How-to Guide: Switch to WordPress multilingual WPML Multidomain

Nils Cartsburg Last updated 21.10.2020
6 Min.
WordPress  multilingual
Last updated 21.10.2020

You need WordPress multilingual? There are different variants of implementation. In the form of a path within the URL(example.de/en), as a subdomain(en.example.de) or as a multidomain. In this case, each language receives its own domain. From an SEO perspective, this is the best option for multilingualism with WordPress and WooCommerce.

Our choice at FirmCatalyst fell on multidomains precisely for this reason. It is clear which domain is responsible for which content. And each language version can be designed differently depending on the target group or the country. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to make your website multilingual in just a few steps.

The goal of the integration: The German content of our company website is hosted on firmcatalyst.de, whereas the English content is hosted on firmcatalyst.com. In addition, the URLs of our old structure(firmcatalyst.com as well as firmcatalyst.com/en/) must be properly redirected.

You need the following tools or services for this tutorial:

  • Your .de domain (or other)
  • A second domain, such as .com
  • The WPML Plugin
  • Web hosting from RAIDBOXES
  • Spreadsheet or an Excel table

The feature also works with Polylang. But only if you have WPML compatibility mode enabled in Polylang. If you have any questions about this, feel free to use the comments at the end of the post. Or contact support at RAIDBOXES.

Making a WordPress website multilingual

To ensure that the trust the search engines have built up in our URLs is not lost, it is important that all links on your website are forwarded correctly. This makes it easier for the search engines to understand the context of the redirect. And they know where the corresponding new content is now located.

Step 1: Save URLs in the form of a spreadsheet table

First create a table with all URLs of your website. This will be used later to check that no mistakes have been made:

Forwarding language changeover WordPress
The list of redirects

Step 2: Change the A-Record of the domains

For this tutorial it is also important that both domains point to the same web hosting (in this case RAIDBOXES). To do this, change to your BOX at RAIDBOXES. Copy the IP address and replace the A-record of your domain at the respective web host:

IP address of the box
The IP address of the device specified BOX at RAIDBOXES
Change A-Record
Adjusting the A-Record

Step 3: Change BOX type to a multidomain BOX

Go to your dashboard at RAIDBOXES . In the BOX under Settings -> Server -> BOX-Type you will find the option BOX-Type: WPML Multidomain. This must be activated. Attention: Please deactivate your SSL certificate temporarily during the configuration!

Multidomain BOX
Unlock the WPML Multidomain

The view within your domain overview will change. You can now configure which domain should be used for the second language:

Configure domain
The configuration of the domains for the second language

In order to complete the configuration at RAIDBOXES the end, it is important to complete the www. forwarding for the second language. This must be done manually. If you have done everything correctly, all arrows should show "green light".

Note: It may take a few hours for the DNS entries to be updated worldwide.

Multidomain status
Forwarding status

Now you can enable SSL again. This process only takes a few seconds at RAIDBOXES . If you use a service like Cloudflare for your domains, then you have to activate the same type of encryption for both domains - for example "SSL - Full Strict":

Cloudflare multidomain
Type of encryption for Cloudflare

Otherwise, you'll get an error like this:

Cloudflare Multidomain SSL Error
Invalid SSL certificate error message

Step 4: Configure the languagesPlugin (WPML)

Install the WPML Plugin and activate your license. In the backend of your website, in the tab "WPML", you will find the option: "Site Language". Configure the desired languages in this selection window and choose which languages should be served on your website:

WPML Languages
Set language for WPML

In the next configuration field "Language Url Format" you define on which path the respective language can be called. Since we host the language on a separate domain, we select the option: "A different domain per language". Enter in the input field, at which domain which language can be found:

WPML Domain Language
Language per domain in WPML

And that was it! The configuration of your multidomainWordPress website should now be successfully completed. Just check if the second language version of your website can be accessed without any problems.

Step 5: Set up redirects to the new domain

From experience, the redirects are neglected by most webmasters or web designers. Yet these are essential for search engine optimization (SEO). How else should search engines know where the new content can be found? All the backlinks that your website has built up naturally before now point to nowhere. And thus lose their value.

To prevent this from happening, you need to use a 301 redirect to show where the new site can be accessed.

Tip: For information on 301 redirects - and other important tips for your success on Google - check out the SEO Audits guide at Dominik Stein.

In our case, european content was hosted on firmcatalyst.com/en/*. Now we need to set up appropriate redirects so that the URLs are reachable on firmcatalyst.com/*.

Fortunately, RAIDBOXES offers the possibility to create your own redirects in the backend of your BOX : Under Settings -> Redirects -> Url Redirects. Alternatively, you can also use a Plugin with which you can create redirects. For example Yoast SEO or Redirection for WordPress or WooCommerce.

Tip: Redirects by the server are more resource efficient and faster than redirects created by Plugins or PHP. For more information about redirects in RAIDBOXES , see the corresponding help page.

301 Redirects at RAIDBOXES
301 Redirects at RAIDBOXES

Your task now is to manually enter the URLs of your Excel spreadsheet under "Redirects". In the end, the list of redirects looks like this:

Forwarding 301
The overview of the redirects

Conclusion: Effects on your SEO

The correct integration of multilingual content is a big problem for many websites. There are often many pitfalls regarding the correct integration, security gaps, compatibility with others plugins and translation of the content.

For search engine optimization, it is crucial to integrate the so-called hreflang tag correctly. The hreflang tag indicates to search engines that the content of a web page also exists for another language.

The WPML Plugin will do this for you. However, to be on the safe side, it is recommended to double check if the href-lang tag is actually used correctly. You can use the Sistrix hreflang validator for this purpose. Up to 25 queries per day are free of charge.

check hreflang
Check hreflang with Sistrix

Decisive for the migration of the contents of a website into another language are:

  • The structure of the website
  • The tag hreflang
  • The correct forwarding of existing content

If you don't implement these pitfalls properly, then it can have long term effects on search engine optimization. So work out a plan for the future URL structure of your website. Proper preparation is very important here.

What questions do you have about WPML Multidomain at RAIDBOXES ? Feel free to use the comment function. You want to get more tips about WordPress & WooCommerce ? Then follow us on Twitter, Facebook or via our newsletter.

Contributed photo: Kyle Glenn

Nils is the founder and CEO of the Berlin SEO agency FirmCatalyst. Together with his team, Nils has supported startups and SMEs throughout Germany, as well as internationally in Tel Aviv, New York and Silicon Valley over the past 10 years.

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