WordPress powers more than one-third of the web. However, not all of its 60+ million users are native English speakers. So if your WordPress products aren’t translatable into other languages, you’re missing out on the chance to reach new audiences and potential customers.
As a developer, taking advantage of website localization can help you (and your clients) drive more conversions and increase revenue. Even better, this isn’t something you have to be multilingual in order to accomplish.
In this post, we’ll explain what website localization is and discuss its benefits. Then we’ll provide you with four tips for using it to drive traffic to your clients’ sites. Let’s jump right in!
An Introduction to Website Localization
Part of your responsibility as a WordPress developer is to make your clients’ websites as accessible as possible. However, many developers tend to forget that this includes language accessibility.
According to WordPress’ locale statistics, only about half of its users are native English speakers:
Therefore, overlooking other languages can severely cut into your reach and earning potential. This is why website localization is so important.
Localization, also sometimes referred to as ‘l10n’, refers to the process of translating a theme, plugin, or entire website into one or more additional languages. This term shouldn’t be confused with ‘internalization’, although the two are sometimes used interchangeably.
Internalization, also called ‘I18n’, is the process of preparing themes and plugins for localization by making them translatable. This is done using special GNU gettext functions, which are wrapped around translatable strings and extracted to Portable Objects Template (POT) files (and later PO files).
In other words, localization follows internalization. However, website localization is about more than simply translating the text on a website, which we’ll explain in more detail shortly.
The Benefits of Using Website Localization on WordPress Sites
To truly understand the benefits of localization, it helps to consider how the lack of it can hurt a website’s accessibility and usability for some visitors. Navigating, understanding, and using a website is, of course, going to be a lot more challenging when it’s only offered in a language you’re not fluent in.
So it’s no surprise that people prefer using sites that are translated into languages they’re comfortable with. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory, the majority of consumers prefer shopping for products in their native languages. What’s more, 60 percent of consumers won’t buy from English-only websites.
Website localization lets your clients target and reach a wider audience than they’d otherwise be able to. It can be used to tap into new markets to attract more visitors, and in turn, customers.
Another benefit of localization is that it can help improve online visibility and search engine rankings. For example, you can create localized versions of your clients’ sites for each region, and then build local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns around them.
As we mentioned earlier, however, localization goes far beyond simply translating the text on a website. When you’re creating WordPress sites, much of the work is centered around designing them in a way that allows for maximum engagement and usability.
Similar to how marketing content can be tailored to appeal to specific audience segments, websites can be localized to align with different cultural preferences. This includes the technologies, products, and services that are used from region to region.
As a developer, proper understanding and implementation of website localization can help you stand out in the WordPress community. You can reach new markets and clients, and help your customers do the same. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
4 Tips for Using Website Localization for Your WordPress Clients
If you’re ready to get started with website localization, there are some tips and best practices that can help you get the best possible results. Let’s take a look at four ways you can localize websites for your WordPress clients.
1. Narrow Down a List of Regions and Languages to Focus On
Delivering the best website experience means something different for everyone. So when you’re getting started with localization, it’s a good idea to first create a list of top locations and languages to focus on.
One way is to guide your decision-making is to consider the most popular languages of WordPress users. Along with English, these include Spanish, German, Russian, and French.
If you’re localizing an existing website for one of your clients, you might consider researching their site analytics to determine what regions they already get a lot of traffic from. You can do this with Google Analytics’ Geo feature, by checking out both the Language and Location data:
If the client’s products and services seem to do be doing well in Germany, for example, it would make sense to create a localized version of the site for that region. Conversely, you can also conduct research to see what promising areas and markets haven’t been tapped into yet.
2. Conduct Global Keyword Research to Create Localized Content Campaigns
One primary purpose of website localization is to reach new markets and drive traffic to your clients’ sites. However, this will be difficult to do if you don’t modify your SEO strategy to comply with the best practices for that location.
Translating your content into a different language doesn’t necessarily mean that keywords will translate effectively. Not only can the products and services people are interested in vary by region, but the terminology they use to search for them can too. For example, people might use idioms and slang that isn’t known to those who aren’t fluent in the language.
Conducting keyword research for international localization can be tricky. Some of the popular tools, such as SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner, can be helpful when researching keyword trends and search terms for different languages and locations:
However, in reality, these can probably only take you so far. There are still some idiosyncrasies to consider. For example, just because you’re using a translated phrase, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the same term people in that locale are using to find those kinds of products.
If you have a large amount of content to translate, you might consider hiring a professional translator or native SEO expert who can also help with international keyword research. While this can be a bit pricey, it can also offer long-term rewards.
3. Consider the User Interface and Design Elements
Similar to the keywords you target with website localization, another important aspect to consider is how translation will affect the site’s navigation, User Interface (UI), and overall design for people in various regions and across different devices.
For example, text length can vary significantly after translation. A five-character word in English might become a 10-character word in French. This can impact the page’s design and formatting, in a way that makes it difficult to navigate or less professional.
What’s more, some languages are read from Right-To-Left (RTL) instead of Left-To-Right (LTR). So it’s a good idea to use themes that support both modes of reading. To make this easier, you can filter themes in the WordPress Theme Directory by the ‘translation ready’ feature.
4. Use WordPress Localization and Translation Plugins
One of the best things about using WordPress for website localization is that you can employ plugins to help streamline the process. Depending on how much content there is on a particular site, translating it can take a considerable amount of time.
However, the bulk of the process can be automated with a plugin such as Weglot Translate:
This plugin is free and lets you translate your client’s entire WordPress site automatically. It supports over 100 languages and requires little configuration. To learn more, check out our post on how to use Weglot to translate your site.
While machine translation is a quick and inexpensive method, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that such tools are not entirely accurate. You should still edit the translated content to ensure that it’s correct, perhaps using a professional translator.
Another useful tool that can help with WordPress localization is the Polylang plugin:
This plugin offers a simple method for configuring your WordPress websites for localization. You can choose the translation language for each post, and translate the content directly in the editor. For more information, you can refer to our article on using Polylang for WordPress website translation.
All by itself, WordPress is a powerful platform for building your clients’ websites. However, to make your products as accessible and successful as possible, it’s important that they’re translatable for non-English speaking users. That’s where website localization comes in.
In this post, we discussed four tips for using localization to benefit your WordPress clients. You can:
- Narrow down a list of regions and languages to focus on.
- Conduct global keyword research to create localized content campaigns.
- Consider the user interface and design elements.
- Use WordPress localization and translation plugins, such as Weglot Translate and Polylang.
Do you have any other questions about website localization? Let us know in the comments section below!