Multilingual Website Design

Multilingual websites allow companies to trade with many new markets that were previously hard to reach. However, multilingual website design involves a significant amount of planning. Websites generally grow with the company. Therefore, the structure of a multilingual website should allow for future expansion and the addition of more languages, whilst ensuring that it remains manageable and not too complex.

Researching market potential

It is important to conduct research and evaluate the search potential for each country or language you may consider targeting. Although this primary research will often coincide with the development of your International SEO strategy, it provides valuable data that helps with the decision making related to the structure of the website. We discuss developing an international SEO strategy in other posts.

You need to decide whether you are going to target countries or languages. There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration when making this decision. Below are a few common examples:

  • Economic resources available
  • Type of business
  • Number of countries or languages that will be targeted
  • Your current rankings for keywords in the target markets
  • Your current traffic flow and conversion rate in the target markets
  • Organic search volume for keywords per country or language
  • Demand for your products or services per country or language

Multilingual website structure and architecture

A multilingual website is different to a multi-regional website, some websites can be both multilingual and multi-regional though. You can read more about Google recommendations for multilingual and multi-regional websites. The difference between the 2 type of websites are as follows:

  • multilingual website is a website that has content in more than one language.
  • multi-regional website is specifically targets users in different countries.

In this article we focus on multilingual websites. There are several ways to have a multilingual website. The best methods are:

Subdomains – for example www.es.mywebsite.com

Subdomains are the best choice if you will be having a high volume of content as this option helps to keep a simpler website structure with less depth. This option also has more international SEO possibilities, but requires more work to increase rankings and popularity than a website built using sub-directories.

Subdirectories – for example www.mywebsite.com/es/

Subdirectories are a good option if you will not need a large amount of content and have limited resources. From an international SEO perspective it will be easier to rank the pages in other languages as the website is classed as a single entity under the one domain.

Another option for WordPress websites is to use one of the available plugins that are designed for multilingual website management, such as Weglot or WPML. This option can be a very easy way to have a multilingual website, but they do have limitations and restrictions. We will be discussing WordPress multilingual website plugins in another article.

Multilingual website content

Always avoid using automated translations as the linguistic quality is usually very poor and the translated text doesn’t  always make sense. Google and other search engines can classify machine translated content as spam. Further more, a poor or non native sounding translation can give users a bad impression and harm your site’s reputation. Find out more about multilingual content creation.