5 Essential Aspects of Building A Multilingual Website

5 Essential Aspects of Building A Multilingual Website

Multilingual websites were once something that only large corporations could invest in. As web technology becomes more accessible, and affordable, to smaller businesses and ecommerce stores the opportunities are now wide open for them to take advantage. With websites being the first port of call for many, all over the world for anything and everything, it makes sense to invest in an effective way of widening your customer base and sending your sales volume through the roof.

Multilingual websites are a great idea if you operate in multi-lingual markets,as they allow you to gain so much more than new customers. It can show you put customers first, want to nurture international culture, and know what will set you apart from your competitors.

 The challenges are gaining trust, cultural sensitivity, and the investment needed to make your site multilingual. However, the rewards are a customer-centric website, increased sales, a loyal user base from growth markets, and increased awareness of your brand, product or service and customers.

If you are thinking about having a multilingual website then read on for some technical advice on what you need to think about before diving into the translation process.

Domain Names / URLs

There are a few options here, each have their own pros and cons:

  1. Subfolders - domain.com/es/
  2. Subdomains – es.domain.com/
  3. ccTLD Domains – domain.es/

Option 1 is best for SEO as it passes all domain authority and ranking potential. Option 2 will not pass authority, but provides more server configuration options. Option 3 will also not pass authority, but provides separation from the main brand, if needed.

Smart web teams usually go for option 1, it increases potential and reduces costs.


Things to consider:

  • Server location – located in the targeted country can be beneficial (but not essential). A Content Delivery Network (CDN) can speed up delivery in other countries.
  • Local addresses and phone numbers – Having a verified Google MyBusiness page in that country will help with visibility.
  • Technical elements – Such as HTTP Headers, Hreflang and geolocation files will ensure that the correct content shows up in the correct country.
  • Auto selection – dynamic content serving should generally be avoided as it can confuse Google.

Design Considerations

Design and visuals should consider cultural differences that complement the target market. During translation, word count may change dramatically and the design should be able to accommodate this (especially menu items). A digital marketing agency should be able to work with your preferred designer, providing them a spec and framework to work with, if you choose.

Content Management System

Magento and Drupal are both very good for multiple shop fronts. They enable you to manage the product inventory and content from one CMS.

Search Engine Optimisation / Content

Make sure that SEO is conducted in multiple languages. Links should be built from websites in the target country.

Digital strategy is most important on a project like this as there are a range of content and SEO aspects to consider. A brief overview of an approach would be:

  1. Awareness
    1. Market research to identify the nature and specifics of the markets you are moving into. This should include keyword research.
    2. Competitor research – To learn from the successes and mistakes of others.
    3. Landscape - Looking at potential sources of traffic from search (Google isn’t the only answer everywhere). Identify influencers for future outreach.
  2. Website
    1. The digital marketing team should work alongside the designers and developers to ensure they follow a Search, Social and Sales focused specification. Addressing onsite content and optimization.
  3. Promotion
    1. Work on creative content designed to raise awareness of the brand. Guides, how-tos and tips always work brilliantly.
    2. White hat, ethical link building – From niche directories and the “quick wins” such as directory registrations to increase domain authority and ranking potential.
    3. Influencer research – Utilize bloggers, online communities and digital PR for online visibility and brand awareness.
    4. Creative content marketing – Establish a brand as a key point of reference in that vertical market with interesting content, guides, video etc.
    5. Social media communications – Create a plan, a content calendar and ensure to communicate with customers.
  4. Get a head start
    1. If starting afresh with a new domain name, you could consider purchasing an established domain in that region that already has ranking authority. This will bring a faster return and you can conduct a “Google change of domain procedure” to transfer over all equity and rankings to a new branded domain.
    2. You can also test the market with Paid search (Adwords) to establish potential return and conversion rates.

Do you have any tips or ideas for maximizing international websites? Let us know in the comments.

Joseph O’Brien writes on multilingual website design for GWS Media

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