April 18, 2016 · 4 min read
Developing a successful international website platform
Expanding your business online doesn’t have to be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. We’ve been designing and building international websites that span territories and languages for a few years. Here’s a quick run through of some of the lessons we’ve learned.
Using redirects correctly
When developing a multilingual site, it’s important that the user is redirected to the relevant translated page. Some sites have fallen foul of redirecting users to the homepage after selecting the language ‘switcher’. This means users have to re-navigate back to the page they were originally on. This can lead to a poor user experience and could lead to a drop off in visits after they reach the undesired page.
Why is international keyword analysis important?
Don’t assume keywords used in one language are suitable for another. Automatic machine translations produce a poor user experience and don’t take into consideration cultural and regional differences. It’s important to use a human translator that is native to the language. They can then apply the correct keywords and tone of voice for that audience.
Consider devices and technologies will vary with geography
Knowing which devices and technology that are used by your target audience is also a key consideration. Countries that have poor infrastructure, developing countries within Africa and South America, will probably not be accessing your site via desktop. Instead they are more likely to be visiting your site on their phones using slow mobile connections. This kind of insight can mould your marketing strategy and website design.
Developers must design for multiple languages
It’s important to have a flexible design layout which can adapt to different language lengths. Text in some languages can take up more space than others. For example German and Swedish are physically longer than English; but Chinese and Korean are shorter! A flexible layout will expand and contract depending on the length of the words in question, without breaking the components of the page.
If you are using WordPress, consider using the WPML Plugin
WPML is known as the most solid multilingual solution for WordPress environments. The WPML plugin allows you to translate your website in to as many languages as you like and gives you access to a human translation service. WPML is compatible with most themes, which is perfect if you already have a website built and a theme in place.
Which multi-site approach is right for you?
Do you want to create a network of autonomous sites that informally link together? Or a single platform with options to share content and administration? There are numerous complexities to this challenge, but we would suggest you structure your online model to reflect your real-world operation. If your overseas territories operate independently with their own management team, marketing strategies and business agendas, then it is perhaps easier to provide a stand-alone installation of their website. Conversely, if you all operate as a single team, then it may make sense to operate a true multi-site web platform with a single access point to manage all activities.
Managing multiple users and Access Level Control
Managing multiple users on any site can be a challenge. Deciding who can do what on a single multilingual site raises further difficulties. Access level control can be achieved by elevating roles of those versions of the site that are native to the editor’s language. Defining user types allows you to manage the editing and translating process.
Correctly incorporate platform infrastructure
Site speed is a key factor in all search engines ranking algorithms. A content delivery network (CDN) allows faster delivery times for multilingual sites, because it doesn’t rely on your website hosting location. A CDN caches static resources, bringing your website closer to the user. For example, an American visitor to a site hosted in the UK, will be taken to a local point of presence (PoP), instead of the much longer route back to the UK.
How to handle duplicate content
Search engines are known for heavily punishing sites that have duplicate content across multiple pages or across multiple sites. With multilingual sites they have a slightly different stance. Search engines except the fact that certain pages will be similar, but do expect content to be tailored towards a specific audience.
Hreflang tags help identify a preferred version for each language or location. This code tells the search engines that there are variations of the same content, for example:
<link rel=”alternate” href=”mysite.com” hreflang=”en-uk” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”mysite.com/us/” hreflang=”en-us” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”mysite.com/au/” hreflang=”en-au” />
Why post launch management is key?
Managing multilingual site content post launch can be very time consuming. It’s not as easy as duplicating latest news stories or job opportunities for example on different sites. The news and job availability may not be relevant to the target audience. Your website is likely to need regular changes to sections such as news or job posts that are specific to that particular region.
Are you going to employ a single agency to handle all versions of the site?
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to set-up, report and maintain social profiles, email accounts, Google Analytics and Search Console across multiple sites.
Here at Cite we champion an integrated approach across multiple channels, enabling your businesses to concentrate on the bottom line.
Multilingual website development
If you are considering expanding your reach and would like to discuss your next multilingual or international project, please contact us today on 0116 254 9888 or complete our contact form.