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A Guide to Website Language Selectors

A country language selector can help businesses cater to different language speakers within the same country, creating a wider target audience.

Did you know that there are over 4.33 billion active internet users? Even though the number one language is English, they only make up 25% of internet users with other languages like Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese users growing in the past few years.

These trends indicate that e-commerce businesses (and businesses in general), need to consider a global audience.

While it might seem like an additional expense, businesses benefit tremendously by catering to different languages using technology, like a country language selector, because of several benefits to their website.

Having a website language selector is a vital element for your website’s polyglot ambitions, and this guide is designed to explore the multifaceted role of language selectors on websites, and help make your website and the Internet as a whole a more inclusive and accessible place for everyone across the globe.

Whether you are a burgeoning startup or an established global entity, understanding and effectively utilizing a website language selector can be a game-changer in how you connect with your audience across different linguistic landscapes.

Why have a language selector?

Let’s say you've got a great performing website, but you're missing out on reaching a big chunk of potential customers because they don't speak English. Even though English is spoken widely, there is still an untapped market full of potential.

That's where a language selector comes in handy. Here are a few reasons that will convince you to make your website more language-friendly.

1. Embracing linguistic diversity

The Internet is a melting pot of languages. English is commonly spoken even where it’s not the local tongue, but there are billions of people out there speaking Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, and hundreds of other languages.

By adding a language selector, you're opening up your site to a whole new audience. Take the United States, for example. There's a massive Spanish-speaking population, and by catering to them, you're showing that your business is inclusive and cares about reaching everyone, no matter their language.

2. Boosting your SEO

Search engines love websites that are user-friendly, high-quality, and relevant. When you add a language selector, you're not only making it easier for users to navigate your site, but you're also giving positive signals to search engines like Google.

They'll crawl your site better, index it faster, and then your site's ranking gets a boost. It's a win-win situation.

Interested in how else changing your website can affect SEO? Check out our post on IP redirects and SEO.

3. Making user experience a priority

If you stumble upon a website that's in a language you don't understand, do you stay, or do you leave and try to find one in your language?

Adding a language selector shows that you care about your users' experience. It's like rolling out the red carpet and saying, "Hey, come on in, we speak your language."

When users feel welcomed and understood, they're more likely to stick around, explore your site, and maybe even become loyal customers.

4. Competitive advantage

In a crowded digital space, offering a multilingual website can be a key differentiator. It sets your business apart as one that values and caters to the needs of a diverse customer base. This level of consideration can improve brand loyalty and reputation.

Are you convinced yet? Great, let’s move on to how you can use a language selector on your own website.

Ways to implement a language selector on your website

Implementing a language selector on your website is a strategic step toward improving your site’s accessibility and user engagement.

There are several effective ways to do this, each with its own set of benefits. The key is to choose a method that aligns with your website’s design, user experience, and the specific needs of your audience.

Here are some popular methods:

Dropdown menus

One of the most common and straightforward methods is using dropdown menus. This approach is user-friendly and can be easily located on the website, often in the header or footer. 

Dropdown menus allow users to select their preferred language with just a click, making it a convenient option for quick language switching.

Geo-redirection

Geo-redirection is a handy feature that automatically directs users to a version of your website in their local language based on their geographical location.

This method is great at providing a localized experience, but should offer users the option to switch back, as it may not always accurately reflect the user's language preference.

For example, if a Czech person is vacationing in Germany, they may not be able to speak German and would prefer Czech instead.

User preference-based selectors

To counteract the scenario above, you can also just ask users directly. This method involves allowing users to set their preferred language when they first visit your website. The site then remembers this preference through cookies and defaults to this language in future visits.

It's a personalized approach that respects user choice and enhances the browsing experience.

Automatic language detection

Automatic language detection uses the user’s browser settings to determine the language. The website then automatically displays in the detected language.

While this method is seamless from the user's perspective, similar to geo-redirection, it should be complemented with the option to manually select a different language.

Each of these methods has its advantages and can be effective depending on the nature of your website and your audience's needs.

It’s crucial to consider factors such as ease of implementation, user convenience, and overall website design when deciding on the method for integrating a language selector into your website.

How to automate language selection

Automating language selection on your website is great for both user experience and streamlining the process of catering to a diverse audience.

Automation in language selection can be achieved through several innovative approaches, each making sure that users are presented with content in their preferred language with little to no input on their end. Here's how you can implement this:

User behavior analysis

Implementing algorithms that analyze user behavior and preferences can help in automatically adjusting the language.

For instance, if a user frequently selects a particular language, the website can remember this choice and default to that language in future sessions.

IP address localization

Similar to geo-redirection, this method uses the user's IP address to determine their geographical location and automatically presents the website in the predominant language of that region.

It's a useful tool for targeting content based on geographic data, but should be used cautiously to give the user a choice in their language selection.

Integrating AI and Machine Learning

Advanced techniques involving AI and machine learning can predict and adapt to user preferences over time, offering a highly personalized experience.

These systems can learn from user interactions and refine the language selection process to be more aligned with individual user needs.

Automating language selection requires a balance between technological efficiency and user-centric design. While automation can make for a better user experience, it's important to maintain an element of control where users can easily switch languages as per their preferences.

Conclusion

In our increasingly globalized world, a website language selector is no longer just an added feature; it's a necessity for businesses aiming to establish a strong international presence. By implementing a language selector, businesses can break down linguistic barriers, vastly improve user experience, and tap into new markets with diverse language needs.

From dropdown menus and geo-redirection to sophisticated AI-driven solutions, the ways to implement a language selector are varied and can be tailored to fit the unique needs of each website.

The key lies in understanding your audience and choosing a method that provides convenience, accuracy, and a seamless user experience.

Country language selector - Why does it matter?

For businesses expanding into different operations, a country language selector is necessary.

Catering to different language speakers in the same region

A country language selector helps businesses cater to different language speakers within the same country. Many regions/countries have people who speak in different languages - for example, the United States has a large Spanish speaking population with over 53 million speakers. However, most businesses either choose to ignore this audience because there is no cost-effective way to do so. This is where a country language selector is highly beneficial. 

It allows businesses to clearly differentiate between the types of languages and communicate these differences to the visitor. For example, there is a difference between Spanish spoken by South American countries and how it is spoken in Spain. Websites can account for these differences and convey them via a selector. 

It’s useful for SEO purposes

A language selector plays a crucial role in SEO because it is essential for website crawling. The spider refers to the bots on search engines that crawl through website content, index the website and analyse its content, which is crucial for ranking a business website.

Furthermore, country language selectors boost SEO by improving usability. Google is constantly updating its algorithms to reflect how its users use the search engine, which means businesses have to ‘future-proof’ their website to maximise usability. 

Of course, businesses need to ensure that their service/product appeals to different language users, or else they would not gain sufficient ROI from their investment because having a website with different languages increases maintenance costs. SEO is crucial for business success, and a language selector is one of the best ways to maximise the initial investment.

Have a global impact

While not every small business has global aspirations, those who do should certainly invest in a country language selector. Most internet users do not speak English, while others use it as a second and third language. While users with a vague understanding of English can interact with the content, they will be more engaged and invested in your brand when reading content in their first language.

Many large global brands already have multiple versions of their website and redirect some of their users using either geo redirection or a country language selector. A language selector is one of the best options to redirect users because it allows businesses to cater to multiple language speakers within the same region, as well as give users the choice on language preference. The ease of use combined with higher engagement makes language selectors one of the best options for engaging users on a global scale. 

Expanding the number of buyers

Language selectors expand the number of potential buyers. When a website caters to different language speakers, it increases the number of potential buyers because more visitors are engaging your brand.

While not every visitor is going to buy the product or service, a language selector increases exposure because it means more people, from varying backgrounds and dialects, can engage with the brand. When visitors see the brand and content in a language they are most familiar with, they are more likely to engage in it, which is important for increasing the number of potential buyers. Studies show that website localisation can increase customer engagement, which is an important step for growth.

Country language selectors are a crucial investment

Country language selectors are crucial for any business hoping to expand into different countries. Expanding into multiple nations is no easy endeavour because companies have to give due consideration to the content and design of their pages. 

A country language selector helps businesses make the most out of their investment by informing users about the available language options and providing an easy means to access the website. Furthermore, country language selectors can be easily installed using the right plugin, making it a crucial investment for businesses.

29th January 2020
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