International Content Marketing: The Importance of Understanding the Local Interests

Much has already been written about the importance of content to the website and the online marketing. Whether you believe the content is king or not, it is the fact that your efforts should be spent creating quality content that responds to the needs and interests of its readers. The volume of content you create or how often you push it out aren’t the priority for great content marketing. Creating quality, user-engaging content is not easy. Creating content that responds to the needs of readers requires a lot of research to understand your target audience. Often times, these efforts are poured into the main or home country site, but little to none of the attention are given to International websites created for other countries, as they are usually nothing more than “snapshot” translations of the main/home country site. It’s easy to say, “you should create content for the local readers,” but how different are the local needs?

Understanding the Differences

Below are the list of top 10 destinations in Japan searched in Google, one by foreigners and the other by Japanese.

While Mt. Fuji is still a popular destination for Japanese tourists, it looks that you should focus more on the amusement parks on the site that is targeting Japanese audience. With the advancements of communication technologies and especially with the Internet, the world seems to be more connected and people share the same information. But that doesn’t mean that people are interested in the same thing at the same time.

TripAdvisor published Top 20 Attractions in Japan by visitors from different countries. ( Below, you can see the differences in the interests between US tourists and Chinese tourists.

Based on this article, it seems American tourists’ interests are shifting away from Tokyo, and Chinese tourists are definitely interested in visiting shrines, temples and castles. It is likely that the content for all of these popular places are already on website. You just need to make an educated decision to make what content more visible to what audience on your website based on your research and business objectives. If you need to prioritize the content for localization, definitely work on the ones that are popular in that language market first. I’ll talk more about the content prioritization later in this article.

This is not unique to just travel as you’ll find the differences in the interests among the countries in all industries. Below are the top 5 jobs searched in US and Japan.

In the US, most jobs are filled on an “as needed” basis to fill a vacant seat or to handle additional work demand. In the US, people are looking for jobs throughout the year except for seasonal positions such as ski resort jobs. On the other hand, in Japan, many companies announce available jobs in Summer/Fall to fill those positions in April, when their new fiscal year starts. This is why there are big differences in what job people are searching from season to season in Japan, and you don’t see people searching for government jobs and post office jobs year around. Another great way to understand the local interests and the trend is to talk to your local offices, representatives, and partners.Their inputs are especially helpful toB2B business owners. Now that people are less hesitant to change jobs in Japan, the job market is changing a bit, but the major recruiting, especially targeting new graduates, are done during the specific seasons.

Prioritizing the Content Creation and Justifying the Resources

It’s ideal if you can localize the entire website for all languages that you’d like to target, but you may be limited by budget or other resources. By understanding the differences in interests among the target countries, you can better prioritize the content creation and the content localization. For example, rather than to localize top 10 popular places to visit by foreign tourists, you should first localize the top 10 popular places to visit by Japanese tourists on the Japanese website. You can also use the data you collected to justify the resources necessary to fill the content gap, and to localize additional content.If you don’t have content for “House Tembos” or “Oedo Onsen” on your English site, you can show the data supporting the high interests for these places among Japanese tourists to get the budget allocation. China had the most tourists visiting Japan in 2013. If you need a data to support your budget request to localize those shrines, temples and castles in Japan for a Chinese website, look for the statistics data published by the various tourism and the government agencies. If the key to successful content marketing is to understanding the reader’s interests,and to provide the quality content which satisfies their needs, the key to the successful online business is how well you utilize the data to organize, prioritize and create the content for each of your target country that drives incremental revenue.

*This is an updated version of an article originally published on in October 2014.