There’s a longstanding assumption that enough people on the web feel comfortable using English for it to be the default language of any website, especially when buying high-tech or expensive products. The Can’t Read, Won’t Buy study proves otherwise.
75% of people prefer to buy products in their native language and in addition, 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites.
The future of the web is undeniably multilingual. Fortunately, WordPress multilingual plugins such as Weglot, WPML, Polylang, Multilingualpress, and others make reaching global audiences easier and faster than ever before.
While the task of setting up a multilingual WordPress site is streamlined by plugins such as Weglot, WPML, Polylang, MultilingualPress, and others, the process goes beyond mere translation. As you embark on creating a welcoming space for a global audience, you’ll need to think beyond the basics of word-for-word translation. Crafting culturally relevant content, mindful design considerations, and maintaining design consistency across languages are pivotal.
To ensure a smooth launch of your multilingual site, this article covers a step-by-step guide on how to effectively implement multiple languages in WordPress while following some essential best practices.
Understanding the Concept of a Multilingual WordPress Website
A multilingual WordPress website automatically translates all of your content in your base (or default) language into as many target languages as you need to offer. In other words, a multilingual WordPress website speaks as many languages as its users do.
You can translate a WordPress website written originally in English and offer it to your users in Spanish, Mandarin, or Latin!
Some WordPress multi-language websites use their users’ locations to automatically offer their content in their local languages. Others simply place a language switcher so that users can switch to a language of their choice and access a translated version.
Benefits of Having a Multilingual WordPress Site
Along with outdoing your competition and strengthening your brand internationally, here are some very real benefits you can expect to achieve for your business.
1. Reach New Markets
Theoretically, there are millions of consumers worldwide who have access to your website but are unable to read it. Making your WordPress multi-language site available in different languages, such as Mandarin, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian, ensures that you are ready to attract a diverse array of people.
Your GA4 account can tell you the top 10 languages your visitors browse in. As you can see from the data below, the top three visitor languages to this particular site are U.S. English, French, and British English.
Translating your content ensures people who would otherwise not give your site a second glance will be able to enjoy your content, buy your products or services, and comfortably interact with your WordPress multi-language site.
It’s also worth noting that Baidu has over 560 million regular users — the equivalent of all Google users in Europe and Asia combined, and precisely why companies like Apple are desperate to break into the Chinese market.
This example demonstrates precisely why localization is crucial for scaling your business. While Chinese are large consumers of online content and are not wary of buying online, they — like English speakers — want a rich depth of content in their local language.
3. Increase SEO and Online Visibility
With translated content, your WordPress multi-language site will be much more likely to show up in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and even Baidu search results, helping to increase your online visibility.
The competition for English language SERPs is fierce. But what about German, French, or other languages?
With a WordPress multi-language site, together with multi-language keywords and metadata, you can target a broader range of keywords and boost your SERP rankings for several different languages.
4. Establish (and Increase) Trust
When you can provide content in the preferred languages of your overseas consumers they instantly feel confident about making a purchase on your WordPress multi-language site.
Customers who are excited about your product and service are likely to talk about you. This goes a long way to building trust and authenticity with international audiences. WordPress language differentiates brands that communicate effectively with global markets from companies that don’t (and that remain inaccessible and invisible to international audiences).
This finding clearly illustrates the impact that displaying language options on your site can have a big impact on a business’s brand, customer relationships, and, ultimately, bottom line.
Choosing a Type of WordPress Multilingual Translation
Choosing the right approach to translation is a foundational step in setting up a multilingual WordPress site. It's essential to understand the different types of translation services available, which can be broadly categorized into machine translation, human translation, and a mixed approach. Additionally, several WordPress plugins can greatly facilitate this process.
Machine translation: This type of translation relies on online translation services or translation packs to convert words on your WordPress multi-language site into other languages. Google Translate is probably the most popular example of machine translation. There’s no human input or editing, so while this type of translation is usually fast and free, it can be prone to output errors. However, big players such as Microsoft and Google have been investing huge resources into state-of-the-art Neural Machine Translation algorithms in recent years. By leveraging AI, today’s machine translations can yield pretty good results.
Human translation: This is a translation provided by a quality, experienced, and professionally-trained translator. Human professional translation is accurate and more natural-sounding, as translators are able to interpret the nuances of language content better than a machine can.
Mixed translation: This type of translation will manually translate your most important pages and keep machine translation for the rest. It’s perfect for ecommerce WordPress websites with thousands of products, for example.
Many multi-language WordPress plugins support these translation methods and add their own set of tools to the mix, providing the technical framework to make your website multilingual. For example, various WordPress language translation solutions also allow you to translate and/or correct translations yourself using a built-in editor.
Weglot is one of these solutions, offering you advanced machine translation based on the top machine translation software, along with the option to personally edit your translated content and use professional human translations.
Which WordPress Translation Solution is Right for You?
There are many quality translation tools available for WordPress, all of which cater to different needs and budgets. So before choosing a quality method of translation, it’s important to shop around and find a solution that provides the user-friendly features you need. Features you’ll want to look out for in a quality solution for WordPress multilingual sites include:
Support for the languages you need — and languages you might need in the future.
Seamless integration with your website and the ability to automatically detect and translate written content.
Seamless integration with your plugins (such as SEO plugins like Yoast SEO), page builders (like Elementor, Gutenberg, and Divi), custom post types, and your WordPress theme.
Automatic translation and human translation compatibility.
Access to experienced and professionally-trained human translators.
Ability to manually edit translations.
Intuitive and customizable options for displaying language switching options to users.
SEO-friendly language content.
While some translation plugins simply provide auto-translation, there are full-service options that also provide the services of professional human translators who can ensure your translations are natural-sounding and optimized for quality and clarity.
For WordPress, the leading solution in terms of price, quality, clarity, and ease of use is Weglot. Weglot integrates seamlessly with any WordPress multilingual site, providing an all-in-one solution that automatically detects and translates your written content and adapts to your plugins and themes. Rather than just translating your posts, Weglot translates every aspect of your site, from custom fields and taxonomies to menu items and WooCommerce products, using its advanced translation API.
Weglot supports more than 110 languages, including custom languages, which you can manually edit in context on the front-end of your site using the plugin’s intuitive visual editor. You can also order professional language translations right from the Weglot dashboard.
What’s more, Weglot follows the best practices set out in this post, including:
Translation management: Making it easy to edit translations on the front end to suit your site’s design, and
Providing tools and other features to help you produce culturally relevant and appropriate content.
How to Make Your WordPress Website Multilingual With Weglot
Weglot allows you to first start with an initial time-saving layer of automatic translation and then edit your translations yourself or order professional translators to do the work for you. All this takes place directly inside your Weglot account. Let’s see how to do that.
Install and activate the Weglot Translate plugin on your WordPress site. You can download it for free from the WordPress.org plugin repository, or install it directly from your WordPress Dashboard backend by searching “Weglot” Plugins → Add New.
Next, select the Weglot menu item in the admin sidebar. Enter your API key (sign up for a Weglot account to access this), choose your original language, and enter the language or languages you want to translate your site into.
Lastly, save your changes and open your multilingual WordPress website. You’ll now see a language switcher in the bottom-right of your site.
Go ahead and switch the language content for your site! You should see the words on your site instantly updated to display in your chosen language. Check out the example below.
Impressive, right? In less than 5 minutes, you can sign up for a Weglot account, install the plugin, and have another language working seamlessly on my website. Weglot is also compatible with all WordPress themes and page builders.
After setting up your first language(s), return to the Weglot Dashboard in WordPress to see the new options that have appeared:
Design of the language switcher You can choose whether you want to display a drop-down menu or use buttons; display different flag designs; and display names and flags or just names. You can also enter CSS to customize the style of your language switcher and change placements with shortcodes.
Position By default, the language switcher button will be displayed in the bottom-right of your web pages. But you can also choose to insert it in a menu, as a widget, or in your site’s source code.
Exclusions By default, every page on your site will be translated, but you can choose to exclude parts of a page or full pages. You can even exclude custom post types from translation.
There are further options available, enabling you to:
Redirect users based on their browser language.
Translate WordPress emails.
Choose your multilingual SEO-friendly permalink structure.
Translate all parts of your site, including navigation menus and custom fields!
Integrate with page builders such as Elementor – Weglot works out of the box with all WordPress plugins and themes.
Weglot offers a first “automatic translation” layer to help you avoid starting from scratch. But, importantly, it gives you full control to manually edit those translations.
To begin editing your translations, click the “Edit my translations” button on the Weglot screen in the WordPress admin.
Alternatively, log in to your Weglot account and go to your Translation List. From here, you can edit individual words and phrases for your WordPress multi-language site.
Weglot’s impressive Visual Editor lets you edit and modify translations directly within the context of your WordPress multi-language site.
Say, for example, you find a machine translation that hasn’t quite picked up on the nuances of a piece of text. You can manually replace the WordPress language translations with words you have translated yourself or have had professionally translated.
Does your business have a tagline that doesn’t translate well into other languages? You can create specific rules to apply to certain words and sentences, ensuring they’re never translated through a glossary.
You can also set rules to “always translate,” which will search and replace certain words and phrases across your multilingual WordPress website.
When you first set up Weglot on your site, automatic translations are provided by the best machine learning providers in the world — Microsoft, DeepL, and Google, depending on the language.
When you’re ready to take the quality of your translations to the next level, just order WordPress language translations from vetted professional agencies directly from your Weglot account.
The Professional Translation option offers plenty of benefits:
High quality: Order quality translations with a human translator. A native translator will start translating your order right away.
Flexible and affordable: Pay a la carte pricing from €0.08 per word, depending on the language.
Fast and easy integration: Professional translations will be automatically added to your Weglot account and displayed on your site within 24-48 hours.
Best Practices to Follow When Making Your WordPress Website Multilingual
There are some important “behind the scenes” considerations you should keep in mind when creating a multilingual WordPress website. Website translation involves more than just translating word for word. It’s important that you produce culturally appropriate website content, that you consider your design (and the consistency of your design), and avoid faux pas.
So make sure you check off these 10 important WordPress multilingual best practices before launching new languages on your site.
1. Be Selective With Your Languages
Choosing which languages to translate your site into might seem like a fairly straightforward task. However, it’s important that you look to your data for firm evidence about who is accessing your site.
Your Google Analytics data will tell you the top 10 languages that your visitors browse in. You might discover there are WordPress users from countries and new markets you hadn’t previously considered. If they are currently accessing your content in English, they would probably appreciate being able to switch to a translated version in their native language. This helps drive trust, helping users feel confident about making a purchase on your WordPress multilingual site.
It’s also important to be selective with the languages you choose. While many WordPress multilingual solutions offer translations in dozens of different languages, it doesn’t mean you should enable every language available. Instead, choose only the languages you need for your target audience.
Lastly, keep in mind that in many countries, people speak multiple languages. For example, in India there are 23 official languages (and over 400 more unofficial ones), and in the U.S., there are over 50 million Spanish speakers (more than Spain itself!). So be sure to do your research before choosing languages for the countries you want to target.
2. Provide Simple Language Switching Options
Many modern websites detect the language of the browser and automatically set the language for users. This minimizes the amount of work on the user’s end, ensuring their preferred language is displayed when they visit your site and saving them from having to search for language-switching options.
While detecting browser language lets you automatically serve up translated content, it isn’t an exact science, so it’s important to consider users who land on the “wrong” language of your site.
So make sure you place language-switching options in a prominent location (such as a widget or a drop-down on the navigation menu or sidebar) on your homepage and every page of your site. Users who have grown accustomed to translating content typically look to the top of a page for language-switching options.
You’ll want visitors to your site to feel welcome and be able to access your WordPress multilingual content in their preferred way, so ensure your language-switching options are clear. It’s best to refer to a language in its own language. For example, use “Deutsch” instead of “German” and “日本語” instead of “Japanese.”
If you want to further improve the user experience for your non-English speaking visitors, remember their language preferences so the next time they visit your site, it will automatically load in their language.
Ultimately, you want to provide language-switching options that are easy to understand in any language.
3. Use Dedicated URLs
One of the main concerns with multilingual WordPress sites is duplicate content and the impact on SEO. Identical content that appears within different domains can lead to duplicate content penalties, such as a hit to rankings and even deindexing.
The URL options Google sets out include the following:
Country-specific domain, e.g. www.example.de
Subdomain, e.g. de.example.com
Subdirectory, e.g. example.com/de/
While each of these options has its pros and cons, subdirectories are easy to set up and maintain. For example, Weglot uses subdirectories on WordPress, using rewrite rules to automatically create a unique URL for each language.
4. Consider Your SEO Strategy
With translated content, your WordPress multilingual site will be much more likely to appear in search results, helping to increase your online visibility. But in order to achieve this, it’s important that you carefully consider your multi-language SEO strategy.
With a WordPress multilingual site, together with translated keywords and metadata, you can target a broader range of keywords, boosting your chances of being ranked in SERPs, and not just for Google — for Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and other search engines.
While Google is the dominant search engine in the U.S. and many other English-speaking countries, Baidu is the most used search engine in China, while Yandex is the most popular search engine in Russia.
You’ll need to build your SEO strategy around the most popular search engines for the countries you’re targeting. This means researching the various search habits of your target audience, finding out what search terms and keywords are popular for your niche, and optimizing your content accordingly. Your page should start appearing in the local SERP, and your organic traffic will increase dramatically.
What’s more, if you’re a Weglot user, you can rest assured that Weglot follows Google’s best practices in terms of multilingual SEO, so you can trust that your translated pages will be properly indexed.
5. Use Hreflang Tags
If you have multiple versions of a page for different languages, Google recommends using hreflang. Doing so ensures the most appropriate version of your page by language will appear in search results, depending on the user’s language or region, and it helps Google bots to easily know where to find the different versions of the same page.
Here’s a quick tutorial on the three ways to indicate multiple language versions of a page to Google:
Add the code below to the header of your pages for every language you use.
For each variation of a page, include a set of <link> elements in the <head> element, with one link for each page variant including itself. The set of links will be identical for every version of the page.
This method is useful if you don’t have a sitemap or the ability to specify HTTP response headers for your site.
You can return an HTTP header with your page’s GET response with information about all the language and region variants of the page. This is useful for non-HTML files, such as PDFs.
You can use a Sitemap to set out all of the language and region variants for each URL on your site. To do so, add a <loc> element specifying a single URL, with child <xhtml:link> entries listing every language of the page, including itself.
For example, if you have three versions of a page, your sitemap will have three entries, each with three identical child entries.
Hreflang tag implementation is difficult for beginners but if you use Weglot, hreflang attributes are automatically taken care of for you so you don’t have to worry about adding code to your site.
6. Ensure Translations are Comparable and Consistent
It’s important to ensure the user experience for the different language versions of your site is comparable, i.e., the information provided on your homepage is the same for every language.
It’s common for online businesses to start out with just one language, such as English, gradually expanding to provide more languages to meet the demand of new overseas markets. However over time, as the English version of the site is updated and changed, translated content may be neglected, creating a gap in understanding.
Put in place a plan for regular updates and maintenance of your translated content across your site. This means routinely reviewing and comparing everything from top-level page content to product descriptions to fix any differences and ensuring your translated content is comparable to the English version, save for cultural differences.
Neglecting to maintain comparable translations means users in certain languages will have a different, and even out-of-date, experience that will reflect poorly on your company. Weglot helps you to easily manage your translations on a daily basis with several tools, including automatic translations, notifications, and easy-to-use editing tools.
7. Design for Languages
Offering content in more than one language can introduce new challenges when it comes to the design of your site, so it’s important to keep in mind and be prepared for layout changes.
Translating content from one language to another can also dramatically impact how much space text will take up on a page.
For example, languages such as Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, will use one or two characters to convey a piece of information whereas in English you might need a full sentence.
Other languages, such as German and Hindi, are “wordy” and need more space, taking upwards of 30% more space than English.
Ultimately, it’s important that the user experience, functionality, and features are similar and comparable also all language versions of your WordPress multilingual site — and that your design doesn’t break or look awkward when a user switches languages.
With Weglot, you can easily customize the design of translated pages, have a specific font for each language, and so on.
8. Manage Users’ Expectations
If there are any pages on your WordPress multilingual site that haven’t been translated, or you don’t intend to translate, make sure you notify users before they navigate to these pages. You can do this using an icon or short text. This will help avoid any confusion and even frustration for the user.
Similarly, you may want to warn users who click an external link in a different language or download a file that isn’t available in their native tongue.
9. Consider Cultural Differences
Making a dedicated investment in a WordPress multilingual site that speaks to your target audience in their native language can help your business expand internationally and win new market share. But it involves a great deal more than simply translating your content word for word.
Every language has its own set of rules, expressions, and slang terms. In most cases, these idiosyncrasies don’t translate smoothly from one language to another. So consider carefully website localization so as not to confuse people from different countries who visit your site.
Localization involves adapting your site to the specific cultures that you want to target so that your content feels natural to people based in a particular region. Take into account culture, customs, and technical and other characteristics of the target region.
10. Other WordPress Multilingual Best Practice Considerations
There are several other things you’ll need to keep in mind when translating your WordPress multilingual site:
Video and Other Multimedia
With the huge increase in the use of video in marketing, it’s essential that you also provide translations for any videos and other multimedia on your site. This may involve providing subtitles, voice-overs, or dubbing for videos.
If you are using a captcha on your site, make sure that it’s in the same language as the content on the page. For example, a Japanese visitor may have difficulty solving a Russian captcha and vice versa.
Not every country uses the same date format. For example, in the U.S., dates are typically formatted month-date-year, whereas, in countries like Australia, the date is formatted date-month-year.
For ecommerce stores, it’s important to display prices in the local currency. Make it easy for people to buy from you with prices in local currencies.
Units of Measurement
You may also want to consider translating units of measure. While 90% of the world uses the metric system, the U.S., Liberia, and Myanmar still use the Imperial system of weights and measures.
Connecting With Your Website Visitors
Don’t forget to translate your live chat, contact forms and kickback emails so you stand the best chance of converting your website traffic into leads and customers. If your team can’t provide support in multiple languages, consider a free WordPress chat bot that answers your visitor’s most pressing questions in all the different languages you offer.
Next Steps: Translate Your WordPress Website With Weglot’s Free Trial
Weglot is the fastest way to translate your WordPress website, with a multilingual website up and running in just minutes. Choose to keep your website 100% automatically translated, or adjust the text using your own translation team or by ordering pro translators directly inside the Weglot Dashboard.
There’s a free plugin version where you can translate 2,000 words per month into one other language, learn more about our pricing and which plan best fits your needs. All of our plans include automatic translation and manual translation, plus SEO-friendly features.