Multilingual Websites

A multilingual website shows you are thinking about your customers and by catering for their needs they are more likely to do business with you.

What Are The Benefits of a Multilingual Website?

A multilingual website demonstrates you are thinking about the customer. That little extra effort shows you have thought and cared enough about them to offer the website in their language. By catering to the needs of your audience you stand a better chance of converting visitors into customers.

A properly designed Multilingual website overcomes potential cultural barriers by allowing access in a native language. This automatically puts the visitor at ease as they are able to navigate, understand and interact with the website in their own language.

In countries such as China, Japan and France, Google, Yahoo and MSN are not the default search engines. Home grown search engines are emerging and they are proving successful because they work in native languages and are focused on the habits and needs of their users.

Multilingual Website Setup

There are several ways to structure the URLs of multilingual websites and each option has advantages and disadvantages that you need to consider. Does it make sense to have a new domain per language, or would it be best to keep everything contained in the existing website?

Country Code top-level Domain (ccTLD)

EG: yourdomain.fr and yourdomain.de

A country code top-level domain is linked to a specifc country, such as .fr for France and .es for Spain. Country Code specifc domains are a clear signal for search engines that a website is targeting users in a particular country. The server location is irrelevant and it’s easy to separate websites. The biggest disadvantages are the availability of domains and the extra costs associated with purchasing and renewing those domains moving forwards.

Sub-Domain Per Language

EG: fr.yourdomain.com and de.yourdomain.com

Certain domain extensions are not tied to a country or region. The most popular is .com, but there are other frequently used generic top-level domains, such as .net and .org. These generic top-level domains can be used in combination with a sub-domain, for example fr.website.com. This method is easy to set up and most search engines understand this type of geo-targeting. It is important to understand that website users might not recognise the language of the content based on the website URL.

Sub-directory Per Language

EG: yourdomain.com/fr and yourdomain.com/de

Subdirectories are often used to structure content (for example yourdomain.com/blog or yourdomain.com/tshirts), but can also be used for geo-targeting purposes. In this case we can use yourdomain.com/fr/tshirts to structure our translated content. With this technique, everything can be hosted on the same server with a single domain name. Setup is very easy and you can use Google Search Console to identify the different languages.

Other Considerations for Multilingual Websites

  • Phone Numbers
    If your website is aimed at international trade then you should consider including the area code before your phone numbers so it is easier for people to call you.
  • Content Direction
    You may not know this, but languages don’t follow a set direction, but the script they are written in does. For example, Azeri (spoken by the people of Azerbaijan) can be written using Latin or Cyrillic scripts, in which case it is written LTR (left to right). Alternatively, it can be written in Arabic script, in which case it is written RTL (right to left).
  • Captchas / Bot Protection
    Are you using a captcha on your website? Make sure that it’s in the same language as the page content. As a UK visitor, it is unlikely you will want to solve a Russian captcha!
  • Dates
    Not every country uses the same date format, sometimes you will have to convert dates from the Gregorian calendar to the Persian calendar for example.

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