Have you already thought about what structure your multilingual website will have? First, you will have to decide if you want a single domain that includes all languages, or if you prefer one domain for each language or country. All this is dealt with by the process of website internationalisation.
Website Internationalisation and Localisation
At ESmedo – Translations and Web Services we are experts in finding solutions for the creation and management of multilingual or multiregional websites. We also specialise in translating websites built with WordPress.
Before you start building your website in more than one language or for several locations, you should ask yourself some questions regarding commercial and budgetary aspects.
When making decisions, you should keep in mind the needs of your web users and customers and your company’s service offering:
Do most of your clients come from abroad?
Do your customers expect you to address them in their native language?
If you don’t translate the content, do you risk losing potential customers?
Does your company have sales branches abroad?
Do overseas sales teams generate their own content or is all content written at the main offices?
Do your products and services differ by country or region?
Is your company’s headquarters located in a country with two or more languages?
What languages do your management or customer service team speak?
Economic aspects are closely related to the budget:
Does your company have a team in charge of creating and managing translated content?
Does the company want to translate the content internally or are you planning to use a translation agency?
How many languages will you offer? How many countries do you want to be present in?
If you should get a request in German, in which language would you respond?
If you take into account all these aspects, it is essential to make a clear distinction between multilingual and multiregional or multi-location websites, i.e. taking into account the location and not the language.
These concepts are NOT synonymous.
For example: a website can offer versions in English, French, Spanish and German.
Do we need a multilingual site?
We opt for a multilingual website when our products, services and innovations are always the same in all markets.
How do we select the language?
The language in which the user navigates is detected by the browser.
We show the customer the option to choose a language from a menu.
We offer a home page with all languages available.
Languages should not be represented by flags!
How do we set the language in the URL?
A single domain is used for the company and several “folders” for each language.
Language ISO codes should be used:
For example: variations may be intended for the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany.
When do we need a multi-location site?
How do we select the country?
Geolocation via IP (it works in almost all cases).
Location of the device if GPS is activated (requires user authorization).
The customer is given the chance to choose a country or region from a menu.
A home page with a map or flags show each each country.
How do we set a country code in the URL?
Option 1: A single domain is used for your company and several “folders” for each country or region. ISO country codes are used.
Option 2: Some countries have more than one language, so it is sometimes necessary to use both language and country codes in the same URL:
Canada, English-speaking area
Canada, French-speaking area
We can also use a dash: /ca-en/
Is it ok to use different domains for each website (www.website.es / www.website.de / www.website.it)?
Most SEO experts do not agree. There is really no need to give a separate domain to each of the website versions. It is best to create XML sitemaps for each country. This tells Google which pages correspond to which country. It is also easier to promote a single domain name that applies for the entire company.
However, if you wish to purchase the local versions of each domain (if available) and redirect them to the main website, you can do so as well.
For example, have www.yourwebsite.fr redirect to www.yourwebsite.com/fr.
Localisation and internationalisation is more than just translation
Often times you might have come to an online store or business that is in a language you do not understand. As most people do, it is usual to leave the site and continue searching until you find another website that offers the products or the same information in your native language.
You can be sure that the general public reacts in the same way when they enter a website that is in a foreign language. Today, the Internet presence has a crucial role in business. Standing out on the Internet, among millions and millions of websites similar to yours, can be a challenge, especially if your audience does not understand the language in which it is written. And you don’t want your customers to leave your website, do you?
The answer is to localise content
If done well, a localised version of your website content will allow a wider audience to access the information you offer. If done wrong, or not done at all, customers will leave the site and will never find you. Until you adapt your website to the different cultures, and how information is organised in those cultures, you will not realise the potential of the Internet to drive business.
Why is location important?
Today, most websites that seek an international projection are usually in English or translated into English. But there are large communities of speakers (of Spanish, Portuguese or Chinese) who prefer to always buy from a website that is in their native language. By translating your website only into English, you are still ignoring an important audience, as English speakers do not make up the majority on the Internet. It is estimated that in order to reach 90% of the Internet audience, you should need translating your website into 21 languages.