There are very few bilingual blogs out there and there is a reason behind that: bilingual blogs mean double work since most or all the articles you will write will need translating. But if you enjoy translation and have time to dedicate to it, a bilingual blog could be an amazing addition to your website.
The most obvious advantage you get from having a bilingual blog is a wider audience. All the blog posts you translate and that receive visits simply would not have been added to the count of your visitors if you hadn’t done that.
Taking Veodesign as example, our monthly visits quintupled since we launched a new bilingual version of our website and blog. We considered at first doing the website in English and French, and the blog only in English and decided against it; we wanted to share the information with both audiences, leaving no one behind.
While translating every single article requires more time (15-60 extra minutes of my time depending on the length), we are glad we took that decision; our Google Analytics stats show that while our French visitors don’t care so much to look at our website in French, they do read our blogue. We also noticed that the popular articles vary according to the language. Within the last 2 weeks, our two most popular articles in English were Nike Air Mag for Sale and Firefox Add-ons for Web Designers. In French, they were Guide de l’acheteur Wacom (Wacom Buyer’s Guide) and Signification des Couleurs en Design Web (The meaning of color in web design).
By cutting out French, we would lose 20 to 25% of our readers. It doesn’t seem too dramatic, does it? If you think in yearly terms though, assuming you have about 1000 visitors monthly, there is a big gap between 12 000 and 9000 visitors.
Separate the content
Bilingual blogs can bring you more traffic but it is very important that you structure well your blog to achieve the desired results. By structuring, I mean separating your content from each language. You really want to avoid having both languages on the same page; not only will it confuse your readers but it will also force them to read twice. The only possible outcome of such practice is annoyed readers and, therefore, a drop in visits.
Taking our own WordPress blog as an example once more, since our French readers most likely do not want to read our articles in English and vice versa, we separated our articles in two categories: French or English. When we post in English, we check the English category, so that the article appears in a page especially made to display only articles in English. We also separated our RSS Feeds for English and French to avoid duplicates.
It is crucial that you keep all your articles within the SAME website and separate them using categories in WordPress (if that is the CMS you use). Do not make distinct websites or separate WordPress installations. The reasons are simple: you do not want to double work, double all your content and, most importantly, confuse Google. If you have your second language in a directory under your root domain (ex: www.yourdomain.com/en and /en being a second installation of your blog), it will confuse search engines that, instead of looking for updates in the directory, will look at your root and see no changes. Avoid that at all costs.
Post simultaneously in both languages
Another thing you will want to do as much as possible is post simultaneously in both languages. Not only will it be better for your readers to be able to follow your updates without delays, it will also be better for your Google ranking.
Here’s a rough explanation of how Google works for indexing new sites and content: every time a new article is posted on your blog, you send Google a ping saying “hey, check me out, I have new content”, so Google visits your site some time later and indexes your new blog post. Google analyzes your posting patterns though and might not come immediately after you post new content, especially if you randomly send a new request an hour only after your previous one.
Here’s an example: Let’s say I post an article in English at 8 AM almost every day. Google will understand that it needs to come around that time to check for new content. However, if I post later the translated article at 8:22 AM, the next day 10:47 AM and the one after that at 12:04 PM, Google will not know when to come and may ignore for a certain time my new requests, resulting in late indexation of my translated content.
To avoid such thing, you must schedule your articles to be posted at the same time. They will be indexed simultaneously and, if you use a service like dlvr.it to post your news on Twitter and Facebook as well, your posts will be shared all over the web in the same manner.
Everything that deserves to be done deserves to be done well
To run a successful bilingual blog, you now know you must separate your content and structure your site accordingly. You must also, as much as possible, post simultaneously in both languages. But there’s more; your content must be well translated. Well written and well translated content is what will truly make your bilingual blog successful. If the content you offer is boring and sloppily translated, the overall quality of your website will be affected and you will be perceived by your visitors as a worthless blogger. This is of course the last thing that you want.
With dedication, time and a little bit of technical knowledge you can make a successful bilingual blog come to life.
If you have any unanswered questions regarding bilingual blogs and their advantages, please leave a comment.