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How to build a multilingual multisite with WordPress?

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How important is it to have a multilingual website for your products, services, and business today? For example, Switzerland has four official languages, largely but not wholly separated by geographical divisions. Many other locations around the world commonly use more than one language. Yet most online consumers will only shop and spend money on sites that are available in their native language. How then do you go about translating your website into multiple languages and localizing your website and your marketing materials to meet a more multilingual market?

In an article posted in January this year, the Shopify website boldly proclaimed that the first and most important marketing step for e-commerce websites “Default to international! Alex O’Byrne, co-founder of Shopify Plus agency We Make Websites, believes international will be essential for any e-commerce growth strategy in 2020.”

E-commerce sales currently account for almost three-fourths of retail sales growth and are expected to reach nearly US $4,000,000,000.00 in 2020, and that is Billion with a great big capital “B”. Further examination also indicates that about 70 percent of online shoppers are willing to purchase items internationally, but mostly if they can shop, view videos, and even see product reviews or other social media promotions in their native language. 

Translation, Localization, Internationalization, and Globalization

Ask any professional marketer how to build a successful marketing campaign online, and somewhere in the answer will be speaking to the audience in a language that they understand, in a way that connects with them personally and emotionally. 

The best way to make this happen is with a means to speak to the website owner in a language they can understand and to establish a more personal connection with them. The key to a successful international marketing campaign online is to use localization, globalization, and internationalization as how to communicate in such a fashion. Localization services allow the website owner to speak to the heart of the target demographic. Globalization and internationalization expand your target demographic to allow you to attract new customers from quite literally anywhere in the world. 

For effective globalization work, incorporating both internationalization and localization services, there are multiple strands to consider for each project. These include, but are far from limited to: 

  • Language
  • Cultural, political and religious references 
  • Imagery 
  • Naming conventions
  • Pictograms and Infographics
  • Icons
  • Keyboard usage
  • Legal requirements 

The translation may be seen as little more than exchanging one word for another in a separate language, but language translation and interpretation is much more nuanced and subtle. Not only must the actual words be translated, but also the full meaning of the conversation, occasionally despite the lexicon used in the exchange of information. 

Website Translation and SEO

Website translation plugins are a common enough sight on some “international” and “multilingual” websites, but the vast majority are sadly lacking in terms of SEO. Among the better website translators are some programs that charge a monthly fee rather than a one-time, minimal cost for a proper website translation. Why is that important? 

What is the perfect translation plugin? Imagine you could post whatever content you wanted on your website and any visitor could just click a button and receive a perfect website translation. Would that help your online business to succeed? Doubtful. Why?

Google currently supports more than 100 languages, but most of the content written for the internet is in English. While the ability of website visitors to get even a meaningful translation is currently in doubt with most translation plugins, virtually none of them will be indexed by the search engines in the foreign languages. 

Having a multisite with different web pages for each language ensures that all of the digital content marketing materials will be indexed in foreign languages. Add to that the extremely limited direct competition in these foreign language markets and the benefits of a full website translation become even more readily apparent. 

Add in the opportunities to implement localization strategies to establish a direct and personal connection with the new target demographic and a multisite, multilingual website that becomes an even more powerful digital marketing tool. 

Website Translation and Website Localization

The purpose of website localization depends in large part on the scale and focus of the directly targeted market. The larger and broader the audience, the more expansive the localization. The more precisely targeted the intended demographic, the more focused the localization strategies will need to be to ensure a successful marketing campaign online. 

The website translation will, by necessity, be somewhat broad, even in terms of localization. Care should be taken not to include any information that may be construed as being offensive to the overall targeted demographic. The website translation should focus solely on the parent language and avoiding any pictures or comments that may alienate part or even all of a potential new audience. 

Website translation and localization together focus on more than just the linguistic translation of the digital marketing content on the website. Using website translation to create a multilingual multisite will allow the website owner to focus on localization strategies well beyond the comparatively simple website translation. 

In this way, pictures can be changed to more directly focus on the target audience. The pictures should be the same size and in the same locations, as should any website advertising campaigns on the translated web pages. Any references to specific geographic areas within the website content may be altered to focus on more localized areas on the foreign language website pages. 

Multilingual Social Media Marketing

Facebook currently supports 111 languages, but there are approximately 142 languages actively used on the site. Twitter supports approximately 35 languages and Google supports 100 languages. Move away from English however, and the actual base percentage of total internet content puts your competition down to single digits in regards to that percentage. 

In short, actively engaging your audience in languages other than English will greatly reduce your competition, and likely reduce your direct competition substantially more depending on which particular niche you have focused on with your digital marketing content. I do not know about you, but it seems like actively circumventing the majority of competitors is a pretty good idea. 

Still, if you do focus on a multilingual social media marketing campaign, where are you going to send your viewers if you have not established some kind of “permanent” location for them to peruse your wares as the case may be? 

Except for some YouTube video influencers whose sole product is their videos, it will be necessary to establish a multilingual multisite to have someplace for your targeted demographic to perform the desired action. This is true in virtually every niche, regardless of whether the desired response is getting someone to sign up to an email marketing campaign, click on an advertisement, or even to click the “buy now” button. 

Multi-purposing Content

Multi-purposing website content is a tried and proven effective content marketing tactic. In addition to allowing you to effectively focus your localization efforts, website translations provide you with all of the necessary tools to effectively multi-purpose all of your content in every language that has been used in the website translation. 

This should give you everything you need to expand into international marketing campaigns online in a more comprehensive and effective international marketing solution. None of this is going to happen unless you have at the very least a solid landing page in the selected language(s) of the targeted demographic. 

If you have established your multilingual multisite and engaged in an effective localization campaign in addition to the full website translation, not only will you have a greatly expanded international audience, but also the means to capture and maintain a new customer base and increased customer loyalty. 

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About the author: Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes, a translation company that works with people and businesses around the globe. Their focus is on business globalization through the use of language and localization.

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