Considerations for Offering a Small Business Website in Multiple Languages

by Lois Leonard

2 min read

A multi-language website can grow your customer pool by engaging them in the language they feel most comfortable with. A multi-lingual site makes good sense if your market is domestic because languages internet users in Canada speak include English, French, various indigenous languages, and other languages from around the globe. If you are looking to expand your market globally, having a website in multiple languages can help you to build customer relationships beyond national boundaries.

Website Versions

Before you begin your translation project, you’ll need to decide which content you want available in other languages. The decision might be relatively straightforward if you have a static website and want to translate all of your content. However, if you have an ecommerce website, your choices can become more complicated. For example, Amazon has over ten versions of its website, targeting different global markets. BBC.com news has content in dozens of languages with news specifically tailored for each version of the website. Even if your present translation project is not the size and scope of Amazon or BBC, if you plan to customize content an online retail business in different languages, then it is a good idea to take a look at your entire website and decide whether you can easily expand it to accommodate new versions, or if you’ll have to start over from the ground up.

Computer Versus Human Translation

Computer software can make translation quick, easy, and cost effective. But word-for-word computer translations can be stilted and awkward. Additionally, some nuances of your content such as your “tone,” “voice,” and details about products or services might be lost. As a result, your content could be confusing and work against your business instead of building new client relationships. Professional human translators, on the other hand, can do a better job of conveying the full meaning of your content in different languages, but human translation can be a slow process. One solution is to use translation software in combination with professional editors to ensure that you have good quality content in all languages used on your website.

Search Engine Optimization

An additional consideration for translated content is search engine optimization (SEO). You’ll have to expand the scope of your keyword research because best keywords in one language may not be the best in a different language. This may be another task to outsource to a consultant who specializes in optimizing pages for search engines in different languages.

Layout and Navigation

Translated versions of your site may look and behave differently. The following tips can help you to maintain a cohesive identity in all versions of your website.

  • Not all languages read from left to right. Make sure that your images and graphics fit in with the different flow of text on the page when a page is translated to a different language and script.
  • Be sure that all your fonts are compatible with the various scripts displayed on your website.
  • Make sure users don’t get lost. Have a drop-down menu that allows users to easily change languages as they navigate through the website.

References & Resources

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