Benefits and Best Practices of a Multilingual Website
The Internet encompasses the entire globe, it’s true. However, not everyone speaks and understands the same language. In fact, nowadays we have become so diverse that it is not uncommon to find countries with more than one official language.
In the United States, for example, English is the official national language, but a large portion of the population speaks Spanish. Depending on what part of Canada you’re in, the people will speak English, French, or both. In Switzerland, people speak German, French or Italian, depending on where they live (within the same relatively small country). Hong Kong recognizes both English and Cantonese as official languages, and many of its residents speak both. These are just a few examples of how two or more languages can be prevalent within one country. In fact, nowadays, it’s quite rare to come across a country where several languages aren’t accepted or spoken. So why not take advantage of this well-known fact in order to expand your potential client base to a larger group of people? A multilingual website will certainly help you attract new clients, both locally and overseas.
Benefits of a Multilingual Website
People prefer to browse websites – for obtaining information or for buying goods and services – that are in their native language. English may be the universal language, but that doesn’t mean everyone understands it. Research shows that 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language and that 56.2% of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price. Yes, you heard that right, over half of the consumers surveyed said they are willing to pay more if the information is in their own native language.
A multilingual website helps build trust. For many, making online purchases from a website in a foreign language requires a significant leap of faith, especially if the website is written in a language the user is not totally proficient in. People tend to feel more comfortable with and place more trust in brands that offer information in their language. Being able to read and comprehend what is written on the website greatly increases a user’s trust in the website. Plus, the fact you have gone out of your way to cater to their native language proves to them you are customer focused and truly do care.
A multilingual website offers the potential for increased sales. Every language you add to your website has the potential for dramatically increasing your sales. Besides targeting your local market, having a multilingual website will attract Internet users from other countries as well. While Internet penetration in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Germany have nearly reached saturation, other countries such as Italy, France, Japan and many others are seeing a constant growth in Internet use, including online shopping. This is a tremendous opportunity for anyone interested in doing business overseas.
Multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In most of the Western world, search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing reign supreme. However, there are countries that have their very own native language search engines, and there’s no way for them to see and index your website unless it’s in their local language. With a multilingual website with multilingual SEO, your website will show up on their search engines, gaining you access to a whole new market.
Another benefit of having a multilingual website is the fact that your website will appear in Google search results in different languages, not just one.
A multilingual website will give you an edge over your competitors. There are many websites on the Internet, but not many that feature content in more than one language. A website in multiple languages will make yours stand out in a crowd and more likely for users to remember, more so than your competitors’ websites.
Best Practices for a Multilingual Website
Feature one language per page. Having content in more than one language on a single web page can be confusing for users and should be avoided. Instead, create separate pages for each language.
Enable users to easily toggle between languages. Provide clearly labeled links between different language content pages so that your users can make their own decision about which language they prefer. Users on this website, for example, can go back and forth between the English and Spanish pages without having to go through the home page.
Don’t change the URL between two different language pages – simply add a snippet to differentiate the pages. An example of this is…
As you can see, I didn’t translate “about” to “sobre mi” or something else. Instead I left the URL /about, and added es/.
Hire a competent translator to translate your website. Although Google, Bing and other websites will allow you to easily translate your website content into other languages, nothing beats a real person making sure there aren’t any grammatical mistakes (which look very unprofessional when present) or in the way something is worded – a phrase may make sense in one language, and when translated word-for-word, not make sense in another language.