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How to create a bilingual blog with good SEO

If your blog is bilingual because you are writing a post in English and you provide the translation right away in that same post, I encourage you to separate both languages using a subfolder or subdomain. Having a post in two or more languages in the same place is both bad user experience and poor SEO strategy.

With WordPress you can create a bilingual or multilingual site through subdomains (secondlanguage.yourdomain.com) or subfolders (your domain.com/secondlanguage). It is like having two blogs with different home pages. Every blog lives in its own space, although some things are connected inside. Google will consider them as separate sites (you will have to verify and submit a sitemap of your new subdomain or subfolder, and your traffic will be read separately).

It looks like subfolders are the trend to follow and provide better results for SEO. They are also a little less complicated to create than subdomains if you are attempting this on your own, and you are not a pro.

You can also create a subfolder in your FTP if you do not work with WordPress. But it is tricky, it did not work for me, this is why I tried WP. It was either that or paying a pro to do it because I messed up my site badly and had to restore everything.

Once you decide your strategy, the first thing you need to do is:

Back up your site. Your webhost keeps a copy of your site, but they cannot guarantee the quality and how updated it is. If you don’t want to lose your website overnight install a backup plugin. There are many available and free. I use BackWPup, which is an easy to use one-click plugin: it downloads a zip with all your site’s structure to your hard drive in seconds.

The process I am about to show you involves editing the FTP, migrating, and redirecting. Your permalinks will change so, if something goes wrong, your blog will be saved and the worst that will happen is that you will be back to square one.

The Multisite Network offered by WordPress was the way to go for me. There is that link: Before you begin, that scares the everything out of you, warning you of the risks and headaches. But you can do it, it is actually pretty straight forward.

1. Prepare your site for multisite

A. Make sure you are able to use “pretty permalinks”, those with words and numbers that make sense, instead of code like p?123). In WP go to Settings-Permalinks.

B. Deactivate your plugins. Plugins are pretty powerful and can interfere. Also, the way plugins are managed will slightly change once you create a network, so it is better to put them to sleep for now. BUT once you turn them off try to finish your multisite network with no delay: once I turned off the anti-spam plugin Akismet I was infested with spam that it took me a while to clean afterwards.

2. Go to your FTP server

. FileZilla makes it easy.

There are 2 files that you will need to modify in order to create a multisite network, and both are accessed through the FTP server:

  • wp-config.php
  • .htaccess

. You will find both files in your root domain. This means that once in the FTP, you click on your domain.com and those files will appear. You don’t need to look for them inside any folder.

See this print screen of my FTP server. The above window contains all my websites and as I select items, everything shows in the window below. The left windows are local, for my computer. When I need to upload something that is in my computer to my server I just drag and drop.

screen shot FTP server

wp-config.php: Following the instructions on how to create a multisite network with wordpress, edit the wp-config file by copying and pasting the code WordPress gives you: It needs to be copied right above where it says “that´s it, stop editing”. This prepares your site for Multisite.

multisite code

.htaccess: To create the subfolders or subdomains, go to the .htacces file and copy the code you need depending on the WP version you have. This will create the multisite structure. Once you access your new subdirectory´s dashboard, you will have to name it and add some information as the administrator.

Redirecting to a subfolder

What if you are redirecting a separate blog into this subfolder? You will need to do this through your .htaccess file too, but the code willl change slightly. Here you can see different cases and the codes you will need (redirecting form one subfolder into another, redirecting the domain into a subfolder, starting a subfolder from scratch…). But my case was not very common because I had a whole domain (let’s call it domain 2) that I wanted to permanently redirect (301) to a subfolder in my domain 1. If this is your case, read the post I wrote about How to 301 redirect an old domain to a new domain’s subfolder.

When I created my subfolder and redirected my old blog to that subfolder I did not need to reinstall wordpress or select a theme.

Weird permalinks

One thing when you create a network in WordPress is that you get this type of Permalink by default:

http://yourdomain.com/blog/2015/01/sample-post/

Adding /blog appears to be necessary to prevent url “collisions” between the main domain and the subfolder, but you can make it invisible with plugins like Remove blog slug.

Be patient and whenever you feel confused and tempted to drop everything, remember that the answer is always there and the solution is easier than you think. I learned this since I started working on my blog with no tech experience. And it has always proven to be right.

Leer en español

Photo: Fancy Jantzi via photopin cc

Clarisse Céspedes

Journalist and Content Strategist. SEO, sponsorships and video. Follow me on Facebook and @ClarisseCespede.

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