Developing multi-language websites

by Gary on December 5, 2007 · 11 comments

in Website Design

We are researching the best way to implement a multi-language website, that would include at least English, French, Italian and Chinese.

Any “Phoenixrealmers” have experience of mult-lingual sites and able to point us in the right direction?

Thanks, Gary.

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WTL December 5, 2007 at 11:04 pm

I have worked on a few bilingual sites (in Canada, there are two official languages; English and French), and usually, the sites are static pages.

I have, however done a few dynamic sites that are database driven. Is the goal to have a site where every page has a version in the other languages?

Gary December 8, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Hi, yep that is pretty much the idea, every page could be in up to 10 languages.

WTL December 8, 2007 at 4:57 pm

And, I bet, comments in those languages too. 😉 Sounds like fun.

I would imagine you could do something with WordPress to handle this, but that hasn’t been the route I’ve gone (custom code).

SEO Carly December 13, 2007 at 2:50 am

I’m still alive Gary 😀

The lead up to Xmas has been mind boggling.

Anyhow, the biggest downside to implementing this change is increasing the volume of pages lowers the link equity being passed to the English version and this can have the effect of reducing their rankings.

The bigger the English version of the site, and the more languages you make the site available in the worse the issue will become.

As you know the biggest determination of a webpage being in the supplemental index is Pagerank. So for example a PR4 link pointing at a 10 page website will elevate those pages alot more than the same link pointing at a 1,000 page site.

Can you give a bit more info about the project? Is it a new site or existing site? How big and how many languages etc?

Also the aim of the site, because you need to work out what benefits there will be by having non-English visitors.

Gary December 13, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Hi Carly, pleased to hear you have been busy. Like you I have also been having a manic time, although I am almost on top of things now and hopefully will be back to normal and posting regularly next week. By the way if I had an award for the best post or comment of the year, it would be this one – 2007-11-30 07:06:56 – Cheers.

SEO Carly January 1, 2008 at 4:23 am

Which one, my one?

If so shucks, also HAPPY NEW YEAR! 🙂

I’m in protest and i’m taking today off to do whatever, i even worked all night Xmas night so today is the day to browse around and not even look at a Robots.txt file, or Meta Tags. 😀

Gary January 2, 2008 at 10:32 am
WTL January 1, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Indeed, happy 2008, folks.

Anne January 25, 2008 at 6:11 am

My software don’t read the alphabet character of chinesse, japanese, korean, etc.i had a hard to optimized the page with that character..Can you help with my problem

Sergio June 2, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Hi Gary,

I just saw this old post, sorry if i come late 🙂
Dynamic multi-language is a hell to handle for several reasons:

1) All the terms / words / sentences used throughout the website are loaded from the database. The whole project has thus to be thinked in multi-language, not in english and then translation. It will lead to several funny problems. Let’s take only one of them:
Assume we have several categories on this forum with members registered. The sentence “welcome Bill in the multi-language category of this forum” seem to be a simple one.
Ok, if the developer has thinkend in english, he will implement something like static_hello + {member_name} + static_in_the + {category_name} + static_of_this_forum
where words between { } are variables and static_xyz are translated words in a given language.
It sounds correct but if you translate in french, the sentence will be Bienenue Bill dans la catégorie multi-langue de ce forum. What happened? The word static_in_the and the variable {category_name} are inverted. If we keep this implementation, the translation will be wrong, even if all the terms are correct.
Conclusion: translate whole sentences, not words.

2) The context: Without context, words can be translated in many different ways. It’s a hell for a translator… sometimes even for the one who developped the site. He will get a list of words to translate and probably he will not remember in which context it was used. Occurs more often than what you can imagine.

3) Page formatting: when you format a page, use always relative proportions as texts don’t have the same length in all the languages.

4) Code used for the languages. If the code used is not correct, some special characters will be replaced by a “?”. French language uses several characters with accent: à, è, è, ù or even a special one: ç. In spanish there are words with the tilde: ~

5) Eventually: SEO
If you have a fully dynamic website, all the terms come from the database, no static (hard-coded) text. How to add meta tags? Impossible. If you add the tags in english, french search engines will never find it… What about chinese characters that are not supported by Then remember than international keywords is different from translation of keywords. You will need a specialist for each language in which the site has been translated. To submit the site, make a static (html) copy of each page you want to submit and add the url as this: This page will redirect to once found on the search engine. It’s the only way to make serious mulit-language SEO. Also, remember to submit your site to local search engines (if you target chinese people, don’t submit your chinese page to but to its local chinese version or any local search engine).

I hope i helped you.

Kind Regards,

Lidia January 17, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I have developed a site using a CMS – it is doable, takes a lot of work though. There are however SEO issues. I am pretty happy with rankings I get from Polish search engines, I am not happy with the English side. The problem appears when you need to define geotarget fot the site – although google allows to set two (for http and www) – it does not seem to have significant impact. The site is still quite new (less than 2 months old) so I guess I need to wait and see what happens after PR update (I have put a lot of effort into linking my site and optimisation of pages). Any tips would be appreciated 🙂