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Tips for Setting up Your Multilingual Website

December 29, 2015

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The internet has become the primary method of communicating in the global economy and enabling cross-border commerce at an unprecedented level – making website translation an even greater priority. Research shows that even though English is the most commonly used language on the web, 75% of internet usage is in another language. Based on data from consumers in these non-English speaking markets, 52.4% said they wouldn’t buy from a website which is not in their native language. Additionally, 72.1% of international customers spend the majority of their time on sites in their own language. These statistics are a clear indication that in order to reach foreign audiences, you need to speak their language. Translating your website is a must, but before setting up your multilingual website, here are 3 important tips to consider:

  1. Domain Structure

When setting up your multilingual website, it is important to identify the URL structure for the different languages. There are several different methods you can try. The first, and most common, is to use country code top level domains. For example Amazon uses Amazon.de for Germany, and Amazon.co.uk for UK. The benefits of using country code top level domains is that you can target your audience in specific regions arounds the world.

The other option is creating separate sub domains for each language. For example, de.hello.com for Germany or us.hello.com for the US. The advantages of using separate sub domains is you can have a separate Google Webmaster Tools for each sub domain – which allows you to set geo-targeting. Geo-targeting allows you to determine the locations of a specific user and deliver specific content based on each user’s location.

The last way to structure your domain is putting the languages in a Sub Directory, for example www.hello.com/de. You can use webmaster tools for geo-targeting with this option as well.

We recommend using the country code top level domain to structure a multilingual website because having a local domain makes it easier for your site to come up in searches and vastly increases your discoverability in new markets.

  1. Keyword Localization

Incorporating the correct keywords on your website is critical for showing up in Google searches. Because keywords are highly determined by the culture and can vary greatly across regions, it is important to localize the keywords as opposed to just literally translating them. For example, most Americans will type in “pants” when searching for clothing, but customers in the UK would use “trousers”. Understanding these differences will help dictate what words should be present in your website’s content.

Researching and finding the correct keywords can be very time consuming, but your SEO efforts in foreign markets will have little hope of success without these efforts. If you are going to outsource this type of project, make sure that you’re Translations Company or SEO agency understands the importance of keyword research and can properly maximize this critical component in your target markets.

  1. General Website Layout and Design

The colors, images, and graphic content on your site can all play a big role when creating a multilingual website, impacting perceptions in specific markets. Make sure the graphics you use are culturally relevant and that there is no text embedded in any of the pictures. Also, be careful of symbols and icons that are used as each symbol can have drastically different connotations across cultures. Another thing that can be easily be overlooked are currencies, dates and units of measure. Make sure that each is localized and fits the specific region.

It is also important to keep in mind the direction in which your audience reads. For example, Arabic is read from left to right. Knowing this will most likely affect the positioning and layout of your website.

Your website is often your first point of interaction with a new customer and effective website translation & localization is key to ensuring a positive first impression and repeat business from global consumers.