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Old 08-17-2004   #1
Lorraine Grozier
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What is the best way to create multi-lingual sites?

I want to create a multi lingual site, which will be translated into a number of languages.

However, I do not want it to be PDF files as this will not get found on search engines. Does anyone know what is the best way to create a site using live text (i.e we would get word files from translators and be able to place it on our site).

Also, what are the implications for visitors who may not have the relevant fonts to display the translations or do all pc's have certain fonts already installed?

As you may have gathered, I am not a technical person, so any simple advice would be appreciated!
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Old 08-17-2004   #2
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if you can afford it then different sites for different markets / languages is the best way to go (perhaps with one main corporate site if you need). start with a site for your most important language first.

you likely will not run into language problems if each site is in one language.

we would need to know more about the quantity of data you have and how you intend to cross references the documents inside it before anyone could suggest if you need a content management system or how you should design each particular site.

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Old 08-17-2004   #3
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Before we can give you any recommendations, can you please give us a little more information about your site? For example, languages, markets, countries, types of products, consumer segments, anything please.

Are you more like a Epson.com?

or are you more like greenpeace.org?

Last edited by Nacho : 08-18-2004 at 02:09 AM.
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Old 08-18-2004   #4
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Red face Multilingual

Hi Thanks for the reply.

We are a language school, offering teaching to overseas students. Our site will have about 20 pages, with key pages translated.

My main concern is that if we translate these pages in html then visitors may not be able to view the information if they do not have the fonts.

For example if a visitor clicks on the pages, which are translated into Urdu and they do not have the correct fonts, then they will see a page which does not make sense. Would they need to download the fonts?

Really don't want to go down the road of PDF files as these pages will not be found on search engines.

Thanks
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Old 08-18-2004   #5
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From an SEO perspective, I can only recommend that you do what is best for your users. Take the greenpeace.org for example which is translated in many languages, but still the site looks great. Try looking for a font that is standard in every language and stick with that font. The message clarity is more important than the font type, IMO.

With the little information I have, I'm not too sure how you could rank high with a 20 page site if say you will be covering (for example) 15 languages plus 5 site info pages. I have a feeling that you will need more content than that, but I could be totally wrong. There are just so many factors that come into play to give you a solid recommendation.

Good luck with your site!
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Old 08-18-2004   #6
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Key Factors

Lorraine,

That's an interesting project - there are some key factors to consider:-

- Have country specific domains - it's better for search engines and better for users to find you - in other words .ie .fr .nl .jp etc. If you can't get country specific use sub-domains - fr.yourdomain.com. An example of this is Yahoo!

- Don't mix the languages on the same part of your site ie have two or three languages on the same page.

- Make sure the page defines what the language is in the code - this helps with the browsers but also search engines.

- If you want to create a language 'chooser' - the ideal way is to have a portal where you make the selection - maybe a .com or .org portal.

- Translate and optimise before you launch your site. (Have the tranlations checked too!)

- Choose the languages you target based on real need - not on ease of translation (you may not be doing this - but some Web Certain research to be published soon suggests languages are often added because they were relatively 'easy' rather than important target languages - and if the alphabet is not roman - it's less likely to be used.)

- Make sure you can back up the language with the service - in other words have a speaker of the language - or at least explain that the user will need to read English or another language - to view or use the site.

- Don't 'force' language based on country - urdu speakers may well be British based in the UK. Nacho's given you two very good examples to consider in Epson and Greenpeace - but my advice would be to allow the user to choose the language AND location if both are appropriate. Take Belgium on the Epson example - that asks you to choose Belgium - then to choose between French and Flemish with French at the top of the screen. There are twice as many Flemish-speakers as French in Belgium and they might have expected top-billing. Equally, German is also an official language of Belgium (67,000 speakers) and is not represented, English is used by many of the institutions in Brussels. It's complicated - allowing a choice of language would be best.


- Check your links, navigation and error messages are in the target language too - it's a common mistake for error pages to show up in the wrong language. (A site I looked at the other day gave an error message in German, had a French title and content in English....)

- Test before you invest (phrase stolen from San Jose conference but can't remember who used it?) Look at using pay per clicks to trial your approach before you roll it out across all languages.

Good luck!
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Old 08-24-2004   #7
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You are getting some solid advise... if you go the separate domain name route then you can create a language drop down menu where people can choose their language and it links to that domain.
Lay the sites out with the same content just in different languages... change the colors for each country so vsually you know you are on a different site.
We have 2 Chinese, Japanese, French, German, English and Spanish. Working on more... it is a full time gig for one person to coordinate development of language sites.
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Old 08-25-2004   #8
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>Have country specific domains

Spot on. Go as local as you can.

>Don't mix the languages on the same part of your site

Again. Good advice. The SE's wont be able to rank one page in several languages. One page, one language.

>Translate and optimise before you launch your site. (Have the tranlations checked too!)

One of the MOST important things to consider. Translate, but do it right! Maybe even have a native SEO look at it too.

>Make sure you can back up the language with the service

YES, or at least the users that you will be responding in english only, if that's the case.

>Don't 'force' language based on country

Agreed. Makes me close the browser instantly.

>Our site will have about 20 pages, with key pages translated.

If you're a language school, you should be able to do ALL the pages. Don't cut it short

>Really don't want to go down the road of PDF files

Right. PDF's wont do it for you - specially not if you compete with other language school - and you do
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Old 08-26-2004   #9
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example

a buddy of mine in San Diego operates this site, as you can see he has used the idea mentioned by seobook about having different sites for different languages, but has a main page directing visitors to each. Interestingly, the Dutch site does not have the option to go to the US site...

http://aidem-media.com/

Of course this model could be used for sites with more languages than just Englsih and Nederlands... hoi! proost!
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Old 08-26-2004   #10
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by the way

you'll see that each of the individual language sites has achieved a PageRank, whereas the .com site has not, which bolsters the other posters' opinions about keeping strictly one language per site. It's also possible that he has only done this for people that type-in .com instead of .us or triptic...
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Old 08-26-2004   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Boggs
a buddy of mine in San Diego operates this site, as you can see he has used the idea mentioned by seobook about having different sites for different languages, but has a main page directing visitors to each. Interestingly, the Dutch site does not have the option to go to the US site...

http://aidem-media.com/

Of course this model could be used for sites with more languages than just Englsih and Nederlands... hoi! proost!
This gets a little hairy when you have say 8 or more languages. You would have to have much smaller paragraphs for each language.
I would shoot for browser language redirects combined with geoIP recognition and language drop down box. That way you cover all possibilities and can get to the language of choice from any language landing page.
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Old 08-26-2004   #12
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geoIP

The problem with geoIP would maybe be the assumption that someone in Holland would want Dutch. As Andy pointed-out in his excellent example of a Belgian site, this could "ruffle feathers." Being half-Belgian myself, I know that this would be an issue to someone...geez people even spray paint over the French parts of the road signs in Flemish areas and visa-versa.

As Aussie mentioned, how about an simple choice at the homepage that direct each visitor to the language of their choice? I'm wondering if this could also be optimized in various languages, or if the site would have to hope for content on the other pages to generate good rankings? How can a site like this be optimized for all? I am confused by the "browser language redirects" part of Aussie's last post...would this allow the main page to get indexed for the sub-page content (links to specific languages)?
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Old 08-26-2004   #13
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You can place a script on the index page... the .com if you will that actually looks at the language of the browser and from that redirects to a subdomain or any page you want that can be the entire site in the language (with options to switch being always available - I think thta should be always added).
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Old 08-29-2004   #14
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managing content across a multi-language site

Re: the actual logistics of managing content in multiple languages, we have taken this approach in the past:

1. Build the initial site in english, including both content (text) and HTML

2. Strip the content and generate a website "template", replacing any english text with placeholders

3. Build a "translation document" in excel, which includes placeholder, english text, and a place for translated text

4. Have good translators translate the text. make sure they understand the goal is to translate concepts rather than to make literal translations -- important. even better if they understand the concept of SEO, and can build content which is keyword rich and relevant for the local languages. each translator generates a translation document for their language, filling in appropriate text in #3 above.

5. Run a program which inserts content from the the translation documents into the website template.

The above is a little simplified, but hopefully you get the general concept. The benefit of this approach is that it separates the management of site design (HTML) from site content, meaning your core web designer only has to manage one website and one set of content (the english version). Under this model, each time the english content changes, the website template & original translation document is edited and shared with the translators who update their version of the content. Then the translation program is run and the website is automagically re-generated and updated in all languages. This is esp. useful if your content changes frequently.

This approach is a static-page variation on the other way you could do this -- to use a content management system (CMS) in which content is managed through a web interface for multiple languages. A CMS generally relies on a database to manage content, and generates pages dynamically.

The program mentioned above is something we built in-house specifically for this type of multi-language management. The nice part about it is that it is infinitely scalable, and simplifies management -- no need to build and manage 3,4,5,etc sites individually. In other words, its easy to add new languages and generate new sites for those languages without a lot of hassle.

Short of a system like this, the way to go is building individual sites manually. Andy does a good job of covering other basics.

Re: "fonts", the key here is twofold:
First, understand that fonts/languages are defined by the webpage "encoding", which is something that you can define on a page-by-page basis in the HTML headers. As long as you set the encoding properly for the language your users shouldnt have problems.

Second, as Andy mentions, you need to be sure to avoid having multiple languages on the same page -- unless you build your content in unicode (UTF-8). Unicode is basically one universal set of fonts for all languages. With unicode you *could* put multiple languages on the same page. But generally speaking you're better off using LOCAL languages/encoding rather than unicode.
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Old 08-29-2004   #15
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Extraordinarily good response there mate....
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Old 08-30-2004   #16
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I am responsible for several multilanguage sites, one which has 7 in total.

The maintenance of these sites is a TOTAL nightmare.

I would have to say that the simple replace content with other language sounds reasonable, but in my experience is not so simple. Basically becuase in some langueges a menu title has 2 or 3 times the number of carachters as in another.

In the end I would have to say that each posible solution has serious flaws to it, but that a CMS solutions will save you time, whilst losing a little bit of extra control over the look and feel.
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Old 08-30-2004   #17
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patrick,

agreed, re: character length variations for different languages -- esp. re: french, german, italian, and spanish. asian languages like japanese, korean, and chinese can actually shrink the character length sometimes. either way, it can definitely affect your ability to "plug-and-play" content in a pre-existing website; it may require you to change the way you think about initial site design. often this just means: best practices.

for example, its generally going to be better to put navigation bars down the left side of the page rather than along the top; there's more room to expand text along the left side than at the top. if a top-text tab "overgrows" then it can screw up the whole page layout, but a left-text tab can overgrow and be wrapped without much problem.

the interesting thing about the approach i outlined in my earlier post above is that it can actually *help* with your search engine optimization strategies because it forces you to put all content in text (rather than hiding text content in images -- which can become unwieldy to manage if you use them too prevalently on a multi-llngual site). this reinforces good SEO principles like keywords in anchor text, content rich pages, text-based headers, etc.
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Old 08-30-2004   #18
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oui c'est vrai

Quote:
Originally Posted by bradbyrd
Have good translators translate the text. make sure they understand the goal is to translate concepts rather than to make literal translations -- important. even better if they understand the concept of SEO, and can build content which is keyword rich and relevant for the local languages. each translator generates a translation document for their language, filling in appropriate text in #3 above.
can they cook and clean too? even within particular languages, idiomatic expressions become an issue, too, I would imagine. Would love to know a good source for such unbeatable translation skills...
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Old 08-31-2004   #19
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Unicode?

Brad,

Very useful post Brad. Can you just clarify your point on Unicode? The direction I was coming from was positions and peformance. If a page is in two or more languages our experience is it just doesn't perform whereas - switching to page(s) focussed on single languages does much better?

Is your point mainly to do with getting fonts to show correctly on the page?

By the way, I enjoyed your presentation on broad matching at San Jose!

Andy
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