Effective multilingual website
July 19, 2022 | By:

How to Create an Effective Multilingual Website

Earlier in 2022, Google introduced a core update, which includes an improved method on how they detect multilingual content — particularly those whose title element is written in a different language from its main content.

For multilingual websites, or for brands who are thinking of using multiple languages on their website, this can have huge implications on your SEO ranking.

How a Multilingual Website Can Affect Your SEO

A multilingual website is a site whose content is available in more than one language. Content can refer to the articles on a blog, the main web pages, or even the videos, graphics, and other elements of a website.

There are many benefits to having a multilingual website, but if you’re not careful, this can negatively affect your SEO.

According to Google, there are instances where their algorithm detects inconsistencies in a multilingual website. For example:

  • Websites whose title uses both English and foreign language, but the body of the content is in a foreign language (e.g., Arabic). In this case, Google might use the Arabic title, which can cause further inconsistencies for the readers.
  • Multilingual websites whose language uses a different alphabet or script (e.g., Korean), but the title page is romanized. In this case, Google might use an alternative title using the predominant script on the website, which can cause mistranslations.

Benefits of Having a Multilingual Website

As we mentioned, a multilingual website offers many advantages to a brand, the main one being that you can reach a wider audience. Multilingual sites also help your brand to:

  • Improve user experience: A good user experience is key to any website, but it’s significant for multilingual ones. If a user can’t understand your content, they’re likely to leave the site, which will increase your bounce rate and lower your SEO ranking.
  • Build trust and credibility: If you’re targeting a global audience, it’s important to show that you’re credible and trustworthy. Having a multilingual website shows that you’re invested in your international audience, which can help to build trust.
  • Boost customer satisfaction: Customers who can read your content in their own language are more likely to be satisfied with your brand. One study also found that 73% of customers prefer to read product reviews that are written in their native language, which could greatly boost customer satisfaction.
  • Increase conversion rates: As a related point, being able to communicate with your customers in their language can also lead to higher conversion rates. Studies have shown that 65% of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that offers them information in their own language.

7 Tips for Creating a Multilingual Website

Whether you’re a local business looking to expand to new markets, or if you’re currently a global business, it’s worth considering having a multilingual website, especially if your target audience speaks more than one language.

Here are some tips on how to create an effective multilingual website for your brand:

1. Decide what kind of multilingual website is best for your brand

There are three main types of multilingual websites. Knowing which type is best for your brand is essential in determining the costs and scope of work involved in developing the website:

  • Country-specific domains: These are domains that target a specific country, such as .ca for Canada or .jp for Japan. The advantage of using a country-specific domain is that you can customize your website for each individual market.
  • Language-specific subdomains: These domains use generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like .com or .org, but they specify the language in the subdomain, such as en.example.com or fr.example.com. The advantage of using a language-specific domain is that it’s easier to scale than a country-specific domain.
  • Subdirectories: These are folders within your current domain that are specific to a certain language, such as example.com/en/ or example.com/fr/. The advantage of using subdirectories is that they’re the most cost-effective option.
2. Choose your target languages

Research your target market and decide which languages you want your website to be available in. It’s essential to consider both the demand for your product or service in that language, as well as the competition.

You also need to consider a few things after choosing your target language/s:

  • Which web pages should you offer language options?
  • How should you display your language options?
  • What’s the best way to structure your multilingual website’s URL? This brings us to our next point.
3. Choose your domain name carefully

Your domain name is one of the first things that users will see, so it’s important to choose one that’s both memorable and relevant.

If you’re targeting a global audience, you might want to consider using a .com or .org domain. These domains are generic and can be used in any country.

If you’re targeting a specific country, you might want to use a country-specific domain. These domains are usually shorter and easier to remember than generic domains.

As we mentioned in the first tip, how you structure your domain name will depend on which type of multilingual website you choose:

  • Country-specific domains: example.kr
  • Language-specific subdomains: kr/example.com
  • Subdirectories: example.com/kr/

IMPORTANT: TIPS: Do not use URL parameters for any of the above domain samples — for example, example.com?lang=de. This will make it difficult for you to use Google Search Console’s geo-targeting feature.

Additionally, when you’re using localized words on the URL or using Internationalized Domain Names (IDNS), be sure to use UTF-8 encoding, as recommended by Google.

4. Use hreflang attributes

The hreflang attribute is a code that tells Google which language you’re using on a certain page.

This is useful for multilingual websites because it helps Google index your pages correctly and match them with the right users.

To use the hreflang attribute, you need to add a code to the section of your web page. The code should look something like this:

 

The first line is the default page for users who don’t speak any of the languages specified. The second and third lines are for English and Korean speakers, respectively.

You can add as many hreflang tags as you need, depending on the number of languages you’re targeting.

5. Create a multilingual sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the pages on your website. This is useful for multilingual websites because it helps search engines like Google understand your pages more accurately.

To create a multilingual sitemap, you need to add the hreflang attribute to each page on your website, as we demonstrated previously.

Google also recommends specific formats for multilingual sitemaps:

  • Use a element for single URLs.
  • Create child entries for each language on your website
6. Consider the layout, formatting, and other technical considerations

When you’re creating a multilingual website, it’s important to keep the following technical considerations in mind:

  • Layout: When translating certain content from English to another language, the translated text can be much longer or shorter than the original, which can affect the layout of your website. For example, translations to Korean, Japanese, and Chinese are usually shorter. On the other hand, translations to Italian, German, Spanish, and French are usually longer.
  • Formatting: Some languages such as Hebrew and Arabic use the right-to-left (R2L) script instead of the internationally used left-to-right. This can cause problems with the text direction and formatting on your website.
  • Date, time, and measurements: You also need to consider things like date and time formats, which can vary from country to country. For example, in the United States, dates are typically written as month/day/year (e.g., 01/22/22), whereas in Europe they’re written as day/month/year (e.g., 22/01/22). For measurements, the metric system is used in most countries, but the United States uses the imperial system.
  • Currency: Prices on your website should be displayed in the currency of the country you’re targeting. For example, if you’re targeting users in the European Union, you need to display prices in Euros.
7. Ensure the accuracy and optimization of your translations

Lastly, make sure that your translations are accurate and error-free. If you’re not fluent in all of the languages you’re targeting, it’s important to use a reliable translation service and not just the free ones you can access online.

It’s also crucial to consider SEO when translating and localizing your content. Keyword research is an essential part here, as you would with any SEO strategy.

To do this, you can use Google AdWords Keyword Planner or any other keyword research tool. Just enter a seed keyword related to your business and choose the country or language you’re targeting. This will give you a list of relevant keywords you can use in your translated content.

Boost Your Multilingual Website with the Right Strategy

Although creating a multilingual website requires more effort and resources than a single-language one, it offers a multitude of benefits to brands, especially if you’re looking to expand your reach to a global audience.

Having the right strategy and the right translation tools will help you overcome any challenges you face and ensure that your multilingual website is a success.

If you need an expert hand in handling your SEO or your digital marketing strategy in general, Ilfusion is here to help. Just give us a call at 888-420-5115, or send us an email at [email protected] to get started!

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