Translate a WordPress Site

You’ve most likely come across WordPress before, as it’s one of the most popular content management systems for websites. If you use WordPress for your company, charity or NGO website, you’ll be familiar with all the ins-and-outs of managing posts and pages in the WP CMS. But when you’re looking to reach new audiences, how much do you know about translating your WordPress content?

To help you get started, here are our WordPress translation dos and don’ts:

DO consider machine translation

Free machine translation is now widely available, with Google Translate powering a number of WP translation plugins. Machine translation has its place, and is really useful for gist translations. If you want your website to look and sound professional, however, it’s worth paying a professional to do your WordPress translation for you.

This is especially true when you need localised content to reach a specific audience: nothing beats the expertise, skill and cultural sensitivity of a real-life translator. And given that only 25.9% of internet users speak English as their first language, you’re missing out on a huge potential audience if your translated content doesn’t hit the mark.

We’ve all visited websites where the text is badly written or badly translated. It doesn’t inspire confidence! If you want the best chance of success and highest return on investment (ROI), go professional.

DO investigate translation plugins

Translation plugins can make managing multilingual websites easier and more efficient. They help with page structure, and with URLs for pages in different languages, but they also help when you’re sending content for translation and then publishing it back on your WP site.

WPML and Weglot are two common examples, but there are many other plugins available. Some plugins use machine translation, so you’ll need to consider if this is right for your audience (see above). Other plugins make it easy for you to share content with a professional translator or agency. They also make it super easy to import translated content into WordPress, usually with just a few clicks. Copying and pasting is a thing of the past.

Some plugins make use of APIs, allowing your WP environment to connect directly to the translation company’s systems. In this scenario, it is possible to make translation requests and imports part of an automated translation workflow. API connectivity is recommended for situations where there is an ongoing need for new/updated content, such as an e-commerce site with an evolving product catalogue.

Plugins are available for a range of situations. Explore the options and choose one that’s right for your WP website.

DON’T worry about repetitions (mostly)

Websites can contain a lot of repetitions: headers, navigation menus, footers and widgets can be repeated across many pages. WP handles these things as single items, so it’s only possibly to translate them once. But what about content? Content can be repeated across multiple posts and pages, so you’ll need additional support to save paying over the odds.

When working with a professional translation company, handling repetitions is par for the course. Sophisticated systems underpin the human translation process, picking up repetitions to ensure they’re only translated once. This doesn’t just save you money; it also means repetitions are always handled consistently, so the same translations are used throughout your WordPress site, inspiring trust and demonstrating professionalism.

If you’re going down the machine translation route, do check for repetitions, particularly of key and cornerstone content. MT can offer different results depending on the content and surrounding words or phrases. However, to avoid damaging your brand and reputation, we always recommend investing in professional translation.

DO consider graphics and downloads

You’re starting to get a feel for WordPress translation now, but what about images that contain text, and what about downloads such as brochures or spec sheets?

If your website contains text embedded in images, you have a couple of options. You can send the editable source file to your translation provider, and they’ll update it for you. Alternatively, extract the text and provide it separately. Either way, you’ll need to capture this content as it won’t be picked up in the HTML. As an alternative, consider overlaying HTML text in your images rather than flattening it in – this will make it much easier to edit, adjust and translate.

If your WP site contains downloads, think about getting these translated too. It wouldn’t look very professional if your translated language pages said ‘Click here to download our awesome brochure’, only for the reader to find the brochure’s not actually in their language!

DO make sure your web content is final

Before you start thinking about translating your WordPress content, ensure that it’s finalised. Late additions or edits to content once you’ve sent your content for translation will slow everything down, and will make the project cost more than it should. Edit twice, translate once is the rule here!

DO seek advice

Some WP developers and website managers have experience of getting WordPress sites translated. However, many WordPress sites are owner-managed, or they are past the development stage. Reach out to a professional translation company that has experience with WordPress, and ask for their advice.

Getting the right advice early on can save you considerable time and money down the road. Do your homework, speak to those with WordPress translation experience, and make sure it’s done right.

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