URL Translation for Multilingual Sites: Should We Do This or Not?

A businessman who needs to target a region or language group has to mold the website with a familiar language and currency so that the locals are more attracted and engaged. For example, a local restaurant has to craft a food menu in a familiar language to the people regardless of the Spanish, Lebanese, Chinese or local dishes they have to offer. A city or region, where an adequate population speaks a foreign language, the restaurant owners have to cater to their needs like providing a multilingual food menu, and most probably renaming the restaurant as well.

Now, taking the example to online stores where they have to serve people from different ethnicity and language groups. Most of the states are okay with the default English language and easily get the idea about business from its URL, but some of the states strictly deal and communicate in their national language. So, to reach those regions, a store owner or manager has to add that specific language to the website. The translation of a link address demands a thorough understanding of the technical aspects, general trends, ease of the users and search engine friendliness.

Also Read: How to Create a Multilingual Site With WordPress.


Understanding a Multilingual and Multiregional Website

A multilingual website presents content in multiple languages so that speakers of different languages can understand the content. For example, a website in Spain to serve the native and English speakers of the country.

A multiregional website aims to target people from different regions. For example, a website that aspires to enter the US and Canadian markets can enter with a default English language versions. You may have noticed that some of the websites are multilingual as well as multiregional. For instance, a website targeting Asian and European countries needs to be available in different languages as well.

For a businessman, to continue business in different regions is more challenging due to the ethnic, cultural and language differences because the numerous versions of a single online stores multiplies problems exponentially. Following are some of the considerations for managing a multilingual website.

Making the Website SEO ready

Optimizing a multilingual website for better search engine visibility is not less than a challenge. You need to ensure that the online users find a relevant version of your website in the search results. There are various tools that can help you achieve better search engine outreach. For example, in PrestaShop eCommerce store one of the recommendations is PrestaShop SEO Booster for SEO Optimization. Similarly, WordPress blogs can use Yoast SEO Optimizer for better ranks in search engines.


Determine a Language and Region

The first and foremost important thing to do in optimizing a multilingual website are to determine which region and language groups you aim to target. It requires laying down the entire structure of your store with the allocation of languages to each region.

Structuring the Domain and URL

The decision of selection a region and language determines the domain name and URL structure of your website. You can select any of the three structures for internationalizing a web address as there are pros and cons of each option.

1. Top level domains (TLDs)

The websites that need to localize its business in each country can have country code top level domains which add a suffix of country initials and differentiate it from other versions of your website. For example, www.olx.com is targeting multiple countries with olx.com.au, olx.com.pk, etc.

This strategy helps you to display a domain in a region with multiple languages, whereas it can be expensive to have a bunch of domains.

2. Subdomains

Adding subdomains to the URL is comparatively a cheaper option than the TLDs, as you can differentiate different languages within a single domain. For example, es.example.com, ae.example.com, etc.

The pro feature of this option is that sub-domains can be added for both multilingual and multiregional website. It may save you money, whereas the locals may fail to recognize the localization of the URL.

3. Subdirectories

The most recommended and widely used option for structuring the address for a multilingual website is the addition of sub-directories. For example, olx.com can be restructured for multiple languages like olx.com/en, olx.com/es, olx.com/fr

You will neither have to buy separate domains nor host subdomains, which gives you the freedom to continue targeting different languages over an established website, whereas, it may also pose the risk of non-localization due to a central domain name for all languages. For further guidance, you can refer to the URL structure infographic and get the idea of structuring the URLs of a website.

How Google Crawls and Indexes a Multilingual site?

The Google or any other search engine crawl a multilingual website on a variety of signals it includes server location, the presence of local currency and language, physical address, local contact numbers, and more importantly, country code TLDs. Furthermore, it may take into account the local business listings and backlinks from other relevant and local websites. Whereas these signals may not be adequate enough to allow Google to map up the internationalization of your website.

Google do not recommend the use of automatic translation as the word by word replacement of a language with another do not maintain a proper sentence structure thus presenting spam content. For localization, you need to create ease for the crawlers to recognize different language versions of your website. You can do so by adding the Hreflang attribute that allows the search engines to serve the correct language and regional page to a user.


Dos and Don’ts of URL Translation

  • Assist search engines in recognizing the primary language you want to use by consistently incorporating it for the navigations, banners, and other content.
  • Create fresh and compelling content rather than using standard translation
  • Avoid the use of language attributes. Search engines detect the language of your website by the content that is visible on a page.
  • With the help of robot.txt, restrict the search engines from reading pages that are auto translated.
  • Avoid cookies for displaying the translated versions of a website. a good practice is to assign a separate URL for each language.
  • Do not implement side by side translation.
  • Use cross-linking to assist users in switching to a language they are more familiar and comfortable with. It can also take them to the right page if a wrong redirection happens.
  • Do not implement auto redirection for your multilingual website, as it can hide other language based versions of your website from the users as well as search engines.


In light of the above-discussed points, there is no harm in translating the words in the URL or adding the regional and language initial to the domain name, because search engines are smart enough to crawl and index web pages in different languages. You can carefully structure the URLs for targeting different language groups either having a TLD or adding the acronym as sub-domain or subcategory, and it is recognizable. Hence, if you use en.olx.com or olx.com/en, the search engine gets the signal that the page is about the English language. The rest depends on upon your preferences and the pros and cons each method carries.

URL Translation for Multilingual Sites: Should We Do This or Not?
4.5 (90%) 2 votes