English is the global language, but it’s not the most spoken language in the world.
In fact, the most spoken native language is Mandarin Chinese with about 1.3 billion native speakers. The second language is Spanish with about 460 million native speakers. And English is the third most spoken language with about 380 million native speakers.
So if you want to make your WordPress site accessible for users from all over the world, you should translate and localize it. You should provide non-English speakers with an opportunity to browse pages in their native language.
In this article, you will find the best tips on how to localize your website and do it fast and easily.
Define your target audience
Before you start, you should analyze your website traffic statistics and get to know your website visitors better. You should find answers on two important questions:
- What languages do your website visitors speak?
- In what countries do they live?
It will help you to understand what languages you should choose to localize your WordPress website in the right way.
Screenshot source: https://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/airfrance.fr
Let’s imagine that statistics show that 50% of your traffic comes from the U.S., 20% – from the Netherlands, 15% – from Germany, 10% – from France, and 5% – from other countries. To boost your efforts, you should localize your website for only three languages: Dutch, Germany, and French.
There is no much sense in localizing your WordPress site to dozens of other languages. Why? Because it will have little or no impact on organic traffic growth.
The simplest way to localize your WordPress site is to use plugins. Depending on the goals your web development team set, you have different options to consider.
If you want to create a multilingual site, you should design an English version first. You should create all of your pages, categories, tags, and images before you install and activate your plugin. It will help you to ensure that the localization process will go smoothly.
Here are three WordPress plugins that are worth your attention:
- WPML – This is the most suitable plugin for e-commerce sites. It helps to translate not only pages, posts, taxonomies, and menus, but also strings derived from the website’s theme. Also, WPML allows developers to add multiple currencies.
- Polylang – It’s a free plugin similar to WPML. This plugin helps to set different languages for chosen pages, categories, and post tags. Polylang does not allow developers to integrate any automatic or professional translation services. It means that an editor of the website is responsible for the translation.
- Multilingual Press – This plugin works differently. It allows developers to connect a few websites that target different local markets. Using this plugin, you can set the main language for each site and link these sites together.
WordPress Localization for a Single Non-English Language
If you find out that about 90% of your website traffic comes from one country, you can localize your website for a single non-English language. And you can do it fast and easily by using such plugins as Loco, PoEditor, and Say What.
Incorporate a language switcher
Even if you enable auto-redirection on your site, you still should let your visitors choose what language to use. It will help you to improve user experience and achieve better results.
A language switcher usually looks like a drop-down menu or button. It is placed at the top or the bottom of the page.
Screenshot source: https://www.booking.com/
As you know, many sites use country flags to indicate language options. However, it’s not a good example to follow. Since some countries have several national languages, this approach doesn’t work well.
For instance, there are three distinct regions in Belgium: Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia, and a German-speaking community. And if you use the Belgium flag to indicate a language, it may confuse your Belgium visitors.
To avoid misunderstandings, you should list all available languages in their respective native spelling. For example, if your WordPress site is available in English, Russian, Thai, and Czech, the list of language options should look like this: English, Русский, ไทย, and Český.
Don’t miss out on crucial SEO
To localize your site successfully, you should not only translate content but also optimize it for local SEO. Otherwise, your website will not rank high locally on Google. And your localization efforts will be a waste of money.
To achieve the goals you set, you should do the following:
- Customize URLs for each language
- Use localized keywords, anchor texts, titles, and script messages
- Translate and localize meta content, SEO title tags, and script messages
Keep in mind that it’s important to localize your website for every specific market, not for language. For instance, if you target Cuba and Panama, it’s not enough to focus your efforts on Spanish search engine optimization. Even though users from these countries speak the same language, it’s highly likely that they use different keywords when looking for your products online.
Let’s say you use your e-commerce website to sell glasses in Latin America. If you translate the word “glasses” as “gafas” and use it as a keyword, you will drive no traffic to your site.
The issue is that your Spanish-speaking audience does not use the word “gafas”. Users from Cuba use the word “espejuelos”, and users from Panama use the word “lentes”. So the only way to reach these users is to choose suitable keywords.
Use localization services
Let’s face it. It’s impossible to localize your website effectively without getting assistance from localization experts. Plugins and translation tools work well, but they can’t do the same work as humans do. Only professional translators and native speakers can define and fix mistakes in the text.
For this reason, it’s highly recommended to use localization services. If you can’t afford to pay for localization of the entire site, you can localize only key elements of your website, such as menu and home page. In will help you to ensure that your site is accessible for local users and that it works smoothly.
In 2019, website localization is a must. And if you haven’t localized your WordPress site yet, it’s time to do it now. Use localization plugins, tools, and services, and you will make your website accessible for users from all over the world.
Follow the advice given, and you will avoid the problems your competitors face. You will localize your site faster and more effectively.
BIO: Erica Sunarjo is a localization expert and translator at The Word Point. She speaks French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, and Polish. Erica is passionate about blogging. She periodically contributes articles to reputable blogs and publications around the world.