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How to Make a Multilingual Website the Right Way

October 6, 2022
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Creating a high-quality multilingual website is no small feat. However, it is worth the effort if you want your products and services to serve a wider audience worldwide.
If you're reading this, it's likely you work for a global company and you want to expand your reach by localizing your website into different languages.
Perhaps you're in charge of updating your company's website with new content regularly.
Creating and managing a multilingual website involves more than just translating your content into different languages. You also need to consider factors like cultural nuances and SEO keywords.
Here are a few best practices to help you create a better multilingual website. One that will be easy to manage and help you better reach your global audience…

Why create a multilingual website?

Some companies are uncertain about whether they should have a multilingual website at all. They worry that translating all their content would be too much work.
A common mistake to make is to say "Everyone speaks English these days. We'll just keep our website in English." In reality, English is the language with only the third highest native speakers.
People are more likely to buy products and services in their own language, so not localizing your website could be a grave mistake.
By having a multilingual website, you show to your customers in international markets that you are committed to serving them. It shows that you value them and you will go the extra mile to cater to their needs.
Even if a person speaks some English, delivering your website in their native language helps you build trust with your customers.
In other words, a multilingual website is good for your business!

How to localize your website content

Do you want to make your life as easy as possible? The key with website localization is to create your source content with localization in mind and focus on process optimization.
When you are creating content for your website, it's important to keep things simple and easy to understand. Language like technical terms, slang, and jargon is often hard to translate into other languages.
The simpler your English source content, the easier it will be for you to localize your website.
You should also use your visuals wisely. Multimedia components like videos, images, and animations are a great way to improve your website's visual appeal. However, people don't realize that these also need to be localized.
If you want to make your multilingual website easy and less costly to maintain, optimize the source content so that you only localize content that absolutely needs to be localized.
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9 professional tips to serve multiple cultures with the same website

What do you need to know to create a multilingual website that serves multiple cultures?
Here are 9 professional tips from GoogleSmartling, and us at Rubric that can help you make an effective multilingual website:

1. Use different URLs for different languages

Having different URLs for each language is good for both users and search engines. It helps people find the content they're looking for and helps search bots determine which pages are in which languages.
Different URLs can also help when your readers want to share your content on social media. The links they share with friends will point to the content in their language.

2. Tell Google about each language

One important step for any new website is to submit it to the search engines, like Google. When you do this, make it clear that your website is available in multiple languages.
This step tells search engines the relationship between pages in different languages, helping them serve the right content to the right users.

3. Make the page language obvious

It should be immediately clear which language is currently showing on the page. This could be through the name of the language or a country flag.
A related step is to specify the language in the page's metadata. This is the data about a web page that search engines use to categorize the content on that page.

4. Let users choose their language

Geotargeting allows you to automatically serve a user with a website in their own language. However, you should always give them the option to choose their own language.
Many users access websites when in foreign countries or when their browser is set to another default language. Providing the option to switch language — such as through a drop-down menu or flag icon — means they will be more likely to stay on your site.

5. Be creative about localization

Localizing your content involves making changes that speak to the differing cultures in your target markets. Sometimes, this means getting creative with your localized content.
A visual that works in one country might be misunderstood in another country. When you view your localization as a creative exercise, your multilingual website will better serve everyone.

6. Optimize for SEO

Different keywords may be important in each of your international markets. When you localize your website, be sure to take your localized SEO into account.
By being optimizing your content for localized SEO, you can ensure that more visitors will find your website, no matter what language they speak.

7. Translate content strategically

Be strategic with your website localization.
Not every page will need to be translated into every language. Some products may be unavailable in some of your target markets or have different variants. Only localize content that makes sense for that market.
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8. Pick the right CMS for localization

Your content management system (CMS) will have a significant impact on how easy it is for you to create and manage multilingual content.
It's important to choose a CMS that helps to streamline the process of localization. This will make the process of handling your content much easier and less time consuming.
Choose a CMS that is capable of managing content in parallel for several locales. Here is a list of our top localization-friendly CMSs

9. Create a strong CMS strategy

Even with the right CMS software, you need to be clear how you will get content in and out of the website easily for localization. Steps include extracting source content and importing translations.
Create a clear CMS strategy so that you can manage your workflow and publishing cadence effectively. Learn more about CMS localization here.

How to manage your multilingual website

Once you have localized your website content for the first time, there is the ongoing work of managing that website. This is where it helps to have a streamlined localization process.
A good translation provider should be able to help you to optimize your website localization process. With the right provider, managing your multilingual website will be easy.