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Common Mistakes When Building a Multilingual Website

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Common Mistakes When Building a Multilingual WordPress Site

More people than ever are working, playing, socializing and even shopping online. There is an increasingly global presence of “netizens”, or people who transcend the more traditional national borders.

Current trends on the internet suggest that people are increasingly likely to associate with and even shop from foreign based websites, provided that they can review, read and even few the website marketing content in their own language.

It should also be noted that at least according to Wired Magazine, 2020 will be the first year that more than half of the internet content available will not be written in English. What is the value of beating 50% to 98% of all of your competition?

Tomedes Language Report

Based on the latest available data from W3 Tech Surveys as of 05 June, 2020. Additional languages as may be used on the Internet at the time of this writing, comprise less than one percent of all internet content in each language.

Portuguese is the sixth most common language in the world, yet only about 2% of internet content is written in Portuguese. A website translation in Portuguese would therefore be indexed only in direct competition with 2% of the content on the internet, even going across many different niches, most with unrelated keywords and not competing with you directly.

Would that make it easier to rank well in the search engines? It would be wise to remember also, that as website translation and foreign language content become more common, there will be more competition in these virtually untapped markets.

Which websites do you think will rank better on the foreign language search engine results page? 

Will it be the website that uses a translation plugin? Will it be the website that was only recently translated? Or perhaps it will be the website that was already translated and indexed on the foreign language results page from early on in the move towards the true globalization of the internet?

1. Forgetting About SEO when Translating your Website

WordPress is by far the most popular CMS on the market, holding a comfortable lead with over 60% of the market share. Its closest competitor is the WooCommerce CMS with just over 4% of the CMS market share according to W3techs.

WordPress also has some very impressive translation plugins, many of which work exceedingly well. Some of the better WordPress translation plugins also charge a monthly fee, rather than the one-time cost for a translation company that specializes in localization.

However, most of these translation plugins are lacking in one crucial element. Search engine optimization. 

The ability for a user to merely click a button and enjoy a website content translation may be a tempting proposition, but it will not get the website indexed for the foreign language search results page.

A complete website translation will ensure that all of the marketing content is not only available in the desired languages, but also that it is fully indexed by the search engines in the desired languages. Remember too, that this also circumvents much of your immediate competition, if not all of it. (At least until the real benefits of multilingual marketing become more well-known)

Yoast SEO has a ton of great resources about multilingual SEO. But this is yet another area where the WordPress translation plugins fail to capitalize on the website translation is in the form of localization strategies.

2.  Not Localizing Translations to Establish a Personal Connection

The website translation serves as an incredible opportunity to more fully implement successful localization strategies. One of the keys to successful marketing is the ability to establish a personal and emotional connection with the target demographic. The means by which this is accomplished is commonly known as localization.

Even domestic marketing campaigns are subject to localization. The marketing techniques that are effective in large urban population centers will not generally be effective in smaller rural areas. This same linguistic gap expands even further across international borders even with the same parent language in common use.

Do you take the lift or the elevator? Do you have a bonnet and boot or a hood and a trunk? First floor? The ground floor or the floor above it? Now add in the change of expressions across foreign languages and the importance of localization becomes a powerful marketing tool.

Localization services require either a translation company that specializes in localization, or at the very least someone specific to the geographical area of the target demographic. There are many localized expressions, vernacular and other figures of speech that can change the entire context of a conversation if they are literally translated.

Localization strategies should focus on replacing the local vernacular in the original language with a similarly localized expression in the native language for the website translation. The localization services should not however, be restricted only to speech.

The Indian market online has around 550,000,000 “netizens” or internet users making it a very popular target demographic for eCommerce and internet marketing. That picture on the English website of people grilling steaks and burgers may be great there, but what about the members of the audience who deem cattle to be sacred animals?

The idea of setting up different sites for each website translation, then adding to the work with localization services may seem daunting at first, but again, there are tools to make this job easier. However, there are also common errors that some people will make when building the multilingual WordPress sites even using these tools.

WordPress Multisite and Other Multilingual Site Configurations

WordPress multisite is currently, at least in some opinions, the best option for establishing multiple copies of the same website in additional languages using the same core files. This will allow for a fully indexed website translation with the inclusion of localization strategies such as photographs and other localized website content.

While this particular issue is not restricted just to multilingual WordPress websites, perhaps the most common mistake website owners make is neglecting to back up WordPress and their data.

If you are going to take the time and effort needed for a full website translation and to implement localization strategies, and to build the multilingual WordPress website, make sure that you make regular backups of all of your data and store them safely offsite.

3. Too Many 301/302 Redirects and/or Use of VPN Technologies

Also among the most common mistakes that people can make for a multilingual WordPress website is to try to make the navigation automatic or too technically complicated. While these options may be perfectly viable for more advanced WordPress users, they can be equally detrimental if you are not intimately familiar with the overall process.

The use of IP gateways is somewhat common, though given the increasing frequency with which VPN and other IP blocking technologies are being used on the internet, this is not necessarily the best option. If someone is seeking out your website in English and then gets routed to a Russian website translation, it is probably going to increase your bounce rates over the course of time.

301 redirects and other 300 series redirects like the 302 or 308 redirects are also common, 301 being the most common. However, these types of redirects can be blocked by some browsers and browser plugins resulting in your newly translated website not being discovered at all.

These types of redirects can also increase the security risks for the website when they are not properly managed or implemented. Given that WordPress is by far the most popular and commonly used CMS on the internet today, it is always going to be a prime target for hackers, crackers, leets and others who may have a malicious intent.

Avoiding any use of redirects is a much better solution for anyone that is not a WordPress expert. If you do happen to find a reputable WordPress expert service, these may still be a viable option, though not always ideal.

One of the most popular options is a prominent display of national flags, where the translated language is commonly recognized to be the native language for the website translation. Thus, a UK or US flag may be used to signify an English translation. A flag from Spain may be used for Spanish, but given that the largest native Spanish speaking group is actually from Mexico, a Mexican flag may also be an option.

There may be cases where the website translation is even more complete and different website translations with more specific localization strategies have been created. In such cases, it may be necessary to display both the flags of the UK and the US, or of Mexico and Spain depending on the depth and specificity of the website translation.

4. Not Paying Attention to Brand Consistency and Inverse Template Design

What if someone were to come along who was equally fluent in all of the languages available for your website translation? Would they be capable of reading all of the translated content and having the user experience remain consistent?

Are the advertisements the same size and in the same location? Are the pictures used with the content, now being different photographs based on your localization strategies, all going to be the same size and enjoy the same prominence?

Brand consistency is an important aspect, often overlooked in multilingual WordPress websites. Why do franchises and chain restaurants fare so well no matter where they build? Brand consistency. There may be some who would argue about the benefits of fast food, but why are these locations so popular?

It will not matter if you visit a restaurant in New York or rural America or in the heart of Germany or anywhere else in the world. The burger and fries you get in any one location are going to be consistent with the burger and fries you get in any other location.

Brand consistency is not only important for the overall user experience on your multilingual WordPress website, but for the sake of establishing and maintaining customer loyalty. There is one interesting caveat however, that is often overlooked during the process of website translations.

What do you mean inverse WordPress template designs? Remember that brand consistency is important, no matter what languages the website translation may be used for. There are numerous languages that are written from right to left. How do you maintain brand consistency on a multilingual WordPress website where the language is written in the other direction (often referred to as RTL, or right to left)?

Some users may want professional WordPress customer support to get assistance with such a feature, but it is possible to establish sites where the plugins and other modules are reversed. This would be the case for instance for a website being translated from English to Arabic or from Yiddish to English.

If the general idea behind the website translation is to attract and maintain a foreign viewership, everything should be done to welcome the new visitors and to make them feel right at home.

5. Neglecting Color Psychology

While color psychology is not exactly in the forefront when it comes to website translations, it still bears mentioning. A black and red color combination may be fine in some locations, but reminiscent of more unpleasant times in others.

Different colors will have different meanings to different people, and there is always someone who will not be pleased, no matter how great the WordPress template design may be. However, there are some color combinations that should also be avoided altogether.

The perfect website color combinations and WordPress template designs may not be the most pressing detail to consider, but they are worth some research. The idea is to draw your audience in and make a personal and emotional connection with them in order to have a viable, long-term successful internet marketing campaign.

Which brings up the bonus round in this discussion about the most common mistake people make when building a multilingual WordPress website.

6. Not Multi-purposing Multilingual Website Content for Social Media

Multi-purposing is the means by which the same content can be used to generate additional content across different media platforms. Multi-purposing content is a fairly common practice even for websites that only exist in one language without any translation.

Reuters Social Media Language Gap

Statistics via Reuters Graphics

Social media sites, like the rest of the internet, are rapidly moving beyond their previous English-only limitations. The Facebook user interface currently supports roughly 111 languages (including “Pirate English” argghh matey!) The Twitter user interface is available in roughly 35 languages at present, and other social media sites are increasingly multilingual in nature.

A thorough and proper website translation will give you all of the necessary tools to enhance your multilingual social media marketing outreach.

Video translations can be used to create srt files that will be fully indexed by the search engines, increasing the visibility of the video content on the search engine results pages. Podcasts can be made from the website content translations through the use of a voice-over artist native to the language of translation.

A complete translation of the website content will provide you with the basic tools that you need to take all of your content marketing to an international level. Multi-purposing the website content is a logical progression, as is communicating with your audience more directly, even within your social media marketing campaign.

Use website translation services to talk to your new audience in a language they will understand. Use localization services to talk to their hearts. Hopefully, the information you found here will also result in fewer mistakes along your path to Multilingual WordPress success.

Article by Tomedes guest author
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