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River Thames, London, England

How to… translate a website

Download this how-to guide as a PDF

Why is translating a website so important in the digital age?

Translating a website sounds like it should be straightforward, but ALM Translations has discovered that despite technological advancements, websites are tricky for a variety of reasons.

Read our pointers about the varied approaches to dealing with translating websites.

To copy and paste or not to copy and paste – that is the question

In short, it’s not a good idea to take the translated website text and copy and paste it back into the back end of your site. In our experience, such a manual process can cause issues such as copy/paste errors, truncation and accent and character corruption.

In one case, a company’s own developer took this approach and pasted translated Russian text into a website. Because of the developer’s lack of language knowledge, the first Russian character at the beginning of every sentence was missed. After this, ALM wanted to ensure our clients were aware of the pitfalls of such a process.

There are some exceptions, such as non-text-heavy websites that are only in one or two languages. However, when it comes to multilingual websites containing more than 1000 words, ALM always recommends looking at a workaround.


API connectors are expensive and don’t always grab all the text for translation, which can cause a lack of client confidence when the text is populated into the CMS.

However, for much larger projects, connectors should be a serious consideration, especially if the site will be continuously updated in terms of content, languages or both.

Custom cloud connector setup

Being able to automate the exporting of text and its re-import on a large website is worth the initial investment. Work with your translation partner to look at ways in which your web development team and your technical experts can work together to automate the process.

But be patient, and be prepared to make an investment in internal and external (third-party) time. If you nail the process at the start of the project, potential time savings will be vast! It isn’t just about the money you spend at the start; it’s about the internal costs and time savings that make the project more viable.

Different types of connectors

Here are some examples of industry software and API connectors. ALM can test and work with most connectors to ensure the right one is chosen for your specific website project.

XillioBablicSmartling logo

wpml logoMemsource logo

Alternatively, investigate export functions such as XML and CSV and check how your translation partner can support different file formats.

XML file logoCSV logo

All connectors and database exports need full testing, and you may encounter customisation costs that you were not expecting. However, once the initial investment in time and the testing phase are concluded, the future time savings can be weighed up against the initial testing phase investment.

Test, test, test

The engineering time needed for each site depends on the site’s structure. Not every WordPress website will be the same if created by different developers. They will have their own approach to creating and designing websites. It’s possible to create a testing environment using a clone of your site and to extract the text using the above tools or a simple CSV/XML. Mock-translate (pseudo-translate) your cloned site and ensure that everything from the top menu to the bottom banner has been captured in the export. By using special characters to carry out the function of a “translation”, any remaining uncaptured text should be easily visible.

Talk to your development team and translation team to work out how you will deal with any missed elements. It may be that they simply have to be treated separately and supplied in a separate document (the copy/paste process may be the only option here) or an additional configuration may need to be implemented within the CMS in order to export missing content.

The teams will also take care they protect any special coding, and that files are prepared ready for translation to ensure that tags and other items do not impact the translation workflow.

Be global from the start

Work with your developer. If you have plans to go global, ensure that your website is created with this in mind. You don’t want to get to the point where you need to translate your site only to find that it has not been created with expansion in mind.

Addressing the structure of the site is also very important from the start. Will you have language sites that run from the source main site (such as almtranslations.com/fr) or will you own an in-country domain name (almtranslations.fr)? How will you handle your company name if it contains an English word? Will you translate your URLs?

Having one site may be cost-effective, but having country domain names may have a different impact on your customer experience. This needs to be thought about carefully according to your international strategy.

Pre-launch site check

Before launching your website, whichever translation route you have taken for your website, always have the pre-launch site checked. This is usually called a functionality or sanity check. ALM always recommends this as last-minute issues might occur, such as truncation, functionality issues or corruption. There is no point in avoiding this stage. It could easily be done internally or by your translation partner. But do not press PUBLISH until you are happy that the language sites are working and displaying correctly.

Localise, optimise, analyse and maximise

Translation and engineering should form only one part of your investment in the translation of your website.

  1. Localise – It goes without saying that if you’re trying to sell your products or services in overseas markets, you have to market them in the local language. Don’t fall foul of the free translation route by using tools such as Google Translate or similar to get your website content translated. It won’t make a good impression due to the quality of the output, and you’ll end up cheapening your brand. How will you deal with URLs? Ideally, they should be translated and agreed upon with your agency, to include a keyword where possible. This all helps your customers to find your website.
  2. Optimise – SEO is as important on an international front as it is on your home market. Multilingual SEO keywords are also not something you want to translate, let alone Google translate! Translation does not work for keywords, and automated translation is unable to predict human search behaviour patterns. Get it done by a professional multilingual SEO agency. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to have key pages optimised, but the rewards will repay the investment… search after search after search. Technical SEO should also be considered to ensure Google does not penalise your pages. This would address issues such as broken links, missing headers, missing meta descriptions, overlength title tags and incorrect href language coding.

Analyse and maximise – Other tools you can use also include:

  • Google analytics and google search console data – They are there to maximise your online potential, they work, are relatively easy to use, and they’re free!
  • Social Media – Keep in touch with your clients via Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. Adapt your posts for each platform as they all have a different purpose. Be consistent in your posting, make your audience smile and they’ll remember you.
  • Paid ads (Pay Per Click) – You’ll need to set a budget for this as costs can run out of control if you’re not careful.
  • Email marketing – Be mindful not to overburden inboxes, but occasional emails updating your clients of what you are up to will keep you in their hearts and minds.
  • What about the good old-fashioned post? There has been a resurgence of marketing campaigns done by traditional means – and also through digital marketing tools such as MailChimp.

A “How to…” Guide dealing specifically with multilingual SEO and international marketing translations in greater detail will be coming soon!


Find more of our “How to” guides and downloadable content here.


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