Localization Insights
common mistakes when building a multilingual website
Localization Insights

Multilingual Website Best Practices and Mistakes to Avoid

A website is the most effective tool for reaching global customers. It’s cheap and easy to access from any part of the world. That said, a website targeting a global market doesn’t add much value if it’s only available in one language. How would non-English speakers understand the features of a product without translations? If they can’t understand the content, don’t expect them to buy the product.

Any business seeking to appeal to global customers must consider having a multilingual website, as well as investing in multilingual SEO services. Here’s why a multilingual website is critical to a business.

What are the Benefits of a Multilingual Website?

Many customers prefer to read content in their native language. And most of them will only buy a product if presented in their native language. In sum, whether a business deals with international or local customers, a multilingual website is a solid investment for the enterprise.

In the U.S. alone, 13% of the population are native Spanish speakers. So even without selling internationally, a multilingual website can still help appeal to locals who speak different languages.

Some businesses, such as hotels and travel agencies, rely heavily on international customers. If the booking page of a hotel is only available in English, it will put off customers who aren’t fluent in English. Simply put, a multilingual website means more customers and higher profits.

Any business selling digital products like apps, photography, and podcasts has no geographical restrictions. That makes it easier to penetrate foreign markets and creates a need for website translation services. The same applies to multinational organizations and any enterprise shipping physical products to international clients.

Unfortunately, having a multilingual website isn’t enough. Some businesses commit huge mistakes when developing their sites, making them unsuccessful. So, what must you be wary of when designing or developing multilingual sites? Here are seven mistakes to avoid:

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Multilingual Site

1. Not conducting audience research – Avoid content geolocation

When considering a multilingual website design, it’s critical to research the local audience. Understand the customers’ culture to create content that’s more appealing to them. Even if they speak the same language, people from different regions have different ways of expressing measurements, time, dates, and currencies.

For instance, writing the date as 4/1/2023 may have different interpretations. In some countries, 4 represents the day, and in others, the month. To avoid confusion, it’s best to research which style the locals use and stick to it.

While customizing your website for your audience is important, never use automatic Geo-IP redirection to push users to different location versions of your website. It will confuse search engines, it’s a bad user experience and it will actually be illegal under EU law starting December 2, 2022. Instead, allow audiences to choose their location on their own.

Four tips on international SEO from SEO experts

2. Machine translation

Machine translators are cheap and fast. They can translate dozens of languages within a short time. But before rushing to employ these tools, think about the long-term cost the business will pay. Google translate doesn’t understand the context of using certain words.

Translating a website means adopting it to the local culture, not just the language. A machine can translate the language, but can’t adapt to local styles. It lacks emotions that only humans have. Furthermore, it can make errors by not understanding specific dialects or idioms.

A machine translator can create offensive content because it doesn’t understand which words the locals perceive as sensitive. So to protect the company’s reputation and connect better with the audience, use human translators.

3. Bad information architecture

During a multilingual website design, keep in mind the various languages the website should have. Some countries write from right to left. Other languages use many words to communicate the same message. Instead of forcing all languages to fit in one design, change the information architecture to fit specific languages.

Try to make everything simple for all audiences. For instance, if a customer can’t read English, how will they know which button to click to change the language if everything is in English? That’s why some websites use flags or language codes to indicate language and country, while others create a list of available languages. Alternative means include displaying each language using its alphabets to make it understandable to the audience.

4. A literal translation of a language

Literal translation leads to a loss of meaning from the original text. For instance, businesses that use Google translate make their customers work hard to understand the message. Consequently, they lose the customers. Translating web content is almost the same as creating new content.

Translators must consider the meaning of a sentence as a whole and not individual words. In other words, it’s the meaning or the message that needs translating, not individual words.

5. Duplicate content

A common mistake in multilingual website design is writing the same content in different languages and putting it on separate pages. But search engines like Google consider the content as duplicate and penalizes the business for doing that.

Instead of creating different pages for each language, create one page and add a button to change the language. Use hreflang to tell Google which version of the content is for particular languages and regions. Google doesn’t penalize businesses that use hreflang to show the link between two sets of information.

6. Spelling and grammatical mistakes

The internet is full of cheap translators, whether humans or machines. But using cheap translators can lead to poor results, like spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Having these mistakes on your website makes it look unprofessional. That means the audience won’t trust the site and are less likely to purchase.

7. Not considering keywords in the content – SEO

Each language has keywords that customers use when searching for products. Failure to use these words in the translated content denies the website a higher ranking during the organic search. The key thing here is to use native translators who understand keywords of the local language. Such a move will go a long way in boosting your marketing effort.

Factors to Consider When Designing a Multilingual Website 

Designing a website to reach multinational clients requires you to choose from three options. A business must decide whether to use domains, subdomains, or directories.


A business can create a separate domain for each language and country. This option may be necessary if each country has different regulations. And it can also make it possible to customize the URL so it’s more relevant to the country. Though this approach helps connect with the local audience, it can be costly due to more maintenance work, separate hosting fees, and buying many domain names.


Another option is to use subdomains. These function as if they’re independent domains. That means each language or country can have full website functionality, including its own pages. Subdomains usually come before the top-level domain (TLD). For instance, if a company has a branch in Germany and Japan, the subdomains can be ge.store.com for Germany and jp.store.com for Japan.


The last option is using subdirectories. Unlike subdomains, subdirectories don’t have independence from the main site. And their identity usually comes at the end of the TLD. In this case, the URL would be store.com/ge for Germany and store.com/jp for Japan.

Deciding among the three options will depend on the budget and the level of autonomy required for each website.

Other factors to consider when designing a multilingual website:

  • Search engine optimization: To boost organic traffic in all languages, each content must incorporate keywords. Consider the popular search engines in target locations to optimize the content accordingly. Here are some of the best SEO best practices.
  • Customer support: Having a multilingual website is one thing but providing support to all implemented languages is another thing. Customers may need help with a product or accessing services. How will the business ensure such customers receive assistance if there’s a language barrier?
  • Web design themes: Decide whether to use a Multilanguage template or create everything from scratch. The choice will depend on the type of hosting, availability of technical expertise, and the number of languages required.
  • Country regulations: European countries have laws that require websites to display a message showing whether they use cookies. Consider these and other regulations in each country that may affect the website.

4 Multilingual Website Best Practices to Adopt in Design

1. Design a website for all search engines

Designing a website with Google in mind makes it difficult for other search engines to find the website. Google may be popular in the U.S and English-speaking countries, but not in other regions. For instance, most Chinese use Baidu, while Koreans use Naver. Different search engines may not have similar SEO guidelines. In other words, too much focus on one search engine can lead to disadvantages in some regions.

2. Make the language button stand out

The language button plays a critical role in Multilanguage website design. Place it at the top where every user will see it without much struggle. Consider using a flag or a symbol that the audience will identify easily without experiencing a language barrier. Best practice would be to write each language name in its own language.

Plus, use features that help identify the location of the user. Ideally, avoid giving them a translated website without asking them first. Some IP sensors may be inaccurate when countries are small and close to each other.

3. Use a design that accommodates multiple languages

Some languages, such as German and Indonesian, are lengthy. They can make it hard to fit certain words in existing spaces. For instance, graphics like logos with embedded words can have problems fitting long text. So avoid using such graphics, or use ones without text inside. Also, ensure languages with block characters and those written from right to left won’t break your design.

4. Translate everything

Avoid leaving any text on the website without translation. That includes pop-up messages like cookies, error pages, meta tags, and privacy policies. If possible, provide customer service in the language of the website. If the business doesn’t have employees in the native language, outsource the service or use self-help tools and FAQs to provide support. Need to translate video tutorials? We have found the best multilingual voice-over services for you.

Interested in more content on this topic? Check out our multilingual marketing tips.

Get Professional Translation and Localization with BLEND

Some businesses install Google Translate when reaching customers in different languages. Due to poor translation, the results can be laughable from the customer’s perspective. Native speakers can tell the difference between human and machine-translated content. And they might feel offended by some words appearing on the site. 

Improve your trust and sales with international audiences by hiring professional translators from BLEND. We only use native, certified translators who understand the language and culture like locals. With over 25,000 experienced translators, you can be sure to get the best from us. Make your multilingual website professional by working with us. Contact us to get started today.

author post

Eilon Gueler

Eilon is a Customer Success Manager at BLEND. He helps global brands find the best localization and translation solutions for their business.


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