Creating a Multilingual Website Using WPML

Creating a multilingual website is now easier than ever. Thanks to the improving WordPress core and some well-developed WordPress plugins you now have help with managing your translated content. With very little effort and a whole lot of added functionality, you can now share your content with readers from all around the world in the language they are most comfortable with.

There are plenty of great free WordPress plugins on the market that can assist you with creating a multilingual website. However, today we are going to focus on the best plugin choice available: WPML. Though a premium plugin, you will see that it quickly pays for itself with its vast array of features.

That being said, let’s look at how you can create a multilingual website using WPML.

Things to Consider

Managing translated content can present a number of challenges. Let’s look at some of the things to consider before diving into translating your website’s content:

  • Inputting your translated text. Using a WordPress translation plugin to input your translated content is the easiest solution. Plugins save you time and money in the long run and provide the most accurate translation results.
  • Fitting text into web pages. All languages display differently on your website. Getting translated text to display in a visually appealing way can be difficult, especially if you are not an experienced web developer. Again, a quality translation plugin will align your translated text appropriately so that every webpage is consistent.
  • Linking translated content. Your site visitor may want to view different pieces of content in several languages. Giving readers a visible way to switch between their preferred languages is your best bet for ensuring a great user experience. The last thing you want is to alienate your readers because they cannot figure out how to translate your content. Luckily, most translation plugins have beautiful language switchers for your site visitors to use.

Considerations such as these reinforce the notion that a reliable translation plugin should be used when creating a multilingual website. That’s why I chose WPML. It is one of the most popular, thoroughly documented, and feature-filled translation plugins on the market today.

Okay, now let’s get started.

Step 1: Set Up Your Plugin

First, download, install, and activate your WPML translation plugin onto your website.  Then follow the steps provided by the convenient setup wizard.

The first thing you are prompted to do is select the current language your website’s content is written in. This gives the plugin a starting point for future translations.

WPML - Default Language

Next you add the languages that you want to be made available to your site visitors. Keep in mind you can add or remove languages later if you want to.

WPML - Additional Languages

Now you can pick how you want you want your language switcher to display.

WPML - Language Switcher Display

The last step is to register your website with WPML. This way you can access plugin support as well as receive updates as they are released.

WPML - Register Your Website

And that’s it! Your WordPress website is now officially multilingual.  You can now translate your website’s content and display it to your site visitors.

Step 2: Configure Your Domains

In order to get a great SEO boost and engage more visitors from around the world, you may want to consider assigning a different domain name to each of your website’s translated language options.

There are two options when it comes to your translated content’s domain names. You can assign an entirely separate domain name to each language as though they were separate websites, or you can assign domain name extensions to each language but have them all working together under one single domain.

For those looking to create separate domain names for each language consider these pros and cons:


  • There will be a clear distinction between domain locations so there is no confusion by Google as to which site should be indexed. Each domain will be treated as its own independent website and they will not affect each other in search engine results.
  • Locating servers in local regions will occur quickly optimizing site performance.
  • Each domain will be recognized in SERPs and trusted by local users due to familiar URLs.


  • There is no SEO benefit between each domain to encourage more site visitors unless extensive linking is done between all domains. After all, they are all separate websites with their own domains demanding individual SEO attention.

For those interested in creating sub-domains underneath one single primary domain (recommended) check out the pros and cons here:


  • Your SEO campaign will be combined. All efforts directed towards one sub-domain will have an indirect and positive effect on the other sub-domains due to interlinking.


  • One primary domain means one server location despite you wanting to deliver sub-domain content to people in various geographical locations. This may impact site speed and performance, though it may only be minimal.

In the end, WPML provides extensive documentation for setting up new domains for your translated content using either method. Weigh the pros and cons for each and decide for yourself which method will work best for your website.

Step 3: Translate Your Posts

Translating your content is fairly easy. One great feature worth mentioning is WPML’s ability to designate which content should or should not be translated. Meaning, you can keep some of your content in your site’s default language and display specific posts or pages in alternative languages.  This is just one example of  WPML’s versatility when it comes to managing your translated content.

There are two ways to translate your website’s content:

  • Manually click on the available language icons.
  • Use WPML’s Translation Management Module.

Manual Translation

When you manually translate your website’s content you must create an entirely new post or page just like you did for the original content. For those who are native speakers of several languages this process may be relatively easy, though definitely time-consuming. For those who are not fluent in other languages, manually translating content will need to be done by someone else.

WPML - Translating Post Content

WPML Translation Management Module

This tool is available in WPML’s Multilingual CMS package, which is one step up from the basic premium version. This feature allows you to give translation privileges to another WordPress user for the purpose of translating your content. Translators will gain access to your content for translation purposes via the WPML translation editor. This way they do not have direct access to your website’s post and pages.

WPML makes managing your multilingual content easily visible for all parties involved. Take a look at the intuitive job queue:

WPML - Translation Job Queue

When a translator receives a translation job, they translate your content into the language requested. It is then sent right back to you for immediate display on your website. This smooth workflow makes the entire process of translating content into many languages much more manageable.

Sometimes you do not have someone to help you translate your content. If that’s the case, WPML connects you with professional translators through a program called iCanLocalize.

Another thing that WPML does is to store each piece of translated content separately. This means each post that displays in a different language has its own URL and is indexed separately. This way your SEO efforts are not sabotaged from “duplicate content”.

Step 4: Translate Taxonomies

Your WordPress website has a complex taxonomy system that includes data such as post categories and tags. Since taxonomies help with user experience and provide an easy way of navigating through your website, translating these smaller parts only makes sense.

Luckily, WPML makes it easy for you to translate your site’s taxonomies.

You can translate your website’s taxonomies individually using the centrally located interface or the taxonomy edit screen.

Using the Central Taxonomy Interface

The easiest way to translate your website’s taxonomies (remember this includes things such as categories and tags that are related to each piece of content), is to translate them using the central location that provides you access to all of your website’s taxonomies in one convenient location.

To do this navigate to WPML > Taxonomy Translation in your WordPress dashboard. From there pick which taxonomy you would like to translate first from the drop-down menu: Categories or Tags.

To start, let’s translate the site’s categories. Once selected, the Categories menu directs me to all of the categories that exist on the entire website. Notice the categories Featured, Plugins, Uncategorized, and WordPress.

To translate each category, first select the translate option.

WPML - Translating Categories

When you click on translate a popup will appear for you to fill in the translation for the related category. From there enter the translated word under Name and add a Description if you want to. A slug will automatically be assigned after you save the translated category. Click Ok.

WPML - Translated Category

After you have translated all of the categories you want they will automatically synchronize with your website’s translated content. The default language categories will appear with the default language content and the translated categories will appear with the translated content.

To translate your website’s tags follow the same process that is required for translating categories. Navigate to WPML > Taxonomy Translation > Tags. Click on the tag you would like to translate, enter the translated word in both its singular and plural form, and save your changes so that they are applied to your website’s content.

Using the Taxonomy Edit Screen

On the other hand, if you choose to use the taxonomy edit screen to translate your taxonomies, first navigate to Posts > Categories. From the admin bar then choose which language you would like to translate your categories into. This will bring up a refreshed page where you can add translated categories in another language.

WPML - Translating Categories in Edit Screen

Again, the process for translating tags using the taxonomy edit screen is very similar. Navigate to Posts > Tags and translate each tag as you see fit.

In the end, either option works well for translating your website’s taxonomies. WPML just takes it one step further by centralizing everything for a better backend experience.

Step 5: Perform String Translation

Any content that does not fall under the category of posts, pages, or taxonomy gets translated via String Translation. This feature is only part of WPML’s Multilingual CMS package. However, it is worth noting for those who are interested in translating all aspects of their website.

Before you can begin using the String Translation, you must download it from your WPML account. This enables it on your website.

From the String Translation admin panel, you will have the option to choose which strings you want to display. You can filter the displayed strings into All strings, Translation Complete, Translation needed, and Waiting for translation.

You can also select which domain of strings you want to display. For instance, if you are looking for a widget string, you can select the widget display option. WPML organizes your website’s strings for easier access during the translation process. Lastly, you have the option to search for a specific string if you want to.

To translate the string simply select the translations option.

WPML - Translating a String

Next, enter the translated word. Make sure to click on Translation is complete to save your changes.

WPML - Translated String

If you are using WPML’s Translation Management Module you can also send your string translations to your translator. This ensures that every aspect of your website is thoroughly and accurately translated if you are unable to do it yourself manually.

It is also worth noting that WPML can remove certain strings that are not used anymore. For example, strings associated with an unused theme or plugin do not need translating and can be removed.

Step 6: Translate Your Images

If you translate your website’s content and there are media, audio, or video files attached, it may a good idea to translate any text associated with those files as well.

WPML’s Media Translation Module is included in both the basic Multilingual Blog package and Multilingual CMS packages of WPML.

This module optimizes all of your media files for content that is translated into different languages. Basically, it displays your media site-wide in translated content with translated captions matching the content’s language.

WPML - Media Translation Module

You should know too that WPML does not duplicate your media in each translated post. Rather it only connects the originally uploaded files complete with translated captions.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it. How to create a multilingual website using WPML. Keep in mind that this guide has only provided the basic steps for creating a multilingual website. WPML offers website users tons of features that cannot possibly be discussed in one post. However, if you are looking for a quick and easy way to manage your translated content, these steps will have you there in no time.

Altogether, WPML is a feature-packed translation plugin designed to turn your website multilingual as easily and thoroughly as possible. Providing accurate and site-wide translations, WPML gets the job done well.

Have you used WPML to translate your website’s content? Did you find the process of managing your translated content confusing or difficult? How do you feel the displaying translated content helps your website as far as expanding your global reach? I would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

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