What issues will you face starting a multilingual WordPress website?

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For every website owner, regardless if you’re running a blog, an e-commerce or an online service business, the traffic is vital. In this article, we’ll talk about increasing your audience, leveraging your website languages.

Having a website written in English is the best way to maximize your reach since it’s the most spoken language on the Internet. But many people don’t speak English at all or would be less confident to buy in a language they’re not comfortable with.

Having a multilingual website might be the best way to reach and attract these people, your future readers, and customers.

What issues will you face starting a multilingual WordPress website?

When going global with your website, you’ll need to think about 3 key points.

What languages to be added and how?

Some of you might already know what languages they would like to add but it’s not always the case. Before going global, it’s important to identify and select the languages that fit with your website.

There are two quick ways to make your own picture:

1) Your existing audience: Use Google Analytics (or any other traffic tracking tool) to analyze your visitors profile, specifically the country they’re coming from and their browser language

2) Your projected audience: Based on your website business and your development strategy, you might want to target a specific kind of visitors. For example, if you’re German (with a website in German) in the wine business, you might want to reach big markets such as France, China, and the US. Naturally, you will add French, Chinese and English languages

Once you’ve narrowed down languages matching your needs, how will you perform the translations?

Several resources can be used, the ideal would be a smart combination of all: machine and human translations. If you do not have in-house speakers, do not hesitate to use professional agencies for your most visited pages.

How to make sure you can be easily found in your translated languages?

If you put resources to get translations for your targeted languages the last thing you want is being invisible by Google and other search engines.

It’s pretty clear that if French potential customers search for your German wine online and found nothing but your competitors or some French marketplaces, you would be pretty mad.

According to Google, there are key rules to follow if you want to be properly indexed in your translated versions.

1) Get unique URLs for your translated pages: Google only recommends to use either different domains (mywebsite.de and mywebsite.fr for German and French), sub-domains (de.mywebsite.com and fr.mywebsite.com) or sub-directories (mywebsite.com and mywebsite.com/fr)

2) Help Google knowing you have a different version of your website. You can either use “hreflang” tags or a sitemap

3) Last one, a bit more technical, you absolutely need to have translations on server-side, it means that you should not use tools only translating dynamically (JavaScript tools)

How to keep an optimized visitors experience on your translated versions?

Your translation shouldn’t affect the quality of your website, from a pure visitor experience perspective. You spent time optimizing it (acquisition funnels, engagement pop-up, etc.) it should be the same for your translated versions.

Visitors need to immediately identify the language switcher, making it easy to select their language. For an even better result (think about your bounce rate), you can use an auto redirection option. It should automatically redirect visitors based on their preferred languages.

Provide an A to Z experience, from the very first page to the ultimate “thank you” or “order confirmation” email. The language should remain the same at each and every step of the experience.

Needless to add that all your internal URL and re-directing (from one page of your website to another) should also keep the language selected by the visitor.

Based on all the above aspects, we can now review the different options to do that on WordPress.

What solutions are available on WordPress to make a multilingual website?

There are two main approaches to go global on WordPress:

(i) Make separated and independent websites for each language;
(ii) Make a multilingual website (one website in multiple languages)

Separated and independent websites for each language

It means you would need as many websites as languages you want to add. So for example, if you have a German website and you see an opportunity to further expand in France, you would need to set-up and maintain one German website and one French website.

The good thing is that your two websites will match SEO and Visitors experience optimization. The bad news is that it generally requires some work on your side, you will have twice more tasks to do:
• Start over the second website from scratch
• Re-implement your optimization for SEO and visitor experience
• Maintain and update each website
• Consolidate your inventory if you’re in the e-commerce

And you can easily see that it will start to take you a lot of time if you’re adding more than 1 language. Doing so for 3 or more languages could quickly become a nightmare.

But it’s still a great solution if you’re running websites that are not selling the same products or displaying content in completely different ways.

In other cases, you would prefer the second approach: multilingual websites.

Multilingual websites

To create a multilingual website you would need to use a WordPress plugin.

With more than 50k+ plugin in the official WordPress directory, making a good choice can be a bit tricky. To get the solution that suits you the best, you need to make sure it will allow you to handle the issues described in the first part:

1) Translations: it should be easy enough to not lose yourself in coding, and then providing tools to leverage machine and human translations in one place
2) SEO: it’s a mandatory point, it has to follow Google’s best practices
3) Built-in features to keep the visitor experience optimized

Additionally, you should also make sure it’s compatible with the existing solutions you’re using for your website (plugin, theme, service, etc.).

One great plugin to make your WordPress website multilingual is Weglot Translate.

Create in 2016, Weglot is a freemium plugin already powering 20,000+ websites in different languages.

Key features include:

• Simple set-up: no coding required
• SEO optimized: following Google’s best practices
• Translations management: one place to easily handle translations
• Human and automatic translations
• Compatible with any plugin and theme

There are of courses many other plugins available out there, and you might want to do your research and testing before selecting the best one for you. But Weglot is a good one to start your due diligence, especially when you know they are the most 5-star rated translation plugin.


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