Developing multilingual WordPress websites can be accomplished in two ways. The first method involves setting up separate WordPress installations for each language using the multisite option, introduced in version 3.0.
The second approach to adding multilingual functionality to your website is through WordPress plugins designed specifically for this purpose. This method is faster and simpler. Let’s delve into a few details about these plugins.
Translation Plugins for WordPress
WPML (WordPress Multilingual)
WPML stands out as the premier plugin for developing multilingual WordPress websites. It’s compatible with versions 3.0 and newer.
This plugin is priced at $39 annually for a single site, $99 annually for three sites, and $199 annually for unlimited websites. WPML not only translates pages and articles but also supports translating taxonomies and menus. Most new WP themes are compatible with this plugin. WPML is also SEO-friendly, allowing you to set up each language in its directory (in line with Google’s guideline for multilingual websites) or on its own subdomain. It can also be used to translate e-commerce sites built on this platform.
If you’re averse to paying for a premium plugin, several free solutions are available to meet basic translation needs, although they lack the support of the aforementioned premium plugin.
Polylang is a relatively new plugin for creating multilingual sites. This plugin operates by allowing you to create new content on pages or articles and then selecting the language. It also offers the option to save pages in separate subdirectories, with categories, tags, and other meta elements also copied.
Polylang enables you to add multiple language versions of your pages, posts, categories, tags, and other content types. Each language’s content can be edited independently, facilitating customization based on linguistic nuances and target audiences. We recommend testing this plugin, as the free version is sufficient for smaller projects.
Weglot is a multilingual plugin that facilitates easy translation and management of WordPress websites. This plugin automatically detects your content and generates translatable versions of your website in selected languages.
Weglot can also automatically translate your website using machine learning and artificial intelligence. However, this automated translation may not be perfect, so it’s advisable to review and edit translations for accuracy. The cost of this plugin depends on the number of words requiring translation, starting at €15 per month for sites with up to 10,000 words.
MultilingualPress employs a multi-site approach to enable multilingual functionality. Each language is maintained as a separate site, simplifying content management and translation. Since each language essentially resides on a separate web location, performance issues are minimized, as only one language is loaded per page.
Loco Translate is a powerful tool designed to simplify the localization process. It provides the ability to edit WordPress system files directly in the browser, with integration of automatic translation services.
The plugin streamlines the translation editing process without the need to download or install additional software. Integration with translation APIs like DeepL, Google, Microsoft, and Lecto AI allows users to harness the power of these services for faster and more accurate translations.
Translating your website
After installing and configuring one of the chosen plugins, you’re ready to translate the content on your site. If your site includes other WP elements like articles and archives in addition to pages, these elements need translation as well.
Upon installing a multilingual plugin, you’ll need to select the languages in which you want to display your website. The next step involves translating your content into the desired languages, including texts, images, videos, and other media. Place flags or text for language switching prominently on your website, and set up navigation menus for each language.
WPML and Polylang create separate posts and pages during translation, which are independent of the original content. WPML also offers a content synchronization option across languages. In addition to translating pages and articles, meta data like custom fields should also be translated.
From an SEO perspective, we recommend translating attachment tags within the article or page itself. Furthermore, other WordPress site elements like widgets and menus should be translated, and optionally, theme options can be translated as well.
Once you’ve translated your content, set up navigation and settings, thoroughly test your website in each language to ensure smooth functionality. Therefore, if you’ve decided to have a multilingual website, it’s essential to translate the entire content and avoid using Google Translate for this purpose. Automatic translations are not only unprofessional but search engines typically interpret them as duplicate content.