Running an online business means accessing a global market. And with the e-commerce market estimated to surpass the $6.5 trillion USD mark in 2023, it’s an industry seeing impressive growth.
With this increased reach comes a number of unique challenges – one being translating your website content to actually speak to that global market. But it’s not always easy to relate to an audience that might live half a world away, which is where you’ll find translation and localization comes in.
Luckily for WordPress users (and other popular CMS platforms!), translating your site is as simple as installing a plugin.
By making your content more accessible to those in other countries, you’ll likely find it easier to engage and convert visitors. A quick look at some stats reveals 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language – so it’s a no-brainer.
In this article, we’ll explain why localization is the lynchpin of international marketing, how to achieve it with website translation, and discover some great examples of businesses already getting top marks for localized content.
The differences between localization, translation, and internationalization for your website
There are three important concepts to understand if you want to run a multilingual website. Let’s go over them quickly:
- Translation: The process of converting your website’s content from one language to another.
- Localization: The practice of appealing to an audience in a specific location through the use of their native language, as well as cultural preferences.
- Internationalization: Designing a product or brand element in a way that facilitates localization.
Each strategy is useful in specific contexts. However, localization is the most effective for driving conversions.
Of course translation is important for helping all your users understand your content, but that’s just one side of things. Localizing your content involves taking things a step further, such as displaying prices in users’ preferred currencies, or ironing out any local nuances and colloquialisms with the add-on of human translation (which can be made through the Weglot interface). For the user, it simplifies and streamlines the buying process (and, in turn, your conversion process).
3 prime examples of localized WordPress sites
Let’s look at a few examples of WordPress.org websites to get a clearer picture of localization. You can also refer to WP professionals to build you a localized business website.
With a business built in Belgium, brewery Brasserie 3F knew the importance of doing business in a multilingual country, with both Flemish and French present on their site:
They take their localization further by including English and Italian as added languages – with both markets having a keen interest in Belgium beer production.
A fully translated website allows customers in four neighboring countries (plus local customers, of course) to get to know this beer brand and purchase it for themselves.
And, with a blog translated for all their markets, Brasserie 3F is spreading their message one post at a time.
Proud Wales-based baby garment business Babi Bw wanted to stay true to their roots by offering their website in Welsh. Now that’s what you call localization:
Working out of a country where around 100,000 inhabitants speak Welsh, they wanted to showcase their connection to Wales by providing a website in their home language.
Naturally, a smart move for this booming business was to also offer their site in English, so their products were easily accessible to purchase for non-Welsh speakers.
An added touch of personalization – the language button switches place depending on the language you’ve chosen.
Puur Makelaars is a real-estate business that operates in various regions throughout the Netherlands:
There are more than 200 nationalities living in this small country, so it makes sense for Puur Makelaars to create the option for property hunters to search in English as well as Dutch.
With an easily visible language switcher at the top of the website, site users can quickly choose the language best suited to them and continue their hunt to find their new home.
Not wanting to lose their brand identity, Puur Makelaars (which translates to ‘pure estate agents’) chose to keep their company name in Dutch for their English-speaking visitors, and keep their reputation under one label – smart move.
Once again, they get bonus points for a having translated blog that gives the same quality of service to both Dutch and non-Dutch speakers!
Localizing your WordPress site the hard way
If you want to localize your WordPress site yourself, you’re in for a long slog. You’ll first need to make sure you’re using a compatible theme – if you’re not, you’ll have to rebuild your site from scratch to make sure it supports different languages. This will require you to create WordPress templates with multilingual integration in order to localize your theme in the GNU gettext framework and support translations located in the theme’s languages folder.
You’ll then need to download the relevant MO files, PO files, POT files, and translation files.
Then you need to download and install the desktop software Poedit, start a new catalog, and define WPLANG and the language code for each new language.
Then you can start translating all your content yourself. You can do all the translation into Spanish yourself, right? And Norwegian? And Urdu?
Then you simply need to update your wp-config.php file in wp-content with the text domain for each of your theme’s languages.
Then on top of that, you (or your web developer) would also need to perform maintenance-related tasks with your theme’s language folder and keep all your language files up to date.
To put it another way: trying to handle WordPress localization yourself is inefficient, difficult to maintain, and a massive time commitment. You’ll need to dive into your WordPress theme to access and edit all the necessary text strings. As such, making small tweaks and corrections to your localization can be a right pain.
How to easily localize and translate your WordPress site (3 key tips)
When it comes to localizing your own WordPress site, there’s a better way. Here we’ll lay out a couple of tools and best practices to consider. Don’t discount the value of having a solid, translation-ready theme such as OceanWP, Uncode, and StudioPress’ Revolution Pro – Weglot is, however, compatible with all WordPress themes and plugins!.
Below are the tips we think are the most vital to successfully engaging your international audience.
1. Translate Your WordPress Site With Weglot
Translation is always the first step in localization. You can’t address users’ cultural preferences if they’re struggling to comprehend your content – or worse, can’t read it at all.
While many WordPress translation plugins can be complicated or inaccurate, Weglot makes localizing your site easy:
Weglot displays and automatically translates your website’s content while providing you with a unique URL in your translated language, which means you’ll be searchable in your new markets. You can add the Weglot translation widget anywhere on your website.
With Weglot as your translation solution, you can access a combination of automated and human translators to help get your multilingual site up and running faster. You can use automated translation for a fast first layer of translation, with the option to add human translation to localize your content further. When you add new posts to your site, they’ll also be translated. Plus, it’ll work seamlessly with your theme, and you won’t have to worry about translation files. The plugin also handles right-to-left (RTL) languages such as Arabic.
The Weglot dashboard includes an easy-to-use, in-context editor for translating your posts and pages.
It also provides automated multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and an auto-redirection feature that serves users content in their preferred language based on their browser (such as Google Chrome) settings.
The best part is that you don’t have to add anything to your functions.php file or mess around with HTML and CSS.
2. Incorporate a language switcher
Of course, even with auto-redirection enabled, it’s always ideal to give users control over their experience with a language switcher. Usually presented as a drop-down menu or button, this feature enables your visitors to choose which available language to view your site in:
If you translate your site with Weglot, a language switcher will be automatically added to your site that will work seamlessly with your theme and look great on the front-end.
Now comes the interesting part – customizing it to meet the needs of your user. You can easily do this through the back-end by going to your WordPress dashboard in your Weglot tab > Language button design.
We’ve even put together a blog post on some great WordPress language switchers to give you some serious inspiration, as well as this handy video tutorial for adding a language switcher to your site:
There are a few key factors to consider when designing your language switcher in terms of WordPress localization.
For starters, while many sites use country flags to indicate language options, this isn’t always advisable. Bear in mind that some countries have several national languages, and that multiple countries can use the same language. Flags can be more confusing than helpful (unless you’re targeting countries with only one possible language).
It’s also important to list all your available languages in their respective native spelling. In other words, if you offer French and German versions of your site, your language switcher should list English, Français, and Deutsch as the available languages.
3. Implement additional localization techniques
While translation goes a long way to help localize your website, it’s important to consider other factors. For example, if you’re selling your products internationally, adding a currency switcher such as the WooCommerce Multi-Currency plugin can help your customers easily determine the price of an item for them:
The key here is that you’re simplifying your international customers’ purchasing process and improving your chances of landing sales all over the world.
You can also up your marketing game with location-based personalization, also known as ‘geotargeting’. This technique involves showing users specific content based on their location.
For instance, seasonal posts may not perform well in countries experiencing winter while you’re in the middle of summer. You can use a WordPress plugin such as GeoTargeting to send your U.S. visitors to one post, while directing Australian and South American readers elsewhere.
These changes in the way you present content to international users may seem small. However, WordPress localization can significantly improve your site’s relevancy and accessibility to visitors from all over the world, potentially turning your WordPress website into a global hub.
You’re now ready to localize and translate your WordPress site
Localization can help your users feel comfortable and welcome on your site. It can also make your products and posts more accessible and relevant to people across the globe, possibly leading to higher conversion rates (we’ve written a helpful article about increasing your e-commerce conversion rate). And, finally, it can help you improve your multilingual SEO efforts without having to deal with translation files.
You can easily localize your WordPress blog or website in just three steps: