5 Most Typical Mistakes While Trying To Make Your WordPress Website Localized
Having your WordPress website localized is proving to be more and more of a necessity these days, and it can be necessary for quite a few different reasons. For example, maybe your company is implementing a development strategy to expand its business into a line that is particular to a foreign market’s needs.
Maye you conduct the kind of business that is inherently international – such as, say, a translation or interpretation service, or a service related to global travel, or enterprise mobility management for a corporation that has established offices in several different countries. Or maybe you just have people from all over the globe visiting your web pages and you want to cater to your users.
Whichever the case, localizing your WordPress website is no small undertaking, and you have to make sure you execute it properly. Unfortunately, many people make mistakes in the process, and often they are not even aware of having made them. So we did a little research around the web and singled out the five most typical mistakes which you can trip over while making your WordPress website localized, from the starting ideas to the final execution, as well as some useful advice on how to avoid them and handle it right.
1. Translating your website when you have no need for that
Having your website available in multiple languages can sound like a really exciting feature, and maybe it will make you look more professional or more relevant in the eyes of end users when they see several little flags lined up along the top ribbon of your header. However, unless having more than one language option is a genuine necessity for your business, investing in this kind of reputation booster will actually result in more of a loss than a gain for you – especially in terms of finances.
So when do you really need to translate your pages into someone else’s local language? There are two such situations: when your audience and customers need it, and when the linguistic make up of your business area demands it.
To determine whether or not your website’s visitors need their local version of it, you will need to take some time and do a little profiling. Use a traffic tool, such as, for example, Google Analytics or one of its equivalents, to gather relevant data on your end users. You need to learn where they come from and what language they are browsing in.
If you notice that half or more of your visitors are residents of a country different from your own, it means there is a good chance for you to expand your reach and establish a solid online presence in those regions. Most traffic tracking tools will give you a breakdown of users by country and conveniently show it on a gradient map. From there, it is simply a matter of translating your content to the languages of those countries and aligning it with their cultural context.
Another useful perspective at this point is to fiddle with your traffic tracking software’s options and get a breakdown of your users by language as the primary criterion. This will give you a list view of all the languages that your visitors’ actual browsers are set to, and it will rank them according to which of those are the most prominent among your overall traffic. This is especially important because a person’s browser may be set to a language different than the official language of their resident country – breaking your stats down like this is much more precise. Then you just picke the three or four top ranked languages and add them to your website.
If you are in a situation where you are building a WordPress website from the ground up and you do not have any previous traffic to draw your stats from, you will need to consider these basic qestions:
Who are your customers and your target audience?
What is their main location?
What is your main location?
Do you have any local customers?
Are your suppliers local or based somewhere across the border?
On the other hand, it may so happen that your website has to be multilingual because your actual business geography is multilingual. This may be the case regarding your phisical location, your industry at large, or even both. If you live in a multi-languages country, such as Canada or Switzerland, or if you do business in an inherently multi-languages niche, such as the tourism industry, translating your website is a common sense development strategy.
2. Not considering the actual quality of the translation process and product
The process of localizing an entire website is not an easy one, and there is literally no room for being carefree about it. A typical mistake that people make is just getting their hands on some free translation tool, like Google Translate and the like, and then simply running their textual content through it with little to no effort invested in proofreading.
So before you even begin translating your pages, stop and take this often overlooked key point into consideration.
There are three main kinds of translation resources you can use, and each gives a translated product of different quality. These are machine translators (in other words, translation software), internal translation teams, and outsource professional translators.
Machines will provide you with an automated translation based on a combination of algorithms, for which they rely on whatever data they can pick up online. They are a good place to start if you want to save yourself the trouble of starting the entire process of translation from the ground up. However, they tend to perform remarkably badly in terms of grammar and syntax, idioms, culturally bound expressions, wordplay, and the like. They can churn out a literal translation of bearable level, but you will more than likely have to work through it to make corrections and improvements.
An internal team of translators can refer to your teammates and employees who speak foreign languages, or in-house translators, or local country teams. The good side of this option is that it gives you a greater chance of maintaining a 100% same kind of tone of marketing as the one you gave your original version. The bad side is that it tends to devour insane amounts of time for your team, while involving others often severely complicates the process.
Outsourcing your needs to professional certified translators like The Word Point, for example, is perhaps not the most popular option, due to the associated costs, but it is well worth the investment. You can find specialized translators online. One notable downside about “blind” hiring of a human translator on the Internet is that you have to gamble on whether or not the quality of their work will meet your expectations. There is always a chance that a visitor who speaks the language at a high level will point out one or more mistakes. Therefore, make sure that they are native speakers and, if possible, that they are focused on your particular industry.
3. Not handling Search Engine Optimization across languages as carefully as you should
Disregarding, or even failing to consider, multilingual SEO is a major mistake, probably the most severe mistake you can make while trying to make your WordPress website localized. You definitely do not want to invest your time, money, patience, skill, people, and software into translating all that content just for it to never show in the relevant search engine rankings. You have to make certain that the localized versions of your website are findable online and indexed by Google.
There are three essential things to keep in mind if you are aiming to help Google easily discover and rank your translated website.
Firstly, keep the structure of your URLs unique and dedicated. Use different domains for each version according to the country for which the version is intended, and consider also using different sub-domains for each new translation of the site. Different sub-directories to keep the translations distinct from the original version are also a recommended option.
Secondly, use either a hreflang HTML attribute (people also commonly call it a tag, even though it is actually not) or a sitemap to help Google realize that your newly formed multi languages WordPress website now has several different versions to keep track of.
Thirdly, never underestimate the notion of server-side translations. They are an absolute “must have” element for successful multilingual search engine optimization, dealing with translating dynamic content in real time, and most commonly one is built into the API of a framework. They use resource files known as the “key dictionaries”, which contain a target (“key”) to be translated (such as a word, a phrase, etc.) and its translation into a given language.
The system finds these keys in the code when rendering a page, and then replaces them with the matching translation from the resource file. Therefore, the page in the foreign language is rendered with the content already translated. The greatest advantage of using this method is that it dramatically reduces rendering and loading time for a web page in the translated version. There are no issues with a slow presentation of a page, which is extremely important to your end users. People are more likely to navigate away from your website if it takes too long to load on their devices.
4. Forgetting about the underlying basics of WordPress localization strategies
All of this advice and information can get a little overwhelming sometimes, so here is a friendly little revision session. There are two main strategies to making your WordPress localization easy and smooth, and both are really basic. Both also have their own set of good sides and bad sides, so it is entirely up to you to try out both of them, compare everything, and decide which approach works the best for you and your particular needs. The first one is to have several independent websites set up for each of your target languages, and the second way is to have a single more complex multilingual WordPress website.
If you decide to go for having independent websites, you will have exactly as many websites as there are languages that you want your site to be able to support. Let’s say for example that your business is based and operating in Switzerland. You would need to have a German, a French and an Italian version, so that means having a German, a French, and an Italian website.
You will have to handle all of these different versions of your WordPress presence separately, which can become an intimidating load of work. The visitors to your pages will have different and completely separate access to these three (or however many) independent sites. However, if you want to, you can opt to create custom links connecting your websites to redirect those users who might want to switch the language of their interface.
The good sides of having independent websites in different languages are that all of your websites will match in their search engine optimization standards and the end user experience, as well as that they allow for decentralized management, which can be a lifesaver if you need to keep separate track of products, inventory, supplies, and providers. The primary bad side of opting for this strategy is that it is extremely time consuming, multiplying the load of work that is required for each instance of creation and subsequent ongoing maintenance of your sites by the number of your target languages. It is also wildly more expensive, since you have to pay for each service on each website, and it can become impossible to cover upwards of two or three sites, that is, languages.
On the other hand, you can have one website in your original language and then use a WordPress multilingual plugin of your preference to add all your target languages. Your users will be able to select the language they want their interface to be in on your website by using a designated button (often a flag icon).
The good sides of this approach are efficiency, price, and centralized management. It is easy to set up and maintain over a long span of time, you pay only once for each service used and save yourself lot of precious time, and since all of your activity is in one place, it is far easier to manage, since tracking and updating everything becomes much simpler.
However, it does have its bad aspects as well. The greatest issue that people often encounter is an issue with compatibility of the website elements. When you are adding another plugin to your WordPress admin, you have to make certain that it is compatible with all of your existing website parts (like the theme, other plugins, services, etc.). This is especially important for multilingual plugins, because they have to constantly interact with all of your content, which in turn is generally connected to a vast number of different WordPress components.
The second bad side of using a single multilingual website is performance. You have to constantly be on the lookout for the lightest available solution for your website’s needs, because whenever you add a new language, you are adding more new content, and this can easily result in a major overload of your database.
5. Trying to avoid the costs of investing in relevant native speaker collaborators
In the end, let’s take a little time to address one scarily common localization mistake that has very little to do with building and maintaining a website in WordPress, but everything to do with achieving success in a multilingual environment.
People, especially website owners, tend to shy away from hiring native speakers of their target languages. Of course, having a team member who has achieved an upper-advanced level of proficiency in the given language, or having a reliable local service in your area can go a really long way, and moreover, these options tend to be way more available than hiring actual foreigners.
So why would you want to spend your money on a native speaker if these alternatives are so much more affordable? Because choosing the more affordable solution at this initial point tends to cost you much more down the road.
In spite of your local collaborator’s level of proficiency, there are some subtleties that only a native speaker of a language can catch on to and point out to you to correct them in time. Stop and remember all those times when a website that was originally built and populated in English presented content in another language, and then several users raided the comments sections pointing out errors in spelling, grammar, or word choices, idioms that were too literal, and pointing out that slang is too different between languages to just usher through Google Translate.
Such mishaps are often pretty minor, but when they pile up, they can completely ruin any credibility that a website had previously built up. You do not want that happening on your website, do you? Therefore, have a native speaker read through your pages (at least the most relevant ones) to make sure the translation is indeed as natural as it seems to you.