Multilingual Websites: Which approach is best for my business?

Your company serves and/or wants to test the revenue potential of language markets other than your home market and you’ve decided that you need a multilingual website. You want to be able to provide web content in the native languages of your various markets. There are different ways to launch multilingual websites, but what approach is the best for your business?
With the list of language markets you serve and/or target in hand, review the following approaches and for each language determine which approach will work best.

1. Install Google Translate on your website

This approach is best if you want to test new language market(s), but:

  • Don’t have resources who can provide sales and customer support or
  • Don’t have in-house resources who are fluent in the language to proof and edit translated content

Although this is the quickest and easiest way to launch a multilingual website, Google Translate does have its limitations. The translations may be understandable for the most part, but some translated terms and phrasing tend to end up sounding/looking awkward. If you’re fluent in more than one language and you’ve used this or any other automated translation tool before, you’ve likely experienced this firsthand. The good news is that most readers understand the limitations of automated translations and are accustomed to this type of experience. The bad news is that some of the content served up during the buyer journey is going to lose its impact. Therefore, your ability to convert leads will be negatively impacted. However, installing Google Translate is a good way to test different language markets.
Implementation: to implement this on your website, ask the team that manages your website to install, customize and test the Google Translate plug-in.
Once you have resources to start serving this language market you are ready to start working towards launching the next version of your multilingual site using approach number 2 or 3.

2. Replicate your website in different languages

This approach is best for language markets where you:

  • Have in-house sales and customer support and
  • Have in-house resources who can proof, edit and manage content, but
  • Haven’t discovered the value proposition or
  • Haven’t flushed out the buyer personas or
  • Haven’t confirmed the buyer journey

Don’t assume that language is the only difference between your home market and other language markets. Other markets may not have the same reasons for buying from you instead of your competitors, the type of people buying from you may be different, and these buyers may have different triggers and/or follow a different path during the buying process. But, the only way to determine this is by seeing how these buyers in these language markets interact with the website and flow through the sales cycle.
Implementation: to replicate your website in a different language 1) develop the keyword strategy for that language, 2) get all of the content on your site translated, 2) have your internal resources proof and edit the content – checking for spelling and grammatical errors and ensuring that the content reads well – 3) have the team that manages your website create a unified dashboard (called MultiSite for WordPress sites), so your marketing team can manage the content for all websites in one place, 4) create an exact replica of your website for that language and 5) replace the content.
Once you have discovered the value proposition, flushed out the buyer personas and confirmed the buyer journey for the language market, you are ready to start working on the next version of your multilingual website using approach number 3.

3. Create unique websites for each language

This approach is best for language markets where you have:

  • In-house sales and customer support
  • In-house resources who can proof, edit and manage content
  • Discovered and documented the value proposition
  • Flushed out and documented the buyer personas
  • Confirmed and mapped out the buyer journey

For language markets where the value proposition, buyer personas and/or buyer journey differ from your home market you may have to adjust the lay out, navigation and content. For example, your French-Canadian buyer personas may actually follow a different buying path than your English-Canadian buyer personas and therefore have different content and navigational needs. This means that each site may require unique navigational structures and layouts.
Implementation: to create websites for language markets that have unique buyer journeys 1) develop or confirm the keyword strategy for that language, 2) have your marketing team create a content map that identifies what content is required for each step in the buyer journey, 3) have your marketing or website management team create a mock-up or wireframe, so you can visualize where content is going to be placed in order to mirror the buyer journey, 4) finalize the website design, 5) move the website off of the unified management dashboard and onto its own dashboard and platform, 6) implement the new design and 7) remove unnecessary pages (convert to draft mode) or update content.
When developing any website it’s a matter of testing to see which markets have potential and then evolving the website step-by-step to meet the needs of those buyers.

Contact us if you need help with or want to discuss any of these multilingual website development approaches or explore some of our other web design and development blog posts to learn more.

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