Simple slug translation: Multilingual WordPress made easy
July 12, 2023
The Internet has fundamentally changed the way we can communicate with each other, and one of the most significant benefits is that we can connect on a global level, instantly.
You have the potential to reach people all over the world with your website, but are you speaking their language? Figuratively and literally, speaking the language of your target audience is an excellent way to build trust and rapport, and you can translate your entire WordPress website into other languages using Weglot – URLs and all.
In this guide, we’re going to explain what slugs mean in WordPress, the content management system (CMS) that powers almost 40% of all websites on the Internet, and take you through the entire URL translation process.
What is a URL slug
Let’s understand this using a URL slug example.
The URL of the article you’re reading is https://blog.weglot.com/translate-url. Here, the slug is the part of the URL after the last backlash or the part after “.com/”. In this case, it’s “translate-url”. This communicates to search engines that the article revolves around translating a URL.
If you’re wondering why it’s called a “slug”, here’s a fun fact – it’s derived from when news channels and media would give a nickname/short name to an article that would be called its “slug”.
Creating a URL Slug – best practices
The structure and keywords used in your URL slugs are crucial to your user experience and SEO. Here’s a few things to keep in mind when creating a URL slug:
Use the most relevant keyword(s) and minimal parameters to define the content on the web page
Avoid extremely long sentences, numbers and ID’s – use simple yet comprehensive words
To use a long-tail keyword, remove stopwords like “and”, “the”, “a” etc to create shorter URLs
Use punctuation like a hyphen(-) between 2 different words for better identification
Why should you translate URL slugs for your multilingual website
At the most basic level, a URL is your website’s address. Before search engines became such an important tool for finding information online, URLs were the main way people would access websites, and telling someone your URL was how your website got found.
Typing a URL into a web browser tells your server which online resource you want to see, but there’s more than this basic functionality at stake. URLs are a key component of any website and they have a wider purpose than just a web address. The way they are interpreted by people, SEO, and technology can have an impact on how successful your website becomes.
To create a seamless experience for your web visitors, it’s important to translate slugs and ensure your URL addresses match the language of the rest of your website content.
Why translating URLs should not be overlooked:
At a glance, URLs can tell your users what your webpage is all about, helping them decide whether to visit your site or not.
Translated URLs can enhance the user experience by making it more coherent, engaging, and personal.
URLs aren’t just important for people, but for machines and “spiders” (also known as web crawlers) too, because translated URLs contribute to your global SEO strategy.
Search results show your translated URLs, which indicates to international users that your website is available in their language, pulling them in at the top of the sales funnel.
Translating URL slugs: best practices
The following URL best practices ensure you pitch your URL at the right level to boost your website’s engagement.
Improve your UX with friendly URLs
To be as user-friendly as possible, URLs should be brief. Keeping them short and snappy makes them simple to remember and easy to type in.
UX stands for user experience, and your goal is usually to make the user experience as seamless as possible. Think of solid UX as being so intuitive it is almost impossible to notice. If your user has to stop and think about something for too long, you’re breaking the invisible experiential flow that most of us have come to expect with technology.
Friendly URLs play a part in the way your users interact with your website, and therefore, your URLs should reflect the good UX you are aiming to achieve across your whole site.
Reflect the web page in the URL
There’s an obvious message in the figure of speech: “Now you’re speaking my language.” It’s about establishing rapport and strengthening your relationship with your target audience so that they can become subscribers, customers, or regular website visitors.
Each URL should reflect the information contained on its web page. Therefore, if your site is translated into the language of your target audience, you should translate URL slugs too.
Master the art of URL translation
In business, you listen to what your customers want, and 73% of customers prefer to purchase from a site that provides information in their own language. If you ignore them, they could look elsewhere: 60% of shoppers rarely or never buy from English-only websites.
Turning your website multilingual might seem like a big task, but don’t be put off by that assumption. Mastering the art of translation is made easy if you use the right tools, and I’m not talking about Google Translate, Babbel or Duolingo. I’m talking about Weglot.
Weglot is a WordPress VIP Technology Partner that boasts Microsoft, Spotify and Deliveroo among its customers and delivers an average of 1 billion translated words every day.
With Weglot’s WordPress URL translation, you can translate your whole site, including all types of URL slugs, into other languages. These include:
Internal URLs – these are links that open up within your desktop app window, usually in the same tab.
External links – in contrast to internal links, external URLs open up web pages in new browser windows or new tabs.
Custom URLs – sometimes called vanity URLs or vanity domains, these are essentially redirects that are typically used for marketing purposes, so they are often memorable, unique and related to specific campaigns.
Links to videos – you might want to create URLs for your videos to provide access for viewing or downloading, or to enable you to host that media somewhere other than the likes of YouTube or Vimeo.
Why translating URL slugs is important for SEO
The slug is the most important part of your web address because it identifies the exact page you’re referring to. To do its job, it needs to be unique, but it also needs to be readable by your target audience – and by search engines.
The slug is crucial because it explains what your web page is all about, which helps Google and other search tools to categorize it. If they categorize it correctly, they bring it up in relevant searches. This is important for SEO, which stands for search engine optimization and is how users find your website by searching for terms online.
If your slug helped Google categorize your web page correctly, it’s going to get clicked a lot when it comes up in searches. This keeps Google’s users happy and signals to Google that it’s doing the correct thing.
In turn, this benefits your SEO, because clicks encourage the search engine to move your WordPress site up through the ranks and closer to the first page and top position. Bear in mind that appearing in foreign search engine results and ranking highly is something that goes beyond a translation: you need a global SEO strategy, and website translation is just one important step, alongside activities such as link building, content localization, and optimizing video content.
Here’s an example of the White House website, which can be translated into Spanish.
As you can see, the URL slug also gets translated.
Using a tool like Weglot means that you can use rapid translation services to ensure your customer can read the website, and URL, in their native language, while enabling search engines to show it in that language too. Weglot also supports over a 100 different languages, including Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Turkish, Romanian, Vietnamese, Finnish, Dutch and Polish.
Now the most spoken language in the world, English has upwards of a billion speakers worldwide. With that in mind, if you are looking at international markets, you should consider translating your website into English even if it isn’t your first language.
Pro tips to translate URL
1. You need to implement local SEO optimization
If your website is currently in one language but you are looking to go global, it’s a good idea to think local (just not your local). You can’t target the whole world at once, but you can bring in different languages one by one or a few at a time.
You should not only be intending to translate your website but aiming to integrate the “speak” of the location you’re targeting across your site too (URLs and all).
Colloquial language includes slang and phrases that are commonly understood in a particular region or dialect. They are usually conversational, which makes them great for marketing if you’re thinking local, particularly when it comes to SEO because you’re using search terms that your target audience would use.
Whatever the reason, if you are targeting an audience from a specific area, a smart way to engage with them is by applying local SEO optimization and localization techniques. Local SEO optimization helps your website be found in local search results. This is especially useful if you are setting up a store or running services in a new place, whether that’s in a different country or a new area in your country where a second language is spoken frequently.
Whatever the reason, if you are targeting an audience from a specific area, local SEO is a smart way to engage with them. So, to pack the biggest punch, URLs should include keywords that are not only translated into the right language but are also relevant to local SEO.
2. Use words, not ID codes and numbers
You might have seen that some URLs use codes and numbers as identifiers, including some WordPress blog posts, which use dates.
Although dates have some relevance (and you might choose to keep them due to personal preference), codes don’t. As a general rule, you should avoid including ID numbers and codes into your URLs, or you risk alienating your audience group – after all, they won’t know what those IDs mean. Instead, it’s more inviting to use words and phrases that people can understand and relate to.
Again, this is all about achieving the best user experience, so focus on applying UX principles when designing your multilingual website.
3. Avoid special characters
Some languages have special characters. For example:
Spanish (Española) special characters include the Umlaut (ü) and Eñe (ñ).
Swedish (Svenska) has three extra letters (Å, Ä, and Ö).
Portuguese (Português) has the cedilla (ç) and tilde (ã, õ), and many other types of special characters.
When translating URLs in languages that use special characters, it is best to substitute these for a standard letter instead, so you would choose:
“n” instead of “ñ”
“c” instead of “ç”
“a” instead of “å”
This is because the format of URLs is standardized, and there’s a risk that potential security vulnerabilities may be introduced by special characters in URLs.
It is also best to separate words with hyphens instead of accents. WordPress add-ons can convert URLs translated in these languages into clean URLs without accents and special characters, to make this easy for you.
However, not all languages use the Latin alphabet that we use for English. Among many other languages, Serbian uses Cyrillic script, whereas Hindi is one of the languages that use Devanagari script. These have their own characters, as do Chinese, Arabic and Hebrew scripts to name just a few.
So, what do you do if you want to translate your WordPress site and URLs to a foreign language that has its own script? Using Weglot as your plugin for website translation, this is all handled for you, as shown in the Simplified Chinese translations above. When designing a multi-language website, you’ll need to check that the web fonts you use will need to be compatible with all the non-English languages that your site supports.
Start translating URLs and slugs today
As with so much about user experience, the devil really is in the detail. Your users notice UX when it’s poor, and while URL slugs may seem like a small part of your site, they play an important role in the way your audience engages with your content.
When you translate URLs, you contribute towards maintaining good UX by making it a pleasant, personal and, all-importantly, a seamless experience. The best part is that by doing all of this, your site will also benefit in terms of SEO.
Combined, these improvements to UX and SEO are bound to boost your website’s stats and keep driving you toward your goals, whether these are related to sales, subscribers, or raising the profile of your WordPress site.
Manually translating your website can be a tedious task and comes with the risk of making translation errors that need troubleshooting. If you’re looking for a website translation solution, Weglot is an excellent choice. Providing a mixture of human translation and the best machine translation across your entire site, Weglot helps you create friendly URLs, translate slugs, and takes care of your written content, your widget, and your media, all handled from one place.