I will soon start an online service business and I am wondering if it is better to create a unique big website (with a landing page in which potential customers can choose in what language they want to read the content) or different sites (one for each language).
What are the benefits/problems of each strategy? Of course the service is always the same, but I can deliver it in different languages.
Better one website with multiple languages.
Easier to manage, better ranking in searce engines because the website has more pages, easier to promote.
A single site would be easier to maintain and administer. But separate language-specific sites would mean that you could have language-specific URLs. That would be an advantage if your French customers, for example, don't feel comfortable with an English URL. Of course, that's not an issue if the URL is meaningful in every language, but that's not likely to be the case.
As far as SEO is concerned, it doesn't really make any difference whether you go for one site or several. It's the individual pages that are important for SEO purposes. The important thing is for each page to be correctly optimised according to its content.
You mention landing pages. Really, from an SEO perspective, there's no such thing as a landing page. The page that the user sees first is whichever one the search engine returns for a particular query. The engine doesn't kow which page, if any, you regard as the landing page.
To summarise, I'd probably go for separate language-specific sites. But that's just my personal view. Do whichever you feel more comfortable with.
Your suggestions are very interesting, and I really appreciate your point of view. However, don't you think that having different URLs would affect my branding? "mysite.com" would be meaningful in English, "misitio.com" would work for Spanish and so on. It sounds like promoting two different companies, with different names, URLs etc... This is also an expensive strategy. Do you think I could just use subdomains, instead?
I was thinking about a gateway multilingual page with links leading to pages in a specific language: English, Espanol, Italiano, Deutsch etc...
What do you think?
Yes. That's an important factor, and you're right to take it into account. But it's not necessarily the only factor.
I agree with the others, one site is always easier to maintain, you just need to localise the content itself for each language you're supporting.
i18n is a difficult task but fun.
I know you're probably not using Rails but the i18n docs have some really good info on these types of decisions.
They seem to suggest using separate domains is a good solution, example.com for english / example.es for spanish.
I ended up implementing this precisely how they said not to
And used their language headers to set a default if they had not logged in
Hope it helps
Regarding the point about the URL affecting the branding:
If the language-specific sites are also country-specific, then one solution would be to use the same main domain name, but different country top-level names. For example, if your brand name was XYZ, your French site might be www.xyx.fr, the German site www.xyz.de, and so. (That's assuming, of course, that you were able to register all those domain names.)
I think creating a website with multilingual content is much better than creating different websites with different languages, the first reason is that i would not give a good impression of the website to google and second reason is this it would be much difficult to manage and update different sites.
Matt Cutts (of Google) covered this rather well in a video
According to my experience one website with different languages in better than many separate sites.You can manage it easily regarding to write the contents and for doing seo .On the other hand if you create many sites than you have to pay more intention on it and it will require a lot of hardworking.
So try to manage only one site with great quality.
From management point of view I agree with others, one site setup is better. I have developed this kind of websites, Drupal being the best tool. It has a very powerful i18n module.
With careful planning and good execution you can have a very good setup.
We just competed a similar project and had to consider many things. Three of which was managing content - sharing content & users across all sites, common assets (images, CSS etc), lastly, URLs.
Things to consider, content and users perspective:
1. We were okay with not translating ALL content. News releases were in English and just shared across all sites.
2. Users should have one login from the Japanese site to the main English site
1. Not all images required translations. Images of devices (iPhones etc...) did not have to be different
These had to be native - so site.com/company would be site.com/notre-groupe in french.
Because of our clearly defined needs we were able to make a decision - one install of a CMS (Expressionengine) that created multiple sites and could share content, users and certain variables. For instance if we had a number of clients we have, which would change every time a client was added - we could edit this number in one place and have it update on all sites.
Lastly - scalability. Will there soon be a time where you can hand off your Japanese site to an employee in Japan to manage content? Content workflow?
So I guess you need to define your needs. It will help you make a decision, choose a CMS or what not.
In our case, Expressionengine worked great. But WordPress Multisite and domain mapping can get you up and running rapidly as well.
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