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Can I Auto-Translate My Site? How Not To Translate A Website

Many marketers underestimate the challenges involved in translating their website, but that doesn’t always stop them from taking shortcuts. Chief among them is the use of autotranslation tools like Google Translate, the quality of which is rarely up to scratch, no matter how advanced their algorithms get.

Once you’ve given your business’s website an attractive design and some compelling English-language copy, it might seem logical simply to translate that text verbatim when you’re bringing your services to other countries. Unfortunately, this attitude can be dangerous for your brand. You need to consider your English-market website as less of a blueprint than its own market, which means that copy for other territories should be created relatively independent of your original site.

It’s very easy to make serious errors of judgement when it comes to translating your site, and not just because doing it badly will present your company or product in a way that is unappealing—or is possibly even repellent—to your target audience. Here are some of the ways that you might be taking the wrong approach to website localisation and translation.

Using machine translations can jeopardise your business

Consumers and businesses alike should be aware through first-hand experience that machine translation is rarely 100% accurate, and certainly not acceptable for creating marketing copy. Your website content needs to be free of grammatical and spelling errors, or else potential customers will be turned away by an unprofessional appearance.

Using auto-translation may also lead to penalties from search engines if you haven’t taken the time to review the copy before publishing it. As Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, John Mueller, notes, “low-quality machine-generated gibberish’y [sic] content” would likely cause a site’s rankings to drop, even with the improving quality of web translation services.

Beyond the words themselves, using the likes of Google translate does not consider any changes to the amount of text. While the majority of languages will require little to no alterations to the design of your website, localisation to some territories might lead to some vital tweaks being made. According to IBM, translating paragraphs from English into other European languages requires around 30% more space on a page, so localising your website will need to accommodate this additional space in its design.

In short copy, you might need to come up with a new slogan so that your current strapline doesn’t become overlong or meaningless in translation. Longer paragraphs, however, can vary hugely in size when localised, which could be a serious problem if your web designer has set static sizes for text boxes. Images and videos will also need to be altered and optimised. Video content will need subtitles added, while text-based images will also need translating and reworking to reach the new audience, and will again inform how your localised website will be designed. However, you should also ensure that the images and videos themselves are culturally sensitive to your target international audience.

Hiring freelancers on the cheap will not reach the high standard that’s needed

It isn’t machine translation alone that poses problems for businesses looking to localise their websites. Even if a website’s copy is grammatically perfect, it can still be second rate if the translator hasn’t taken into account cultural differences in the target market. The nuances of both the relevant language and the business itself need to be considered, which often makes hiring freelance translators unsuitable for performing these tasks in bulk.

They may also be lacking in the SEO knowledge required to help push your business’s website up the search engine results pages. Chances are your localisation efforts will be conducted as part of a wider strategy, including revising the overall structure of your site to adhere to localised customs in your target markets. As well as translating your onsite content, revising elements in the back end of your website, such as your title tags and meta descriptions, allows you to accommodate localised keywords and set canonical tags on any pages which could be flagged up as duplicate content.

Considering the sheer amount of work freelancers get through, particularly if they offer low or competitive rates, it is highly unlikely that they would be able (or willing) to take the elements outlined above into account. In order to ensure that these translations are up to scratch, you will almost certainly have to spend additional funds to have them checked over by a professional translation provider, which is an unnecessary and expensive extra step to take.

The only guaranteed approach is a professional, human-based translation

To successfully translate a website for multiple markets, hiring an expert team to localise your content is the best way to improve your chances of conversions. Professional translators will be able to give you an accurate website translation price in advance, based on whether clients require a simple text translation or deeper localisation efforts. These could involve a change of content, colours, and design to make the website more appropriate to your target market.

It’s important that before beginning a website localisation project, you familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation in the target market, no matter how trivial those regulations might appear. Otherwise, you could be risking a legal challenge, not to mention damaging consumer trust by neglecting the requirements of their lawmakers.

Website localisation may seem daunting, but it can easily be informed by market research and the collective knowledge of the staff in the territories to which you are expanding. Making use of a professional translation service can ensure that your onsite content is sensitive to the cultural nuances of your target markets, while still being linguistically accurate.

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