How to easily localize and translate your WordPress site

Running an online business means accessing a global market. The ecommerce market is estimated to surpass the $6.5 trillion USD mark in 2023. As such, your website’s content should speak to a global market. While it’s not easy to relate to an audience on the other side of the world, having a content translation and WordPress localization strategy in place will help.

If you make your content more accessible to those in other countries, you often find it easier to engage and convert visitors. The statistics reveal that 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language. 

What’s more, It doesn’t matter whether you use WordPress or another Content Management System (CMS). The translation and localization process is as straightforward as installing a plugin.

In this article, we’ll explain why localization is the lynchpin of international marketing. We’ll also show you how to achieve it with website translation, and discover some great examples of businesses already getting top marks for localized content.

The differences between localization, translation, and internationalization for your website

There are three important concepts to understand if you want to run a multilingual website. Let’s go over them quickly:

Each strategy is useful in specific contexts. However, localization is the most effective for driving conversions.

Of course, translation is important for helping every user to understand your content. Though, localizing your content involves taking things a step further.

For example, you could display prices in users’ preferred currencies, or iron out any local nuances and colloquialisms. The latter might also need human translation (and this can take place through the Weglot interface). For the user, localization can simplify and streamline the buying and conversion processes.

3 prime examples of localized WordPress sites

Let’s look at a few examples of websites built on WordPress to hammer home how localization works.

First, brewery company Brasserie 3F knows the importance of doing business in a multilingual country. It’s a Belgium-based company, with both Flemish and French present on the website:

Brasserie 3F takes localization further by including English and Italian as added languages. Both markets have a keen interest in Belgium beer production.

Because this website has a full translation for four neighboring countries (including local customers), customers can get to know this beer brand and purchase it for themselves. What’s more, because the blog also leverages these translations, Brasserie 3F is spreading their message one post at a time.

Next, proud Wales-based baby garment business Babi Bw wanted to stay true to their roots by offering its website in Welsh:

Working out of a country where around 30 percent of the population speak Welsh, Babi Bw wanted to showcase its connection to Wales and provide localized content.

A smart move for this booming business is to also offer the content in English too. Of course, this makes the product lines accessible to non-Welsh speakers. You’ll also notice that the language buttons switch depending on the language you’ve chosen.

Our final site is Puur Makelaars: a real-estate business that operates in various regions throughout the Netherlands:

There are more than 200 nationalities living in this small country. As such, it makes sense for Puur Makelaars to create the option for property hunters to search in both English and Dutch.

The language switcher is clear and visible at the top of the website. This lets users choose the language best suited to them fast, and continue to search for their new home.

Puur Makelaars translates to “pure estate agents”, and the company also keeps this name for English-speaking visitors. This helps to keep their reputation under one label. It’s a smart move and doesn’t erode brand identity.

Once again, they get bonus points for having a translated blog that gives the same quality of service to both Dutch and non-Dutch speakers! 

WordPress localization (and multilingual SEO) the hard way

If you want to localize your WordPress site yourself, it’s a tough gig. Your first step is to use a compatible theme. Without this, you have to rebuild your site from scratch to make sure it supports different languages.

This will require you to create WordPress templates with multilingual integration. This is necessary in order to localize your theme in the GNU gettext framework, and support translations located in the theme’s languages folder.

There are a few other technical issues to resolve also. For example:

  • You need to download the relevant MO files, PO files, POT files, and translation files for your themes and plugins. 
  • Lots of projects use translation tools such as Poedit. Once you download and install it, start a new catalog, then define both WPLANG and the language code for each new language.

Then you can start translating all your content yourself. That is, if you have the ability to translate into Spanish, Norwegian, Urdu, and every other language you need.

You should also consider your multilingual SEO. This will help users find your site in their chosen language. The most common way is to use ‘hreflang tags’ in the header of your site. We talk about this in our guide on best practices for multilingual SEO. Within that post, there are lots more aspects to consider.

Next, you will need to update your wp-config.php file with the text domain for each of your theme’s languages. What’s more, you (or your web developer) will also need to perform maintenance-related tasks with your theme’s language folder, and keep all your language files up to date.

Not only this, you will also need to put a schedule together in order to revise translated strings for accuracy, and update them if necessary.

To put it another way: trying to handle WordPress localization yourself is inefficient, difficult to maintain, and a massive time commitment. You’ll need to dive into your WordPress theme to access and edit all the necessary text strings. As such, making small tweaks and corrections to your localization can be a pain.

How to easily localize and translate your WordPress site (3 key tips)

When it comes to WordPress localization, there’s a better way. There’s value in having a solid, translation-ready theme such as OceanWP, Uncode, and StudioPress’ Revolution Pro. You can also use dedicated WordPress professionals to help you build a localized business website.

Even so, Weglot is compatible with all WordPress themes and plugins, which can help you if you have an unsuitable theme. You’ll also find it’s cost-effective compared to a full redesign.

Here we’ll lay out a couple of tools and best practices to consider throughout the localization process. These are the tips we think are the most vital to successfully engaging your international audience.

1. Translate Your WordPress Site With Weglot

Translation is always the first step in localization. You can’t address users’ cultural preferences if they struggle to either comprehend your content or read it in the first place.

While many WordPress translation plugins can be complicated or inaccurate, Weglot makes localizing your site simple:

Weglot translates and displays your website’s content, while giving you a unique language URL, allowing users in new markets to search for your site.

With Weglot as your translation solution, you can access a combination of automated and human translators to help get your multilingual site up and running fast. For example, you could use automated translation for a quick first layer of translation. You then could add human translation to localize your content further.

New posts to your site will also receive a machine translation. Plus, Weglot offers seamless integration with your theme, without worrying about translation files. The plugin also handles Right-To-Left (RTL) languages such as Arabic.

The Weglot dashboard includes an easy-to-use, in-context editor for translating your posts and pages.

Weglot visual editor

It also provides automated multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and an auto-redirection feature. This serves users content in their preferred language based on their browser settings.

The best part is that you don’t have to add anything to your functions.php file or mess around with HTML and CSS. Simply add the Weglot translation widget anywhere on your website and take it from there.

2. Incorporate a language switcher

Of course, even with auto-redirection enabled, it’s always ideal to give users control over their experience. A language switcher is often a drop-down menu or button, and lets your visitors choose which language to view your site in:

language switcher

If you translate your site with Weglot, a language switcher will be automatically added to your site that will work seamlessly with your theme and look great on the front-end. 

Of course, you can also customize the language switcher to meet the needs of your user. While there are a few options within the WordPress admin, the bulk of your options are on the Settings > Language Switcher page, within the Weglot dashboard:

edit language switcher design with weglot

If you’re after some inspiration, we have a collection of great WordPress language switchers from across the web. Also, there’s a handy companion video to help you add a language switcher to your site:

There are a few key factors to consider when designing your language switcher in terms of WordPress localization. For starters, while many sites use country flags to indicate language options, we don’t advise it.

This is because some countries have several national languages, and many countries can use the same language. Sometimes, flags can confuse users, unless you target countries with only one possible language.

It’s also important to list all your available languages in their respective native spelling.

In other words, if you offer French and German versions of your site, your language switcher should list English, Français, and Deutsch as the available languages. It’s a nice User Experience (UX) tactic that offers genuine help to the user.

3. Implement additional localization techniques

While translation goes a long way to help localize your website, it’s important to consider other factors. For example, if you sell products worldwide, adding a currency switcher such as the WooCommerce Multi-Currency plugin can help your customers determine the price of an item:

woocommerce multi currency

The goal here is to simplify the purchasing process for your international customers, and improve your chances of landing global sales.

You can also up your marketing game with location-based personalization, also known as ‘geotargeting’. This technique involves showing users specific content based on their location.

For instance, seasonal posts may not perform well in countries experiencing winter, while you’re in the middle of summer. You can use a WordPress plugin such as GeoTargeting to send your American visitors to one post, while directing Australian and South American readers elsewhere.

These changes in the way you present content to international users may seem small. However, WordPress localization can significantly improve your site’s relevancy and accessibility to visitors from all over the world, potentially turning your WordPress website into a global hub.

You’re now ready to localize and translate your WordPress site

Localization can help your users feel comfortable and welcome on your site. It can also make your products and posts more accessible and relevant to people across the globe. This could lead to higher conversion rates (and we’ve written a helpful article about increasing your ecommerce conversion rate on the blog). Also, localization can help you improve your multilingual SEO efforts without having to deal with translation files.

Let’s recap how to carry out WordPress localization in three steps:

  1. Translate your site with the Weglot localization plugin, and order professional translations to iron out any nuances
  2. Incorporate a language switcher focusing on country names, not flags
  3. Implement currency switching and geotargeting

Interested in trying Weglot for free?
Try our 10-day free trial and see how quickly you can have a multilingual website up and running!