Creating a multilingual WordPress site is a great way to expand your business’ global reach. It isn’t always an inexpensive way to do this, and it can be more complicated than it’s worth at times, but its benefits far outweigh these minor inconveniences, especially when you use the right tools.
We’re going to go over the many different methods you can use to translate your site’s content and create a multilingual version of it. We’ll also go over the individual tools you can use to implement each method. Let’s start with why you’d want to create a multilingual site in the first place.
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- 1 Reasons to Create a Multilingual Site
- 2 Determining Which Languages to Target
- 3 Ways to Create a Multilingual WordPress Site
- 4 Creating a Multilingual WordPress Site Manually
- 5 Creating a Multilingual WordPress Site Automatically
- 6 Final Thoughts
Reasons to Create a Multilingual Site
A multilingual site, which is another version of a site in another language, can seem like a long and expensive project to undertake, and this is true in a sense. Professional translation services are really expensive, and your only other option is to use auto-translation tools, which carry poor reputations for being highly inaccurate. However, these hurdles can become necessary obstacles when you learn why businesses choose to create multilingual sites.
Think of this in terms of brick-and-mortar businesses. What do most businesses do when they’ve reached a point where their current single location generates more profit than the business needs? They expand. They open new locations in new towns and may even move overseas.
This is what a multilingual site can do for you. You may reach a point in your business where things become so routine and your profits become so high that the days of putting in too much work with little return are over. You can always launch new products and make new sponsorship deals, but it would make much more sense to spend all of that time, money and energy re-creating your content for other regions to maximize your profits. Instead of reaching a few new customers in your current region, you’ll have the potential to reach an entire new region of customers.
User Experience & Customer Service
Multilingual sites don’t only benefit you, they also benefit your customers. Think of a customer who relies on auto-translation tools to read your content or even get through a course/ebook you published. How much do you think they’d appreciate being able to do these things in their native languages?
Multilingual features can greatly improve the user experience of your site and the way your customers perceive you by making it easier for foreign users, who may make up a decent portion of your audience, to use your content.
Discover Untapped Markets
This ties into the point we made earlier about expanding your business. When you do decide to expand your website into foreign regions, you may discover untapped markets before your competition has gotten a chance to dip their toes into it.
This gives you the ability to establish yourself in the region and obtain influence without having to face off with competitors. It can also help you establish a relationship with the region before competition eventually arrives.
Determining Which Languages to Target
If you want to maximize the amount of profit you see from creating a multilingual website, you need to be meticulous about the ones you choose to target. There are two basic methods you can use to determine which additional languages you should consider targeting. These methods are tools and your customers themselves.
Tools to Use to Find Your Site’s Top Languages
There are many tools you can use to find which regions the majority of your audience is from and the majority of the languages they use. The most accurate is Google Analytics or a similar analytics tool.
The main dashboard of Google Analytics, or the Overview tab, has a section that allows you to see the top languages, countries and cities that make up your audience. The Language section even divides certain languages by which region they’re coming from, such as US English and UK English.
You can also view the top countries that make up your audience using a free scan of your site on SimilarWeb.
You can do the same with SimilarWeb’s competitor Alexa.
You should be careful about using regions to determine which languages you should target, however. SimilarWeb and Alexa report that India makes up a decent amount of the traffic AlienWP.com receives, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Indians would prefer to use their native language to read content on this site. It would be difficult to determine how beneficial creating a Hindi version of this site would be because of this. We’ll talk more about this issue next.
This is the next best place to go if the tools mentioned above aren’t conclusive enough. It’s important for you to have a good relationship with your user base. It can help you make key business decisions, such as which languages you should target first.
You can start with your email list by sending a simple broadcast email asking your subscribers where they’re from and what language they’re most comfortable using. You can even set up an audience survey and send the link in a broadcast email as well as showcase it on your site so non-subscribers can take it.
Pay attention to your comment section as well as some users post comments in their native languages. You may start seeing a trend of the same language (other than the one you use on your site already) being used over and over again.
Google Trends is a nifty little tool you can use to see how popular a particular topic is over time. One other metric this tool shows is where topics are most popular. This allows you to discover untapped markets you can potentially reach by creating multilingual versions of your site.
Enter your niche as a keyword in Google Trends (you can enter specific topics that relate to your niche as well), and see what comes up.
Ways to Create a Multilingual WordPress Site
There are many different methods you can use to create a multilingual WordPress site, and there are even more methods you can use to translate languages. These methods can be broken down into two basic categories, which are manual and automatic.
If you want to create a multilingual site manually, there are two basic ways you can do this. The first is to use a plugin that allows you to create two versions of the same pieces of content. You’ll still need to translate that content manually, but it’s an easier way to accomplish the task once the translations have been made.
You can also use a WordPress multisite network to create sister sites that share the same design as your main site but feature content written in entirely different languages. The only problem with this method is the fact that it create a separate website for you to manage.
This is an easier way to accomplish this task, but be warned, it will lead to a lower-quality site. You can still use content translated by a human when you create a WordPress multilingual site manually. However, when you use automatic tools to perform this task, you’re allowing a machine to interpret your words and output them in the most technically logical way. It’s an easier and more cost-effective way of getting things done, but it should be used as a last resort if you’re short on resources and have a significant portion of your audience that uses a particular foreign language.
Manual vs Automatic Translations
We can’t talk about how to create a multilingual WordPress site without discussing the differences between manual and automatic translations. When I say “manual translation,” I’m referring to text translated by a human. When I say “automatic translation,” I’m referring to text translated by a computer.
Manual translations create high-quality versions of your text in different languages. If you’ve ever used Google Translate to translate a piece of foreign text, you know how robotic this can make the language seem. This is because the computer does its best to interpret the words being used and outputs what it thinks is the most logical way of saying those words in the target language.
This can lead to a song lyric saying “her skin is the color of mocha” in one language but “her skin that resembles coffee” in another. You understand what the lyric means, but it’s not nearly as catchy or poetic. Manual translations, on the other hand, have humans that can interpret the language and fine tune things so the final outcome sounds good to those who speak the language natively. Plus, manual translations allow you to optimize content for a specific region as it would be considered culturally insensitive to mention eating an animal that’s sacred in particular regions, for example.
So, if automatic translations are so poor, why would anyone bother using them in the first place? Well, if you yourself don’t speak the language you want to target, you’ll need to spend an obscene amount of money having a professional translate it for you. Let’s say you publish five 1,500-word blog posts per week and want to translate an entire year’s worth of content. Here’s the quote you’ll receive from One Hour Translation using English as a starting language and Spanish as a target language.
That’s a hefty bill to pay, and the automatic translation tool we’re about to show you does the work for free and, well, automatically. Again, if you’re feeling anxious about relying on a computer to do this, consult your audience. Create a beta version of your multilingual site, and have them read the content to see if they like it and prefer it over your main site.
Creating a Multilingual WordPress Site Manually
Let’s talk about the various tools and methods you can use to create a multilingual site in WordPress.
WPML, or WordPress Multilanguage, is a premium multilanguage management plugin for WordPress. It comes with over 40 languages pre-installed, but you can add your own variations if you need to.
You can see how the screenshot above allows you to manage the translations your site needs. When you open a post or page, you’ll be able to translate each individual part and mark each piece as “completed” so you can see what percentage of the page is done. It’s compatible with WooCommerce, and you can even translate theme and plugin text.
You can even control how the plugin handles translated pages. This means you can add language switchers to your menu or sidebar and control the way a translated page redirects.
WPML costs $29 for the first year and $15/year after that at minimum, and you can even purchase a lifetime license.
Polylang is a free WordPress plugin similar to WPML. It allows you to translate posts, pages, custom post types, taxonomies and product pages into as many languages as you want as the plugin uses WordPress’ own language packs. It even has another plugin you can install temporarily to migrate your translated content from WPML to Polylang.
There’s also a premium version that allows you to have translated pages share the same URLs with original pages, duplicate posts across languages and more. This version costs €99/year at minimum.
Multilingual sites are a great way to use a WordPress multisite installation. You can technically create each secondary site and translate everything without plugins. However, Multilingual Press is a popular solution used by many for multilingual WordPress multisite networks.
It allows you to do all of the things the other multilingual plugins allow you to do, only this particular plugin allows you to select main languages for each site and connect them to one another (or create relationships). Similar to Polylang, it also has a plugin you can use to migrate from WPML.
Creating a Multilingual WordPress Site Automatically
So, you now know how to create a multilingual WordPress site manually, but how do you use automatic translations on your site? You can use the plugins and methods mentioned above to add content you’ve translated from external tools, such as Google Translate or Bing Translator, but why do this when developers have made using these tools so simple?
Google Language Translator
This is the best tool to use if you want to translate your entire site or parts of your site automatically using the Google Translate tool. It allows you to translate your entire site into multiple languages, and it even comes with a translate widget.
Creating a multilingual site is a long and arduous task, but WordPress makes the entire process a heck of a lot simpler. Plus, you’ll see benefits in your profits and your reputation among your customers if a decent portion of your audience uses a particular foreign language.
Your first order of business should be to determine which language(s) you should target first. Remember, don’t be afraid to consult your audience to see if it’s something they would be interested in.
After that, it’s merely a matter of tallying up the amount of content (words, to be more specific) you need to translate and taking your budget into account. Once you do that, you can decide between manual or automatic translations and settle on a method/tool.