One thing that always amazes me is that websites that have spent sometimes thousands of dollars so as to make their web pages search-engine friendly, spending hundreds of hours optimizing their texts and keywords, do not even consider that the translation of their website into a different language merits a similar effort. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) somehow does not seem to apply to the translation, and what should be a business opportunity becomes too often a matter of discredit.
First rule: Select a good translator
The first problem is that all too often a website translation is for the owners, translation agency and translator “just another” translation, while it is not. In that context, I do not refer to going for dirt-cheap translators without proper qualification, or even resorting to machine translation. Unfortunately, there are a *lot* of so-called translators that have absolutely no translation skills, sometimes they just studied the language at school and, not being proficient in the target language, offer such translation services. Or they just resort to machine translation, which very often is just plain rubbish. A site translated by these wannabee translators would scare away potential visitors, no matter how high that site ranked in the search engines- nobody wants to read gibberish text!.
The golden rule: The translator must be good and know about SEO!
Even if a competent translator is brought in, a website translation has its own unique challenges, and not all professionals are up to the task, no matter how proficient or competent they might be in translating general texts. A translator that knows SEO techniques and can therefore combine SEO and translation is worth his weight in gold, as his translation will not only please human readers, but also the search engines, ultimately driving more traffic to your site.
NEVER send your web page as a Word file for translation!
For example, I always wonder why in almost all cases I am offered to translate web pages that are provided to me … in Word? For heaven’s sake, why Word? Why not plain html? Any competent website translator should be able to take on a simple html file and return it with the same format! So why bother in spending a lot of effort converting the html pages into Word and convert them back again once they have been translated? I actually don’t get it. Perhaps it could be understandable when the page in question is based on php (which has embedded code), but they rarely are. And if one selects a translator to translate his web page, at least he should select one that knows how to handle code. PHP is not the only type of code to be considered.
Translate also the page names!
But providing the text in Word instead of html (or php, or asp, or any other similar format, for that matter) has also another drawback: you lose the names of the page files. And why is this important? Because the file names are also considered by the search engines. And if a page name is for example “watches.html” it will score well for this term in the search engines for the English term, but it would do not do any good to call it with the same name -say, in a subdirectory- or something like “watches_es”.html for the Spanish page – search engines would expect a Spanish keyword. It would obviously be much better to call it “relojes.html”.
Let the translator verify the links and find proper anchor texts!
Changing the names of the website pages has another implication – you also need to change the links, as the old links will point to the old pages in the original language. And the minimum you would expect from a professional website translator is that he also verifies the links – it is quite embarrassing that the link points to the incorrect place. And now that we talk about links, has the translator considered that the text associated to that link contributes to reinforce the scoring of the page to which it links? If the original link is displayed as a hyperlink with an anchor text called “the best gold watches” you will get very different search engine scores depending on the anchor that the translator establishes for the link. You would like to score on “watches”, “gold watches” and “best gold watches”, but you might end up scoring for “gold”, “best” or even “the” – and none of that would help you score well in the search engines! And if the translation is provided in Word, and the site owner ignores the target language, he might establish the links himself… with horrendous results.
There is more, of course. But I’ll leave that for another post…