Multilingual Websites: Benefits And Best Practices

by Kari Pritchard June 11th, 2014 
international

Persian alphabet blocks by Dr. Bashi Eco Toys

These days it's hard to come across a country where several languages aren't accepted and spoken. No matter what language you speak, everybody has access to the internet. Why not take advantage of this commonly known fact when it comes to optimizing your site and go multilingual?

Research shows that people prefer to make purchases when browsing the web in their native tongue. In fact, over half of the people surveyed (52.4 per cent to be exact) bought from sites that were only in their own language. Furthermore, 85.3 per cent of those asked required pre-purchase information in their preferred language when making important decisions online like buying insurance.

Over two-thirds of international buyers visit English-language websites around once a month. However, nearly three quarters of those visitors don't make purchases if they can't use their own credit cards or local currency (even if information is available in their language!).

According to a survey by Content Marketing World, out of 500 participating marketers 60 percent admit to lacking multilingual content marketing strategies. If you're a company or marketer lacking in the multilingual department, now is your chance to get ahead of the competition and go global!

Best Practices

Don't know where to start? Here are some helpful tips provided by Google:

  • "Utiliser une langue par page": Don't confuse your potential customers by showing off your multilingual skills all at the same time. Use one language per page and keep everybody happy and in the loop.
  • Shell out the dough and get a real person to translate your content. Google translate may seem good, but you can't count on artificial intelligence to always catch the subtle intricacies of language (but your customers who speak that language definitely will).
  • Keep your URLs simple – instead of changing the whole URL between two different language pages, just add a snippet of text to show the pages are different: www.bestblogever.com/en/thebest VS www.bestblogever.com/fr/thebest
  • Don't make assumptions – your customers might be cruising the web in Montreal, but that doesn't mean they can speak French. Instead of automatically redirecting based on location or perceived language, provide clearly labeled links between your content in different languages so your consumers can make the decision for themselves. Cross linking pages when localizing also makes life easier for our friend Googlebot.
  • Between translating content you are sure to end up with some overlap in what you're trying to communicate, AKA duplicate content. However Google says that similar content in varying languages is acceptable as long as your content is for different users in different countries with unique URLs.
  • In terms of deciding which languages you might want to delve into first, research shows these are the top ten languages being translated:
    1. French
    2. Spanish (Latin America)
    3. German
    4. Chinese
    5. Japanese
    6. Spanish (US)
    7. Portuguese (Brazil)
    8. French (Canada)
    9. Italian
    10. Spanish (Spain)

If your company is looking to reach a larger, national or worldwide audience consider making your website multilingual. It's not for every business, but if you can take advantage of a wider audience by translating your amazing site content it is worth the time and investment.

Next Steps

Kari Pritchard

Kari is a Marketing Coordinator at Search Engine People. Her background in English and journalism inspires her to expand her experience in the fields of publishing, marketing and communications in a way that can help her continue to explore the digital world.

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