The Ultimate Guide to Multilingual WordPress
When it comes time to consider whether to take your site multilingual or not, there’s no shortage of things you need to think about. How will your plug-ins fair, do you have enough content for specific regions, and most importantly of all: what happens to your SEO?
Guide to Multilingual WordPress
To answer all of these questions and more, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to multilingual WordPress. That way when you want to know how to take your website truly global, you’ll have everything you need to know, ready and waiting at your fingertips.
Why multilingual sites boost your SEO?
The myths that surround multilingual SEO are too numerous to list in this article, but they’re mostly all wrong. When people have a website that is getting X amount of hits a month, they become superstitious and are unwilling to do anything that might negatively impact their traffic.
Google and Bing don’t release the specifics of their search algorithms, so no one can know for sure exactly how their ranking will be impacted, but that’s just a matter of quantification. Common sense will tell you whether your ranking will improve or not, just not specifically how much it will change in a given direction.
SEO is all about search engines giving users what they want to see as a result of their search queries. So it makes perfect sense that if you can offer relevant content in a user’s primary language, your page is going to rank higher than something in a foreign language.
How multilingual sites optimize the end user experience?
When you want to move up the search rankings and have more and more people finding your site, you need to give the browsers who are already onboard reason to come back. It’s all about customer service at the end of the day, it just happens that you run a website rather than a physical store or outlet.
If you don’t offer people an experience that’s better than your competition, then they’ll go somewhere else before you know it. Worse still, they’ll be going to your competitors, which means you’ll shrink whilst they grow.
All of this can be a little hard to get your head around when you’re dealing with the abstract world of Yoast plug-ins, so think of the issue of sending messages to your clients. What you would want to do is create easily customized message templates that covered all of the bases for a given scenario.
That way you would be able to ensure that you got all of the relevant information across in a fraction of the time, and nothing was missed out. That’s exactly what you’re doing with a multilingual site. Makes sense now doesn’t it!
Ensures that nothing is lost in translation
No list of the most common translation mistakes would be complete without something subtle that completely changed the meaning of what was being said.
It’s the cardinal sin of translation to have someone perform a literal word-for-word translation, as this approach pays no attention to the fact that each language is structured differently.
Online services like PickWriters are a simple way to choose the translation service so that nothing is lost in translation.
It’s a lot easier to get your text in order before you go live than to try and boost your traffic after it takes a dive due to confusing and potentially offensive content going out that you weren’t aware of.
It pays to speak the same language as your customers
If you signed off with an email signature in a foreign language, then it wouldn’t make the best impression, would it? What you would want to do is say something memorable that made the recipient feel like you’re approachable and willing to help should they wish to get back to you.
The same is true of your WordPress site, and you can expect your traffic to increase overnight when you start speaking the language of your readers.
For example, did you know that there are more than twice as many people whose primary language is one of the Chinese dialects than there are people whose native tongue is English?
You could be missing out on over a billion people who want to hear from you by keeping everything in one language.
Structure the different language sites as subdirectories to make things easier
Okay, so what about the technical bits and pieces that you need to know? It’s easier said than done to set up a multilingual WordPress site, surely? Well, the great thing about this platform is that you can take it globally without too much effort.
The first thing to think about is how to relate your different translated sites to one another. You could run them as completely separate sites, but this will be very effort intensive and will get confusing almost as soon as you go live.
Subdomains are another option, but they don’t make the best use of the potential SEO benefits; which leaves subdirectories.
The great thing about using subdirectories is that you’re essentially appending newly translated pages to the existing pages, and combining all of the SEO benefits that this brings. Ideal for ranking higher by giving your readers what they want!
Hreflang tags help Google point your users in the right direction
Now that you’ve figured out the basic subdirectory structure of your site, you need to ensure that Google knows these new offshoots are actually there. The way you do this by adding hreflang tags to the relevant pages.
In short, this is the line of code that Google uses to track them down and start ranking them as separate pages. Bing does something similar but under the HTTP setup. The take-home point here is that it’s possible with both major search engines.
If you want to learn more about the technical details we’ve just touched on, then go for it. But for now, all you need to do is have a picture of what you’re trying to achieve so that you can see how everything fits together.
How to know what to translate on your site?
This section is best kept short and sweet with a one-word answer: everything. Imagine if you were reading a site and then the language switched when you started clicking around.
It would annoy you, it would look amateurish, and you’d get bored before long and go someplace else. Translate everything and this will never be an issue.
SEO meta descriptions also need to be translated
As well as checking your plug-ins will work with multilingual applications (virtually all of the most popular ones do nowadays) you need to decide whether to translate your meta descriptions. The internet is awash with articles that will tell you that doing so will damage your SEO beyond repair.
Luckily for you, these articles are mistaken. Keeping SEO simple and remembering that it’s about offering people what they want to see is the most important thing here.
If you remember that, then it’ll be clear that you need to translate the meta descriptions as well as the pages they relate to.
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