Multi-regional multilingual sites
David Vallance
David Vallance
16th Nov 2020

What to consider before creating a multi-regional or multilingual site

Creating multi-regional and multilingual sites can be a long, arduous process if the smaller details aren’t ironed out first, but we’re here to help. In this brief guide, we’ve detailed some key considerations that will help you get started.

Language choices

Although this may sound obvious, it’s crucial that you strategise to effectively target your current audience and consider future language possibilities. Managing multilingual sites is doable with the right processes in place, but having a clear understanding of who you’re targeting and why will inform what languages and regions you need to account for in the first place.

For example, we created a multi-regional website for MHR Global, a leading HR and payroll software company. Their target audiences were based in the UK, USA and Ireland. Google prioritises relevant, localised results to users, so whilst these three countries are predominantly english-speaking, MHR Global needed their site to appeal to the three different audience locations.

Platform choice

When it comes to multilingual and multi-regional sites, platform choice is key. It’ll inform how easy or hard it is to maintain in the future, as well as the options for scalability.

If you want flexibility, an open source platform would be the best option. Open source code is freely available to anyone, which means you’ll have the flexibility to make modifications within a constantly-evolving solution.

Drupal is a brilliant example of an open source platform, containing language tools to help managers of multilingual sites. There’s a list of one hundred languages that you can use to translate your content into, making the language transition easier than ever. Wishdesk has covered the main multilingual benefits of Drupal 8, which may help you to decide if it’s the right platform for you.

For MHR Global, we used Drupal to build a consolidated multi-regional site. Drupal’s flexibility and high-performance allowed our developers to create a versatile, integration-ready solution for a global brand.

If you’re looking for less flexibility and customisation, but want to get your site up and running as soon as possible, Wordpress could be right for you. Translations can be handled through plugins, such as WPML, and multiple sites can be managed under one core. This, along with  the SEO-friendly nature of WordPress, makes it a great choice for anyone looking to quickly create a multilingual site. When choosing a platform, be sure to discuss the merits of each option against your requirements for both the short and long term.

scalability.jpg

Scalability

In order to account for future growth, it’s important to review potential additional languages or regions, integrations such as marketing or lead generation tools and voice search capabilities.

Once you start targeting users in different countries or regions, your site will need to be capable of coping with more traffic. When MHR came to us for help with their site, they were trying to manage multiple websites across different regions. This caused inconsistencies and challenges when trying to represent a consistent brand image internationally. We built a multi-regional site in Drupal, which could handle the increase in users without sacrificing performance.

MHR wanted their new site to integrate with Marketo, but also had plans to integrate with Salesforce and other potential platforms in the future. The solution we created for them provided that flexibility, so scalability and future integrations wouldn’t require further development and time.

Building your site to account for future integrations and growth means you’ll be able to scale as needed without compromising on additional development and restructuring.

It’s also important your site is hosted on a server that can handle heavy traffic. Even if your developers spend all their time improving on site performance, if your server is slow you’ll be limited to what you can realistically achieve. Review your current traffic vs predicted traffic, and evaluate whether shared hosting or a dedicated server would be best suited for your site.

SEO

Once you have decided which languages and regions you want to target, you’ll need to review how to implement SEO best practices. Multilingual and multi-regional SEO helps your website content have a better chance of ranking highly in the languages and regions you’re targeting.

There are many offshoots of these SEO disciplines, but the main ones to consider are:

URL approach

You’ll need to differentiate between pages in different languages and regions. Rather than implementing a page by page structure, you can use something simpler across the whole site e.g yourwebsite.de for Germany, yourwebsite.com/de or de.yourwebsite.com. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so take time to review which approach would best suit you.

Hreflang markup

When hreflang markup is implemented, it will signal to Google which pages should be served to different languages or locations, which helps Google display the most relevant search results. There are multiple ways to implement hreflang markup, so it’s important to either consult an agency or do your research first.

Metadata

This is standard SEO practice, but consider your metadata and who will be translating it into the designated language. Search Engine Land have created their own comprehensive guide to multilingual and multi-regional SEO. Put a plan in place of how and when the dedicated SEO will be implemented on your new site and who will be responsible for it.

Internal processes

Internal processes are vital to ensuring the creation and management of a multi-regional and/or multilingual site runs smoothly. The more detailed you can be about a process, the less likely you’ll experience miscommunications and errors.

Multi-regional / multilingual process checklist

Some key questions to visit with your team are:

  • Who will manage the translations?
  • Will content be moderated before it’s published in the designated language/s?
  • Who is adding the translations to the site?
  • What will the process for content creation look like for designated language/s?
  • How will you test the accuracy of culture considerations in the content?
  • For multilingual sites, will there be any content that isn’t translated?
    • If so, how will this english-only content be signposted to the user?
  • Will there be time-zone appropriate scheduling of content?
  • How will you make sure branding is consistent across all languages and regions?

Hire an agency you can trust

Multilingual and multi-regional sites require a large amount of forethought and pre-planning before development. You’ve read about some of the key considerations, but there are many more points that will determine the success of the new site.

If you’re looking to use an agency to create your new site, make sure they’re an agency you can trust. As a reputable agency that has experience with both WordPress and Drupal, Versantus can help you choose a platform which best suits your needs.

We put collaboration and transparency first, so you can trust us to create a bespoke, high-quality solution for you. If you have a burning question you’d like to ask about a multilingual or multi-regional site project, or if you’re interested in creating a new site, get in touch!