The global economy has opened the potential market in an unforeseeable way, creating opportunities for expanding small, local businesses onto foreign markets. This sounds fantastic, and appears simple – expanding the customer list via the internet does not appear to be a big investment for an already established online business. However, the most basic and crucial issue here lies in the key aspect – the language of the website.
It is true that English is the third most spoken language on Earth, however, research has shown that 73% of online customers prefer websites translated to their native language.
Here the solution for reaching more foreign customers is simple – translate the website to target customers’ language. While this is often simple, in many countries, people speak several languages. For example, in the Philippines, people speak Spanish and Tagalog, the Swiss commonly use German and French languages, and China has two official written languages.
Localizing the website
Localization is the process of adjusting a website for another culture. It covers more than merely translating the words to or from English. Other cultures may have different standards for design, imagery, layout, and color, and recognizing these differences might be key to the website’s success.
When it comes to the word-to-word translation on a website, it is very tempting to simply use machine translation. However, this practice has proven to be particularly undependable since the smallest inaccuracies can significantly change the context of the message. For instance, no translation bot is able to translate an idiom, nuance and social mores. This is where localization comes into play. Adapting the website’s language to the target culture equals reliability, professionalism, and competence which are essential for building trust with users.
Usually, professional translators are the only way to obtain this level of a high-quality copy of a website. The professional translator will understand the idioms and nuances of the source language and thus properly contextualize them in translation.
The downside is the price of the localization. There are many companies specializing in localization, and their services are not cheap. Even so, the website gets updated, new products are added and, blog posts are regularly published – all of which requires continuous localization.
The ideal solution for this is a translation tool that can perform the task accurately. In the sea of translation tools, not all of them will do the job well.
SEO and website translation
Localization and SEO are not one and the same. Despite the fact that both are types of translation, their purpose is vastly different. Since localization is translating the website for a different culture, (for example, paying attention to the fact that an Iranian soap is called ‘Barf ‘, – meaning ‘snow’ in Farsi, and ‘vomiting’ in English), the focus is the people. With SEO translation, the main target is the search engines.
The keywords, expressions, titles, tags, messages, and attributes on a website need to be translated in order to make the page attractive for the search engines in the target language. The desired result is that, when someone conducts a search in a foreign language for something that your website offers, your website will pop up among the first positions of all search engines. This is why the localization alone is not sufficient for success. If the translated website does not appear in the search engine results, then the effort is lost.
Obviously, the SEO translation and localization work side by side – the visitors might find the webpage quickly but abandon it even quicker if the localization is done poorly.
A good website translator must be good at both localization and SEO translation since it is necessary to combine a good sales pitch to human customers with the search engine optimization. The balance is difficult to achieve, especially if one tries to handle both aspects by themselves. For these reasons, “cheating” is allowed, in the form of translation tools.
Translation tools – advantages and disadvantages
The laziest approach to translating a website is to embed the free Google translate widget into the website. The visitors simply click on the widget button and all the website’s content will be automatically translated into another language of the visitors’ choice. It seems too good to be true, and if it actually performed well, then the above-mentioned localization companies would have been out of business a long time ago.
Embedding the Google translate widget is the easiest and the quickest way of building a bilingual website, but its translation is never perfect and makes the owner of the website appear unprofessional.
Fortunately, software developers are constantly working on solving this issue. One of the best and cost-effective translation solutions is to use a translation plugin. Among many of them available, Weglot Translate pops up as a very clean and simple plugin developed for this purpose. It is a nice and uncomplicated way of a transforming a website into a multilingual one.
With this plugin, a website can be transformed into a multilingual website with several languages without doing any code. Additional plus here is that it is completely SEO compatible. Weglot Translate respects Google’s best practice for multilingual websites and serves a translated webpage with clean source code. Thus the translated version of a website is indexed by Google.
Making a multilingual website
For this purpose, machine translation is not ideal – nuances and small differences in meaning must be corrected in order to ensure a flawless translation and get the right message across. With Weglot Translate, this is solved with a unique dashboard provided for editing translations, thus the owner may correct any inconsistency in the machine translation. It is a neat solution for an admin or owner who is fluent in the target language, but what about the cases when the website is translated into several languages, or the owner-admin is not familiar with the target language?
In such cases, professional assistance is a necessity and purchasing professional translations to ensure the quality of translations is unavoidable if you wish your website to retain its professional and approachable appearance.
As already mentioned, professional translation does not come cheap, and it in itself is an investment. Before undertaking this step, it is advisable to transform your website into a bilingual one first. This is a good test and Weglot Translate offers free translation into one language for small websites (under 2000 words). It is a bargain since it requires no investment.
However, should the owner wish to transition to multilingual website, there are Premium plans available on the pricing page, depending on the owner’s needs. The plugin also has free trial version to test out all its premium options.
Weglot Translate benefits
The upside of this service is that it is completely compatible with all themes and plugins. This ensures that no string on the page remains untranslated. It automatically detects the content and translates it, constantly displaying it in real-time. If necessary, the plugin offers access to professional translators and offers more than 100 translation languages, thus covering the majority of the target languages.
The URLs are not translated with the Weglot Translate since this could break URLs with non-Roman characters (for example, Chinese, Russian alphabets). The service has optimized SEO in new languages with dedicated URLs, thus the translated pages have dedicated URLs, as per Google’s best practice for multilingual sites.
Weglot Translate also offers professional support to premium users to help them with translating their websites.
For users of WPML or Polylang, transitioning to Weglot Translate is easy. The user simply deactivates WPML or Polylang in order to only have one multilingual plugin. Then, Weglot Translate can be used normally. If the user needs to import some translations, this can be done with the assistance of the support team via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weglot Translate plugin is available in Dutch, English_UK, French, German, Italian, Portuguese_BR, Russian and Spanish, and more translations are expected in the future.
With over 20,000 downloads and a 5-star rating, the plugin practically recommends itself. The support team goes beyond to provide assistance to all users and is available to solve any issue and bug.
Weglot Translate set up
The installation and setup of the Weglot Translate plugin is straightforward and simple. The first step is to visit https://weglot.com/register-wordpress, to set up an account. This plugin requires an API key from the dashboard (wg_XXXXXXX) – and for new users, the key takes 20 seconds to obtain. From then onwards the workings of the plugin are self-explanatory. The Weglot Translate settings page is located on the bottom left of the WordPress admin dashboard.
The plugin requires to add and save the api key to Weglot Translate settings, enter the website’s original language and the target translation languages, separated by commas (for example en, de, pt for translations in English, German and Portuguese).
Then the admin chooses the appearance for the translation button (flags, list or dropdown, translation language full name or code), and clicks the Save button.
There is also the option to place the “Weglot Translate” widget on the website. The admin simply goes to Appearance -> Widgets and drags and drops the widget where they want it to appear.
It is necessary to refresh the web page, and the website is available in the selected translation languages. There is also an option to switch languages to see the translated pages.
Should the need arise, the translations can be edited directly in the account. Pages can also be excluded from translations or just part of pages by using CSS selectors. To do this, the admin goes to the WordPress panel -> Weglot settings page and uses the field “Translation Exclusion”. The admin can create their own translation rules in the Weglot dashboard by clicking on Translation Options, allowing them to:
- Add Exception Rules, such as “Never translate” or “Always translate” a word in a custom way (for example, the brand name).
- Use the “Search and Replace” tool to search for a word in all the translations and replace it with a different one.
In any case, all the Weglot Translate plans and options are available for free for 10 days.
Localization is essential in connecting with the target customers when expanding an online business onto foreign markets. Before launching an international campaign, it is important to make sure to have the appropriate translations of the website. The localized content for the website ensures the customers easily understand the message in a language they understand. This is what makes the difference between success and costly failure.
Investing in a good quality translation is a must. The quality of the web translation will have significant influence on the SEO. If the phrases are not used properly you will not be able to place the website high in Google search. Also, the translation quality is very important for web localization and for the site to be considered a reliable and quality web business. This gives the impression that the owner has invested efforts in adapting the business to a certain region and that the target country is important for the owner’s business.
Fortunately for the website owners; localization companies, translation plugins, and professional translators are all competing here. This is when a website owner can use the competition among the translation providers to his advantage. Since the translation from professionals is very costly, this alternative is widely used. Among so much competition, selling the product is difficult and all translation providers offer somewhat free services. So, why not try one of them? Why not try the most simple one – the translation plugin, recommended by many, with excellent customer support, and an option to upgrade to Premium package?
So, go ahead and test the waters of foreign markets, and maybe one day you will swim with the big fish.