One of the greatest thing with WordPress is that you can do almost everything with plugins, except coffee. Plus, as WordPress is used worldwide, there are plugins to localize your website. Obviously. Ain’t that community awesome?

But here comes a tricky question:

Which are the best plugins to turn a website into a multilingual one?

 

In the previous post , I have given you 3 reasons as why it is important to have a website. Now, I’m going to present you with easy solutions to translate your website.

If you already have a website “Powered by WordPress”, I assume you know what plugins are. If not, the Internet is full of resources as to how set up a WordPress website and how to run it from day to day.

Whatever are the reasons that prompted you to translate your website into more than one language, plugins are a fantastic solution. Provided you choose the proper ones, those that would not screw up your site nor badly impact your SEO.

Here is a little ‘plugin guide’ to help you find the solution that suits your needs.

Plugins to Avoid – Machine Translation

Let’s not waste time and start with the plugins to avoid.

Google translate – and all automatic translation plugins. You have a website, you know its value. You probably spent time and/or money crafting your texts so they attract your customers and help you rank better in Google search results.Then, why destroying all that with automatic translation? Let’s be clear: automatic translation is great for quick understanding of a text, often casual. It has improved over time BUT:

  • Automatic translation does not care about the meaning of your text. All the bot sees are words that it replaces for other words. It does not care if the grammar is wrong or if there are ugly mistranslations.
  • Automatic translation bots can’t attest translation quality, but your human customers can. A poorly translated text reflects badly on your brand and your credibility. It makes you appear as someone who does not care. Probably not the message you want to send.
  • Automatic translation does not know a thing about SEO, but a specialist translator does. Keywords are actual words used by your potential customers to find your company and/or your product. Each language comes with its own vision of the world, a cultural background that you can’t ignore. You can’t swap keywords for their equivalent in any other language and hope for the best.

Translation, or localization in this case, is nothing more than another aspect of international marketing. And like any marketing strategy, you plan it and analyse it carefully.

qTranslate-X, the phoenix

qTranslate-X – the phoenix (will it burn again?)

Its development has been stopped for a while, its first version was not the best solution for SEO. It seems that the qTranslate x version is doing better. I tried it on a demo site and so should you if you’re not sure you’re going to use it. It is even recommended by the devs due to the specific needs the plugin has. Don’t know how to set up a demo site? Check the end of this article.

 

The Pros

  • Clearly, this plugin has evolved in the right direction thanks to the new team of devs that resurrected this project. You just have to set up the languages and click on the language tabs on each page or article you want to translate to switch between them.
  • It is more SEO-friendly than before.

 

The Cons

  • There’s a startup guide you should read after activating the plugin and prior doing anything else, which is great, and not so great in terms of UX. Personally, when I install a plugin, I like to be able to use it right away, not read a guide.
  • Once installed, you better keep it forever because your translated versions won’t work without the plugin. That’s why it is recommended to try it on a demo site first.
  • I screwed up a few things at the beginning when I tried to add translations. I don’t really like how it works. That may be just me. Maybe you will love it. I did not find it intuitive.
  • Recommended to those who loved their good ol’ qTranslate plugin and those who are not repelled by the guide (and knows their way around the WordPress interface).
  • You still have to use short codes to translate some very specific parts of your website.

WPML, the leader

WPML – the leader

WPML is the best known multilingual plugin for WordPress and it does not come free. It also is the most reliable one and you can even ask for human translation of your content via their service. It is an interesting investment if you plan to translate into more than one language in the long run.

 

The Pros

  • It is compatible with a great number of themes and plugins, no need to worry about that point.
  • It is also a premium, so you can count on the support if you have any trouble and it is almost a guarantee that the plugin will always be up-to-date and often updated if there are any security issues.
  • Through a paying service, you can request to have your texts translated by real people.

 

The Cons

  • Well, it’s a premium plugin, there’s a price to pay for that.
  • It can also slow down your website when accessing the database to show articles and pages it the correct language.

Polylang, the favorite

Polylang – My favorite

Polylang is great, and I’m not only saying it because it is the plugin I use. Its main advantage is that it is free. Its second advantage: it is easy to use. Once install, each time you are creating a page or an article, all you have to do is to click on the flag next to the editor to switch to the page in the other language. Settings are really easy to configure from the Dashboard. You even have an option to translate some parts of your theme that may not be translated.

 

The Pros

  • No issues so far, really easy to use and to set up.
  • Works great with many themes and plugins.
  • Simply click on a flag to create the version of your current page/article in another language, then click on the previous language’s flag to revert back. Translation is not compulsory (same for the previous two), you can decide not to translate a specific page or blog post if not relevant. For example, there will probably be no French version of this article on my blog in French. The French version of my blog will even be different that the English version. I can decide what content I want available for each language.
  • You can translate categories, tags, media and custom post types too.
  • SEO-friendly, you can choose to display, or not, the language parameter in the URL: repository or subdomain.
  • It’s free.

 

The Cons

  • It is developed by one person. Should he decide to stop, there will be no more updates.
  • Support isn’t really fast apparently for the same reason as above. You can ask the WordPress community to get help.

Tip – Demo Site

Tip – the demo website

If you decided to create your website yourself, there are few best practices you should be aware of (and could be discussed later on):

  • backup
  • security plugin
  • child theme
  • demo site

A demo site is a website you create locally on your computer and which is not available on the Internet. It used to try new things without destroying your live website. It would be a shame if it is no longer accessible.

If you have some knowledge of the matter, you can do it with WAMP, MAMP or XAMP.

If not, I have a magical solution for you: InstantWP.

You download it, install it on a USB key to take it with you everywhere and here you go!

No need to fuss around with database settings, etc.

The only thing I would recommend being careful with are the updates. Generally I don’t update anything because:

  1. it is not on the web, updates are not necessary. If I need to, I try to be patient 🙂 (see point #2)
  2. they sometimes screw up the whole thing, making it not accessible at all for a while, both front end and back end.

Conclusion

The WordPress CMS, and its legion of plugins, facilitates the creation of a better user experience through localization. It even takes SEO into account.

There is a common point that is nice with these plugins: you can choose to translate, or not, parts of your website. If the content is not relevant in one language, you can decide not to translate it. Better UX!

Each one of this plugins can covers your essential localization needs and you can start reaching out to new audiences and potential customers.

Whether you decide to go with a free plugin or a premium one is up to you. The solutions presented here are all great and suited to different profils: the DIY or the One Who Delegates.

There are many other plugins available and other possible solutions, such as multisite that I deliberately left out. I was looking for something relatively easy, still SEO-friendly and less time-consuming in term of management than multisite.

Share you tips, suggest other plugins/solutions or ask your questions in the comments below.

If you need advice or localization services for your website, contact me, I’d be happy to help you.

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