Skip to content

How & Why to Make Your Website Multilingual

Justin K. Aug 26, 2019 Languages

More than half of all websites provide content in English, making it the most common language online. While there are 500 million Spanish speakers and a billion Chinese speakers using the internet, less than 5 percent of websites provide content in those languages. Many businesses mistakenly believe that it takes a lot of time and money to create a multilingual website, when in reality, new technologies have made the process easier than ever.

Let's take a look at the benefits of a multilingual website and how to add more languages to your website to reap those benefits.

Multilingual Website Benefits

A multilingual website enables you to reach a larger, mostly untapped market. While many internet users can speak English, most prefer to read content in their native language since it’s easier to understand. Researchers have found that ecommerce buyers, for example, are more likely to make a purchase if the site they're using is available in their native language rather than in a second language, like English.

According to Common Sense Advisory, 72.4% of global consumers said they prefer to use their native language when shopping online. More than half of consumers further indicated that they would only buy products from websites that provide information in their own language and consider it more important than price when making a purchasing decision. These data points suggest that adding language support could be very profitable for many ecommerce shops.

Another key benefit is that multiple languages create an opportunity to rank for search engine keywords in different languages. After all, most people conduct searches in their native language, and English-only websites won't rank for queries in other languages. The same keyword may be far less competitive in a foreign language than it is in English, and as an added benefit, the person clicking on it may be more likely to convert!

How to Make It Multilingual

The first and most important step in creating a multilingual website is translating content. While Google Translate and other services have improved over time, there is still no substitute for a human translator that can take into account regional dialects and ensure maximum accuracy. The good news is that the human translation process can be automated using new tools, and automated translation technologies are rapidly improving over time.

Download our checklist of language translation tools and resources to assist you in your efforts.

Download our free checklist

For example, Bablic provides a simple script that can be installed without any programming knowledge. You can use machine translation, use your own translators, or pick a partner translation service to automatically translate any newly detected content. You can even customize images and other site elements in a visual editor to account for cultural differences, such as the language(s) used on promotional banners and display ads.

The next step is detecting the visitor's location and displaying the proper language by default. While you can look up their location by IP address, a better approach is looking at their browser's Accept-Language HTTP header. It looks like Accept-Language: en-US,en;q=0.8,es;q=0.6,fr;q=0.4. The header tells you the language(s) the user prefers (e.g. English, Spanish and French in that order). We ran an experiment in 2017 and found that only 7.2% of the top 10,000 websites on Alexa respect the Accept-Language header, so you'd be in distinctive company!

The final step is capitalizing on the SEO benefits of a multilingual website with some simple changes:

  • Separate the Content: Google and other search engines recommend separating out languages into different sections with language indicators in the domain or URL. For instance, you may use or Many content management systems support automatically publishing different languages to different directories.

  • Add hreflang Attributes: Many search engines use hreflang attributes to determine the target language and region. These attributes should be attached to a <link /> tag in the <head> of an HTML document to indicate where alternative languages are available. For example, an English website with a French Canadian alternative might include the following tag: <link rel="alternate" hreflang="fr-ca" href="">.

  • Optimize for Speed: Website loading speed is an important ranking factor in search engines. If you're using a real-time translation service, it's important to ensure that the page still loads quickly by using a CDN or setting up page caching.


Testing Internationalization

Web applications that support multiple languages can incorporate automated tests using tools like WonderProxy. Using our network of proxy servers and extensible API, you can easily incorporate localization and internationalization tests into your existing automated test suites. This helps ensure that your website is displaying the correct language and other details, such as currencies, shipping methods and other location-specific functionality.

Don't forget to download our checklist of language translation tools and resources to assist you in your efforts.

Download our free checklist

The easiest way to get started with these tests is using Selenium and Sauce Labs — an integration that’s supported by WonderProxy off-the-shelf.

In addition to automated testing, WonderProxy provides a browser extension that makes it easy to interactively test your website from locations around the world. These spot checks can be invaluable for developers working on a piece of software that doesn't have a continuous integration workflow, or for quality assurance engineers that may want to run these tests manually rather than spending the time required to build an automated test suite.

The Bottom Line

There are many advantages to multilingual websites, ranging from increased conversion rates to better SEO placements. With a growing list of easy-to-implement solutions, you can create content in multiple languages and ensure that it's showing up in the right location every time. It's one of the easiest ways to differentiate your business in the eyes of consumers while simultaneously improving the user experience and increasing conversion rates.

Sign up for WonderProxy today to streamline your interactive or automated testing for localization and internationalization.

Justin K.

Justin is a technical writer and developer with over a decade of software development experience.