Create A Multilingual Site Fast

Want to create a multilingual WordPress site
so that you can connect with more people around the world?

Most people prefer to browse the web in their
native languages, so this is a great way to make your site more user-friendly
and help you boost your SEO by ranking in new languages.

But if you want to create a user-friendly and SEO-friendly multilingual WordPress
site, you need the help of a WordPress translation plugin.

To that end, I’m going to compare the four
best WordPress translation plugins in 2020 and beyond. I have spent time
hands-on with all four of these plugins, so my goal is to apply that knowledge
to help you pick the plugin that best meets your feature needs, interface
preference, and budget.

Let’s jump right in so that you can start
translating…

1. TranslatePress

Create A Multilingual Site Fast

TranslatePress is the “youngest” WordPress translation plugin on this list, but it’s quickly grown in popularity – it’s now active on over 80,000 sites with an excellent 4.7-star rating on over 180 reviews.

If I had to pick the two most notable features
for TranslatePress, I would say those features are:

  1. A visual translation editor – You can manage translations by clicking on a live preview of your site. It works a lot like the familiar WordPress theme customizer.
  2. Out-of-the-box comprehensive translations – TranslatePress works with pretty much every theme and plugin right out of the box. You can click on plugin/theme content in the visual editor to translate it just like you can your blog posts.

To translate your content, TranslatePress lets
you use both manual and automatic translation. If you want to use machine
translation, you can choose between Google Translate or DeepL.

If you use machine translation, the nice thing
is that TranslatePress will store those translations locally in your WordPress
site’s database, so you don’t need to query external services to serve up your
translated content. This also means that you can manually edit the
machine-generated translations as needed.

Your translations are also SEO-friendly – each
language gets its own, fully indexable subfolder on your site. You cannot use separate domains or
subdomains, though
.

With the premium version, you can also
translate important SEO details, as well as access other useful features such
as:

  • Automatic user language detection
    and redirection.
  • Separate navigation menus based on
    language (vs just translating the same
    menu into different languages
    ).
  • Dedicated translator WordPress
    accounts.

How you translate content with
TranslatePress

No matter if you manually translate your
entire site or use automatic machine translation, you’ll be able to manage
everything from the visual translation editor.

The translation editor is super easy to use
which, again, I think is one of the big advantages of TranslatePress. To
translate content, you can:

  • Hover over the element that you
    want to translate.
  • Click the pencil icon.
  • Add your translation in the
    sidebar.
Create A Multilingual Site Fast

If you have a site with restricted content
(like a membership site), TranslatePress also includes a tool to let you browse
your site as different user roles. This helps you view and translate restricted
content.

TranslatePress pricing

TranslatePress offers a free version at
WordPress.org that lets you translate unlimited words into one new language.

If you want access to the SEO features,
support for unlimited translation languages, and other premium features, the
paid plans start at €79 for use on a single site.

If you want to use automatic translation, you
also might need to pay for the translation service. The Google Translate API
offers a limited free quota, but DeepL is 100% paid.

2. WPML

Create A Multilingual Site Fast

WPML is one of the oldest and most established WordPress translation plugins – there’s a reason why so many other WordPress themes and plugins mark themselves as “WPML compatible”.

You can set up a separate, indexable version
of your site for each language using one of the following URL structures:

  • Subfolder -e.g. yoursite.com and yoursite.com/es
  • Subdomain -e.g. yoursite.com and es.yoursite.com
  • Separate domain -e.g. yoursite.com and yoursite.es

WPML gives you tons of options to translate
your content. You can:

  • Manually translate your content
    yourself.
  • Use automatic translation powered
    by Microsoft on a post-by-post basis (not
    sitewide like some other tools, though
    ).
  • Outsource your translations to
    professional translation services. WPML integrates with 70 different services,
    which is way more than most plugins.
  • Create special translator
    WordPress accounts and have them translate some/all of your site. For example,
    this could help you work directly with a freelancer.

WPML offers comprehensive translations,
including theme and plugin content. However, this can sometimes require some
manual effort on your part if a theme/plugin doesn’t follow best practices in
its code.

You also get some nice features, like the
ability to translate the emails that your WordPress site sends and RTL text
support.

How you translate content with
WPML

WPML offers two methods to translate your
content – an old way and the new way. You can choose your preferred method in
the plugin’s settings.

With the “old” version, you’ll
essentially duplicate each piece of content in different languages. It gives
you access to the full editor for each language version, but there’s no
side-by-side tool.

The “new” version, dubbed the
Advanced Translation Editor, fixes that with a more convenient side-by-side
view:

Create A Multilingual Site Fast

You’ll also be able to use
automatic translation from the Advanced Translation Editor.

For other types of content, like content from
your theme or other content “outside” the WordPress editor, you’ll
need to use the separate String Translation editor.

Personally, I find having to use a separate
interface for these non-editor-content strings to be a little cumbersome,
especially because some of the other plugins on this list offer a more
streamlined approach.

WPML pricing

WPML does not offer a free plan.

The cheapest plan starts at $29. However, I
think almost all sites should go with the $79 Multilingual CMS package, as the
cheaper plan doesn’t offer comprehensive translations.

That plan includes 2,000 free automatic
translation words per month. If you want to exceed that, you’ll need to
purchase additional words. This is
because Microsoft, the automatic translation service that WPML uses, charges
for machine translation – it’s not WPML trying to upcharge you
.

3. Weglot

Create A Multilingual Site Fast

If you want the absolute simplest way to translate your WordPress site, I don’t think you’ll find anything easier than Weglot.

With Weglot, you can be up and running with a fully translated site in just a few minutes.

How?

Because as soon as you set it up, Weglot uses
machine translation to translate all of your content.

One of the great things about Weglot is that
it automatically detects all the content from your theme and plugins, as well.
Basically, if the content appears anywhere on the front-end of your site,
you’ll almost certainly be able to translate it – no special compatibility
required.

You’ll also be able to translate important
content that isn’t visible, like SEO titles/descriptions and image alt tags.

If
you’re wondering, this is because Weglot’s approach to translation is to
basically look at your site’s front-end HTML and use that to determine what
content to translate. This makes it easier to ensure comprehensive translations
vs some other plugins that look in your back-end theme/plugin files.

Each language gets its own SEO-friendly
subfolder on your site and visitors can choose their preferred language with a
user-friendly front-end language switcher. Weglot
doesn’t support subdomains or separate domains for each language
.

Once you have those automatic machine
translations in place, you can always go back and manually refine them as
needed. Or, Weglot has a built-in tool that lets you outsource translations
directly to professional translators (you’ll
need to pay those professionals, of course
).

Weglot is technically a platform-independent
SaaS, but it offers a dedicated WordPress plugin that makes it super easy to
get started.

The two meaningful usage differences of this
SaaS approach are that:

  • You’ll manage your translations
    from the Weglot website, rather than your WordPress dashboard.
  • Your translations “live”
    on Weglot’s servers and Weglot delivers them to your site when needed. That is,
    your translations are not locally stored in your WordPress site’s database,
    though Weglot will help you export them if you decide to stop using the Weglot
    service.

How you translate content with
Weglot

Again, as soon as you activate Weglot, it
automatically translates your entire site using machine translation.

To manually refine those translations, Weglot
gives you two separate interfaces (both
of which automatically sync with each other and your live WordPress site
):

  1. List Editor – This is a side-by-side list of the original version of your content and the translated version. If you’ve ever worked with PO editor software, it’s a lot like that.
  2. Visual Editor – You’ll see a live preview of your website. To translate any element, all you need to do is click on it – it’s super easy to use. Pictured below.
Create A Multilingual Site Fast

For some types of
translations, like SEO metadata, you’ll need to use the back-end list editor.

Overall, being able to access both editors is
quite convenient as each approach might be better in certain situations.

Weglot pricing

Weglot has a limited free plan that supports:

  • One new language
  • 2,000 words
  • 2,000 translation page views

This free plan could work for a small static
website/portfolio. However, if you have a blog, you’ll almost certainly need
more words.

Paid plans start at €9.90 per month for up to
10,000 words and 10,000 translation page views.

*
Translation page views only count for translated content. Additionally, if you
use page caching, pages that are served from the cache won’t count against the
limit, which means your translated content can receive a lot more visits
without hitting your limit in Weglot as long as you cache pages.

4. Polylang

Create A Multilingual Site Fast

Active on over 500,000 sites, Polylang is the most popular free WordPress translation plugin at WordPress.org. It’s also maintained an excellent 4.7-star rating on over 1,400 reviews, which is impressive.

You can use Polylang to create separate,
indexable versions of your site for each language using your choice of:

  • Subfolders
  • Subdomains
  • Separate domains

The core Polylang plugin only supports manual translation. However, you can link it with the separate Lingotek Translation plugin from the same developer to use automatic machine translation or connect to professional translation services.

How you translate content with
Polylang

Polylang works by essentially duplicating each
piece of content for each language. When you go to translate a piece of
content, it’s like writing a post from scratch…except the post is linked to
its sibling in the other language by a meta box in the sidebar:

Create A Multilingual Site Fast

The nice thing about this approach is that
you’re able to fully localize each post and it’s easy to control URL slugs and
SEO details. However, this approach is a bit more labor-intensive as compared
to TranslatePress, Weglot, or WPML’s Advanced Translation Editor.

Like WPML, you’ll also need to use a separate
string translation manager for content that sits outside the WordPress editor,
which also adds a little complexity.

Polylang pricing

The core Polylang plugin is free to translate
unlimited content into unlimited new languages.

However, if you want 100% comprehensive
translations and/or you want to use Polylang with WooCommerce, you’ll need one
of the Pro versions.

Both Polylang Pro and Polylang for WooCommerce
cost €99 each. Or, you can get a
bundle of both for €139

Which is the best WordPress
translation plugin for you?

All of these WordPress translation plugins
have something to offer, so I don’t know that there’s a single “best”
plugin for all scenarios.

Instead, I’ll try to help you pick the best
tool for your needs based on the features that you value.

First off, if you want the absolute simplest
way to comprehensively translate a WordPress site, I think your two best
options are:

  • TranslatePress – This plugin has a free version with no word limits and is 100% self-hosted.
  • Weglot – This SaaS tool has a limited free version.

Both offer user-friendly visual translation
interfaces, support sitewide automatic machine translation, and offer
comprehensive translations without needing to look for any special
compatibility. That last feature – comprehensive translations out of the box –
is what I find to be the most useful, especially if your site’s front-end
content is largely based on plugins (e.g. WooCommerce, event plugins, etc.).

Weglot is a bit simpler to get started, while
TranslatePress is more affordable and has a more generous free version.

With its new Advanced Translation Editor and support for piece-by-piece machine translation, WPML has also made itself a lot more user-friendly.

Overall, WPML is still not as simple as those
two tools, but the trade-off is that you get superior translation management
options (if working with freelancers or users) and integrations with 70+
professional translation services.

Finally, Polylang has the most generous free version, especially if you need to translate your site into multiple new languages. However, it lags behind a bit in the “ease of use” department and I find it to be the most complicated/labor-intensive plugin on this list.

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