What’s better when dealing with a multilingual website?


I had a recent experience with a client whose website visitors are from several countries. The website owner’s clients are mainly English and German. And i was here trying to give them a solution to his situation.
The website was a previously complete job, very well done, judging by the lunch my client bought me at Java, Adams Arcade. Wish they served turkey, because thats what i would have ordered. And some white wine. The big bottle.

The client told me they needed to use some German keywords on the website, because the website users from Germany search for words like Urlaub in Kenia to mean Holiday in Kenya.

There are two ways to this, I told him, its about the customers, not about you. So the two options are:

  • Placing the keywords on the meta tags- Well this will ensure that there are keywords that the website can be found on. And we can add a translator to the site for German and other visitors to read.
    • Pros: This is easy work as i just have to place these keywords on the meta tags and we are done.
    • Cons: As you might be aware, the algorithm used for seach by search engines changed, and we nolonger rely on meta tags alone. Its great to have them, but content is king. Search engines scour the sitemap and it’s the content on the pages that determine the return of results and the last thing you can do is place German keywords on an english page with no coherence. One would consider placing them on the site but making the text the same colour as the page. This would work, but we call this black hat SEO. This is against Google’s Terms of Service. And you could get penalised, HEAVILY. The penalty, once your site is identified could be a ban from search results. We both know what this means to your business.
  • Having a different landing page, with options for the languages- This will mean having two websites on domain extensions, like yourdomain.com/en and yourdomain.com/de. What this will mean is updating two databases whenever you want to. But makes the website load faster since what loads is the html landing page where you select the language. leads you to the folder that has either the English website or the German one.
    • Pros:
      You get everybody happy, the Germans will read German content and can now make inquiries.
      The search engines will be a happy lot as they now have something to browse on, and give to your visitors in search results.
      This is ofcourse better to have than the first option.
    • Cons:Two databases to update, English and German, and if we were to develop a translator from the database it would be expensive for you.
      This comes with a need for a german content writer, i dont know german.

    Well, i had thought about IP based detection and language selection like they do in big social networks, but for the kind of investment i find it a tad too expensive for the client, or what do you think?