How To Translate WordPress Websites
First of all, before you start optimization, you need to translate the website. This requires adding additional languages, creating pages for translated languages, adding language links to the header, etc.
And the best thing is that WordPress makes it very easy to translate any website to any language with the help of multilingual plugins.
There are a couple of good WordPress translation plugins that allow you to easily add languages and translate your website. And one of the best plugins is WPML which is a very advanced plugin and gives you the ability to go in-depth and translate everything on your website.
WPML offers many awesome features such as automatic translations, translation control, Woocommerce translation, string and media translation, and more. It’s a powerful plugin that offers every translation option in one place.
Works great with various page builders like Elementor and WordPress default editor Gutenberg and it’s our main translation tool when we create WordPress websites for clients. Also, if you ever have an issue with the plugin, WPML offers great support and helpful resources.
How To Optimize Multilingual WordPress Websites for SEO
In order to optimize a multilingual WordPress website for search engines, there are several critical things you need to do. And in this post, we will discuss the five most important SEO best practices for multilingual websites. And we will use the WPML plugin as the main translation tool for SEO optimization.
1. Pick the Correct URL Structure
One of the first things you need to do when setting up a multilingual WordPress site is to pick the correct URL structure. There are a few different options to choose from, but the most important thing is to be consistent with whatever you decide. Inconsistent URL structures can confuse both users and search engines, which will hurt your SEO.
You have three options to optimize URL structure for each language:
- Separate domain – You can have a separate domain for each language like yourwebsite.ge for the Georgian version and yourwebsite.com for the English version.
- Subdomain – Another way is to create subdomains for each language. For example, if your main language is in Georgian, then it will be yourwebsite.ge but for the English version, you will create a subdomain – en.yourwebsite.ge
- Subfolder – And the last option you can use is the subfolder which works like a regular slug. Your main language will be yourwebsite.ge and the English version will be yourwebsite.ge/en/.
WPML allows you to use any of these three options and depending on your situation, the first one might be the best solution. However, for SEO, the best option is the subfolder version.
If you use a separate domain or a subdomain for your website language versions, they will be a separate website for search engines and the authority of the main domain won’t transfer to them. So, you will need to increase authority for translated versions separately.
But if you use a subfolder version, then it’s like any other page on your website, and the power of the domain will be transferred to translated pages. We at Alpaca use this URL structure for every project including our website because it’s the best SEO practice for multilingual websites.
2. Add The hreflang Attribute
The hreflang attribute tells search engines what language a page is written in and is used to serve the correct language version of a page to users based on their location and browser settings. This is especially important for multinational websites whose target audience speaks different languages but might be searching in English.
For example, imagine you have a German website with an English version for users in the United States. You would want U.S.-based English speakers who search for your site in English to see the English version of your site, while German-speaking users in Germany would see the German version. The hreflang attribute helps make sure that happens by telling search engines which version of your site is meant for which audience.
Hreflang is a simple link attribute that is added in the <head> section of the HTML document. And with WPML it’s very easy to accomplish this task. When you add a new language through WPML, it automatically adds it to the HTML head.
You can change the country code from WPML’s language settings and optimize it in the way you want. With custom CMS, adding hreflang attributes can be complicated, but with WordPress, it’s much easier.
3. Include Translated Pages In The Sitemap
A sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website so that search engine crawlers can easily find them and index them in search results. If you have a multilingual WordPress site, it’s important to include all translated versions of your pages in your sitemap.
That way, search engines will know that there are other language versions available and index them accordingly. You can create and submit a separate sitemap for each language version of your site or have one sitemap for every language. Sitemaps can be easily created with plugins like RankMath or Yoast SEO.
Creating a separate sitemap for each language is not necessary but having a huge sitemap file is not the best for SEO optimization. It’s always good to split your sitemaps into different XML files.
The best SEO practice for sitemaps is to have different sitemaps for pages, posts, products, categories, and so on. Also, you can have a specific amount of posts in each sitemap and create a second file when the limit is exceeded.
For example, if your limit is 200 posts per sitemap and you add a new post to your website, it will create another sitemap and there will be two XML sitemaps for posts – sitemap-posts-1.xml, sitemap-posts-2.xml, and so on.
4. Configure Title and Meta For Each Language
Another important factor in ranking well in foreign languages is making sure that each translated page has its own unique title and meta description—in the appropriate language, of course. And with WordPress, it’s very easy to do it with plugins such as WPML and any SEO plugin.
When you create a translated page with WPML, you can control and optimize translated pages separately. So, with the SEO plugin, you can write different titles and meta descriptions for every page and post in every language.
You can leave the title and description to default and the SEO plugin will use the page title and the first paragraph to show in SERP, but sometimes you may want to display different titles and descriptions for search engines.
For example, creating a custom title and description can be beneficial for products if you have an eCommerce website. But for blog posts, you don’t have to write custom meta descriptions because probably Google will choose it most relevant text to display in SERP.
5. Make Sure That Translated Content Is Correct
Finally, it’s important to remember that translation is not just about changing the words on a page from one language to another—it’s about accurately conveying the meaning of those words in the new language as well.
If you use WPML as your translation plugin, then you have an option for automatic translation which is a great feature. In just a few minutes you can translate your whole website into any language.
Of course, there will be some errors and incorrect words but it allows you to edit any automatic translation to correct the errors. This feature makes WPML not only one of the best translation plugins but also a great plugin for SEO.
But if you want to translate your website manually by yourself or use a professional translation service, you can do it easily because WPML offers manual translation too.
Making a multilingual WordPress website optimized for SEO may seem like a daunting task but it’s very easy and doable if you follow these best practices. By picking the right URL structure, adding hreflang attributes, including translated pages in your sitemap, and configuring titles and meta descriptions for each language, you can make sure searchers from around the world will find your site.