WordPress is the best choice to make your voice heard in the digital world or to offer your products for sale online without incurring additional costs. However, sometimes we may want to make our voices heard in more than one language or offer our products for sale in different countries. You are in the right place to add language options to your WordPress-based website, improve content and perform search engine optimization. In this blog, I will try to explain how to make a multilingual site from scratch in WordPress.

What is a Multilingual Website?

Multilingual websites are websites where all or part of the content is provided in different language alternatives and various localization activities are carried out. The most important criterion here is the translation of all or part of the content. If different content is offered for different countries or language options instead of translation, this will be defined as a different platform rather than a language option. For example, Amazon has language options.

  • https://www.amazon.de/?language=en_GB is the English version of Amazon Germany. The products are the same and almost the entire site is translated into English.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/ belongs to Amazon UK, and although it is also in English, the products and content are completely different.

Now that we have mentioned this small distinction, let’s get back to translation.

How to Add WordPress Language Option?

WordPress is one of the most widely used CMS (Content Management System) options. There are many tools and options available for translation within the WordPress infrastructure. But first we need to choose the appropriate plugin for the purpose. If our goal is just to translate, I recommend Loco Translate, one of my favorite plugins. You can very easily translate all areas of your website, including the code structure. However, if your goal is to add a language option in WordPress, we have 2 nice alternatives.

WordPress Multilingual Plugins

There are 3 basic plugins to add WordPress language options. The first and easiest of these is GTranslate.


GTranslate allows you to add a language switching menu to your menu. It’s very easy to install and use. However, this plugin will not meet our requirements in any way. You won’t be able to implement almost any of the SEO suggestions you’ll see a few paragraphs below in this plugin. GTranslate is technically based on translating the entire website like translate.google.com.

The plugins that meet our requirements are Polylang, which is partially free, and WPML, which is fully paid. Both plugins offer features such as manual translation management, support for numerous languages, and translation of media files. You can see the difference between the free and pro version of Polylang in the table below.

Polylang Free vs Pro

Although Polylang Pro offers some nice features like slug translation, I prefer the free version. If you want to have a paid plugin, I can recommend WPML. Because WPML is known as the plugin with the best support. Although Polylang Pro and WPML have basically the same features, WPML’s AI-assisted translation and great customer support make it a step ahead.

WPML WordPress kurulumu

Choosing a Theme for WordPress Multilingual

It’s easy to get lost in WordPress themes. But there are a few important criteria we should pay attention to.

  • Number of sales/downloads
  • Comments and average score
  • Last update date
  • Translation and RTL support
  • WordPress and WooCommerce version

For example, the theme I used has the following image on the ThemeForest page. This means that my theme is 100% compatible with WPML and Polylang.

Avada Tema Dil Desteği

WordPress SEO Plugins for Multiple Languages

Undoubtedly, I will recommend the 2 most recommended SEO plugins. The first one is Yoast and the second one is Rank Math. I recommend you to try both SEO plugins. Although I use Rank Math, Yoast-Polylang-Avada trio works much more harmoniously. I solved Rank Math-related problems with code edits. For example, the last problem I had was related to breadcrumb translations. I had to intervene in Rank Math’s source files.

Technical SEO Advice for Multilingual WordPress Websites

Technical SEO for multilingual websites is very important. We need to do a lot of things to make it easier for Google to find and index our website and content in all languages. Yes, we’ve found the right theme, we’ve added the translation plugin and the language option, but what next?

URL Structure by Language

Creating a custom URL structure for each language and country version performs redirects that will help search engines like Google to index our website correctly. This practice increases the chances of our website pages appearing in search results in multiple languages. Usually, plugins like Polylang and WPML will redirect you. But for those cases where no plugin is used or there is confusion, I will go into detail.

Polylang URL Yapısı

To do this, we first need to determine which languages and regions we want to show our content in. For a blog, for example, the region doesn’t really matter and just the language setup will work. But for your e-commerce site, you need to differentiate between the US and the UK in English.

Seperate Domain Extensions

One of the most well-known methods of region/language separation, the use of separate domain extensions, involves using separate domain names or ccTLDs that are specific to the country version.

For example:

  • buraksenguloglu.de
  • buraksenguloglu.fr
  • buraksenguloglu.co.uk

We know before clicking on the site; de German, fr French and co.uk has English language option. Likewise, de Germany, fr France and co.uk serve the United Kingdom. But this is very costly and the language-region distinction is still not clear. So let’s take a look at other methods.

Separate Directory Extensions

Separate directory extensions, which many websites prefer, as I do, provide a structure that can reflect different language or country versions within a single domain.

For example:

  • buraksenguloglu.com/tr
  • buraksenguloglu.com/en
  • buraksenguloglu.com/fr

As can be seen in the example, .com indicates a single domain extension, while /tr indicates the Turkish, /en the English and /fr the French versions. The biggest advantage of this implementation is SEO. I will touch on the advantages and disadvantages again with Google’s latest comment.

URL Parameters

If you have used product filters on e-commerce sites before, you have seen that parameter codes such as ?filter= are frequently encountered. Many multilingual websites also use this method. Even Amazon is one of the giants using this method. However, many organizations and professionals, including Google, do not recommend this solution.

For example:

  • buraksenguloglu.com/hakkimda?lang=tr
  • buraksenguloglu.com/hakkimda?lang=en
  • buraksenguloglu.com/hakkimda?lang=fr

I never recommend this structure, which both negatively affects indexing and the url structure cannot be changed.

Best URL Structure

The last method I didn’t mention above is subdomain, but it’s not much different from directory separation. My preference is of course a directory separation like .com/en.

Google Avantaj ve Dezavantaj Tablosu


Page and Content Translations

One of the most important criteria is accurate translations and cultural interactions. When translating your content, it is very important to take cultural differences into account and choose your keywords correctly. You should make sure that your translation is accurate by using 2 software such as Google Translate and Grammarly.

In addition, countries differ from each other in terms of time and date format, units of measurement, idioms, metaphors, currencies, spelling of numbers and symbols. For example, when you write 1,000 words, you should translate it as 1,000 words. This is because the thousands separator is spelled differently between Turkey and the USA. Even in Sweden, neither of these are used as thousands separators, only spaces are used.

Speaking of page and content translations, meta title and meta description should not be forgotten. Translating the same title in every language may not be effective. So be sure to check competitor websites in the target language.

The links you will use in the content are also very important. You should link to French websites from your content in the French version.

User Experience for Multilingual Websites

Google bots are slowly starting to think and act like humans. If we want a multilingual website that is fully compatible with search engines, we need to pay attention to the user interface.

For example, if the opening language of your website is Turkish, visit your website from the perspective of a foreigner. Can this user easily change the language of your website? If the answer is yes, very good. But even better would be to automatically offer that user the version in their own language. You can do this with plugins or code edits that match the user’s browser language with the hreflang tag in the next article.

Polylang Tarayıcı Dili

As you can see above, this setting is already available in the Polylang plugin. However, it is up to you whether you use it or not.

Using the Hreflang Tag

If a website has multiple versions for different languages or regions, the easiest and most accurate way to let Google know is to use the hreflang tag.

For example: <link rel=”alternate” href=”https://buraksenguloglu.com/backlink-nedir/” hreflang=”tr” />

In this example, the link rel=”alternate” indicates the alternative version of the web page, while hreflang=”tr” indicates that the language of the version is Turkish. If it were in English, hreflang=”en” would be used. So how would we use it if we were targeting a region? Of course with hreflang=”en-gb” we would be targeting English speaking people in Great Britain.

Note: The region code is never used on its own, but the language code can be used. For example, de-ch emphasizes German-speaking people in Switzerland, while de targets all German-speaking people. However, there is no such code as ch because the first part always refers to the language.

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