This article is for those who are looking to create a multilingual website. Your goal is to reach new customers in international or regional markets. Thus, we focus on the SEO benefits of an accurately translated and localized site.
What is Multilingual Website Design?
Multilingual web design is the process of creating a website with content in more than one language, for example, English, French, and German. A multilingual website can be for one location or multi-regional. Hence a multi-regional multilingual website is one that targets users in different countries with translated and localized content for each region.
The first step is to decide if you want to manage one or more than one website/domain. In either approach, you need to keep your translated content in separate sections using an SEO friendly URL structure. Refer to the table below for the pros and cons of Google Approved options.
Don’t mix different languages on the same page as this can be confusing and produce an undesirable result. Doing so means everything on the page, your navigation, and images, need to be translated appropriately. If you don’t do this, your website will look unprofessional, and you will lose customers.
What is the Difference Between Translation and Localization?
Below is a brief summary of the difference between translation and localization for your website:
- Translation is the process of changing the website’s original language into a different language (the target language) by substituting words from one language to another.
- Localization involves translating a website’s content and modifying other site elements to appeal to the customer’s location and cultural preferences in their target language.
The SEO Benefits of Localization and Translation
Multilingual website design makes it easier to rank using translated keywords
The most popular search terms are typically the most difficult ones for which to rank. However, targeting the equivalents of those terms in different languages may be less competitive and provide a great way to enter new markets. But how do we know which keywords are more or less competitive in different countries? Fortunately, Google provides a keyword planner tool that makes it easy to determine keyword volumes and competition levels across many countries. Using Google’s Key Word Planning tool is critical for optimizing your multilingual website for search engines.
Translation and Localization can help your website rank for short and long-tail keywords in different languages
SEO consultants typically recommend focusing on long-tail keywords, and in the case of multilingual sites, that recommendation is no different. Short-tail keywords are terms like “bed” or “mattresses.” They are short, highly competitive, and difficult to rank for. Long-tail keywords are more specific 3-5 word phrases. They have less competition but get fewer searches. However, they are still useful because most people search for long-tail keywords when they are ready to make a purchase. For example, say someone starts searching for the term ‘mattresses.’ After visiting various websites, looking at styles and comparison shopping; as they narrow down their choices, they might begin searching for ‘memory foam mattress free shipping.’
By using both translation and localization, your website can rank for multiple versions of keywords. You will even pick up long-tail traffic because you are modifying the source language and other site elements to appeal to the customer’s cultural preferences in their target language.
Localization boosts personalization
All companies aim to personalize their content for their recipients. This is why they’ll add recipients’ names to email subject lines, or make recommendations based on people’s browsing histories. Sure, translation and localization are more generic and catch-all than individual personalization, but displaying information in a prospect’s language of choice is a good start.
Localization increases relevance
Relevance is a hot topic for digital marketers, and there’s a reason for that. Relevance means focusing on the customer. To make your website customer-focused on an international scale, you will need to localize it.
Most large brands like Apple and Amazon already have an obsession with brand relevance. Increasing the relevance of your messaging can make potential customers more likely to buy. This is why we use different messaging for different types of customer. Localizing content helps to make sure that you’re talking in a way that your potential customers will relate to and understand well.
Having a translated and localized website boosts credibility
Believe it or not, utilizing a multilingual website design program can boost your credibility with potential consumers. An Italian who visits your site will notice that it’s also available in English and French. They’ll perceive your company to have an international reputation and reach. Ultimately, investing in translation and localization sends out a signal that you care about your customers, no matter where they are from. Those who feel cared about will likely then start to care about you and the services you have provided them.
It opens up social networking opportunities when you have localized content
We’ve talked a lot about websites, but social networking sites can be just as powerful when it comes to engaging with your target audience. In the western world, we’re quick to think about sites like Facebook and Twitter. However, there are plenty of social networking sites like Tencent and VKontakte (VK.com) that cater to specific languages or countries. If you want to be successful on these sites, you’ll need a multilingual website design program. You don’t want to get it wrong, or you risk significant cultural backlash.
Multilingual SEO requires a complex strategy that targets multiple locations and languages
When translating, it’s crucial that SEO firms focus on optimizing for keywords, in English, as well as other languages. Optimizing translated content will allow a company’s website to come up for audiences searching in multiple languages. This makes the content accessible and optimized for people from many different backgrounds. SEO firms must make the decision about which words to make the keywords in translated versions of sites, which is more complicated than many would think. Furthermore, people in other countries may use different search engines with algorithms that prioritize certain factors and keywords differently.
You may also decide in the translation process not to translate your English content word-for-word into another language. Doing so may not allow the dialect to optimize well. You should change the wording and phrasing of your website as needed to make sure it will rank well across search engines in different countries. By optimizing for specific keywords in a new language that may differ from the keywords set in English, a company can ensure that their websites will rank well and not compete with each other. Therefore, the site in English, as well as a translated version, will each still obtain significant traffic.
Should I hire a Freelance Linguist or a Professional Localization Company?
Localization provides the best user experience because it gives users both full translation and country based variations throughout the content. We know that search engines like Google favor websites that offer the best user experience. Thus, localization will have the edge over basic translation when it comes to SEO. However, localization is also more costly because your message needs to meet the cultural, functional, and language expectations of global markets. Again, marketers should do ROI analysis before they invest in localization. Make sure the new customer acquisition benefits of SEO outweigh the added costs of localization.
Which is better for SEO, Localization or Translation?
Localization provides the best user experience because it provides users with both full translation and country based variations for content. We know that search engines like Google favor websites that offer the best user experience. Thus, localization will have the edge over basic translation when it comes to SEO. However, localization is also more costly because your message needs to meet the cultural, functional, and language expectations of global markets. Again, marketers should do ROI analysis before they invest in localization. Make sure the new customer acquisition benefits of SEO outweigh the added costs of localization.
Reach new target markets one country at a time
Many companies start up in a specific country in a small geographic area before opening up to customers from across the globe. Each country has a different market, and your website should reflect that. By taking small steps, you can minimize mistakes and adjust your approach without damaging your company’s reputation. Ensuring that your site is translated and localized correctly means that you’re setting yourself up for success from the very start.
Who can Benefit from a Multilingual Website?
Who can benefit from a Multilingual Website?
If you run a small business or only trade locally, then multilingual website design may not be a priority unless you are in a multilingual country, such as Belgium or South Africa where your customers speak several languages. In that case, you might need a multilingual website to do business locally.
Once you take your company and website international, translation and localization become a crucial part of marketing. Relevance has always been important for marketing, and that’s never been truer than it is today. If you’re spending time building an audience and creating content to generate new business, then creating a multilingual website that is suitable for international audiences will help grow your audience.
How Much Does it Cost to Create a Multilingual Website?
Professional translation and localization can be an expensive process costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore you’ll first want to do a cost-benefit analysis to see if the investment is worthwhile. In other words, do you expect the benefit of new leads and conversions to outweigh the costs of creating a multilingual website? If the answer is no, you should hold off until your situation changes.
Machine Translation, Mistakes, and Blunders
It can be tempting to use machine translation for your website’s content. After all, it’s free, fast, and gets the job done. However, this approach will almost always produce undesirable results. Translation is more than just replacing each source word with the corresponding translated word.
Furthermore, there can be multiple ways of saying the same thing in another language. While it is true that machine translation can help speed up the translation process, you’ll want a human translator to check the results. Don’t just take my word for it; check out these hilarious examples of translation gone wrong.
My favorite blunder shown is below where Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov a ‘reset button.’ However, the Russian-language label had the wrong word, and read ‘overcharged’ instead of ‘reset.’
Conclusion: Done right, multilingual website design can be mission critical for international sales
Multilingual website design is no longer optional for many businesses. It’s certainly not uncommon for it to be more expensive not to translate than it is to make that investment. After all, when faced with a choice between your company and one of your competitors, customers are going to go with the one that provides information in their preferred language.
Remember that merely localizing your content isn’t enough. If you’re targeting German-speaking customers, then you’d better make sure that your customer service team can handle inquiries in German. Localize your packaging and your manuals as well, if you have them. Don’t think of translation and localization as something that’s only for your website. It’s an approach that should remain consistent across all aspects of your company.
If you are looking to optimize your reach into the international business community, translating and localizing your content is a likely way to increase your internet traffic. There are many online services which will help you to translate your content and use SEO services to make sure that your content is easy to find.
Getting started with translation and localization is easy. Getting it right is the hard part, but you’ll be able to tell how you’re getting on by looking at the metrics. Eventually, you’ll be able to see its impact on your overall bottom line. Good luck.
If you need a web design and SEO company to help you create a multilingual website, do not hesitate to reach out to us! Please contact us at 978-851-9077.