In the content economy, it is essential to make your content available across all languages as fast as possible. Content is the cornerstone of modern marketing and plays a critical role in growing your business. Today’s marketplace is global, and, to avoid limiting your business’s reach and growth potential, your website content must be available in as many of the most widely used languages as possible. More than translation, your content must be localized to adopt the cultural norms and values of your international target audience.

In this article we look at what localization is and how you can leverage localization and translation technologies for the most common CMS systems powering websites and their content globally.

What is website localization?

Website localization, also referred to as L10N, is more than the translation of your website into the local language of your target audience. To successfully localize content for international markets, you must consider not only to the translation of the words on the page but to areas such as:

  • Adapting images to appeal to local audiences.
  • Ensuring the website page layout supports the localized site language format.
  • Updating units of measurement, such as the date and time formats.
  • Including cultural norms and values from the localized region.

It is common to see websites natively designed for local audiences to be more popular than their international counterparts, such as Baidu being more popular than Google in China. The primary goal of localization is to ensure that the product/service or content being provided on your website looks and feels like it was originally created for the target market it is localized for.

Why is website localization important?

One of the most compelling advantages of living in a connected world is that your product, service, or message can now reach global markets and any target audience. To take advantage of these international markets, your business must be able to communicate with native speakers in their native language as if the website was written for them to begin with.

Having a multilingual website is table stakes for access to a massive global marketplace that can transform your business growth, but only if you translate and localize your website content.

Some languages are more widely spoken than others, given you much greater reach globally per language localized than other more narrowly spoken choices. For example, English, Spanish, and German will appeal to a large percentage of the global population, whereas a language like Swahili may have much smaller global market reach.

When choosing your localization project scope, and keeping in mind the cost, choosing the languages with the broadest business appeal may be the most effective decision you can make in extending your messaging.

Other languages that are important to consider for reaching your target audience in as many local markets as possible are Chinese, Arabic, French, and Russian.

Top 10 languages by numbers of speakers worldwide in 2019


Basic options for translating a website

There are several valid options for developing your multilingual website content, and it is essential to understand these foundational options and what they can accomplish in your website localization project.

Human translation

One of the most important and defining characteristics of human language translation for your multilingual website is the concept of context. The context in language is often implied rather than explicitly stated and as such the professional human translator must understand it before beginning translation work. A human translator can better understand idioms, cultural norms, and most importantly the overall purpose of the website content you want to deliver and the best way to translate that for your target audience.

If your website translation needs to be the most accurate and nuanced possible, then going through the effort and cost of hiring a professional translator, such as can be found through the Smartcat marketplace, is highly desirable to the alternatives.

Machine translation

Machine translation (MT) refers to automated software than can translate source content into a target language as part of a translation or localization effort. Even if a human translation is preferred, machine translation can be a valuable tool in the process.

Machine translation has some important use cases, such as product descriptions which frequently change and are not as subtle in their meaning as other types of content might be. Different MT engines might be suitable for different types of content, so it might make sense to try out a few of them before choosing one.

Pro tip: Incorporate any of dozens of MT engines in your translation workflow with Smartcat.

The major drawback of MT is that it cannot understand and account for context, subtleties of culture and meaning in colloquialisms, or the changing social lexicon of a regions’ population. Sometimes the best option is to use post-editing, where a human editor reviews and changes machine-translated output to make it factually correct and grammatically coherent.

Website localization for popular content management systems

There are two main methods that translation for localization utilizes — client-side and server-side processes. Here, we will look at the latter option and consider the technical options for translating some of the most popular website content management systems (CMS). We will get back to client-side localization later on.

WordPress powers as much as 60% of all the websites published globally, which is a massive market presence. There are several effective methods for translating WordPress websites, and here are some of the most widely used.

WPML WordPress plugin

The WordPress Multilingual Plugin (WPML) is a powerful extension for any WordPress website or theme to run multilingual content. The plugin allows for ease of translation for pages, posts, custom types, taxonomy, menus, and the theme’s texts. WPML is also an excellent choice for SEO on multilingual websites. However, handling the whole translation process within the WordPress admin panel might be too cumbersome and ineffective from the organizational point of view.

Smartcat integration for WPML
Smartcat has made a special integration to make life easier for those using WPML for WordPress website localization. It works by linking your WordPress website to a Smartcat account and pushing the content for translation upon request. After the translation is done in Smartcat — either by yourself, your own volunteers, or hired vendors — it is automatically pulled back to WordPress for delivery.

Polylang WordPress plugin

Another popular option to create a multilingual WordPress site is Polylang. You write posts, pages and create categories and post tags as usual, and then define the language for each of them. The translation of any piece of content, whether it is in the default language or not, is optional. Unlike WPML, Polylang is free and open-source, which is a definitive advantage for many, although its user experience might seem a bit more complex than with WPML.

Smartcat Polylang integration
Users that prefer Polylang over WPML can also have the benefit of using a Smartcat integration to pull content from the website to the translation platform and back.

GTranslate plugin for WordPress

The GTranslate plugin uses the Google Translate automatic translation service to translate WordPress sites. GTranslate works in 103 available languages making your website accessible to more than 99% of internet users. Note that translation quality, factual correctness, and grammatical consistency when using a pure MT solution might become major issues as your website grows.

TranslatePress WordPress plugin
TranslatePress gives you the ability to quickly translate an entire webpage all at once, including the output from shortcodes, forms, and page builders. It is also compatible with WooCommerce back-ends. TranslatePress is a GPL and self-hosted translation plugin.

The second most popular website CMS, Joomla powers 6.7% of websites globally. Here are the most popular options for a Joomla translation plugin.

GTranslate Joomla module

Similar to how other GTranslate modules work among common CMS systems, GTranslate for Joomla leverages the power of the Google Translate machine translation at its most basic, with the same quality reservations as we made above.

Smartcat integration for Joomla

The extension works by linking your Joomla website to a Smartcat account and pushing the content for translation upon request. After the translation is done in Smartcat — by yourself, your own volunteers, or hired vendors — it is automatically pulled back into Joomla.

SEF Translate Joomla module

This module is a free version of the Joomla Translation extension. SEF Translate can also add chosen languages to the website sitemap, which will improve search engine visibility and SEO rankings for other languages. You can learn more about this module here.

JV Bing Translator

This module is the first to use Microsoft’s Bing Translate API. With JV Bing Translator front-end users can translate any page on your website into any supported language. Lacking some of the more robust localization features of other modules, this is still an excellent option for comprehensive language translation for Joomla

Used by 4.7% of users worldwide, Drupal is a solid contender to be the #2 CMS of choice for website owners. There are several options when considering a Drupal translation management tool.

Translation Management Tool for Drupal

The Translation Management Tool (TMGMT) module provides a tool set for translating content from different sources. Essentially, it provides connectors for various external services such Acclaro, Lionbridge, or SDL. You can also use its Local Translator feature to have the text translated by yourself or another person. The main limitation is that in automated scenarios you are limited to the choice of external translation providers that have their own plugins for Drupal, as listed on the plugin’s page.

Transliteration Drupal module

This module has not yet been ported to Drupal 8 Core. However, it does provide on-way string transliteration, also known as “romanization.” While this is a “passable” option for some languages it is not a robust solution for comprehensive localization or translation projects.

Localization update Drupal module

Included with Drupal 8 Core as part of the multilingual module categories, the Drupal Localization module automatically downloads and updates your translations via updates from the server. You can learn more about the recommended supporting modules and project information here.

Smartcat translation module for Drupal

The extension works by linking your Drupal website to a Smartcat account and pushing the content for translation upon request. After the translation is done in Smartcat — by yourself, your own volunteers, or hired vendors — it is automatically pulled back into Drupal.

GTranslate module for Drupal

Just like in the case of WordPress, the GTranslate Drupal plugin uses the Google Translate automatic translation service to translate Drupal sites. Same caveat here: Translation quality might be an increasingly pressing issue as your website grows.

Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform that has a market share of 4.20%. There are several effective plugins and modules for translating websites built using Magento.

Smartcat integration for Magento

The Smartcat extension is an excellent way to translate Magento store content. Its user-friendly platform connects you and your company to a host of language, translation, and localization industry professionals to make sure your content is accurate and engaging. Improving and enhancing product descriptions with the Smartcat plugin will allow you to connect more efficiently with the customer and boost your sales.

AppJetty Language Translator for Magento

AppJetty leverages the Google Translate API but differentiates itself with ease of management of your translations. Features such as “Search & Translate” and “Mass Translation” give users a robust set of controls for ongoing seamless translation. You can learn more about AppJetty here.

LingoTek | The Translation Network for Magento

LingoTek is a cloud-based translation technology that utilizes CAT tools to facilitate language translation. This extension gives you the ability to translate your e-commerce site easily in many different languages. You can learn more about LingoTek here.

Store Switcher by Mageplaza for Magento

Store Switcher is designed to improve the visitor experience regardless of which country they are visiting your website from. Enabling features such as currency adaptation for source country and instant viewing of product information in a visitor’s native language gives your buyers a consistent experience across your website no matter what country they are browsing from. You can find out more about Store Switcher here.

Now that we’ve considered localization options for the most popular CMSs, we will take a look at client-side options. In this case, you just use the built-in features of your favorite web browser. Whether Firefox, Chrome, or Safari, there are simple steps you can follow to auto-translate pages as you browse.

Google Chrome is by far the most straightforward browser for translating webpages automatically as you browse and it is no surprise with the popularity of the Google Translate service. To enable automatic translation, you must follow these steps first:

  1. Click the red up arrow in the top right of your browser window.
  2. Navigate to the “Settings” menu item.
  3. Scroll down to “Languages” and click on your selected language.
  4. Enable the “Offer to translate pages that aren’t in a language you can read” option.
  5. You will now be prompted to automatically translate any webpage that is not in your selected language with a single button click.

While Firefox does not have a native single-click translation option, you can add multiple languages to the browser via the “Language and Appearance” section of the “Settings” menu. However, there are add-ons for Firefox that will allow you to translate websites as needed. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

To Google Translate add-on
This add-on allows you to click on a context menu and send selected text to Google Translate. While this is limited to basic machine translation, it is a good option for Firefox users.

Google Translator for Firefox add-on
The Google Translator for Firefox add-on is easy to install and enables the translation of any text to any supported language with a single click, similar to how Chrome handles automated website translation. Options are available to translate and replace selected text or to translate an entire page all at once.

Google Translate, ImTranslator, Dictionary, TTS extension
This is a newer add-on for Firefox that features some of the most robust options for translation and localization in the Firefox browser. Features of this add-on include an inline translator, dictionary, access to Google Translate, Microsoft Translator and on-the-fly localization options. You can learn more about this add-on here.

Mate Translate
Mate Translate is a convenient way to translate selected text as you browse the internet. Highlight text on any webpage to translate it. Mate currently supports 103 different languages. You can learn more about Mate Translate here.

Polyglot is a simple but effective connector that gives you the ability to translate any text into your native language using Google Translate.

TranslateMe’s mission is to empower you to read the entire web. With a simple to use click or button press option, you can translate entire webpages or selected text. You can download or learn more about TranslateMe here.

Websites localization for handheld devices

Today more than ever, people need to be able to use their productivity tools on the go, and that includes their web browser, regardless of what country they are in or what language they speak. Being able to translate webpages on the go no matter what device you are using is critical.

How to translate a website on an iPhone
iPhone users have a simple way to translate any webpage they find with Microsoft’s Translator, a free download from the Apple app store. Using Safari on your iPhone while viewing a webpage tap the “Share” button and scroll left and tap the “More” button. You will now see a “Microsoft Translator” option which you should set to the “on” position, then tap “Done.”
When you are browsing a website in Safari on your iPhone that you want to translate tap the “share” button and then the “Microsoft Translate” button to have the entire webpage translated for you. While somewhat limited, this is a great option for translating webpages on the go via mobile.

How to translate a website on Android
Translating a webpage on any Android device is as simple as using Google Translate in the built-in Chrome browser. Open the Chrome app and when visiting a webpage in another language select “More” and then the target language at the bottom of the page. Chrome will offer to translate the webpage one time or to always translate it.


Regardless of whether you want a simple translation of your non-native language while browsing the web or you want complex and comprehensive website localization for your CMS system, there are a wide variety of options available. From free browser features or add-ons to fully-featured localization software and professional human localization services there is no need to limit your browsing or business to your native language only.

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