Global Websites Part 5: Multi-lingual Search

As a company grows and expands on a global scale, many international needs must be addressed. How does your website evolve globally? Do you keep one website or do you create localized variations? How do you store your managed translations with your product information? How do you improve your global web presence? In this series, we will help you address these issues.

When you have a global website, you want to make sure you have multi-lingual search capability. The Census Bureau reports that at least 350 languages are spoken in US homes, so whether your website is global or local, it is best practice to allow your visitors to be able to search in English and their native language.

This can be a little difficult to implement, but there are a couple of ways to accomplish multi-language search on your website. The quick and easy way would be to install a Google Translate search widget. This, however, does not accommodate for variations in search behavior across languages and regions. This solution can also result in inaccuracies and inconsistencies, especially since different languages and regions use different syntax.

If you are using a Web CMS, another way to integrate multi-language search is to find an internationalization or global search module you can install. For example, Drupal has this one: The Web CMS modules are very complex but also very flexible – so flexible, that you can constantly be tweaking them in order to get it right (to your standards).

With Drupal as our example, using Search API and FuzzySearch allows you to set up and rank your search based on indexable fields. You can index on fields such as product number, catalog number, product friendly name, product features, marketing copy, or any fields you have set up in your CMS for your website. You can tweak and adjust accordingly based on the results you get. This solution also allows you to index translated keywords, which would be a good option if you have one global website.

When building your site’s multi-lingual search feature, you’ll also want to be forgiving of typos. It’s a general best practice, but especially crucial when supporting international users who are weaker spellers when entering queries in a foreign language. Going back to our example Drupal modules, FuzzySearch tries to highlight search terms that may have been misspelled and allows you to set up a minimum spelling score that sets a threshold. This threshold is calculated as the ratio of n-gram hits to misses in a term. Enter a value between 0 and 100 – zero may cause a misspelling to highlight everything, and 100 will only highlight exact terms. Changing this setting does not require re-indexing.

When it comes to your website’s search functionality, of course, everyone wants results that are identical to what Google serves up. That’s obviously difficult to achieve, but these Web CMS modules at least provide you with the flexibility to get close.

To learn more about globalizing your website, download our E-Book, Expanding your Web Presence on an International Level, below.