WordPress localization made easy: best practices, how-to, challenges, great examples

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Thanks to user-friendly web design platforms like WordPress, it’s easy to set up an online business. However, to achieve global success, your website must resonate with audiences worldwide. Surveys of online shoppers indicate that 72% of consumers predominantly spend their online time on websites presented in their native language. The same percentage confirmed that they would be more likely to buy a product that was listed or advertised in their own language. This guide will explain how to effectively translate your WordPress website to increase user-friendliness, page traffic, and retention.

Why you should translate WordPress sites

Whether you’re utilizing WordPress or any other content management system (CMS), the best practices for translation and localization remain largely the same. Regardless of your technological platform, at some point, you’re going to want to translate your web content. Different types of online businesses have different reasons for having multilingual sites, but they can include:

  1. Enhancing accessibility to your content for international audiences – According to a survey by CSA Research, 76% of internet shoppers favor buying products that are presented in their own language, while 40% stated that they would not make purchases from websites not in their native language

  2. Fostering engagement in different markets

  3. Capturing search volume from multiple countries

  4. Boosting conversion rates and sales

  5. Customize your content and products to different regions

Localization vs. translation: what’s the difference?

To effectively manage a multilingual website, it’s essential to grasp the difference between these fundamental concepts:

  • Translation is the process of converting content from one language to another. Thanks to modern AI translation tools, basic word-for-word translation is fast and simple.

  • Localization is the art of tailoring content to appeal to audiences in specific geographic regions by incorporating their native languages and cultural preferences. More complex than direct translation, making the effort to localize your website will pay off by driving higher conversion rates. Consumer surveys reported that 64% of buyers prefer localized content.

Localization goes a step further than translation by adapting content to resonate with local sensibilities. For instance, displaying prices in users’ preferred currencies or using local cultural references, expressions, and colloquialisms. This makes your web content come across as more natural, authentic, and trustworthy, enhancing the user experience and streamlining the conversion journey.

Product designers should also be aware of a third “-tion”. Internationalization is the process of designing products to facilitate localization. For example, leaving space on a product that can be adapted to labels of different lengths. Because different languages may use longer words for the same concept, this makes localization easier. In WordPress web design, this involves setting up the code in such a way that it will check and fetch the desired languages when translations are required.

Great examples of localized WordPress sites

Let's examine a selection of WordPress sites to illustrate the effectiveness of localization:

Language learning company Babbel used Smartcat’s WordPress integrations platform to localize their website. Babbel also used Smartcat to save them 31 hours of work per month while maintaining the highest level of quality in every language.

As you can see, their language selection even has different versions of English—American and British—making customers from both regions feel at home.

Because people who want to learn a language could come from anywhere and may be interested in multiple languages, it’s especially important for Babbel to have fantastic localization. For some insights on how the Berlin-based company excels at creative campaigns around the world, check out our interview with Theresa Hein, Babbel’s Director of Creative localization.

Tour Partner Group, a travel company that offers tours all over Northern Europe, appeals to a wide range of potential customers by having full versions of the landing pages, newsletters, widgets, and other site elements available in six different languages.

Where would you find many people who want to visit Northern Europe? Why, in Southern Europe, of course! That’s why, as well as English and German, the site is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. A simple drop-down menu switches between language versions, and Tour Partner Group has also produced visual content and downloads in different languages.

Japanese car manufacturer Toyota has also done a great job with its Brazilian site, built on WordPress.

Not only is every aspect of the site in Brazilian Portuguese (which can have important differences from the language in Portugal), but the site uses appropriate images for the market and addresses local concerns, such as the social media scam in the above screenshot.

On a similar note, see how Sony’s Official Playstation Blog has different versions for European and Latin American Spanish.

Although one version of Spanish would be intelligible to native speakers in both regions, going the extra mile to differentiate them makes each target market feel more valued and allows the blog to target content to reflect local conditions.

Translating your WordPress site: the challenges

Localizing your WordPress site involves some extra effort, but the rewards are well worth it. However, before embarking on the localization journey for your WordPress site, you should be aware of the following challenges:

Selecting the right WordPress theme

Choosing a theme that is compatible with multiple languages is crucial for seamless multilingual integration. Without a suitable theme, you would have to rebuild your site from scratch every time you wanted to support another language.

Creating templates and sourcing files

You will need to create WordPress templates with multilingual functionality and download various files for themes, translation plugins, and integrations such as MO, PO, and POT files for your site to reference.

Multilingual SEO

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the art of making sure that your site appears in a good position on search results. However, different languages will have different keywords you need to optimize for. You will have to implement SEO for every language you are targeting. One way to do this is by using ‘hreflang’ attributes, which inform search engines which languages your site is in.

Manual translation

Once set up, you’ll embark on the arduous task of translating all content word-by-word into your desired languages. Unless you’re an unusually talented polyglot, this will involve contracting freelance translators and localization talent. Sourcing, negotiations, briefing, billing, revisions, and other parts of this process can slow down translation and eat up time and money.


Even after the site has been translated and localized, it falls on your or your development team to update your wp-config.php file with the text domain for each theme language, maintain language files, and update translated strings to make sure that nothing breaks and the website stays accurate.

In summary, managing WordPress localization independently tends to be inefficient, challenging to sustain, and time-consuming. Delving into your WordPress theme to access and edit text strings complicates the process, making even minor adjustments to localization a cumbersome task. Fortunately, there’s a better way.

How to translate a WordPress website

Rather than manually translate a site on your own, it’s simpler to use a language services platform that integrates with WordPress so that you can get translations and instantly pull them onto your page as opposed to the manual and often error-prone task of copy and pasting. Let’s take a look at how easy it is to translate a WordPress site with Smartcat.

Smartcat is a translation platform that combines the latest in artificial intelligence (AI) translation software with easy access to human language experts from around the world. Using Smartcat, you can set up AI human workflows for your translation projects, getting a fast, high-quality initial AI translation and perfecting it through collaboration with local reviewers in your target language, whether that be your own staff or hired reviewers from Smartcat Marketplace.

Smartcat features a WordPress translation plugin that seamlessly integrates with all WordPress themes and plugins, facilitating hassle-free localization without the need for extensive redesigns.

Through this integration, you can effortlessly link your WordPress site to Smartcat, allowing for the automatic retrieval of content into Smartcat for translation. Once set up, you gain access to Smartcat’s comprehensive suite of localization tools, enabling efficient management of translation projects, assignment of tasks to reviewers, and seamless synchronization of translated content back to WordPress with just a click.

Setting up the integration is easy:

1. Install the WPML Multilingual CMS and String Translation plugins if not already installed.

2. Navigate to WPML → Setup if you're new to WPML.

3. Install the Smartcat plugin.

4. Access Smartcat plugin settings in the WordPress admin panel's left sidebar.

5. Log in to Smartcat:

a. Automatically using the "Connect to Smartcat" button.

b. Manually via API key generation.

6. Once logged in, your Smartcat workspace name will appear in settings.

Additionally, the integration can be customized to export translations upon completion or when partially finished automatically. This ensures prompt access to AI-translated material, especially useful for projects employing hybrid AI/human workflows.

Here’s a brief overview of how you can get multilingual content on your WordPress site:

1. Select the article/page for translation and locate the Smartcat translation panel.

2. Choose target languages and workflow stage: AI translation, AI translation + human review, or manual translation.

3. Select the Smartcat project or create a new one.

4. Optionally, set a project deadline and add comments.

5. Click "Send to Smartcat" to initiate translation.

6. Track translation progress and update as needed.

By using WordPress' "Bulk actions" to send multiple articles for translation simultaneously, while conveniently managing all translated content under "Translation requests" in Smartcat.

The Smartcat App also supports translation for popular plugins such as ACF, CMB2, VC/WPBakery, Elementor, etc.

Check out the interactive demo below to see it in action or read the help center article for more detailed instructions.

Other benefits of using Smartcat for WordPress include

  • Automatic recognition of changes in the original content to quickly know which translated section should be updated.

  • Translation memory and glossary features that remember your preferences, maintaining quality and consistency while saving costs on repeated translations.

  • Reviewers can work directly within Smartcat without needing access to the source material.

  • Easy access to experts and potential collaborators through Smartcat Marketplace, a vast network of professional localization experts that can be filtered to match your project needs.

Best practices for WordPress localization

Beyond translation, consider incorporating these extra localization tips and tricks to optimize user experience on your site:

Language and currency switchers

The previous examples of well-localized websites offered users their choice of language via a drop-down menu button called a language switcher. Implementing a language switcher enhances usability and accessibility and lets the user know you care about their preferences.

For optimal design, avoid using country flags in the language switcher, as they may confuse users. Some countries have more than one national language, and some flags can also look very similar. Instead, list available languages in their native spellings.

For example:

  • Don’t do this: English, German, Spanish

  • Instead, do this: English, Deutsch, Español

To further enhance localization for sites that also serve as a catalog or storefront, consider implementing a currency switcher. This allows international users to change prices listed into their preferred currency, e.g., euros to US dollars. Remember that some currency names are common in different regions, and US, Canadian, and Australian dollars are separate currencies with different values.

Skyscanner ’s region settings include language, location and currency switchers—fantastic customization for users!


Geotargeting enables personalized content delivery based on users’ geographic location. For example, if your site detects that your visitor’s IP address is from Germany, it can auto-display the appropriate language, currency, and content for German users. This can be useful if you offer different products in different regions.

Visual localization

The visual elements of your website are just as important as the text. Consider the colors, graphics, and photos on your site and adapt them to local preferences. For example, the color red may be associated with aggression in Western Europe but denotes prosperity and good fortune in China. Snow and winter theming might be great for your Christmas range in Canada, but you might want a different aesthetic for your customers in Australia who experience Christmas in the summer! References to certain celebrities, pop culture, or slang should also be adapted to suit your target market.

A very Aussie Xmas at the beach, via


Transcreation is the gold standard of localization practices. Combining ‘translation’ and ‘creation’, it is the practice of giving your translators creative input, using their knowledge and talents to adapt your copy to something that is best for your target market. Transcreation is the most effective kind of localization, but it requires collaboration with trusted experts who understand your goals—experts that you can easily find and evaluate on the Smartcat marketplace.

Localize WordPress the smart way

By adhering to these best practices, you can ensure effective localization across all languages, enhancing user engagement and conversion rates. To make sure that everything flows smoothly, don’t forget to try Smartcat Language AI platform to see how we can help you reach a global audience by working smarter, not harder!

Translate your WordPress website with Smartcat AI