How to Increase Your Traffic by Translating Your Website

When you're promoting your site, it's easy to think about everything in English (or your site's native language). But 75% of the Internet speaks a language other than English, which means there are huge audiences out there that you might not be reaching. Read this post to learn how translating your site can boost your traffic, some real-world case studies of it happening, and some tips on the proper way to translate your site to boost your sites' traffic.
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If you’re a webmaster, you’re probably always on the lookout for ways to increase your site’s traffic.

In this post, I’m going to share a method that you might not have thought of – translating your website into one or more new languages.

When you’re promoting your site, it’s easy to think about everything in English (or your site’s native language). But 75% of the Internet speaks a language other than English, which means there are huge audiences out there that you might not be reaching yet.

Keep reading to learn how translating your site can grow your traffic, some real-world case studies of it happening, and some tips on the proper way to translate your site to boost your site’s traffic.

Why Translating Your Website Can Boost Your Traffic

The main way that translating your website can help you boost your traffic is improved opportunities for search engine optimization (SEO).

When you optimize your website for search engines, it’s easy to just focus on the people who are searching in your site’s native language. 

For example, if your site is in English and you sell handmade silver jewelry, you might optimize for that keyword – “handmade silver jewelry”.

But here’s the thing:

There are also tons of people out there who are looking for exactly what you offer … but they’re searching in a different language. Maybe they’re searching for “joyería de plata hecha a mano”, which Google Translate tells me is the Spanish translation of “handmade silver jewelry”.

When you translate your site, you give yourself a chance to rank for both “handmade silver jewelry” and “joyería de plata hecha a mano”, which gives you a better chance to connect with visitors.

Even better, these terms often have much less competition in different languages (though the search volume is often lower, as well).

Other Traffic Benefits From Translating Your Website

Beyond helping you connect with more people in Google, translating your website also just generally opens up your site to new audiences, whether they come from Google, social media, word of mouth, or anywhere else.

Unsurprisingly, most people prefer to use their native languages to browse websites if possible. For example, in a Gallup survey commissioned by the EU, 90% of respondents always browse in their native language when it was available and 45% of people in the survey just plain won’t visit websites in different languages.

This is important because, even if you don’t have a global or multinational audience, you still might have a multilingual audience. For example, 60+ million people age 5+ in the USA speak a language other than English when at home, according to the US Census Bureau.

Percentage-wise, the numbers are even higher when you look at diverse areas, like California.

If you want to see where your visitors come from and/or the languages that they speak, you can use Google Analytics.

Audience → Geo → Language will show you your visitors’ browser languages:

Google Analytics language report

Audience → Geo → Location will show you your visitors’ physical locations:

Google Analytics location report

Two Real-Life Case Studies of Translation Boosting Traffic

The traffic and SEO benefits of translating your website aren’t just hypothetical – to prove that, let’s take a look at some real-world case studies of the benefits of multilingual SEO.

Tucango Grew Traffic by ~30%

Tucango

Tucango is a Chilean web agency that made the decision to translate its content from Spanish (their native language) to English.

After translating its content, Tucango grew its traffic by around 30%.

More importantly, the translations helped Tucango achieve real business goals, with new clients in the USA, Sweden, Austria, and other locations.

It’s unlikely that Tucango would’ve ever connected with those multinational clients if its site were only available in Spanish.

The Tucango team are now considering translating their content into German to reach even more searchers and potential leads.

Rares Ion Increased Traffic 10X

Rares Ion

Rares Ion is a Transylvanian wedding photographer who also shoots internationally. In 2018, he decided to start using WPML to offer his site in both English and his native Romanian.

Since then, the traffic on his website has jumped from 6-8 visits per day to 60-80 per day.

Again, this boost also had a real impact on his business metrics – his clients are now split roughly 50/50 between English and Romanian speaking clients. By offering his site in both languages, he can connect with everyone.

How to Improve Your Multilingual SEO and Benefit from Translation

Now, let’s get into some actionable multilingual SEO tips that you can use to get a better return on your translation efforts.

1. Make Sure Translated Content Is Indexable

When it comes to multilingual SEO, one big mistake that some WordPress users make is not understanding the difference between dynamic and static (indexable) translated content.

The simplest way to offer your website in multiple languages is to add a Google Translate widget that lets visitors dynamically translate your site into any language.

This method can be convenient for some visitors, but it won’t help you get more traffic because Google can’t index your translations and start ranking them.

If you want to benefit from multilingual SEO, you need to create an indexable site for each language using one of the following static URL structures:

  • Subfolder – e.g. yoursite.com/blog-post (English) and yoursite.com/es/blog-post (Spanish)
  • Subdomain – e.g. yoursite.com/blog-post (English) and es.yoursite.com/blog-post (Spanish)
  • Separate domains – e.g. yoursite.com/blog-post (English) and yoursite.es/blog-post (Spanish)

Google endorses all three structures and lays out the relative pros and cons in this post.

Translation URL structures

If you use the popular WPML translation plugin, Google will be able to index all of your translations and you can choose between all three URL structures according to your preference.

2. Remember to Translate Important SEO Elements

If you want to rank your content in multiple languages, remember that it’s not just about translating the front-end content that your human visitors will see, you also need to translate the important SEO elements that Google looks at including your:

  • SEO title
  • Meta description
  • URL slug
  • Image alt tags

3. Add the hreflang Attribute

The hreflang attribute helps Google understand the languages on your site and directs searchers to the proper website for their locale/language.

Basically, it tells Google, “hey, yoursite.com is the English version and yoursite.com/es is the Spanish version”. 

Of course, Google can usually figure this out by itself, but the hreflang attribute still helps. It’s especially useful if you have multiple localized sites in the same language. For example, you might have one English site for people in the USA and a separate one for people in the UK.

If you use the WPML plugin, it will automatically add the proper hreflang attributes for you.

To monitor this and detect hreflang errors, you can use the International Targeting report in Google Search Console.

4. Create a Multilingual XML Sitemap

Your XML sitemap helps search engines discover and understand all of the content on your site. With a multilingual sitemap, you can achieve the same thing for every single language on your site.

If you use a WordPress SEO plugin, you’ll have a sitemap for your site’s native language. But with the right WordPress translation plugin, you can also include all of your multilingual content.

5. Perform Some Keyword Research for High-Value Content

It’s not necessarily realistic to perform multilingual keyword research for every piece of content on your site. However, for high-value content, it can be worth some added effort to optimize your translated content for what people are searching for (which might not always be the terminology that your translator uses).

Most quality keyword research tools let you filter terms by location/language. For example, KWFinder lets you filter by both:

KWFinder multilingual SEO

6. Be Careful With Automatic Translation

Even if you create a static site, using automatic machine translation to generate translations can still save you a lot of time.

However, Google cautions that “automated translations don’t always make sense and could be viewed as spam. More importantly, a poor or artificial-sounding translation can harm your site’s perception.”

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t use automatic translation to generate your site’s baseline translations to save time. However, you might want to have a human review and edit those translations, especially for high-value pages.

WPML lets you use machine translation from Microsoft, while still maintaining the ability to manually edit those translations as needed.

Create a Multilingual Website Today

To recap, if your site targets (or could benefit from) a multilingual audience, translating your site’s content is a great way to increase your traffic and start ranking more content in search engines like Google.

To translate your WordPress site into one or more new languages, you can use the WPML plugin, which helps you implement the multilingual SEO best practices that we discussed in this post.

Want to get started? Check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to use WPML to create a multilingual website.

Do you have any questions about how to translate your WordPress website? Ask us in the comments!

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