WordPress is currently running almost one-third of the whole Internet, thanks to its amazing ease of use and outstanding community, which is getting stronger and stronger every year.
WordPress aims to power the other two-third of the Internet. As 25% of the Internet users are the English speaker, multilingual is definitely a serious lever for WordPress.
On the other hand, from an end-user perspective, there are 3 key benefits of having a WordPress multilingual website:
- Increase your number of potential customers and your audience: making your website in multiple languages allows you to address a greater market and audience.
- Improve your conversion metrics: offering products or media in your visitors’ language will help you to better convert them into customer and/or regular readers.
- Enhance your visitors’ experience: for example, auto-redirection feature would display the right language to your visitor, reducing the number of unnecessary actions from them.
How Can You Make Your Multilingual WordPress Website?
There are several existing plugins gathered in 2 big families:
Let’s see how do they work and what are their key features.
Weglot: Translation as a Service
Let’s deep dive into Weglot, a service started early 2016 and already powering more than 10,000+ websites.
Like any other WordPress plugin, Weglot is available in the directory where you can download it or install it directly from your WordPress website admin panel.
Once installed and activated, there are 3 steps required to make it working on your website:
- Enter your API key: to get it, you need to first create an account on Weglot.
- Original language: indicates what’s the original language of your website.
- Destination languages: select the languages you would like to translate your website into.
Then, go to your website, a button allows you to change the language and display translations. This first layer of translations is machine based, provided by best players of the market (notably Microsoft), you can edit yourself or replace by pro translations.
The button design and location is 100% customizable, either via ready made-option in the plugin or via custom CSS.
Weglot lets you select between 3 sources of translations:
- Machine based translations: provided by default when activating the plugin and service on your website.
- Human translations: you can edit/replace translations directly from your Weglot account using the Visual editor (like a page builder but only for translations and content) and the Translations list.
- Professional translations: professional translators agencies are directly plugged in Weglot, you can order pro translations from them directly from your dashboard.
You can use these different types all together; keeping machine translations for some pages/parts, ordering Pro translations for specific language and having your team (or yourself) edit translations too.
In one place you can leverage the power of all types of translations sources available, depending on your needs and resources.
Compatibility and Maintenance
Weglot unique approach makes it compatible with almost any WordPress themes and plugins of the market. As Weglot code is executed at the end of the page loading, it’s not depending on any other themes or plugins.
There is no maintenance at all since Weglot automatically detects the new content of your website. The only updates arising are meant for product improvements and never interfere with the rest of your website.
Weglot follows Google best practices guidelines in terms of multilingual SEO:
- Automatically create unique URL for each translated version of your web page. Weglot creates subdirectories for you (like “/fr or /es” for French or Spanish).
- Automatically adding hreflang tag: to indicate Google there are different versions of the page.
- Translating meta description and other SEO tags
As Weglot does not have you stored the translations; it will not create any slowdowns in your WordPress admin or on other elements (making requests to your database) loading time.
In addition, Weglot is compatible with all major cache solutions in WordPress, such as WP Rocket, for example, to make sure your website is loading super fast.
Weglot is a freemium service, pricing is mainly depending on 2 key criteria. The total number of translated words and the number of languages you would like to add. All the different plans are available here. Price tags start at €9.90/month.
The free plan is for a website with 1 extra language and 2,000 translated words.
Weglot support is very reactive and made of experts always happy to help. Their 350+ 5 stars rating on the directory is a clear evidence of how important support is for them.
You can find answers on their Support page or contact them by email, they always reply very fast.
WPML: The WordPress Multilingual Plugin
After reviewing the new challenger, Weglot, let’s see the oldest and most used solution WPML, claiming over 500,000+ websites.
As WPML is only a premium plugin, it’s not available in the WordPress directory. So the first thing you will need to do is buy and install the core WPML plugin and any optional add-ons from here.
Once installed and activated, there are several steps to configure WPML:
- Sites language: original language (existing content) and destination languages.
- Language URL format: if you want to use sub-directories (/en or /es), sub-domain (en. or es.) or parameters (?lang=es). In case you’re looking for different domains per language you would need to configure your server’s DNS and Apache configuration.
- Language switcher button.
- Enabling language cookie to support AJAX filtering.
- Theme and plugins localization:
- Don’t use String Translation to translate the theme and plugins (translating using the traditional .mo files).
- Translating the theme and plugins using WPML’s String Translation: this option requires WPML’s String Translation module.
At this point, all key elements of WPML are set up. You can now start translating your website.
WPML will create different posts and pages for translations and connects them together.
WPML offers two ways for translating content:
- Manually, by clicking on the + icons: you would need to replicate the parent/children structure of your pages, recreate links to browse from one page to another.
- Automatically: using the Translation Management module (Multilingual CMS package only).
Once you have set up your translations management environment, you can then start translating the page and post of your website. After that, you can also start translating widget, menu, and slugs, but you would need to follow advanced documentation at the very bottom.
Compatibility and Maintenance
To make sure WPML works properly with your website, you should make sure you’re using WPML compatible themes and plugins. Otherwise, you might have difficulties to translate all your content and end up with part of your website not translated.
Regarding the maintenance, WPML releases updates (at least on a yearly basis since they’re offering yearly renewal to get the updates) to improve the product and fix bugs. But as WPML is included in your website admin, connected to your database, sometimes it might result in complicated situations you need to sort out.
WPML offers all SEO capabilities to match Google best practices guidelines:
- Unique URL for each translated version of your web page: during set up you would need to select what type of URL you would like to use.
- Adding hreflang: you would need to choose where you would like to add it in your HTML code.
- Translating meta description and other SEO tags.
Since WPML is directly connected to your database, in some cases it might result in some slowdowns on the admin side, not on the front-end.
Otherwise, on the front-end, WPML is compatible with Batcache according to their compatibility list.
WPML is a premium plugin, that comes with 3 types of pricing you can find them here.
WPML has a large support team ready to answer your questions or issues. You can also find additional resources here in their support forum.
Weglot and WPML offer two great solutions to make your WordPress website multilingual. They’re the best partners to support your international growth or to make your website accessible to a wider audience.