If you have web property that makes you money: a niche site, affiliate site, Adsense site or similar, it could make a lot of sense to diversify into additional language regions. 75% of internet users prefer reading content in their native language and native English speakers are in fact a minority.

However, building localized/translated versions of your site usually turns out a little trickier than expected. Fortunately, there are various resources, tools and plugins as well as localization services that can make the task easier.

Translation Tools and Plugins

Translating a website is not as easy as creating a clone and filling it with translated content.
As I will explain in more detail below, there are a number of things that have to be planned out correctly in order to create a truly complete translation of the website and not to break the site structure in the process. Also, it is important to make the right decisions with regard to search engine optimization (SEO) for multi-language sites.

There are countless ways of building websites and each of them might have their own intricacies. It’s impossible to cover all of them, so I’ll focus on solutions for WordPress, the most popular CMS (Content Management System). The general process of localizing a site applies to other CMS’, too.

For WordPress, there are a number of multi-language site plugins. The most commonly used are:

  • WPML
  • Polylang
  • Weglot
  • TranslatePress

Most of the plugins have a limited free version and “Pro” versions. Some of them also offer translation services within their plugins, though they can be quite expensive compared to other translation services.

Automatic Machine Translation: Yes or No?

If you can afford it, it’s better to have your content translated by a human. Machine translations are just not good enough, yet. If you have ever used Google Translate for more than just a word or two, you know what I mean.

You might think that there is no need to manually translate your website: you could implement a widget for on-the-fly translation, or the user could use the integrated translation function in your browser. However, both those methods won’t actually rank your site in different languages. Thus, you’d miss out on that traffic.

What Content Needs to Be Translated?

Obviously, you will want to translate the content in posts and pages. However, don’t forget about the following:

  • Widgets
  • Taxonomies
  • Theme strings
  • Menu items
  • Plugin strings
  • Custom fields
  • Page builder content (if you use page builders)
  • Other elements specific to your site

Will Translations Rank On the Local Version of Google (e.g. google.de or google.fr)?

To make sure that translations are indexed by Google, ranked correctly and not seen as duplicate pages, you have to follow the following best practices:

  • Have separate URLs for each translated version.
  • Rewrite internal link URLs so that Google crawls your entire translated website site.
  • Ideally, you should translate your URL slug to a slug in the new language (e.g. “/tutorial/” to “/anleitung/”.
  • Translate Titles and Meta Descriptions as well (by using a plugin that allows you to do that).
  • Add the hreflang attribute (usually done automatically by the translation plugin)

Will It Help If I Already Rank for the Original Language Keywords?

If you do it correctly: yes. Obviously, you will not get the exact same positions on Google for the translated content but the translated version won’t start “from zero” either. It is important though, that the translated version has the correct directory structure: if you put the new language into a subdomain (e.g. https://french.example.com), this will be seen as an entirely separate website and thus domain authority and backlinks of your original site will not be passed on. Therefore, it’s recommended to create subdirectories instead (e.g. https://example.com/fr/).