How Do You Successfully Translate A Website? (7 Essential Steps)

How to successfully translate a website without overlooking anything and without breaking the bank? This is the burning question for many business owners today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruption for many businesses. In the wake of constant new measures to protect people’s health, your own company has almost certainly had to revisit the way it works. Perhaps this has prompted you to look at translating your website into French or Spanish in the hopes of attracting international customers.

There’s just one problem—you don’t really have a clue where to start. But don’t panic! Here are a few tips to help get you started.

A good multilingual website starts with good SEO

1. For a great multilingual website, pay attention to your SEO

Make sure you follow the rules of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to get the most out of your website translation.

SEO (also called natural referencing or organic referencing) can be defined as a process whereby search engines such as Google examine certain parameters to decide whether they are “happy” with them or not.

With just a few tweaks (translating metadata, hyperlinks, tags, headings, etc.), you can improve your Google search ranking all the way up to the first results page, thereby increasing your visibility and driving more traffic to your website for free. If your organic SEO is already excellent, make sure you fine-tune it during the translation process.

Some translation professionals specialize in providing combined translation and SEO services. They will help you to carry out a keyword analysis, choose long-tail keywords, optimize the structure of your content, and give you advice on implementing a long-term SEO strategy that works.

✅ Working with a professional SEO translator, who knows how to successfully translate a website, is a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and get a return on your investment!

2. You need to adapt to your customers—not the other way round!

A successful website translation is about more than just translating

For your website to be a hit with your customers, you really need to be speaking their language. But isn’t that the whole point of translation?

Translation is the process of converting a text from language A to language B.

You’ll need to do more than just this when translating your website. You’ll need to think carefully about the finer points of cultural conventions, regionalisms (American English, British English, Australian English, etc.), legal requirements, historical aspects, and so on. This process is called localization.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Suspenders” (to hold up men’s pants–or trousers!), “subway” (underground railway) and “pavement” (road surface) are American English terms that confuse British English speakers because, in Britain, suspenders hold up women’s stockings, a subway is a pedestrian crossing beneath a road, and pavements are sidewalks.
  • Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada. Even though this holiday is rooted in English thanksgiving traditions dating back to the Protestant Reformation, it is not an observed holiday in the United Kingdom.
  • In Commonwealth countries, the poppy is the iconic symbol of Remembrance Day (November 11), commemorating fallen service men and women. In the United States, poppies are not typically worn on November 11 as this is Veterans Day, which honors all living veterans. However, poppies are worn on Memorial Day in May, when those who have given their lives fighting for their country are commemorated.

✅ To speak your customer’s language, you clearly need to be very familiar with their country or region. You really don’t want to overlook this in your development strategy or run up against any cultural taboos.

3. Hire a professional translator to translate your website

This point may seem obvious to some of you, but many companies still choose to indulge in penny-pinching by resorting to machine translation or hiring a cheap, amateur translator. The translation of your website will only be successful if you hire a professional translator who:

  • has a degree in translation and/or several years’ experience working as a translator;
  • is registered as a self-employed translator or translation company, which assures you that they are fully committed to your project;
  • preferably translates into their mother tongue—I will not labor this point as it has already been covered in my previous blog post, but you certainly need to keep it in mind to ensure your texts are fluid and sound natural;
  • specializes in your field;
  • is trained in SEO and therefore knows how to successfully translate a website;
  • is aware of the cultural conventions in your customers’ country or region;
  • shares your environmental values.

Where do you go to find these translators? They’re often well hidden, I’ll grant you that! Professional translator associations are a good place to start. For example, you could search the American Translators Association’s directory by language and area of expertise.

4. Ensure your website adapts to mobile devices

Did you know that mobile devices are the most common source of Internet searches today?

Cellphones, mobile phones, smartphones, phablets, tablets—it doesn’t matter what you use or call them, this has been a growing trend for several years and shows no signs of slowing down. Ignoring how your translated website looks on different devices could prove to be a costly mistake!

To address this, you need to make your website “responsive”. This simply means that it resizes web pages automatically based on any screen size. This step shouldn’t be too difficult as there are myriad tools available today to help you deliver a responsive website. If you use WordPress, you can view your site as if you were on a mobile device by using an extension like Elementor.

The cherry on the cake: Google rewards a responsive site with a better ranking!

Ensure your content adapts to mobile devices!

5. Translate your website—don’t translate everything…

As you’ve probably worked out by now, you’ll need to plan a budget for your multilingual website. In my previous blog post, I explained that translators set their prices depending on their own particular characteristics and the specific requirements of each project (urgency, languages involved, complexity, etc.).

The best solution is still to ask for a quote, but you should also consider prioritizing your needs.

First of all, start by targeting one language in one market. Having too many irons in the fire could turn out to be expensive and leave you snowed under with work. Your best bet is to tackle just one new market at a time. You can then learn from the experience and, next time around, avoid repeating any mistakes you made previously.

If you haven’t yet translated any of your website, focus on the most important content to begin with. Do you really need to translate the blog post you wrote two years ago? Is this blog post relevant to your target audience?

✅ Your customers will instead want to know more about you, what you offer and what your existing customers think of your work.

6. …but don’t forget anything either!

Once you’ve chosen the content that you definitely want to present to your new customers, make sure you don’t forget anything when having your website translated!

✅ Your marketing strategy is built around a series of key elements such as pop-up windows, forms, promotional e-books and so on. Make sure you include all of this marketing collateral in your translation project to prevent your strategy from backfiring!

7. Beware of duplicate content!

Duplicate content is the intentional or unintentional repetition of very similar content on two web pages. In other words, it’s a form of plagiarism that really must be avoided to successfully translate a website.

You will need to pay close attention to this point if you want to keep Google happy and rank high on the search engine results page (SERP). Follow these simple habits to help you avoid duplicate content when translating your website:

  • Avoid copying and pasting content from a third-party site without providing a link to the source.
  • Use Google Search Console to help you fix any indexing problems.
  • Use tools such as the Yoast SEO WordPress plug-in to de-index content identified as problematic.
  • Use a WordPress plug-in like Polylang to help manage your multilingual website. This plug-in adds tags to your content so that Google knows it’s translated and not duplicated.

Avoiding duplicate content is key to a good SEO strategy. Take extra care on this point! Otherwise, you risk seeing all your hard work go up in smoke.

To recap

You now know how to successfully translate your website into different languages. Check that your website is SEO-friendly; consider your target audience; localize your content; carefully select the content to be translated, without forgetting anything; and avoid duplicate content!

Need some help? Expand internationally and increase your sales with help from my green SEO translation services tailored to your business!

Article written by Maxime Vandecassye

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