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Imagine this: more than half of all websites are written in English, yet English speakers account for only a quarter of all internet users worldwide.
Creating an international website to open doors to foreign markets is the logical next step for companies looking to scale, Lizzie Kardon — head of content and engagement at Pagely, a WordPress hosting provider — told me in a recent interview.
Even if the majority of your audience speaks English, translating your website into other popular U.S. languages will significantly boost your potential to build an audience of engaged and loyal followers. According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, by translating your website into Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish, you’ll be able to reach nearly 44 million people who speak these languages at home in the land of the free. Add Tagalog and Vietnamese, and you’ll extend your website’s potential reach by another 3.2 million.
For all WordPress.com sites, regardless of plan, the Google Translate Widget automatically translates your content into any language supported by Google Translate. But it could potentially lead to a tsunami of spelling and grammatical errors when translating languages that use different syntax structures and word orders.
Creating an international website is no major task with WPML, the WordPress Multilingual Plugin, used en masse by approximately 600,000 websites. Compatible with most WordPress themes, WPML translates your self-hosted WordPress site or WordPress.com Business site into more than 40 languages and even regional variations, such as Mexican Spanish and Canadian French. You can add a language-switching option in the navigation menu or as a sidebar widget.
If you don’t trust artificial intelligence, you can do the translation yourself or even have your users do it for you in the WPML Translation Editor. Send them content in need of translation via the Translation Dashboard.
Acclaro, which specializes in translating and localizing websites, offers a free video training course on building multilingual WordPress sites with WPML.
As this tutorial on setting up a multilingual site shows, the translated versions of your content can appear:
- In the same domain in language directories, using one site with a different post in each language
- In sub domains, such as CNN.com and Arabic.CNN.com
- In country-specific domains, such as Lollapalooza.com and Lollapaloozabr.com (Brazil) or Amazon.com and Amazon.com.uk.
Audrey Strasenburgh, SEO strategist for LogoMix (LogoMaker.com), explained in an interview that keeping each language version of the site in directories — for example, logomaker.com/de/uber-uns/ — is better for search engine optimization than using country-specific domains.
If you don’t find what you’re looking for in WPML, consider these six other translation plugins:
If your website is hosted in Los Angeles, a user reading it in Timbuktu could wait ages for your content to load. To avoid this, use a content delivery network (CDN), which stores your content in servers around the world. Users retrieve data from servers closest to them, thereby speeding up load times. There are as many CDNs to choose from as there are Eskimo words for snow (it’s true, there really are 50), including the following:
Google Cloud CDN
Microsoft Azure CDN
Photon by Jetpack
Both Google Analytics (for WordPress.com Business websites) and Site Stats (for WordPress.com websites not on the Pro plan) show traffic data by country. Google Analytics also shows you which web browsers are most popular with your users. You can test your site across multiple browsers with Browsershots, CrossBrowserTesting, and BrowserStack.
Most themes these days automatically adjust to users’ devices and have a dashboard that shows just how your site appears across multiple devices. If not, check your site’s display on other devices with Screenfly or Responsinator.
Creating an international website serving multiple countries and languages should be the status quo in a globalized world. Your site should also be flexible and fast enough to accommodate numerous devices pinging your site from all corners of the earth. Then, you’ll be ready to confidently take on foreign markets and grow your business across the globe.