What happens when your business already has a website before you decide to expand into foreign speaking markets? You’ve been running things in English for years already and now seems like the time to take your brand to international audiences – website translation. The question is: can you translate your existing site into multiple languages or do you have to start again from scratch?
This is precisely what we’ll be looking at in this blog post today. The quick answer is no you can’t simply translate your existing site because there are a number of technical issues involved with running a multilingual website. Now, we won’t be getting technical in this article today, but we will be running through the key things involved with website translation so you understand what’s involved.
Structuring a multilingual website with website translation
The first thing you need to think about when it comes to translating your website is domain structure. Your existing domain [www.yoursite.com] will only act as the address for the English version of your site. Every other version needs a unique domain of its own and there are three realistic options for going about this:
- Country specific domains: You register unique domains in each target market – eg: www.yourseite.com; www.yoursite.es; www.yoursite.de, etc.
- Subdomains: You create subdomains with your existing domain – eg: www.yoursite.com; es.yoursite.com; de.yoursite.com, etc.
- Subdirectories: You create subdirectories within your existing domain – eg: www.yoursite.com/en; www.yoursite.com/es; www.yoursite.com/de, etc.
Each of the above approaches has their pros and cons but the key thing to keep in mind at this stage of your website translation is that you’ll be running multiple versions on your site, each one with a unique URL of its own – rather than running a single site that’s translated into multiple languages.
Why is this important?
Multilingual UX and SEO
The reason website structure is so important is because you need to think about optimising your multilingual site(s) for UX and SEO. Users need to be able to navigate your site, switch between language versions as needed and get an experience optimised for their language and location. You simply can’t do this for everyone with a single site.
Likewise, search engines need to be able to access the different versions of your site in order to rank pages for the right audience. For example, users in Germany need to be able to type keywords in German and see the German version of relevant pages. Once again, you can’t do this effectively with a single site.
Moving back to SEO, you’ll need to rethink your keywords strategy for every language you target. Don’t simply translate your English keywords into foreign languages; start again with your keyword research for each target market to pinpoint the exact queries your audience is using.
Website translation is a core component of multilingual SEO as well. Search engines want to see quality website translation and unique content on the different versions of your site. So make sure you invest in professional website translation for every page on your sites – this is crucial to ranking well in search engines.
Localising your marketing strategy
With the technical side of things covered, it’s time to think about your marketing approach – and this is where you need to think beyond translation services. Don’t simply translate your marketing messages because there’s no guarantee the same message will resonate with each of your target audiences. Localise the different versions of your site, the marketing messages you promote and even the content strategy you run for each market.
Some audiences will resonate with different content to others. Make sure you address the unique needs of each of your audiences.
The same thing goes for your off-site marketing efforts. Translating your ad campaigns won’t always work and you may need to think about transcreation services as well, which takes a more creative approach to content that can’t be directly translated. In some cases, you may even need to go with a completely different ad campaign or marketing strategy for certain audience.
Again, it all comes down to localising your marketing strategy from the beginning to know what will make the right impact with each audience.
As you can see from the points we’ve looked at today, creating a multilingual website is more like running several different websites at the same time. This might sound impractical but it gives you the freedom you need to create unique experiences and targeted messages for each target market in a way you couldn’t do with a single site.
More to the point, structuring your site correctly for search engines and user locations around the world is vital. Website translation involves far more than languages alone so make sure you get the right technical team on board before you go multilingual.