If you’re not a native speaker of English, chances are you’ve debated the idea of blogging in two languages. Since this isn’t a topic I’m an expert on, I reached out to Joan from Against the Compass. He blogs in both English and Spanish and is here to share his tips to help you make the best choice for your blog!
Should you blog in more than one language?
If you are a travel blogger from a non-English speaking country, this might be a question that has crossed your mind.
Maybe you’re wondering if you should be blogging only in English. After all, the English market is bigger and you will have access to a larger audience. Conversely, blogging only in your native language might be a good choice because there will be less competition.
Or, maybe you’re thinking of blogging in both English and your native language because then you will have an even bigger audience!
It’s true that blogging in a two languages definitely opens your blog to a new, bigger audience — and potentially to some new business opportunities as well.
However, nothing comes without a price. Having a bilingual blog may also present some disadvantages.
I have an English/Spanish blog called Against the Compass and have been blogging in these 2 languages from the very beginning.
Today, I am very happy with the decision I made but, to be honest, dropping one language has gone through my thoughts many, many times, as keeping both up-to-date is a ton of extra work.
Therefore, before getting into the bilingual blogging game you may want to take some factors into consideration. I have compiled all the pros and cons, as well as some tips that will help you make the right decision for your blog.
Advantages of Blogging in Two Languages
1. To increase your traffic
The most obvious reason is that, by blogging in a second language, you will be exposing your blog to an entirely new market. This means that you will increase your traffic, sales, followers, etc.
In my case, my Spanish-speaking audience, including Spain and Latin America, represents around 20% of my total traffic, Spain being around 17%.
2. To have less competition
The English-speaking travel blogging market is highly competitive and in order to be successful you need to be very niche-oriented and create some very unique content if you truly want to stand out from the crowd.
In other languages, the blogging market is not that saturated, so ranking in the first page of Google is always easier.
In my case, there are many, many travel blogs in Spanish but the amount of high DA travel blogs is not even comparable to the English market. So, for me, it is easier to rank for very generic words such as viajar a Egipto (travel to Egypt) when compared to doing the same in English.
While the amount of Spanish, French, German or Italian travel bloggers is growing, if you come from a country with not many bloggers, let’s say Iran for example, it should be much easier to become the blogger of reference in your country, as long as you are consistent and create valuable content for them.
3. To create a more engaged community
Readers from your home country are likely to be more engaged than others.
In relative terms, my Spanish readership is much more engaged than the English one.
Since we share the same language and cultural background, I believe they feel closer to me and, perhaps, more accessible, so the amount of questions, meet-up requests, comments on social media, etc. is always higher.
This kind of engagement can lead you to many new business opportunities.
4. To get more media attention
One of the greatest advantages of blogging in your native language is that it is easier to be featured in the local media.
You know your local newspapers and magazines better than anyone and trying to contact the journalists and authors will always be easier.
Sure, a local newspaper is not as reputable as the New York Times for example, but don’t underestimate them. I have been featured in some Catalan media outlets with DAs higher than 80, so they are a great way to build your SEO.
And the same goes for travel bloggers. Being known by the top travel bloggers from your home country will always be easier than competing with English-speaking ones.
5. To find the right product or service for your audience
One of my biggest obstacles when it comes to affiliate sales is that, since my readership has such diverse nationalities it is difficult to find the right service that fits the needs of all of them.
My biggest readership comes from the USA (around 18%), then Spain (17%) and the third barely reaches 8% so, sometimes, I struggle in finding out what is the service that most of my readers will like.
However, since 85% of my Spanish-speaking audience comes from Spain, it is very easy to choose the right affiliate service for that portion of my audience.
In fact, despite my Spanish audience being only 17%, one of my biggest affiliates is a Spanish travel insurance provider, which generates me twice the income I earn from World Nomads. The reason for this is that this insurance provider is well-known in my home country, plus they have plans for any kind of traveler, from long-term backpackers to families, so it converts quite well.
Moreover, dealing with a local company makes communication (and getting paid) easier.
Last, besides signing up for local affiliate programs, having a bilingual blog also helps you optimize the sales for the more generic affiliate services.
For example, there has always been the eternal debate of which hotel search engine works best. From Booking.com to Hotels Combined to Agoda, etc. Choosing the right hotel booking page highly depends on your audience and, depending on where they come from, sometimes it can be difficult to figure it out.
However, if you are blogging in your native language, you will already know which one works in your home country better than anyone. You can then use one affiliate for your English content and then another affiliate for your native content.
6. To get more business opportunities
My biggest traffic and income driver is my English-speaking audience, mainly coming from affiliates, ads, and occasional sponsorships.
Nevertheless, at some point, I am going to start selling my own services and, for that, I will target my Spanish audience.
This is a personal decision and it will all depend on which product or service you want to sell but, in my case, I want to create some courses about travel blogging and I prefer to launch this service in the Spanish market, where competition is very little. Plus, I have an engaged-audience already, so it will be easier to market.
I am sure that this kind of approach will work with many types of businesses.
Disadvantages of Blogging in Two Languages
1. It’s time-consuming
The greatest disadvantage of blogging in two languages is that it takes time, a lot.
And if you think that you only need to translate, then you are very wrong because there are a lot of tasks which need to be always done twice:
- Optimizing your articles for SEO
- Writing captions and ALT descriptions of your photos
- Updating old articles with new information
- Dealing with your social media
- Writing your Newsletter
To be honest, it doesn’t really take double of your time because when you translate a post into another language the structure of the article is already there and you don’t really need to do more research.
Furthermore, there aren’t many tasks which don’t need to be done twice, like technical stuff or editing photos for example.
I would say that blogging in a second language adds an extra 30% of work to your time.
2. Translating is the least fun task ever
Translating is not only time consuming but, for me, it is the blogging task I hate the most. I don’t like it at all but this will depend on the person.
3. There are fewer Google searches
This is the reason why my Spanish audience is only 20% of the total.
For the keywords I always try to rank for, I would say that monthly searches are between 10-20% of the total English volume but this may change depending on the destination you try to rank for.
However, you need to look at the absolute numbers.
If you focus on mass tourism destinations such as Southeast Asia or Latin America, 10-20% of hundreds of thousands is still thousands and thousands, which means that the market is still big.
4. Less paid opportunities for working with brands
I personally don’t work with many brands but, if you want to do press trips or sponsored articles just keep in mind that local brands will usually have lower budgets than global brands who are targeting an English audience.
5. No Travel Blogging Community
From link building to social media threads, for English bloggers, there are endless Facebook groups and communities that can help you grow your blog.
In other languages, there may be some small communities but they might not be as helpful. Even in Spanish, which is a language spoken around the world, the link building group is very small and not very active.
Tips for Blogging in Two Languages
1. Do it from the very beginning
If you want to blog in 2 languages, do it as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you have written 100 blog posts because then you will have to translate them and that will be very tedious.
2. Should I just translate the key articles on my blog?
Sure, you can translate only the top posts on your blog. That will bring good traffic, however, unless you have a completely translated blog, this won’t help you create a second community.
However, if you just care about some extra traffic and affiliate sales, then go for it.
3.Have only one account for social media
Don’t open 2 accounts (one for each language) because you are going to work yourself to death (plus you also don’t want to split your followers in two).
Facebook has the option of translating all your posts into as many languages as you want and your followers will only see the post in the language their Facebook is set up. Those followers who have their language set up in a language which you haven’t translated into will see the post in English.
In my case, I translate my posts into Spanish and I select that everybody who has their Facebook in Spanish will see the post in Spanish.
Moreover, since I also have a large Catalan audience (and you can also set up your Facebook in Catalan), I also must choose them to see the post in Spanish. Otherwise, all of them would see the posts in English.
Both English- and Spanish-speaking people comment on the same post, without any problem.
The only issue with this is that, when you post an article, you can only add one link. What I do then is, in the Spanish post, I copy/paste the Spanish URL at the beginning of the post caption. That way there is an English URL as well as my manually-added Spanish URL in the caption.
Check my Facebook page for examples.
For Instagram, I don’t really translate my captions into Spanish because they tend to be long and both descriptions wouldn’t fit. However, I do have a bilingual description and sometimes I post Stories in Spanish. I promote my articles in both languages.
Results are so far so good, as my followers from Spain represent around 30%.
Check my Instagram profile for examples.
Uploading my pins in Spanish has increased my Pinterest traffic by 30%. I don’t have a separate profile but I just create country boards and add ‘Spanish’ in the board title.
Check my Pinterest profile for examples.
4. Choose a domain name that can be easily understood by the English community
This is important.
If your domain name is in your local language, English-speaking people won’t understand it, whereas if you have it in English, everybody will.
For example, my blog is called Against the Compass. If you speak English, it’s a name you will understand. However, imagine if I called it: En Contra de la Brújula.
That would be the exact Spanish translation but non-Spanish-speaking people wouldn’t understand it, so I would have a problem with brand-awareness. I think that a good strategy would be combining both languages, so both communities understand your name perfectly
For example, my friend Miguel (who is also a member of this course) has a Spanish/English travel blog named Travelsauro. In Spain, everybody knows that meaning of Travel, and -sauro is the Spanish translation of –saurus so English-speaking people can easily remember and understand it. I think he chose an amazing name.
5. Get the WPML Plugin
WPML is the best translating plugin out there and I would not recommend any other.
It is a premium plugin and its most complete version costs $79 USD a year, which you are going to need if you ever want to create a big blog.
Don’t try to get any free plugin because, sooner or later, it won’t work.
With WPML, everything is super easy and it has very good compatibility with Yoast so you won’t have to worry much about optimizing all your translations.
Moreover, it helps you translate not only the articles but also your site.
For example, if you just created a new Home Page, you just need to click on translate, and all the content will be copied into your second language home page, and all you will have to do is replace the English text via their very-easy-to-use tool.
However, you should know that WPML is a very, very big plugin and it needs to be compatible with so many plugins so you may face some occasional issues here and there but their support team is truly amazing and can always help.
6. Get a sub-domain for your second language
Don’t make the same mistake I did, as I set up my primary language as:
That was a HUGE mistake from my previous developer and switching it back can be a real hassle and I may lose a lot of SEO.
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to blogging in 2 languages. If you have the time and are willing to do the extra work, there can be huge benefits. Not only will you see a boost in traffic but you’ll be able to build multiple communities around the globe. It can be exhausting sometimes, but I think it’s a worthwhile investment if you’re fortunate enough to speak 2 languages fluently.