Too often, we analyze websites of customers/prospects, and find missing elements that are significant and prevent the owners from outputting its full potential. A properly structured and utilized website can unleash monetary returns unparallel to almost any other tool.
Bonjour, comment ça va?
One of the more common aspects of a website that we see unutilized, is its potential to reach a wide range of geographic, cultural and multilingual demographics.
Internet users will naturally gravitate towards websites in their own spoken language so reach out your virtual hand across the Web to grab more traffic. For your website to truly exploit the worldwide aspect of the World Wide Web, you will want be able to market to different languages.
As long as you have a staff member or employee that speaks the language, catering to this additional demographic is fairly simple, most often only requiring a website modification.
Targeting a language, NOT a location
Confused? Before delving into this topic any deeper, allow us to explain the difference between targeting a language versus targeting a location.
If you have a website in French that you want users in Canada, France and Morocco to read, then you are targeting a language, not a location. Your site will be of interest to people in multiple countries/regions.
If, however, your website is for a restaurant that is in France, than you will most likely want to only target people in that country, so you’ll be targeting a location.
One Domain or Multiple Domains
The options for having a website with multiple languages include the following:
Multiple country domains:
Examples: domain.com, domain.es, domain.co.il, domain.fr
- Typically, having these separate country-code domains will be all you need to do to target a country (ref. Google – geotargeting)
- More complicated, expensive and time consuming to create/maintain several websites.
- Online Marketing (SEO, PPC) for multiple websites.
- Country domains limit you to that specific country and will prevent you from coming up in searches in other countries. Not a good solution for language-marketing globally.
One Domain with directories by language:
Examples: domain.com, domain.com/es/, domain.com/heb/, domain.com/fr/
- Easier to gain page rank, branding and SEO authority by having one central domain.
- Easier and cheaper to create, coordinate and maintain.
- Online Marketing (SEO, PPC) for only 1 website.
- Automate the user’s experience with a 301-redirect to the subdirectory depending on the language of the browser used.
One domain with sub domains: (not recommended)
Examples: es.domain.com and heb.domain.com are sub domains of domain.com
- Search Engines consider sub domains almost a completely different entity than their domain.
- They don’t inherit most of the domain’s relevancy
- Page Rank is diluted.
Matt Cutts, the well-known Google SEO spokesman, wrote a post on subdirectories and subdomains with clarification, which may help you decide with of these 2 options to go with.
Preparing a single domain to have multiple websites
Be well prepared before creating multiple versions of your website. Ensure that everything is working properly in the original version and that it’s to your liking because any existing issues will be passed on to the copies that you make. Remain as organized as possible since you’ll be working with multiple URL’s.
An additional recommendation, if you can, is to structure the website(s) with proper CSS/HTML. Additionally, segment the main page’s layout and design into master parts. For example, have each webpage composed of blocks such as a header, footer, top navigation, right column, body and etc. and for each one of these blocks to be a standalone file. This will keep yourself efficient so that any change to the site will only require you to make a single modification, rather than one to every webpage.
Research Local Guidelines; Buy Domains
All websites start with domains. Once you have decided to which countries you’ll want to reach, you will want to acquire the country-specific top-level domain (TLD) for that region. Different countries have different regulations concerning their domain registrations and internet policies so prior to buying the domain(s), be sure to properly research legal or administrative requirements. This may dictate your eligibility, your obligation, your liability and general rules to adhere to.
US domain sellers (i.e. GoDaddy) have some country specific domains but their selection is limited so you may need to search for a regional domain seller in the country/location that you’re seeking.
Google’s free online language translation service instantly translates text and web pages.
Blind translations will not be as effective as actually translating the text and ensuring the grammar and semantics are correct for the local audience that you’re going after. Consider targeting a language that is spoken in several countries and has different letter accents, local verbiage, slang and etc. Localization (local content) is the better solution instead of just translating
Dealing with duplicate content
“The same content in different languages is not considered duplicate content”.
Keeping separate pages uniform and consistent in language will keep your site organized and will not get you into trouble with the search engines. Having an appropriate CMS can help you manage your content across all of your sites.
A user and a search engine crawler should both arrive to your site and either be:
- Automatically redirected (301-redirect) to the appropriate language version depending on the language of the browser used, or
- Able to choose for themselves on how to navigate your site.
In both cases, include crawlable HTML links to the alternative version so both humans and crawlers will find their way.
If you’re planning on using a flag icon for your users to choose from for their desired language, be sure that the flag of the country does not have the same speaking language in other countries. For example, don’t put a Spanish flag for the Spanish language because that leaves out people from Mexico, Cuba, etc.
Search Engines are good at detecting languages. More on Search Engine Optimization for multilingual websites on an upcoming post.
*Photo “Atypical welcome” courtesy of Flick user, quinn.anya under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License