This post continues our series on how to build a multilingual WordPress website. If you missed Step 6: “Translating Sidebars, Menus, & More,” you can find it here. And for your developers, we’ve created a step-by-step training video series that you can access here.
Play Nice with Google
The days of “black hat” SEO are mostly over, where companies would duplicate content on purpose (and repeat similar content) simply to improve in the Google search engine optimization (SEO) rankings for keywords or keyword phrases. This still occurs, but it’s rare, because Google’s RankBrain technology is smarter than ever. Plus, if Google catches you, you’ll be either kicked out of the index or you’ll get a nasty email.
In other words, don’t try to “game” the system.
With a multilingual website, you will have duplicate content. But don’t worry, because Google is aware of the need for duplicate content where it makes sense for the user. (Multilingual pages, for example.)
Luckily, one of the benefits of the WPML plugin is that is does all the work for you—including communicating with Google and letting their algorithm know of your duplicate content. If you have a WordPress website, it tells Google that you have a multilingual website and that they will find multiple versions of the same content in different languages.
WPML, however, does give you options regarding how you offer your languages in your URL (which is the address of your website, such as www.google.com).
How to Build Your URL Properly
WPML lets you choose “how to determine which language your website visitors see your content in.” What you have are three options:
- Offer different languages in your directory
- Offer a different domain per language
- Use your language name as a parameter
Let’s dig into the good and bad of each one.
Option 1: Offer different languages in your directory
Most likely, you’ll want your main URL to be in English, so you’ll set English as your default language. And when it comes to giving users access to other languages, you simply add “/xx/” to your main URL.
For example, to make Spanish the main language as a URL, you simply put www.Example.com/es/. This will lead users to the Spanish language page, while still working from your company’s main URL. This is our preferred method.
Option 2: Offer a different domain per language
This option works fine as far as Google is concerned, but it can confuse people who might be interested in more than one language of your website. They will have to visit two different URLs to do so, which is not user-friendly.
However, if you don’t think your audience will ever need or want to access multiple languages, then having a different domain per language can be an option.
Option 3: Use your language name as a parameter
Just to show our hand here, we don’t suggest this option, and we’ll tell you why. When you add a language as a parameter, it creates a very strange, very non-user-friendly URL, something like www.Example.com/?lang=es.
That was painful to type, and it will be painful for your customers to type. It’s just not a “professional” way to present your brand to the world. Also, even more alarming, is that parameters do not communicate to Google that this is the Spanish version of this site. And if you aren’t communicating with Google, that can lead to trouble down the road.
What looks better?
Example.com/es or Example.com/?lang=es
Would you have the last one on any piece of communication? Of course not. That’s why we strongly suggest you not use parameters.
In our next blog in this series, we’ll investigate translation management tips and best practices for your website.