“We have been able to attract customers from The Netherlands, France, UK, Macedonia, Spain, Italy and the United States.” A sentence that small businesses dream of being able to say as they look to expand abroad. The question is how did the mobile automation company Robot Makers manage it? The short answer is by translating their WordPress website into another language.
Launching a multilanguage website is one of the simplest ways to find new customers from around the world. The problem is that it is also very easy to make critical mistakes when you translate your content.
To help you avoid them, developers of the WordPress multilingual plugin WPML have spoken to some of the clients from the 600,000 websites which use WPML and found five key lessons that you can learn before you invest in taking your website global.
5 steps to translating a WordPress website
Check these five boxes and you’ll be well on your way to reaching new customers with a properly translated WordPress website.
Research the best languages for your business before translating.
Localize each language for specific countries.
Use professional translation services rather than machines.
Optimize your SEO for each language.
Offer multiple currencies and payment methods.
Ready to dig in? Let’s go!
1. Research the best languages for your business before translating
Before choosing which languages you want to translate your content into, it is important to understand whether or not that particular market makes sense for your business.
Plan which languages you’ll implement by using Google AdWords to do market research. Start with the biggest market and you’ll avoid the critical mistake of translating into a language unpopular with your customer base.
Indeed, the wedding photography company Maria & Sandy told us that it is crucial for small businesses to “have an exact plan of the languages to implement. Do some market research with Google AdWords and start with the biggest market.”
The Google AdWords tool is a great option to gather information about which of your translated keywords have high search volumes and competition in foreign languages — allowing you to identify the ones it makes sense to invest time in.
Additionally, businesses told us they analyzed sales platforms such as Amazon and WooCommerce to discover whether they were making more sales in certain markets. Companies used the Amazon-Fulfilled Shipments Report to explore where their customers were based and used that information to pick the next language to translate into.
A recurring topic that emerged from the feedback from small businesses was the importance of not over-committing to too many languages when you first build your website.
To illustrate, the fishing product company Carp Tiger Nuts explained how they made sure that for each language they translated into, there were “staff that could answer the potential customers in their language. Speaking the customer’s language has been a great part of the success.”
If a customer reads your website in their language, they will expect the rest of the buying process, including customer support, to be in that same language. Otherwise, you could see easy sales lost.
2. Localize each language for specific countries
Once you have selected the right language for your multilingual website, businesses said it was important to adapt it to each of the countries that speak it.
For example, British English and American English, while incredibly similar, will have noticeable variances that users will immediately pick up upon. As a consequence, your customers might not feel completely familiar with your website, which could decrease the likelihood that they make a purchase. Even more importantly, your web pages might not show up in searches if the language is not altered to fit SEO requirements (more on this later).
The software company Dualoo says localization has formed an important foundation for its business plans. Although it only has one language on its website — German — it says it needed to adjust it for German-speaking countries. According to Dualoo, its “main priority has been to sell in Switzerland, but we needed a multiregional website for Germany and Austria as well because there are some differences between the countries.”
Dualoo says it experienced an increase in traffic from Germany and Austria after installing WPML, which allowed it to add different locales, change URLs, and translate the slugs.
Many of these features will allow Google to recognize which country certain pages are targeted for and reflect it in its searches.
Other simple ways to provide localization include introducing the correct date format, phone numbers and using native translators for each country. Speaking of which…
3. Use professional translation services rather than machines
Native human professional services are still by far the best option for translating your content rather than opting for machine translations.
Have you ever copied and pasted something into Google Translate and only received the literal meaning? Using machines might seem like a cheaper option, but you might be counting the costs long term if you experience what happened to Taco Bell when they allegedly used machines to create its Japanese pages.
On the other hand, human translators will understand exactly what you want to convey within your content and will also have a grasp of the jargon relevant to each industry. In fact, the heat transfer company Hot Screen says its main priority was to identify “a really good professional translation agency with native speakers” who would be able to adapt to their technical language.
4. Optimize your SEO for each language
While translating your content is important, businesses were quick to mention how crucial it is to make sure your SEO is also tailored for each language.
Pay attention to details such as URLs, alt tags and hreflang attributes to make your pages more discoverable.
SEO is what allows your website to rank highly on Google and other search engines, and many businesses fail to recognize that it needs to change based on the language you are translating into.
There are many areas which could negatively impact your SEO and, as a result, see fewer potential customers finding your website as they search. Areas such as URLs, alt and hreflang attributes will all help tell search engines which countries should be visiting those pages and, thus, will help them be more discoverable.
In their feedback, Toader Photography said its one piece of advice for small businesses starting out would be to take care of your multilingual SEO. It said that when translating new content, you should “be really careful with the new permalinks of the pages and articles … make sure you choose the best words for SEO purposes from the start.”
One of the best plugins to optimize your multilingual site for search engines is Yoast SEO, which takes care of all aspects of SEO for foreign languages. Furthermore, its integration with WPML makes it easy to use.
5. Offer multiple currencies and payment methods
Providing the right currency and payment methods for customers based on where they are accessing your website from could be the difference between an abandoned shopping cart and a successful customer purchase.
Just like with languages, customers want to feel as familiar as possible with your website, and having to pay in a different currency creates unnecessary uncertainties which could put them off.
As the designer furniture company Zespoke said, “We have found that unless you offer the correct currency and payment methods, then customers will tend to switch off” and you could lose that sale. Customers in the United States won’t want to spend precious minutes converting pounds into dollars.
One of the best ways to combat this is by first using WPML’s multi-currency support for WooCommerce, which lets you show specific currencies for certain languages and also configure default currencies.
Additionally, if you are accustomed to using Paypal for international transactions, you might have a low opinion of websites which fail to offer this service. The WooCommerce Gateways Country Limiter is a great resource to ensure customers have the right payment methods based on their billing address.
Getting your WordPress translation right will see you welcoming more customers
A correctly translated website will help put customers at ease as they access your content, leading to more sales in the long term. However, it is not as simple as copying and pasting your words into Google Translate. But, as successful small businesses have told us, if you plan and follow these important steps during the process, you will soon be shipping your products to different locations around the world.