Multi-lingual websites are still in their infancy with so many international eCommerce and content sites STILL causing themselves complete confusion (and SEO nightmares) by dealing poorly with serving their website pages in multiple languages – serving multiple geographies.
Unbelievably, the solutions are astonishingly simple, straightforward, low cost and within the reach of non-developers.
Yet still – this question baffles a lot of web developers, website builders, website owners and more.
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Content Management Systems & Multilingual Website Pages
Each content management system will have it’s own methodology for implementing a multilingual approach.
I talked a lot about mutli-lingual eCommerce in my ultimate guide to international eCommerce using WooCommerce.
Some content management systems and software extensions are so flexible you have the ability to create ENTIRELY new pages for each different language.
Meaning you have the ability to not only display a translation, but you also have the ability to completely change the narrative / market messaging PER language and location.
Other systems are less flexible, but ultimately help speed up the process by simply “directly translating” what’s written on the page in one language, to another.
This can be manual translation, or automatic translation using the Google Translation API – or my recommendation, the DEEP L Automatic Translation API – which is free for up to 500,000 characters a month (just like Google Translate API)
Content management systems that can be used for multi-lingual websites:
- WordPress (Self hosted)
- Shopify (SAAS / CMS)
First; Why not just create a new page / post targeting another language?
Hopefully, as you’ve landed on this article, you’ll realise that creating a new page or post and writing it in a different language is not the answer.
In short, there’s a specific piece of code and set of instructions you need to provide search engines so they understand that a group of pages are in fact the SAME page, but targeting different locations or languages. (Keeping in mind the UK and USA both speak English, this can particularly be a consideration with sites that want to “localise” not just “translate”).
The code or “practice” I’m talking about is “hreflang”
My advice, don’t go Googling “hreflang tags” and how to implement them.
John Mueller of Google himself stated that hreflang is probably one of the most technically difficult concepts in SEO to get your head around and implement.
This is true – if YOU needed to get your head around it to implement it.
A very recent (August 10th 2023) study by Ahrefs even shows how those who are implementing it, are doing it incorrectly or poorly managing it’s evolution over time as a website changes. (I have challenged the source of the data on this study, as Ahrefs bot isn’t great at evaluating a hreflang setup based on my experience)
Instead, just know that there are plugins that can programmatically implement hreflang tags and take care of this for you – with ease!
Serving a website page in multiple languages using WordPress
If you’re trying to display your web page in multiple languages and you are using WordPress you have a few options available to turn your website into a multi-language website:
TranslatePress: Our Recommended Multilingual Plugin for Automatic Translation
Our recommendation for straightforward, easy translation of your WordPress website is TranslatePress.
With it’s built in API integration for both Google Translate and DEEP L
Check out TranslatePress here
Or just go ahead and buy the best plan (Business Plan) now
The great news is TranslatePress works with WooCommerce too!
TranslatePress takes your “main language” and translates that content into multiple languages. If you have a page on your site which therefore contains very “localised” content, this may very well translate in language, but not in “target audience”.
Drawbacks (of any automatic translation approach):
If the automatic translation offered doesn’t allow the creation of an entirely new page, the translated content will never be “market specific content”.
i.e. let’s say I’m writing an article on the “best exercise equipment for your home gym”, the recommended products and general approach to this article would be COMPLETELY different in the UK vs the USA.
Not only would many of the products simply not be available, but with space being at a premium in the UK vs the USA, it’s quite likely that you would choose to emphasise certain things in the pros and cons section that wouldn’t be relevant in a USA targeted article.
There are other instances of this type of compromise when you can’t truly “rewrite” and not JUST translate the words.
Enter MultilingualPress and WPML…
MultilingualPress: Our Recommended Multilingual Plugin for Manual Translation
Now you can still enable “automatic translation” of the words on a page, but you can also create a completely different version of the page for a different location.
i.e. your “best fitness equipment for the home gym” article can actually be rewritten for the UK audience, or the Canadian Audience, or the Australian audience, or the New Zealander audience…
You get my point – none of these locations would demand true “translation”
But ALL would require “localisation”
You will need to convert your WordPress installation into a “multisite” installation.
This sounds far more drastic than it is – but you should probably seek some assistance on this just to make sure you navigate the waters safely. Your hosting provider support should even be able to help you do this, so it’s not “that big a deal” (famous last words!)
WPML: Our Runner Up Multilingual Plugin for Manual Translation
I actually really like WPML – they also have a whole ecosystem behind the translation offering, with freelancers who can be accessed and deployed on your site to rewrite, or proofread your content – with “team management” built in.
For that reason, it’s probably the absolute BEST solution for true translation AND localisation of website.
Offering you the technology, but also filling the “people” gap in the process of getting your site translated correctly by native / fluent speakers.
However, in the absolute majority of cases, the situation doesn’t demand this level of solution.
That being said, just because you “can” get access to an awesome system through WPML, there’s nothing stopping you from just implementing the basics – and ultimately creating a new version of the page for each language or location.
WPML is essentially the “Swiss army knife” when maybe all you need is “a knife” – especially if just trying to localise your content, as with an “all English language” site wanting to target different locations across the world with localised content.
Serving a website page in multiple languages using Magento
More information coming soon!
Serving a website page in multiple languages using Shopify
More information coming soon!