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Multi-Regional WordPress Websites

August 13, 2019

The global expansion of businesses and the international presentation of brands, products, and services is a large undertaking that involves many challenges ranging from technological and financial to timeline and logistics. Today, when websites or mobile apps replace classic storefronts, it’s essential to correctly set the foundation for a solid global online presence. There is lots of great technology available, but there isn’t one (solution) to rule them all. Each company must choose the best approach for their specific requirements and organizational structure.target audiences around the globe

Knowing how to structure web properties that engage new visitors and allocate existing resources is an important process. There are two basic approaches to creating a web page for global visibility (as outlined by Google):

  • A multi-lingual site – a website that offers content in several languages ​​(e.g., English and the Spanish version of the site)
  • A multi-regional site – a site that targets different geographic locations (e.g., the United States and Spain, as target product markets) 

While creating multi-lingual pages is a relatively simple task, which typically involves translating content into a specific language, while all other elements are the same on all pages, a multi-regional website is a more significant challenge. It often requires much more than translating content into the appropriate language (for example, colors in different parts of the world can awake other emotions and connect with other things, images may have different meanings or even be inappropriate in some regions, etc.).

Overall, local teams may have a completely different market strategy and competition, which as a result dictates the layout and functionality of the website. 

Unified Global Presence 

One of the most successful platforms for building a unified global presence is WordPress. WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world with more than 60% of CMS market share (WordPress uses over 30% of all Internet pages).

WordPress has a built-in solution called multi-site. It is a WordPress feature that allows users to create a network of websites that share a common platform and use shared resources, but each website can be customized as needed.

For example, sites for the US, France, Japan, and Australia can be created in the same network with different designs, content, and functionality. WordPress Multisite is quite flexible that it allows different teams to work in one place without affecting other sites in the network.

Built-in access control allows users to determine which team member has access to that page; for example, the Australian team can only access Australia’s installation, while the CMO has access to all pages. Also, web publishers may have access to all sites but with limited permissions that allow them to edit specific content on the page.

This approach is a very smart technological decision that reduces the technical requirements of a global web platform and provides a simple management platform for accessibility, performance, and security. Also, one of the benefits is lowering costs since a site is on one server and uses a verified Open Source solution.

Best Practices

To make this approach the best, it is essential that all things align. To help achieve the best business results and optimize all processes around websites, it is crucial to monitor the platform and upgrade and optimize it to achieve better performance and security. In addition to regional teams working together, it is important to respond to market demands and trends quickly. The proven technology platform based on WordPress multi-site requires effective coordination to guarantee that a website will deliver maximum performance and that regional marketing teams will be armed with their best to market products and services successfully.

Key Considerations

URL Structure

One of the most important decisions to make is the URL structure of web pages. It is the foundation for the development of a whole project that depends a lot on budget, market, and SEO (technology) platforms (maintenance platform).

According to Google for the right URL structure: “It’s difficult to determine geotargeting on a page by page basis, so it makes sense to consider using a URL structure that makes it easy to segment parts of the site for geotargeting.” Although it may seem like selecting the URL structure is an easy task, it is a fundamental and one of the most critical decisions in building a global web strategy.

Server Location

Not so long ago, one of the most important factors in building a website was that the server is as close to the target market and visitors as possible. Today, location is also important, but thinking globally and keeping a budget under control means understanding trade-offs.

Modern technologies such as CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) come to the rescue and help lower the site’s time and latency. Selecting a data center in a location that has a good data connection infrastructure is a good way to go.

Even Google is not taking physical server location into account anymore as it used to:however, some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better web server infrastructure, so we try not to rely on the server location alone.”

CMS

Being a market leader, in the web publishing world, WordPress ticks most of the checkboxes when it comes to selecting a backend for a global website network. There is a big chance that most team members are already familiar with it; it is modular and extendable, and secure when set up correctly. Most of the major web-oriented business and services officially support WordPress through addons or solutions that help in service integration.

WordPress itself is a modular and flexible solution that allows the development of large corporate sites to marketing mini-sites with custom tools, created for better user editing experience.

Multi-Regional WordPress Features

Throughout the years to help clients achieve their goals and meet their needs, the team at Convertiv has built several custom features with WordPress. Below are a few examples highlighted using the Multi-Regional WordPress installation.

Shared Media Library

WordPress by default has a separate Media Library per site. This means that initially site editors cannot see or upload content (e.g. images, videos), used and uploaded by fellow site editors managing other sites under the same brand. For example, a USA site editor will not be able to see images uploaded by their colleagues on a regional Spain site. This could be a problem, especially with a multi-regional case where a lot of content could be shared between sites.

With this in mind, the team at Convertiv builds a solution for a shared media library using the default WordPress media library. As part of this solution, website editors can see and use all media such as images across all regional sites with WordPress. The highly functional shared media library has the option to filter images per site and also search for images across all sites for quick access and usability. Additionally, a shared media library saves time for editors and eliminates duplication of efforts such as copying the same images to multiple sites. 

Post Duplication and Synchronization

In some cases, there is a need for content duplication and synchronization between sites in the network. What if you have multiple regional sites that use English as a language and you want to duplicate the content between sites? The team at Convertiv builds a custom solution for this type of a task where editors can duplicate content in one click to multiple sites, while also keeping them all in sync. If an editor needs to change anything on the original post, with one click they can sync all duplicated posts. Content duplication will copy images, content and everything else related to the original post.

Hreflang Tags Across Sites in the Network

“hreflang tags are a technical solution for sites that have similar content in multiple languages. The owner of a multilingual site wants search engines to send people to the content in their own language. Say a user is Dutch and the page that ranks is English, but there’s also a Dutch version. You would want Google to show the Dutch page in the search results for that Dutch user. This is the kind of problem hreflang was designed to solve.” – Yoast

The team at Convertiv builds a solution for editors to manually select related posts in the network or applies this automatically after they duplicate posts using the feature described above.

Publishing Checklist

This is not a strictly multi-regional feature but it’s very helpful for this case as well. When multiple editors are working on multiple sites, it’s not easy to have the same content creation workflow between them. This is why the team at Convertiv builds the “publish checklist” feature which enables users to have a set of conditions that an editor needs to fulfill before publishing a post. One example would be checking if post title, tags, and featured images are added before publishing. Having this feature across regional sites, allows for a uniform web presence and strengthens brand appearance.

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