How to Build a Multilingual Website and Expand Your Reach
This post was last updated on January 10, 2022.
As you look to expand your online audience, you might have already considered building a multilingual website. A site with content in the various languages you serve enables you to communicate effectively with your visitors.
There are other reasons why you might want your online presence to be multilingual. Your business might be located in a popular tourist destination, having the potential to attract clients spanning far beyond the neighborhood, state, or even country.
In this article, you will learn how to make a website that is easily accessible to all languages and localized to different regions. Therefore, we put together a step-by-step guide to help you start.
How to build a multilingual website
01. Translate your website content
A multilingual site’s most essential component is translation. If you don’t speak the additional languages you’re adding to your site, you have several options for translating your content.
You can invest in a professional translator, or you can use a neural machine translation service for a quick fix, like Google Translate. If you’re using the latter, make sure to review and proofread your translated content as there are many grammatical or cultural nuances that can get lost in translation.
Wix Multilingual allows you to enjoy Google Translate’s powerful linguistic services, in addition to manually editing your translation directly on your site’s editor.
During the translation process, make sure not to overlook any parts of your site’s copy, from the text on your homepage design and menu, to the retailing details on your online store.
One small detail to note in your translations is the date. To all those out there who have missed a deadline or meeting because the format of the month and date was different from their personal custom (Is 12/04 April 12th or December 4th?), you know exactly how confusing this can be. Either do some research into the conventional date and time format for your secondary language(s), or play it safe by simply writing out the full month.
As you’re translating your website content, you may experience that some things can’t transfer over from one language to another, even requiring more context for clarity.
Therefore, pay attention to cultural references. For example, have you jazzed up your call-to-action text with puns particular to one language, or country? First of all, you deserve a round of applause for a job well done acing your engaging microcopy. Second, make sure to find equivalent phrases, or to take a similar tone, when switching over to your secondary language(s).
02. Adapt your visual content
Text is not the only element on your page that you can “translate.” The same principle goes for images, too. If you offer a localized service, for example, and want to display photos of it from sites across the globe, you can select the requisite images to match the regional language of the text.
Say you have the Statue of Liberty featured on your homepage to illustrate a cultural landmark. You might want to swap that image with the Eiffel Tower for your French-speaking audience on your multilingual site. International visitors will have a better connection with your site if you localize your visual content, since images carry different meanings for different cultures.
03. Modify your SEO for all languages
Once you have completed the translation stage, it’s time to make sure your work can be found in all of its linguistic glory across the internet. That entails optimizing each of your new pages for search engines.
Each international market comes with its own internet searching habits and SEO needs. Start by conducting keyword research in your new language - and update your site's SEO settings accordingly. That way, potential customers searching the web for a business or solution like yours in their native language will have a higher chance of stumbling across your site.
04. Enable your site to be multilingual
Now that your web content is all ready to go, it’s time to let visitors of all different languages know that they can access your website.
Show off your linguistic talent with an easy-to-spot language menu. You can customize it to your liking, representing each language with mini flag icons, written abbreviations or a combination of the two, to signal to users the options that are available for their choosing.
We suggest placing this language toggle in your primary header navigation. You can even use subtle animation features, to draw visitors’ attention to the translation option. The longer they have to search, the higher the chance they might leave in favor of a page they can actually understand.
A word for the wise: if you offer two or three languages, flag or word icons that appear right in the header menu will be perfect. If you offer more, though, consider a drop down menu of lettered abbreviations to avoid clutter.
The process of creating a multilingual site can feel daunting at first. Yet, believe it or not, once you’ve created a professional website in your primary language, you’ve already taken a major step toward simplifying this process. The site structure you’ve created can now serve as a roadmap to help you in adapting to a second, or even third and fourth, language.
If you’re building your website on Wix, you’ll find that there’s absolutely no need to recreate a new site for each language. Every time you add in a new language with Wix Multilingual, a parallel copy is automatically created for you. And if you change any element in one of your languages, the same change is immediately reflected across all of your multiple versions.
You might want to also consider the pros and cons between a static and dynamic site before hitting publish.
How to create a Wix Multilingual site:
In the Wix Editor, select ‘Settings’ from the top menu bar.
Click ‘Multilingual’ and then ‘Get Started.’
Choose the language(s) you want.
Set your main language and the flag you want to display with it.
Set your secondary language (note: you can add additional languages later) and the flag you want to display with the language.
Click ‘Next’ and then ‘Start Now.’
Translate the content on your site including text, photos and videos. You can switch between languages using the flags on the top left corner of the Editor, and access your Multilingual Dashboard by selecting ‘Settings’ > ‘Multilingual’ from the top bar.
Click Publish to make your changes live.
By Cecilia Lazzaro Blasbalg Small Business Expert & Writer