M-CMS Multilingual Content Management Systems for Marketing

M-CMS (multilingual CMS) creation and deployment is not a technologically challenging exercise in and of itself. But it does pose unique coordination issues, especially when trying to maintain consistency of content across multiple media. So how do you analyze the benefits of the various offerings? What should you be looking out for and what are some of the pitfalls? Here we will discuss some of the issues and what to look for in a good multilingual content management system.

Time to market

Online, time is of the essence. Web users expect immediate results (it is in the nature of the beast). Traditional web deployment had three key stages: the content developer (e.g. marketing manager) writes a product description update. This is then passed to the webmaster for updating the website in the master language. Once the master update has been applied and checked, the content is then translated into the target languages, passed back to the webmaster, and then the foreign language content is updated. This creates four potential choke points, where communication between parties can break down or conflicting priorities and sheer workload can lead to delays:

o Development point (marketing manager) 

o Deployment point (e.g. webmaster)

o Localization point (e.g. translator)

o Deployment point again for localized content

In a multilingual situation, an effective CMS should allow the Content developer to deploy the master set of content. In plain speak the CMS should require no specialized HTML knowledge. The developer should be able to enter content directly into the CMS without assistance from the webmaster. Likewise, when moving from deployment to localization, the localizer/translator should not require any specific HTML knowledge. He/she should also be able to work directly in the CMS. 

So you can move from four potential choke points to two or even one. The key here is to have a CMS that allows direct, unfettered access to the person that writes the content, in whatever language it needs to be deployed; at the same time, access needs to be limited to the areas the particular operator requires to complete the job at hand. We have seen the use of such systems reduce time to market (TTM) of online content by over 50%.

Eliminate Operator error

Every time data changes hands there is the chance of an error occurring. Different platforms, different application versions and plain operator error are significant problems that need to be reduced if not eliminated. Using a CMS that reduces the number of people that have to handle content reduces the chances of errors creeping in.

Translation cost minimization

The cost savings of direct CMS access cannot be ignored. The ongoing requirement for a webmaster for updates/maintenance is eliminated (aside from structural issues, the site should run without webmaster input). A simple hourly rate calculation will prove the benefit here. At the same time the technical knowledge requirement of the translator is reduced. This can be of benefit in two ways; outsourced translation expenses can be reduced and, where available, you can make use of in-house language skills so that non-critical edits/updates to content can be resolved without recourse to external translation services.

Coordinating between web and other marketing media

Perhaps the next biggest issue is one of coordination and �logistics" For want of a better word. When working across multiple languages, coordinating multiple media updates can be problematic, and inconsistency of content across media and languages is a common issue.

For example, an international education provider has multilingual marketing collateral in the form of web, printed brochures, DVD and PowerPoint presentations that are distributed through resellers globally. The provider needs to release updates to course outlines; web content is updated and localized via the CMS, but what of the other marketing collateral? Does anyone know where this exact content is replicated? Is the content catalogued and cross-referenced between media? Is the manager of the (e.g.) Thai marketing collateral even aware that the course outlines have been updated?

A well-designed M-CMS will provide a method for the linking of content between media and languages. One structure is to have within the M-CMS a media catalogue, where a list of all media is kept. It is then a simple matter of linking content from the M-CMS to content in other media. Whenever an update is applied to web content, the relevant coordinators can then be alerted automatically and make the decision as to whether the other collateral needs updating. All marketing materials can be kept consistent, or updates can be collated for bulk application within a cycle. The important thing is that everyone within the cycle knows what changes have been made to what content and in what languages.

Translation recycling/reuse

Ideally the media management system described above will be done at the lowest level (individual content blocks, rather than at the screen or section level). Why? There is a cost implication here again. If you can link individual blocks of content to individual media items, you can recycle translations. We have seen organizations pay for the translation of exactly the same content multiple times because they had no way of coordinating the same content between different media.

Website localization and customization

True localization requires customized presentation of content tailored for a particular market. Will the colors of the German site work for the Thai site? Do you need to change the whole look and feel? Is the lead article/content on the French site appropriate for the Vietnamese site, and if not, can I change it? For some organizations this may be beyond their budget and capabilities, but you should still consider this in your CMS purchasing decisions as there are options available. A true multilingual CMS will allow you to present a unique image for a specific market (something we call �re-skinning�. Look for a CMS that allows you to present a fully localized (i.e. unique look and feel) web presence for each target market.

Cross-platform compatibility

Ensure that whatever CMS you look at, both the front and back end work on Mac, Linux and Windows and are cross-browser compliant (v4 or better, although v5 is acceptable, in IE, Netscape, Safari, Mozilla, Opera, Firefox etc.). It is no more difficult to code for cross platform than mono-platform. Nothing worse than looking to localize for Japan and finding out that the CMS does not display well (or worse doesn�t work) on a Mac! Don�t lose a single site user because they are running on a different platform than what your coders developed for. Likewise, don�t expect translators to change computer because your CMS doesn�t support their platform. It is rarely a cost effective option for them, and you may just lose the best person for the job.

Multilingual marketing

While a corporate website may not require SEO for anything beyond the company name, any point of sale or distributor site needs to have good search engine optimization capabilities. Key factors to consider here are:

full manual editing of all meta-statements, on a page-by-page, language-by-language basis. 

The body content of every page should be index able by the main search engine spiders 

You should be able to create landing pages with customized content for any PPC (pay per click) campaigns.

All navigation text (i.e. the links to the various pages within the site) should be text, not graphics, and should be editable

Finally, ensure that the CMS generates a site map on the fly; this helps create a good SEO result by producing a concentrated set of links for a spider to reference

Multilingual website statistics

If the website is part of a marketing strategy, you need statistics that can allow you to track that. One of the key data sets you need to track is search key phrases; these statistics need to be multilingual capable. Only a few statistics packages can handle double-byte characters; check very carefully and ask to see working examples of those in all your languages. Many statistics packages just treat all non-Roman characters as Roman characters and produce unintelligible results.

Multilingual CMS hosting

To host or to be hosted

Look for hosting options that suit your current scale of operations, but have the capability to expand in the future. You don't need to do everything yourself. Look for a system that can be flexible, i.e. hosted by you or the vendor or a third party. Give yourself the maximum flexibility.

Vendor hosting generally comes with some significant benefits. Most hosted CMS solutions will provide ongoing updates to ensure the system is current; also, as server configurations change and are updated, the host is responsible for testing and ensuring CMS compliance with server updates. A good-hosted solution will also provide back up of all your data (although you should still back it up yourself as well) and 24hr service.

One issue to consider seriously with hosted solutions is database integrity. Some hosted solutions have all client content stored in a single database; it is preferable if the content is stored in separate independent databases to ensure that there is no chance of data corruption.

Bells and whistles

What extra do you need? Can the system expand to your requirements? Will you need secure zones for agents/distributors? Will you need to develop a staff only section? Do you need file upload/download facilities?

Interested in how a multilingual content management system works? Take the tour of the multilingual content managment system schematics here.