Imagine waking up one morning to find that over half of the internet was written in a language you couldn’t read fluently. You’d either be forced to rely on translation programs or only be able to use websites that offer your language. Sounds difficult, right?
Those with English as their first language often take the Internet’s accessibility for granted. Creating content that can be accessed by those who speak other languages will go a long way (if you’ll pardon the pun) in extending your business’s reach. There are two ways to do this: multi-regional and multilingual websites.
What’s the Difference between Multi-Regional and Multilingual?
While multi-regional and multilingual websites often go hand in hand, they aren’t exactly the same. A multi-regional website is a website that geotargets users in specific countries. Multilingual websites, meanwhile, are websites that feature content in multiple languages, regardless of the search location.
What is Geotargeting?
In order for multi-regional websites to work as intended, they need to make use of geotargeting. Geotargeting allows you to serve content based on a user’s location.
For example, say you’re a company that sells shoes in California. While you might invest in some ads in other states (especially if you’re trying to promote an online store), it would make the most sense to run the majority of your ads in California—and by extension, serve those ads to the devices of Californians. Geotargeting would allow you to specify that your ads are for a California location, which would boost them in search results on California devices.
By using geotargeting, you can ensure that users you’re marketing your multi-regional website to will see it on search engine results pages..
Benefits of Multi-Regional and Multilingual Websites
The most obvious benefit of a multi-regional or multilingual website is that you’ll be able to reach a much wider audience. No matter how good your content is, most users aren’t going to have the patience to translate each page themselves. Offering pages in other languages or regional variants of your website makes it more accessible, which helps to attract more users. It also gives you an edge against competitors who only have content in a single language.
How to Build a Multi-Regional Website
Note that these steps are the ones pertaining to multi-regional websites—regardless of the region you’re targeting, you should always be optimizing your website for mobile, proofreading your content, and testing for bugs!
1. Choose Your Domain
As with any website, you’ll need to choose a domain. There are two main types of domain names: gTLDs (generic top-level domain names) and ccTLDs (country code top-level domain names).
You’ve likely seen gTLDs before, even if you didn’t realize it. They make up some of the most common domain names, including .com, .org, and .net. gTLDs with a region-specific subdomain are best if you’re taking an existing website and expanding it internationally.
ccTLDs, meanwhile, are domain names specific to a country or region. These include domains such as .cn (China), .uk (United Kingdom), and .de (Deutschland, or Germany). These domains are best if you’re planning to target a specific country.
2. Register with Search Engines
Major US search engines, such as Google, will find a website regardless of the language or region it's targeting. However, you may also need to register it with international search engines. This depends on the area you’re planning to market to.
3. Create Content
Once you’ve established where your website will go, you need to create content for it. We’ll go into more detail later about best practices for creating multilingual content, as well as common mistakes to avoid.
4. Implement Hreflang Tags
Hreflang tags are tags placed in the head section of your HTML code to specify the language and region of each page. This helps you avoid penalties for duplicate content and ensures only the region-relevant pages show up in search results.
Be sure to configure your website’s geotargeting settings for the region your website is targeting.
Creating Multilingual Content
While language-learning apps and translating programs have made translating content easier than ever, there are still several things to keep in mind when creating multilingual content:
Avoid Machine Translators
Machine translators, while convenient, often miss out on context. As tempting as it may be to run your content through a translator, avoid it. There’s no harm in using it to translate a word or two, but using it for entire sentences—or entire pages—will create awkward translations. This will confuse your readers and make your content appear unprofessional.
Create with Localization in Mind
As with any content, the most important part of generating multilingual content is considering your audience. Many businesses starting out with multilingual content focus on translation, when they should be focused on localization. Translation directly translates words into another language, while localization uses local context to keep the same tone and meaning of the words.
For example, say you’re translating English content into French. The content includes the idiom, “When you mess with the bull, you get the horns.” You could directly translate this phrase, but without knowing the idiom, your readers may get confused.
There are two workarounds to this. First, you could avoid idioms altogether and say what the phrase means: if you go looking for trouble, you should expect consequences. Second, you could find a local idiom with the same meaning—in this case, the French idiom, “qui s'y frotte, s'y pique,” or “Who rubs against it, sticks to it.”
Perform Market Research
This one may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: perform market research in the areas that you’re trying to market to. Search local trends, relevant keywords, and potential competitors. This is also a good time to research local customs and phrases that will help with localization.
Implement Relevant Keywords
Never assume that your keywords will have the same ranking once translated. A key phrase that ranks highly in one region may be much less popular in another. Research high-ranking keywords in the language you’re translating to and include them where necessary.
Maximize Your Reach with Epic Web Studios
If you’re looking to extend your website’s reach, whether to a different country or just a different audience, reach out to Epic Web Studios. We specialize in web development and SEO, meaning we can help your content shine no matter where you’re directing it. Contact Epic Web Studios today and tell us about your project.