How to Make a Multilingual Website

The internet has definitely helped make the world smaller, giving its users the ability to quickly connect with family, friends and customers across the globe. With technology opening the doors and expanding the reach for any business, it’s important to understand that your business may have a potential audience in multiple countries. This article will show you step by step, how to make a multilingual website.

Studies have shown that when a website offers its content in the native language of the consumer, those consumers spend more time, actively engage with the content and ultimately buy more products and services. Multilingual websites can be easily achieved without a web developer by using WordPress as your content management system (CMS).

This article was written to show just how simple it can be to quickly reach new audiences for your business online.

Step 1: Establish Your Target Audience

If your business is new to multilingual or international business, the first step is to determine who you want to target. If your business could benefit from expanding into a global space, research which markets you are most inclined to enter. This is important to consider, as it will require not only additional work online for creating content in multiple languages, it could also require customer service support staff to field any questions and business generated from the new option on your website.

Step 2: Quality Translations

Once you’ve determined the target audience(s) you’re looking to pursue, it’s time to determine the strategy of what type of content will be made available for each audience. Not all content needs to be reproduced for each audience, but it is recommended. To do so, you will need to have a quality translation service or native level linguists on your staff to produce great content.

Machine translation has not been perfected. In most cases, it can possibly provide a gist of the article, but it is almost always grammatically and sometimes even contextually incorrect. Never use Google or Bing Translate to translate your copy to another language. If you do, you are guaranteed to look like a fool to your target audience. While Google has mastered amazing feats with technology, it has not mastered language translation.

It is recommended that you hire a native level translation service to translate your content, or hire copy writers with native level translation skills to produce new content moving forward. Multilingual websites need to carry the appropriate voice and tone of your target audience.

Step 3: Choose the Correct Character Encoding

When building a multilingual website, the correct character encoding should be laid to create the best foundation for your website. It is very important that you choose a character set that can not only be displayed on the browser, but that can also be easily indexed by search engine bots. After creating hundreds of multilingual websites, I have found that it is absolutely key that your website HTML be set to UTF-8 character encoding.

The UTF-8 character encoding not only supports all Latin based character sets and languages, but it also includes all right to left (RTL) languages and characters required for Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew and more. Setting all pages on your site to UTF-8, will not only allow you content to be displayed in any language, it is also the recommended setting from Google. So to ensure you website is primed for optimal SEO and indexing, ensure it is set to the correct character encoding.

Step 4: Install Plugin on Your Website

The easiest solution to making your website multilingual is through the WordPress CMS. The Polylang plugin allows you publish your website in full or by page/post in multiple languages.

  • You can use as many languages as you want. RTL language scripts are supported. WordPress languages packs are automatically downloaded and updated.
  • You can translate posts, pages, media, categories, post tags, menus, widgets…
  • Custom post types, custom taxonomies, sticky posts and post formats, RSS feeds and all default WordPress widgets are supported.
  • The language is either set by the content or by the language code in url, or you can use one different subdomain or domain per language
  • Categories, post tags as well as some other metas are automatically copied when adding a new post or page translation
  • A customizable language switcher is provided as a widget or in the nav menu
  • The admin interface is of course multilingual too and each user can set the WordPress admin language in its profile

Want to use Polylang on your blog? Download it here.

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