The most common mistakes with multilingual websites

English is the most widely spoken language in the world – about 1.5 billion people use it. But less than a third of those have English as their native language. This means that if you’re running a website that’s solely in English, odds are that many of your users are only getting the information in their second language. This is especially likely for international businesses and businesses operating in foreign countries where English isn’t the official language. But even in the US, at least 20% of people are non-native English speakers. So, it’s always a good idea to make your website available in multiple languages. It sounds simple enough but there are many common mistakes with multilingual websites that you’ll need to avoid if you want to succeed. In this article, our web development New York team speaks about these mistakes in detail.

The most common mistakes with multilingual websites related to translation

In the vast majority of cases, the content for a multilingual website is written in one language and then translated to others. There’s nothing wrong with this practice per se. But the translation process can lead to some mistakes.

Relying on automatic translation

Person using a dictionary.
Underestimating the importance of a translator is one of the most common mistakes with multilingual websites.

If you don’t keep up with all the versions of your website, you’ll eventually end up with a backlog of pages and posts that require translation. Of course, this takes quite a bit of time. So you may be tempted to just plug the entire text into a translation app or something similar. Here’s the problem with that strategy – machine translation, no matter how advanced, is no match for a human translator. Even when you don’t end up with word-for-word translations, the texts never sound natural. They’re often grammatically incorrect, stilted, and unnatural. Your users will certainly spot this. Therefore, you would be better of translating the website on your own or hiring a professional translator to do it for you.

Not localizing the translation

When devising a plan for local SEO, language is far from the only thing you should think about because just translating your website is not enough. Language is a reflection of culture. So when you’re translating from one language to another, you’re also translating from one culture to another. Sometimes, this requires changing some expressions, adjusting your tone, and coming up with slightly different content. But a translation that is not 100% word-for-word accurate is better when it’s more in the spirit of the target culture.

Translating selectively

Blank pages in a notebook symbolizing one of the common mistakes with multilingual websites - skipping pages.
Don’t leave pages blank – translate every part of the website!

Few things are more frustrating than browsing a website in your native language and then suddenly coming across a page you really want to read that is only available in English. If you really want to improve user engagementyou have to give them every possible opportunity to engage. This includes all the different pages and posts – you never know what someone might be interested in.

While it’s okay to prioritize the translation of cornerstone content, you shouldn’t skip any part of the website. Ideally, everything available in English should also be available in all other languages.

The most common mistakes with multilingual websites related to SEO

Translating your website poorly will definitely have an impact on user experience. But did you know that it can also have an impact on your SEO? Some mistakes can actually affect your ranking.

Not paying attention to SEO in languages other than English

Person pointing at a place on a map
Let your users choose a regional version of the website easily.

It is true that most professional SEO services are geared toward businesses operating in English. But just because English is the most common language on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the only one. People conduct Google searches in thousands of languages every day. So it should come as no surprise that it’s possible to optimize a website for languages other than English. But that requires looking up keywords in that language and creating content around them. Sometimes, this gets lost in translation. But once again, the key is not to translate word for word. It’s important to get the same message across but in the spirit of a new language. So don’t just translate your keywords – optimize for the target language as well.

Not translating technical elements

Content is not the only thing you’re translating. You also need to translate categories and tags, as well as providing a new URL for every new language. But perhaps most importantly, you need to tell Google that you’re translating and not duplicating content. For this, you’ll need a hreflang tag. Use it to specify which language the page in question is in and list the other available languages. This is very important for avoiding Google penalties for duplicate content.

Not making other languages easily accessible

Translating your website is useless if your users can’t actually find the version in their language. So your web design New York team needs to take multilingualism into account as well. List all the available languages in a visible place and make it easy for users to select the language they want to view content in. If you’re only operating with a few languages, you can even set up a pop-up to offer the different versions of the website as soon as the user reaches your homepage.

Finally, keep updating your website in all the available languages. That is the only way to continuously provide a good experience for your users who don’t speak English.

How to avoid common mistakes with multilingual websites

The key to avoiding common mistakes with multilingual websites truly is to put in the work and manually translate everything you do. Don’t rely on Google Translate – it doesn’t pay off. If you and your employees truly can’t do it yourselves, hire a translator. A quality translation is worth the investment. You’ll attract more customers and appeal to new demographics. Finally, the user experience will vastly improve. So don’t be lazy: translate each piece of content as you create it to avoid issues in the future.

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