3 reasons for a multilingual Joomla, WordPress or Drupal website and 7 things you should not do

by Manuel Herranz and Alex Helle If you are one of those people who believe that operating in English (or your national language and English as the default international language) suffices to talk to the rest of the world... we regret to inform you that there is a huge misconception in the way you approach the global marketplace. There are powerful reasons to have a multilingual Joomla, WordPress or Drupal website and I would like to help you understand why. A few months ago we reported in this blog on a study by the European Union that pointed to the fact that 90% of users preferred to visit websites in their own language. The survey, conducted by Gallup, found that Internet users in 23 EU countries prefer browsing and making purchasing decisions in their native languages. You can visit the link above to download the full PDF, but if you do not have the time for all the reading here is a summary:
  • 80% of Internet users used the Internet daily in practically all EU countries (EU average: from 73% in Italy to 90% in Slovenia) and the trend was growing
  • Nine out of 10 Internet users said that, if given a choice of languages in a website, they would always visit a website in their mother tongue.
  • Nearly 20% of Europeans never browsed websites in any other language but their mother tongue.
  • 42% said they never purchased products and services in a different language.

And all this happens in a continent that is well known for enjoying a high level of multilingualism: 19% of Europeans speak two languages, 25% are trilingual and 10% of Europeans speak four or more languages. The 46% of the monolingual population is now officially a minority. 98% of Europeans think that learning at least one foreign language is important for the future of their children. But although so many Europeans are well-known bilinguals, trilinguals or multilinguals, their preference is still to buy in their native language. Now imagine what this preference might be in large monolingual countries or economies or with a heavy state-sponsored national language such as China, Brazil, Arabic-speaking countries, Japan and Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. Making a purchasing decision in English may just not be an option. happy multi-ethnic Brazilian group of people standing in front of brazil flag business corporate people japanese ethnicity meeting russian girls in folklore chelyabinsk festival

Clearly, there are many reasons to make your website multilingual. As the European study shows, Internet users that come to your website as global customers will not stay, read, browse much less buy if the website is not in their native language. And using Google Translate is not an option.

1. Multilingual Sites Get More Visits... Engagement and Conversions

We dealt with the strategy to follow (multi-site or multilingual) in a previous post. This will affect the way you design and run your international strategy. There certainly pros and cons to both options, so please read " 3 tips translating a website and website localization". Nevertheless, the main point is that offering multilingual content is increasingly more important than ever. Newspapers such as Spain's ElPais.com have editions in Brazilian Portuguese and Catalan. Marketing managers are not after the sale, but building brand loyalty. And brand loyalty is based on relationships. So you cannot be coy about translation if you are seriously targeting users in a specific area. Users and visitors must feel engaged emotionally with your brand. Otherwise, forget about engagement and conversions.

2. Multilingual Websites Greatly Improve SEO

Before Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google, Ilya Segalovich and Arkady Volozh (note the 3 Russians and 1 American behind the development of search engines) had already created Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine with 62% of the market. Yandex provides better results in Russian so while Google focused on counting links or weighing the PageRank of Western websites, Yandex’s ranking algorithm took a more semantic approach by calculating the distance between words and the relevance of documents to a searcher's query. Both search engines have been converging for a while, but Google just takes 27% of Russia's search market. South Korea (Naver), China (Baidu) and Japan (Yahoo!) will scape Google's reach for many years to come. This should also illustrate the fact that more than half of all Google searches are carried out in a language that is not English. Again, a multi-site or multilingual strategy will affect the way you run and add SEO-friendly content, but the end result is that the whole of your strategy will benefit by the growing number of keywords. You may choose to centralize everything in one site or offer "local flavors" with national domains (we run national sites such as pangeanic.jp, pangeanic.cn, pangeanic.ru,  pangeanic.frpangeanic.de or pangeanic.es). Local SEO drives business.

3. Sell More Products and Services

Bottom line best reason for making your Drupal or WordPress site multilingual? Selling more products and services. The survey shows that 42% never purchase products and services in other languages. Localizing your site increases the number of site visits, which in turn drives more leads and sales. By increasing community engagement with your site’s multilingual capability, you’re going to create an environment that encourages more participation in your online communities. This will help you collect and nurture those important brand ambassadors who are key to boosting sales with referrals, product information, and positive reviews.

7 things you should never do to make websites multilingual

  1. As mentioned above: never ignore the language of your target market.
  2. Never use machine translation program as the representative of your corporate image.
  3. Some times you need more than language translation: you need localization or transcreation.
  4. Never make it difficult to find your other websites from your main site.
  5. Never forget about SEO.
  6. Websites are like plants: care about them regularly - Never build it and forget about the website.
  7. Don’t build a website if you cannot support customer queries.
We will deal with these 7 tips in later posts. For more information about how Pangeanic Translations & Technologies can make your website translation easy, please visit our website translation services. Sources: 2011 User language preferences online - Analytical report 2012 Eurobarometer Report “Europeans and their languages”