As a Shopify agency based in Europe, we have to build websites that work in multiple languages. In this article we explain how languages work in Shopify, and we talk about Weglot and why it’s our favourite app for language switching.
In a nutshell, Weglot doesn’t just allow you to enter translations, it actually translates your entire site the same way that Google Translate would, and afterwards you can manually adjust any translations that sound awkward.
It has a really easy way of editing the translations called the visual editor. It allows you to go through your website and click on any text that you want to edit. This is way better than just editing two columns of text without seeing the site (the problem with other apps).
Weglot is SEO-friendly and follows best-practices as according to Google. It also helps you with checkout translation and notification email translation.
Read on to find out more about Weglot and setting up a multi language. Or if you’re a hands-on kind of person, just install it here and play around.
What’s the biggest difference between Europe and USA for eComm store owners?
Europe has languages! Lots of them. There are over 24 official languages and over 200 commonly spoken languages.
Thanks to the EU, all these countries are easy to sell and ship products to. But that doesn’t solve the language barrier. People want to shop in ther own language. Sure you can use English as a common language, but if someone has a choice of buying a similar product from a store in their own language, versus a store in English, they will obviously choose the store that offers their own language.
So after building stores in Europe for a while we have tried all the language apps and solutions that Shopify offers.
We settled on Weglot after using it the first time for a store that needed language switching between Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and English. Since then it’s become our favorite translation app.
Weglot is an app that helps you build a website with a language switcher, so that your customers can shop on your website in their native language.
There are other apps that do this, but in those apps you need to paste in translations for each piece of text manually.
Weglot actually creates a machine translation of all the text on your website first, allowing you to make your website multilingual very quickly. And then you can then go through and fine-tune any awkwardly translated phrases yourself (or with the help of a native speaker) as a later step.
This saves a lot of time compared to pasting in translations manually, and it’s also much more intuitive. Rather than using large Word documents with text, an editor can go through the website visually, clicking on any piece of text that they want to edit. Really reducing the headache of translation.
Other reasons why I prefer Weglot:
So Shopify has this feature where you can edit the language of your theme. But what does this mean?
It only refers to the interface elements inside your theme code. For example, words like ‘cart’ or ‘buy now’ can be translated to your language. This is great if you need to translate an English theme to another language. And most themes come with pre-created translations for the most common languages.
However, this does have limitations:
So if your goal is to have a multilingual store with a language switcher, then you need to look at other options. Because Shopify’s built-in features only allow for a single language store.
Langify has probably been around longer, but because it’s older it’s also less powerful and not as intuitive to use.
The main difference between Weglot and Langify, is that Weglot has automatic translation, whereas in Langify you must manually enter all the translations.
This means that if you use Langify and you don’t speak the target language, then you need to hire a professional translator to translate all your content and interface elements, so you can then upload that to Langify. Otherwise you can copy and paste into Google Translate, and then copy and paste back into Langify. It’s just more of a hassle and you also don’t know if you’re getting a correct translation for very short eCommerce related terms like “Cart”.
Weglot does an automatic translation so that you don’t need to hire a translator. That being said, it is still a good idea to get a native speaker of the language check all the automatic translations that Weglot has made, just so that it doesn’t sound awkward.
And this is pretty easy to do, because one of the most powerful features of Weglot is the ability to overwrite the automatic translations with manual ones, in any place on the site. There is a very easy visual editor where you can just click on some text to edit it.
The premium plan even has a feature where you can hire a pro translator directly through the Weglot app.
Yes, Weglot handles SEO pretty well. It generates different URLs for each language, and then uses something called ‘hreflang tags’ to tell Google that these are the different language versions of each page. The URLs look something like this:
The DA in this url means the danish language, so Weglot generates URLs like this for every language that you have enabled on your store.
Don’t worry though, these URLs won’t be visible to your customers. They are just included in your website code as metadata for Google. Your customers will see totally normal Shopify URLs.
This being said, SEO is going to be more difficult when you have a multilingual store. There is no doubt about it. You need to create content for multiple languages, maybe have social accounts targeting different countries, blogging in different languages and so on.
It is not a simple topic so don’t be under the illusion that an app will do it all for you. You may need special help from an SEO specialist or Shopify agency that has experience with multi-language stores (wink wink).
Weglot won’t do automatic translation of emails. It’s not happening in the browser so it’s not really possible for it to do that. But it does detect what language your customer was using at the time of checkout, and so it makes it easier to set up translated emails using the Shopify email editor.
There is a guide on their website on how to do this, but because you need to edit code a bit, it might be best to enlist the help of a Shopify developer.
Basically how it works is you will need to write or translate your emails first, and then upload those translations to the same email template.
Your email templates can be found in the Shopify admin under Settings > Notifications. Your emails are written in HTML code, so you need to either know a bit of HTML (just the basics) or just be really careful to change only the content but not the HTML tags.
The email template allows you to use conditions (if …) which let you output different content, depending on the language that the customer was using on your website.
For security reasons, the Shopify checkout is not actually part of your website. It’s on a different domain and Shopify gives you limited control over what you can do on it. So using an app like Weglot on the checkout pages isn’t possible.
That isn’t really a problem though. Because checkout translations can be set up in Shopify using the theme language feature I talked about above.
The checkout is all actually interface text and doesn’t really have any content, then it’s no problem to just go into the Theme language file and edit all the terms you need.
If your language is one of the more common ones, then Shopify might even have presets for it. If it’s an uncommon language you can easily add them in yourself.
So where does Weglot come in? Well, Shopify wouldn’t normally know which language to use for the checkout. In fact it normally only allows for one checkout language to be used, so if your stores main language is English, the checkout will be in English.
Weglot helps by telling Shopify which language to use for the checkout. So whatever language your customer was using to browser your website, that’s the language that will be saved and activated for checkout pages thanks to Weglot.
Yes, this is pretty well documented both on Weglots website and in the Shogun and Pagefly support pages. They both have integrations with Weglot so it won’t be a problem to use Weglot as you normally would.
If you have any problems with some content not being translated, I would recommend reaching out to the support team of the pagebuilder you are using and they should be able to manually fix any errors.
By the way, if you aren’t using a pagebuilder yet, check out our article about pagebuilders and Shogun vs Pagefly:
The Best Landing Page Builder for Shopify - Shogun vs Pagefly vs GemPages
Pagefly gives you the most bang for your buck, and it even has a free plan. Shogun has more features, but it's more…www.alioned.com
Weglot has a free plan for up to 2000 words and 1 translated language, so if you have a very small website, you’re in luck.
Beyond that, the pricing is based on the amount of words and also the number of languages you have, starting from €9.90/month or €99/year.
You can check the full monthly and yearly pricing table at the Weglot pricing page.
It’s very easy to get started, there are only 5 steps:
Here is a link to the official instructions from Weglot if you have any trouble.
We are a Shopify agency based in Poland, with experience building European Shopify stores and with European problems such as languages and weird laws.
We can help you with email notification translation, and any other problems related to multi-language Shopify stores.
Send us a message and we will get back to you the next day.
Have any questions?