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How to build a multilingual website to expand your reach

How to build a multilingual website

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 and this website type. 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.

What is a multilingual website?

A multilingual website is what it sounds like - a website available in multiple languages. This means that visitors to your website can access your content in their preferred language. Multilingual websites are becoming increasingly common, as more and more businesses are looking to reach a global audience.

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, to the content in your online course. Starting a blog with a blog maker? You'll need to think about your translation options here too.

Tip: Learn how to make a multilingual blog to support your content.

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 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).

While translating you can consider using website under construction templates.

Multilingual website

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.

SEO for your multilingual website

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 also want to consider the pros and cons between a static and dynamic site before hitting publish.

How to build a multilingual website

How to create a Wix Multilingual site

  1. Log in to your Wix account or sign up and pick your favorite professional online template to get started.

  2. In the Wix Editor, select ‘Settings’ from the top menu bar.

  3. Click ‘Multilingual’ and then ‘Get Started.’

  4. Choose the language(s) you want.

  5. Set your main language and the flag you want to display with it.

  6. Select ‘Next.’

  7. Set your secondary language (note: you can add additional languages later) and the flag you want to display with the language.

  8. Click ‘Next’ and then ‘Start Now.’

  9. 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.

  10. Click Publish to make your changes live.

Benefits of a multilingual website

As you can see, creating a multilingual website can be demanding, so you need to be sure it's worth it. Here are some of the most important benefits:

  • Reach a wider audience: A multilingual website can help you reach a wider audience by making your content available to people who speak different languages. This is especially beneficial if you're targeting a specific country or region.

  • Improve SEO: When you translate your website content into multiple languages, you can rank for keywords in those languages. This can help you attract more visitors to your website from different parts of the world.

  • Build trust with international customers: When visitors to your website see that you've taken the time to translate your content into their language, they'll be more likely to trust you and do business with you.

  • Increase sales: 76% of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language. A multilingual website can help you increase sales by making it easier for people from different countries to buy your products or services.

  • Provide a better user experience: A multilingual website provides a better user experience for people who speak different languages because it's easier for them to find what they're looking for and interact with your website.

If you are looking to expand your business internationally, a multilingual website is a must-have.

Challenges of a multilingual website

There are a few challenges that you may face when creating a multilingual website. These include:

  • Cost in money and time: Translating your website into multiple languages can be expensive, especially if you use professional translation services. It also can be a time-consuming process, depending on the amount of content you need to translate.

  • Localization: On top of translating your website content, you may also need to localize your website. This means adapting your website to the cultural and linguistic norms of the countries you are targeting.

  • Managing content: Managing multilingual content can be complex. You need to make sure that all of your content is translated accurately and that the translations are consistent. You also need to continually update your translations whenever you add content.

Despite these challenges, creating a multilingual website is a worthwhile investment if you're looking to expand your reach.

Multilingual website examples

Creating a multilingual website is a great way to reach a global audience and cater to users who speak different languages. Here are five examples of multilingual websites:

  • Wikipedia: Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is available in multiple languages. Users can easily switch between languages to access content in their preferred language. This approach enables Wikipedia to provide information to a diverse audience worldwide.

  • Nike: Nike, a global brand, offers a multilingual website to serve its international customer base. Visitors can choose their preferred language, and the website adapts to provide content, product descriptions and support in that language.

  • IKEA: IKEA, a multinational furniture retailer, has a multilingual website to accommodate its global customer base. Users can select their country and language preferences to access product information, shopping options and other content in their chosen language.

  • Wix: Wix, the website builder has multiple language pages to reach and support its global range of users. Examples include (German), (French).

Pro tip: Beginners might also enjoy using Wix’s AI website builder, a first-of-its-kind chat-based experience that taps into Wix's ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) to help you design a website in record time. Simply chat with AI about the vision for your site and you’ll get a complete website that you can customize as you wish.

"AI doesn't aim to replace humans but to turn them into superpowers. Everything that a person wants to do is possible with unimaginable ease. Writing software, composing a song, or creating an illustration - everything is possible without the need for prior knowledge or significant investment of resources."
Guy Sopher, Head of AI Assistant at Wix

How to build a multilingual website FAQ

How do multilingual websites work?

There are two main approaches for multilingual websites:

  • Subdirectories: Different language versions of the site are hosted in separate folders, like .com/en and .com/es. Visitors typically choose their preferred language through a flag icon or dropdown menu.

  • Content Management Systems (CMS): Discover plugins or built-in features to manage translated content within the same website framework. Users can switch languages seamlessly within the site.

How do I translate a website into multiple languages?

What are some tips for designing a multilingual website?

Can I use templates for a multilingual website?

How do you structure a multilingual website?

What is an example of a bilingual website?

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