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Should You Use Single or Multiple Domains for a Successful Multilingual Site?

Single or Multiple Domains

A multilingual website allows you to reach and conquer new markets abroad, but there are benefits and drawbacks of using single or multiple domains.

If you are planning to do business across regions or you want to expand your e-commerce venture to international markets, then having a multilingual website is a must. But in doing so, you will be confronted with a big dilemma: should you incorporate all your languages in one domain or should you use a distinct domain for each language?

For instance, if you want to offer your services in English, German and maybe French, will you now have three different versions of your site for each language or do you put all three in one domain?

Granted, there are some things to put into account when making such a decision, including usability, translation cost, and search engine optimization. In this article, we will dissect the issue further to help you make the best decision.

Multilingual Website Translation on One Domain

When you are using just one domain, the website developer may offer you different plugins to support multiple languages. In this case, every time you create an article for your audience/customers, you have to make it available in each language. So, you will first write the content in the primary language, for instance English, and a URL ending with “/en” is generated for the page. Next, you would create a translated page in your second language, for example German, that generates another URL with “/de” ending. And you would do that for all the languages that you cover. If you have three supported languages, for instance, you would have three pieces of content.

You can also use a translation platform for websites which will allow you to easily and accurately convert content to other languages.

When you publish the pages on your site, they are linked together. When a visitor wants to change the language, they only press a button at the top and select the language code for the version they are looking for. If for example, they need the page in French, they will select “fr” from the list, and the page is instantly translated to French.

Pros and Cons of Using a Single Domain for Your Multilingual Site

This approach has both the good and the bad. And while it works well for many companies, it may turn out to be a regret for others.

The Advantages

Here are the benefits:

  • You will incur lower costs as you will pay just one hosting for a single domain.
  • It will be easier to work with only one interface.
  • Visitors can find the page in their language of choice with ease.
  • Your domain will have increased traffic, and ultimately better SEO, as there will be more visitors on your site.
  • You can perform SEO for all your languages if your website is developed right.
  • You won’t need to have several accounts for site analytics.

The Disadvantages

In spite of all the good things above, the decision to have multiple languages in a single domain has some disadvantages too:

  • The more the languages you use, the more cumbersome it is. That’s because you create a version of your content in all the languages that you list on your site.
  • It can be expensive in the long run especially if you are producing and translating several pieces of content monthly. So, if your budget is tight, you can end up having several pages lacking translations.
  • Content that doesn’t need translation will also be translated.
  • When you decide to add a new language to the list, you will be forced to translate everything you have written before that.

Using Multiple Domains for a Multilingual Website Translation

When you use this approach, it means that you will create a different website for the languages that you want to offer. In this case, you can create different content for each site depending on what you think will be relevant to them.

When you create something that you think would appeal to your audience in a different region, you can convert it to their language and link the two together. Then, you can put a button at the top of your page for users who want to access the article in the other language. However, with this approach, you don’t need to change everything.

The Pros of Using Multiple Domains

The benefits of using more than one domain for your multilingual site include:

  • Offers greater flexibility: you can pick when to use transcreation, translation or neither.
  • You can localize your business to the market you are trying to reach.
  • You can create and perfect one site in one language before you develop another one.
  • Since you can copy the same design as your first page when developing the second one, you will incur fewer costs creating it.
  • Each domain works independently from the other. So, translating everything from your first site when you launch your other domain isn’t necessary.
  • It’s great when you are dealing with large amounts of content.

The Downside of This Move

Running multiple domains is great when you are planning to offer your services in just two or three languages as you will run two or three domains only. But when you are targeting more geographical regions where different languages are spoken, this approach can turn out to be a nightmare.

Also, be prepared to put in more work. Since you will be managing more than one website, you will need to work twice or thrice as much (depending on the number of domains you are running). It can also be more expensive than using just one domain.

Key Takeaway

Planning and developing a multilingual site all comes down to translation. To choose between one or multiple domains, think about the pros and cons of each. How many language translations do you want to offer? Are you creating a simple or complex site? What would be the cost in the long run? For better quality, effectiveness, convenience, and better chances of succeeding overseas consider working with a professional translation service.

Published: April 25, 2019
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jamshed chaudhary

Jamshed Chaudhary

Jamshed Chaudhary began writing as a professional on his personal blog and then discovered his true calling, which is writing about technology, news, and gadgets in general. He is a technical writer, author, and blogger since 2010. An industry watcher who stays on top of the latest features, he’s extremely passionate about juicy tech news and everything related to gadgets.

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