How to Create a Multilingual Website to Reach More Global Audiences

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In today’s globalized world, having a multilingual website is crucial. With a staggering 4.54 billion internet users worldwide, the online platform provides an excellent opportunity for businesses to expand their customer base. One effective marketing strategy that can enhance a company’s online presence and foster customer loyalty is building a multilingual website. In this article, we will explore the top advantages that a multilingual website can offer and the best ways to create an effective one.

multilingual people speaking different languages

Top Advantages of a Multilingual Website

As the name suggests, a multilingual website offers content in more than one language. The followings are the 5 strong reasons why having multiple languages on your website is a smart move:

Reaching a larger audience 

A multilingual website can help you reach a much wider audience. While 58.8% of web content is in English, there is a potential 41.2% that you wouldn’t want to miss out on. Moreover, even if your audience can speak English, studies show that 65% are more likely to convert when reading product pages in their native language, and 40% wouldn’t buy from websites in other languages.

Providing multiple language options can open up your business to new customer segments that were previously out of reach, leading to improved sales and profits. It is worth noting that many languages could also be widely spoken in your country, such as Spanish, the second most spoken language in the U.S.A. Therefore, going multilingual can be a smart choice both on a domestic and international level.

Reducing bounce and improving conversion rates 

When customers visit a website in their native language, they are more likely to stay and engage with the content. According to the CSA’s “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” research, 72.1% of customers spend most of their time on websites in their native language. By offering multiple language options on your website, you can reduce the bounce rate and increase the chances of visitors staying and converting.

This is also supported by the CSA’s research, which indicates that 72.4% of customers are more likely to buy a product if the information is presented in their own language. By providing content in multiple languages, you can improve your conversion rates and ultimately grow your business.

Enhancing international Search Engine Optimization

A company’s ability to rank well on search engine result pages is critical to its online success (SERPs). The higher your website pages rank on search engine results pages, the more likely customers will see them, which can impact your sales and profits.

If you’re already familiar with SEO and excel at it on a local level, you might be wondering how to rank well on search engine result pages when you’re trying to attract international customers who search in different languages.

The key is to have your site’s content not just translated, but also optimized for international SEO. This involves translating your entire website, including metadata, and using unique URLs with language-specific subdomains or subdirectories.

By doing this, search engine bots can easily analyze and index your website, giving you a higher rating on the result pages. This, in turn, can improve your online visibility and attract more international customers to your website.

Establishing a competitive advantage

In today’s highly competitive business environment, companies need to differentiate themselves to gain an edge over their rivals. With the recent economic downturn and widespread budget cuts due to the pandemic, it is more important than ever for businesses to be innovative and find new ways to thrive.

A multilingual website can provide a competitive advantage, as well as boost cross-border e-commerce sales, which are becoming increasingly important in a world where online shopping is on the rise. By offering content in multiple languages, businesses can reach new customers and stand out from their competitors who only offer content in a single language. This can lead to increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, and ultimately, higher sales and profits.

Being a cost-efficient marketing tool

A company’s website is often the centerpiece of its marketing campaign in today’s world. What is even more important is that your website is a cost-effective and far-reaching approach to marketing your products or services.

According to marketing advisory firm DemandMetric, content marketing on your site costs 62% less than other traditional forms of marketing and generates around 3 times as many leads.

Given this information, having a multilingual website can be a wise investment when it comes to creating an international marketing strategy.

Best Ways to Build a Multilingual Website Effectively

Are you interested in tapping into the multilingual market? Follow this guide to get started:

1. Define your expansion goals 

The first step is to decide which languages to include on your website. Your decision will be influenced by factors such as your geographic audience, budget, and available resources. Before building a multilingual website, consider the following:

  • Are you targeting a specific country or translating your website for a broader audience?
  • Is there a demand for your products/services in the target language(s)? Can you compete on pricing, quality of service, and brand name?
  • How many languages are you willing to invest in? How many people will you need to create and manage content in these languages?

2. Choose your domain strategy 

When building a multilingual website, you have two options for your domain strategy: using a subdomain or using a separate domain.

Using a subdomain means creating additional pages with a different language code attached to your main domain, such as es.yourwebsite.com for Spanish. This approach is generally less expensive since you won’t have to pay for additional URLs and domains, but it also carries a higher risk of broken links and may affect your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

On the other hand, using a separate domain involves creating a completely separate website with a different domain name for each language, such as yourwebsite.fr for French. This approach is generally more expensive but easier to set up and maintain, with fewer issues related to broken links and SEO.

Consider your budget and resources, as well as your goals for your multilingual website, when choosing between these two domain strategies.

3. Choose the right software

Choosing the right content management system (CMS) is crucial for creating and managing digital content for your multilingual website. Some popular CMS options include WordPress and Joomla, both of which are open-source, self-hosted platforms that have been around for over a decade.

WordPress is known for its flexibility, large support community, and low development costs, and many hosts offer free WordPress hosting, but it requires a plugin to add multilingual functionality. On the other hand, Joomla has built-in multilingual options and offers more extensive user management and greater flexibility when it comes to displaying non-standard information.

When selecting a CMS, it is essential to ensure that it can handle your multilingual requirements while staying within your budget. Consider the features, ease of use, scalability, and support options when making your decision.

4. Choose a plugin for your multilingual website

If your CMS requires a plugin for multilingual content, you will need to select one that meets your requirements. There are several options available, with the most popular ones being WPML, Polylang, and Weglot.

WPML is the most widely used, advanced, and feature-rich plugin for WordPress. Polylang has over 500,000 users and is a good choice if you want to translate your content without using translation services. Weglot focuses on automated translation, but there are also many manual translation possibilities available.

Keep in mind that some CMS solutions are only compatible with WordPress, so choose a plugin that is compatible with your CMS.

5. Translate your multilingual website  

It is a common misconception that activating a plugin can automatically translate all the content of a website. However, this is only partially true. While the WPML plugin is a fantastic tool for translating nearly any information on a website, it isn’t designed to perform the actual translation.

To ensure that your website’s content is accurately translated, it is essential to work with a professional software translation services provider. While automated translation software and services are becoming increasingly sophisticated, they still cannot fully replace human translators who can analyze language from an emotional and contextual standpoint.

A reliable website translation services provider can help you ensure that your website’s content is translated effectively and accurately, taking into account cultural nuances and idiomatic expressions. This can help you establish credibility and trust with your target audience in different markets, which is crucial for building long-term relationships and increasing sales.

6. Select a location for the language menu

When creating a website, user experience (UX) and functionality are critical. Choosing a method for users to select a language on your site is one of your most important tasks. 

One of the most popular methods is a drop-down menu conveniently located on the homepage, usually in the top-right corner, where users are likely to look. Alternatively, depending on the design and your preferences, you might display a list of languages to select from in your website’s header, footer, or sidebar. Keep in mind that the language menu’s placement should be intuitive and visible to avoid confusing users and ensure excellent multilingual support.

7. Design the language selection menu 

Choosing the right design for your language selection menu is crucial for a positive user experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • List out all the languages you’re offering: Before designing the menu, make sure you have a complete list of all the languages you’re offering on your website.
  • Use text-based options: Avoid using flags as they represent countries, not languages. Opt for text-based options instead, as they are more straightforward and less confusing for users.
  • Consider the order: Decide on the order of languages to list on the menu. You may choose to list them in order of popularity, alphabetical order, or by grouping them based on regions.
  • Keep it simple: Try to keep the language selection menu as simple and intuitive as possible. Use clear and easy-to-read fonts, and make sure the menu is visible and easy to find.
  • Test the design: Before launching your multilingual website, test the design of the language selection menu with a small group of users to make sure it is easy to use and understand.

8. Optimize multilingual website

When it comes to SEO, multilingual websites require special attention. In order to get the most traffic from search engines, it is essential to have a good website structure, proper language tags, and schema hacks for multiple locations.

Here is a quick checklist of best practices for optimizing your multilingual website:

  • Translate your URLs to the target language
  • Conduct keyword research for long-tail keywords in each language
  • Use only high-quality translations to ensure accurate and natural-sounding content
  • Translate meta descriptions to increase click-through rates
  • Use hreflang tags to indicate to search engines which version of your content is intended for each language or region
  • Use plugins or tools with robust multilingual SEO features to automate and streamline the process.

If possible, you should partner with a website translation services provider who has expertise in optimizing multilingual websites as well. Not only can they ensure accurate translations, but they can also provide guidance on best practices for multilingual website optimization. This can lead to a more effective and seamless user experience for all visitors.

9. Pay attention to typography 

Typography is an essential element that is often overlooked when designing a website. This includes choosing a font and layout for your content. While a certain font may look great for English text, it may not be as readable when translated into more complex languages such as Mandarin or Farsi.

Always check the readability of your content in all the languages you offer to your users. As a general rule, use Unicode, which can encode characters from over 90 languages.

In addition to readability, consider the format and alignment of your multilingual text. For example, aligning your content to the left may be standard for English, but it may not work for languages that read from right to left. In these cases, you may need to flip or mirror the page.

10. Localize your multilingual website

A multilingual website is more than just accurately translating the text. When building a multilingual e-commerce site, keep in mind currency conversions and marketing sensitivities in different regions.

Additionally, it is important to use images and icons that are culturally appropriate. Images, icons, and other graphics are essential elements of any web page, but visuals can be subjective and can be interpreted differently when put into another cultural context. For example, the French version of Clarins’ homepage features a Caucasian woman, while the Korean version features a Korean woman.

Visuals also have the potential to offend. Images that might seem innocuous to Western audiences might be taboo in other countries. For instance, images depicting gay couples or gender equality might not be accepted in countries where homosexuality is still illegal and women’s rights are not yet fully recognized.

Key Takeaways

Today’s globalized world demands that companies consider creating a multilingual website using website translation services to connect with audiences worldwide and bridge cultural gaps. However, achieving this requires careful planning, attention to detail, and cultural sensitivity. By following the steps outlined in this guide, website owners can ensure a seamless user experience for all their visitors.

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