Multilingual websites – Best Practices

A Multilingual website is a must for anyone who wants their message to reach people who live in other countries and/or speak different languages.  Learning best practices for multilingual websites is even more important here in Barcelona considering that having a trilingual site is often needed.  There are certain things to consider when making multilingual site such as the directory structure, how to index your site correctly for search engine crawlers, and certain things you must avoid.  Also, you may be a great English content writer and speak Spanish very well, but are you also a good Spanish content writer?  There are many local content writers and I highly recommend Enredame if you think you need a hand.

TYPES OF MULTILINGUAL SITES

Case A  You have two different pages and on each page there is completely different content.

Case B  You translate the main parts of the page such as the menu, footer and perhaps the wide widgets.  The main content remains in the original language. An example of this would be an e-shop selling shoes and a customer leaves a review.  When viewed on the page with a different language the customer’s review would remain in the original language.

Case C Pages that are almost identical but include regional differences.  An example is THIS site I created which displays British English vs. American English depending on where the page viewer is located.

 

STURCTURING YOUR MULTILINGUAL WEBSITES URLs

You have several options in terms of how your multilingual websites will be structured, each having their advantages and disadvantages depending on how much time and money you wish to spend.  For a business that either has webmaster or the resources to hire outside help, several Country Code top level Domains (ccTLDs) is the best option, for all others the choice is up to them.

 

StructureExampleProsCons
ccTLDs

Country Code top Level Domain

www.boats.com

www.boats.es

Clear targeting.

Easy to separate sites

 

Expensive to register and maintain separate sites

Involves more coding since you are creating multiple websites and not simply translating parts of a site.

 

gTLDS

Generic Top Level Domains with Subdomains

Es.boats.com 

Easy to setup

Use Webmaster tools to target region

Easy to separate Sites Can use different server location.

 

May involve more maintenance than Domains with subdirectories if site installed over many servers
gTLDS

Generic Top Level Domains with Subdirectories

www.boats.com/en

www.boats.com/es

 

Easy to setup

Use Webmaster tools to target region

Easy to separate Sites

Low maintenance due to being on same host

 

Single server location


INDEXING YOUR MULTILINGUAL WEBSITES

If you’re going to localize, the best practice for multilingual websites are to make them easy for Googlebot to crawl all language versions of your site. You should have cross links to each page in different languages.  In other words, the page http://www.boats.com/prices.html should have a link to http://es.boats.com/precios.html. This way an English speaking user who lands on the Spanish page is only a click away from the same one in English.

MARKUP

This is the markup you would have to include in the HTML of each of these pages to inform Google that they all concern the same thing and that they are NOT duplicates of each other.

In the example above the first line is the main page, a non-language dependent page, for example a page in which the user choses which language he wishes to view the site in.

The second line indicates that you want to return  http://www.boats.com/page.html to be found by people searing in google.com.

The third line indicates that you want to return http://es.example.com/pagina.html when users search though google.es and the fourth that you want http://cat.example.com/pagina.html for users using google.cat.

 

DO NOT

Duplicate content

Just don’t do it.  It will interpreted as spam and you site will be punished.  Make sure you have included the hreflang tags in each page.

Auto translate

It may seem obvious, but it is not recommended to allow automatically translated to be indexed. The whole idea of having a multilingual website is to connect with users of different languages.  If you don’t have the translation of a page, leave it in English and if the user wants, they can paste it into a translation program.   Don’t run the risk of the user thinking you are a horrible writer.

Conclusion

Making multilingual websites is not easy, however, if you have general web design knowledge and gusto, you can create one.  As always, my company, Winzyweb, is always here to help you out.

 

 


Also published on Medium.

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