), and incorporating that knowledge into your overall global plan.

You have more than two translation vendors.

Most companies have multiple translation vendors. If you have more than two, it’s time to work out the details in advance of the next item you send out for translation. Some things to consider:

  • Are you dividing work among your translation vendors based on the language?
  • Are you dividing the work based on the type of content?
  • Are you sure that no one else is sending Vendor A the same content that you just sent to Vendor B?
  • Do your translation vendors each have their own translation memory?

There are good reasons to have more than one vendor. If you have more than two,  make sure you do so with purpose. And make sure that you keep close track of who translates what for whom and when. Without a plan, you can end up translating one piece of content into the same languages multiple times. Even worse, you can forget who was supposed to do what, and end up without any translations.

You are using a combination of human translation and machine translation.

The source content needs for human translation and machine translation are different. The workflow is different. The translation process itself is different, and the results are different. Most machine translation software works in a subset of the languages that you require. So, you can very likely end up with a combination of humans and machines doing the work. How will you ensure that the translations match? How will you know that, regardless of the method used, all of your customers are reading the information that you intend for them? In addition, all of the things you need to consider for multiple translation vendors also apply if you are using both machines and humans for translation.

Upper management says you spend too much money on translation.

If upper management is telling you to lower your translation spend, you definitely need a plan. Perhaps there is overlap and waste in your current workflow. Perhaps you never planned your workflow and translation just happens (automagically). If you have lost track of your content, vendors, or modalities, it is highly likely you are wasting money. If you are not fixing your source content before it ever goes out for translation, you are also wasting money. Your global content strategy must start from the creation of the content. It is not an end-of-process plan. It is the overall, global plan for all content being created and translated. This includes…well, everything. If you don’t have a plan, you are spending too much and getting too little.


In all likelihood, if your market includes foreign countries or multiple cultures within a single country, you need a global content strategy. What are you waiting for?

Val Swisher
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