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How to translate a website in 9 key steps

Published on November 28th, 2019

Website translation is one of those things that doesn’t sound too daunting until you actually try it for yourself. In terms of actually translating your content, there shouldn’t be too many surprises as long as you’ve got professional translators on your side. However, it’s the technical aspects of building a multilingual website that often catch businesses out.

Sadly, it’s not a simple case of uploading foreign-language pages to your existing website. You need to deliver content in the right language to each user, optimise for search in multiple languages and create ongoing content strategies that engage each audience.

In this article, we’re quickly running through the 9 key steps of translating a website so you understand what’s really involved.

Translate a website in 9 key steps

As with any type of translation project, it helps to understand exactly what the workload is before you dive in. This is especially true with website translation, because wrong moves can be hard to fix later on. For example, choosing the wrong website structure could prevent your content from indexing in search engines – an expensive mistake to fix at a later date.

So make sure you have the right technical experts on board before you get started – not only translation pros.

To translate a website that achieves your marketing goals, you’re going to take the following steps:

  1. Planning: Every step of the development and translation processes should be carefully planned, budgeted and assigned to people with the right expertise – taking into account any potential issues that could arise along the way.
  2. Audience research: Multilingual websites can target dozens or even hundreds of different audiences (multiple audiences for each language) and each of these requires dedicated research to pinpoint their unique needs and expectation from your brand.
  3. Keyword research: A lot of businesses make the mistake of simply translating their existing list of keywords. This is a bad move because your foreign-speaking audiences may have different search habits and, even when they’re searching for the same thing, your translations won’t necessarily match what they’re typing in.
  4. Content strategy: Likewise, different keywords and search intents require different content so you’re not just going to translate your original content into foreign languages. You need to adapt this content to meet the needs of each audience and, in some cases, you may need to create completely original content. Each audience requires its own content strategy and this will normally involve a mix of translating existing content and creating fresh material for each audience.
  5. Content translation: Much of your existing content will be relevant to multiple audiences and direct translation is fine in these cases – just make sure you get professional translators to do this for you.
  6. Choose your website structure: This determines how you host, separate and deliver the different language versions of your website. With country-specific domains (example.com, example.es, etc.) and subdomains (example.com, es.example.com, de.example.com, etc.) you’re essentially creating separate websites for each language and these are the recommended approaches.
  7. Develop/localise your multilingual site: Create your pages, upload your content, implement language selection, etc. using dynamic markup so you can make universal changes in one place, rather than editing code on every page to upload a new logo or add new languages.
  8. Optimise for multilingual SEO: Make sure the right language is delivered for each search user, optimise for page speed and have an ongoing technical SEO process in place for targeting new keywords, auditing links and the other essentials.
  9. Manage your ongoing multilingual SEO & content strategies: Website translation is an ongoing process where you need to continue creating content in each language and optimising your site/pages for search on an ongoing basis.

As you can see from the list above, there’s a lot more going on here than simply translating content from one language into another. Multilingual SEO is a complex process, but a necessary one if you want foreign-speaking audiences to discover your content.

Translate your website the right way

Website translation achieves nothing if you fail to get your content seen by the right audiences and compel them to take action. This doesn’t happen automatically; you need to understand what makes each audience tick and what kind of content is going to provoke the reaction you’re looking for – and then you need to make sure each audience sees your content at the vital moment.

Essentially, you’re creating a new marketing strategy for each target language, optimising pages for search in each language and potentially using different social platforms to promote your content and engage with users in each market. All of these aspects need to be integrated into a cohesive strategy and this is why it’s so important to have the right team of language and marketing pros working together. So, feel free to get in touch with our website translation team if you need any help with building and maintaining a multilingual website.

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Posted on: November 28th, 2019