How to build a multilingual WordPress website

To access international markets, it is necessary to publish your website in different languages. With a multisite installation or a plugin for multilingualism, you can quickly create a multilingual WordPress site.

$1 Domain Names

Register great TLDs for less than $1 for the first year.

Why wait? Grab your favorite domain name today!

Matching email
SSL certificate
24/7/365 support

The advantages of creating a multilingual WordPress website

Setting up WordPress so that pages are displayed in bilingual or multilingual mode has several advantages. Depending on the desired market reach of your company, you may benefit from an extended target group approach, improved SEO rankings and brand image.

Improving the SEO ranking of a multilingual WordPress page

Multilingual content is welcome across major search engines because content is evaluated separately for each language. In this way, your site contributes more content to search results – by outputting search results in the language of the end user. With a search engine optimized, multilingual website you can open up international markets and increase your traffic.

Create a multilingual WordPress site and extend the reach of your audience

Improved visibility in multilingual search engines extends your reach and opens your company up to international markets. Addressing users in their native language makes it easier for them to navigate and explore a WordPress multi language site. Important key figures such as conversion rate, bounce rate, and time on site can thus be positively influenced.

A multilingual WordPress page creates trust

Addressing visitors in their native language not only provides a better user experience, but creates trust and improves your brand image. A WordPress website that is multilingual is often perceived as more professional by users, provided the translations are of a high standard. In this way, you may be able to convert visitors into potential customers.

How do you know if your WordPress should include a multiple-language option?

There are several ways to find out if additional languages may benefit your web project. You can check internal data to see which languages customers used in their support requests or view country-specific revenues. Or you check with Google Analytics whether it is worth setting up WordPress in multiple languages. To do this, simply select “Audience > Geo > Language” and “Audience > Geo > Location” in the menu. The former targets the set browser language of the visitors, while the latter checks the location. The numbers of page visitors can be improved with a multilingual WordPress page.


To get started with WordPress quickly and easily, choose WordPress hosting from IONOS and benefit from a platform optimized specifically for WordPress.

What to look for in a WordPress multi language website

Whether you’re using a WordPress multisite installation or a plugin – before creating a multilingual WordPress, here’s what you should consider:

The right URL structure

Before you set up a WordPress site as multi language, you should consider the URL structure you wish to use. Besides a top level domain or sub domain, you may want to consider adding a subdirectory.

Top level domain

Using top-level domains is an elaborate way to set up a multilingual WordPress. In this case for every country you add, you’ll need a separate website and a separate SEO strategy. Thus, the work required is more extensive. A WordPress multi language website can be set up via a multisite installation and domain mapping or as a stand-alone installation.


Setting up a multilingual WordPress page using subdomains is far more common. Like a top-level domain, WordPress can be set up multilingually as a stand-alone installation or multisite.


Much like the subdomain, setting up a WordPress multilingual site as a sub-directory is the most commonly used method. Besides the standalone and multisite installation, a multilingual website with a subdirectory can also be set up as a single site with plugin.


With an additional domain from IONOS you can easily secure the domain of your choice for your WordPress multi language website.

Domain Check
  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .info
  • .online
  • .shop

Hreflang tags

In order for search engines to correctly match languages and avoid duplicate content for pages of the same language from different regions, you should set hreflang tags.

For a bilingual WordPress page in German and English, the hreflang tags would look like:

German page:

<link rel="alternate" href=“" hreflang="de" />
<link rel="alternate" href=“" hreflang="en" />

English page:

<link rel="alternate" href=“" hreflang="de" />
<link rel="alternate" href=“https://" hreflang="en" />

For additional languages, add the appropriate hreflang tags to your WordPress multi language site.

Extensive translations

On your multilingual WordPress page, even small features like captions, keywords, or contact information should be translated correctly. An only partially translated page does not deliver the same user experience as a fully translated website. In addition, you should try to translate every single page. If a user swaps language on a subpage, it is important they can view the exact page in their language. Often, website owners redirect users to their home page where translations are not available. This practice may increase your site’s bounce rate because the user does not get the information they need.

Search engines read URLs and file names in addition to the text on the page. Therefore, you should translate URLs, image files, and PDFs into the respective language as well.


Automated translation tools such as DeepL, Google Translate, and others are tempting to use to translate your pages free of charge and little effort. But these tools are not sophisticated enough to produce the right choice of words for the respective context. Technical terms and information that requires adaptation for a select target country (localization) require an understanding of the target language, additional research, or manual editing. Similarly, if you work with keywords, direct translation often fails. Language usage and the culture of the target country strongly influence word choice. Depending on the purpose of your WordPress site, you should work with professional translators.

Placing your language selection menu prominently

So that users can immediately see available languages it is advisable to place your language selection menu prominently. Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to find their way around your multi language website.

Different language, similar website structure

If visitors switch language, the structure of the website should remain the same. This way, they are still able to navigate the page and refer to a structure they may already be familiar with.

Testing various WordPress multi language plugins

If you are not sure which plugin suits your needs you can test several for their multilingualism capabilities. Test them one after another to avoid simultaneous use of plugins interfering and producing errors.

Backup and development environment

Before you set up your WordPress multi language site, you should back up your existing site. For the implementation, it is recommended to set up a test environment to prevent errors on the live site. The WordPress Staging plugin lets you create a duplicate of your website on a development system.

WordPress Managed Hosting with IONOS!

Start your website quickly and benefit from the most secure and up-to-date version of WordPress!

24/7 support

WordPress multi language plugins or multisite

To set up a bilingual or multilingual WordPress website, you’ve got several options. In addition to a variety of plugins for multilingualism, the content management system offers the option of multisite installation without additional extensions.

Multilingual WordPress with multisite installation

WordPress allows you to deploy a website in multiple languages via multisite installation. Multisite installation itself lets you run multiple websites in a single WordPress installation. Use this step-by-step guide to get started.

Step 1: Using an FTP program – e.g. FileZilla – upload the wp-config.php file from the WordPress root directory.

Step 2: To set up a WordPress multi language website, look for the following code snippet in the wp-config.php file:

For the English WordPress installation:

/* That's all, stop editing! Happy publishing. */

For the German WordPress installation:

/* Das war’s, Schluss mit dem Bearbeiten! Viel Spaß beim Bloggen. */

Above this code snippet, add the following line of code:

define( 'WP_ALLOW_MULTISITE', true );

Step 3: Upload the modified file to your server.

Step 4: Open the WordPress backend. Under the menu item “Tools” you will now find the submenu item “Network Setup”. Here you can set the appropriate URL structure and network title. Hit “Install” once you’ve made your selection.

Step 5: Paste the provided lines of code into the wp-config.php and the .htaccess file and upload the modified files to the server. Be sure to make a backup of the two files beforehand.

Step 6: After adding the files, log in to the backend. You should be auto-directed to the network dashboard, from where you can access all web pages.

Step 7: To set up WordPress in multiple languages, create a sub-domain or sub-directory for each language under “Sites”. Use “Site Language” to specify the language for which the page is created.

Step 8: Install the Multisite Language Switcher plugin to manage your WordPress multisite website more easily. For each site, you can find the appropriate configuration under “Settings > Multisite Language Switcher”. It is important that the “reference user” is the same everywhere so that the sites are linked. If the plugin is configured for all pages, you can view the corresponding country flags for posts and pages, and can navigate directly to the translation. In addition, the display provides a good overview of missing translations.

Setting up a multilingual WordPress site with a multisite installation has the advantage that you don't need an additional extension. This way, you’re not dependent on third-party providers, which is of particular interest to larger companies. However, the setup is a bit more complicated and the speed performance of WordPress and individual pages can be a bit slower.

Using WordPress multi language plugins

In addition to the multisite solution, there are a variety of plugins to create a multilingual WordPress website.

WordPress multi language website with WPML

Among the plugins for multilingualism, WPML (WordPress Multilingual Plugin) is one of the most popular. The plugin is available from $29 per year, which is worth it because of its excellent support and extensive features. With over 40 languages and integrated WooCommerce translation, you can quickly create an international WordPress multilingual website. Besides widgets and page titles, the plugin translates meta title and descriptions, among others.

A special feature that makes WPML stand out from the competition is its translation management. You can quickly and easily assign translations to people or teams. Automated translations are integrated and can be individually edited. Automatic translation is billed via a monthly credit plan or via purchased credits.

WPML is a good solution to set up a multilingual WordPress site thanks to its numerous features. However, because of the wide range of functions it may take a little longer to get your head around it.

Multilingualism fast and easy with Polylang

Polylang is a free alternative to set up a smaller multilingual WordPress site. It supports numerous languages, including some with right-to-left writing direction. WordPress language packs are downloaded automatically. In addition to standard WordPress widgets, post formats, RSS feeds and taxonomies, meta data, categories, and keywords can also be translated.

The handling of Polylang is easier than WPML thanks to the lean feature set. For more features, e.g. WooCommerce support, Polylang offers a paid version. However, this is significantly more expensive compared to other plugins.

WPML vs. Polylang: an overview of the most important functions

Function WPML Polylang
Translation of posts, pages, and custom types Yes Yes
WordPress menu translation Yes (from multilingual CMS) Yes
Translation of tags, categories, and other taxonomies Yes Yes
Widget translation Yes Yes
Translation management Yes No (only via third-party provider Lingotek)
Page builder support Yes Yes
WooCommerce support Yes Yes (free version)
Number of languages 40 Over 100
Excellent support Yes Yes (paid version)
Automatic translation Yes Yes (paid version)
Right-to-left editing Yes Yes
Price From $29 per page per year From $99 per page per year
We use cookies on our website to provide you with the best possible user experience. By continuing to use our website or services, you agree to their use. More Information.