Website translators have one very difficult task before even starting the work: quoting for it. And if the customer wants multinational SEO thrown in –even if it’s just on-page SEO- the job gets even more complicated. And that is even before the web page translation work is assigned!

The “traditional” translator has it pretty easy. He obtains the total word count, be it by the Word statistics, using a CAT tool or using some other word counting tool. I personally prefer CompleteWordCount from Shauna Kelly for this purpose. And, if the original is not in electronic format, then simply count the number of pages, count some representative samples of the text, and calcúlate the total. Apply your word rate, if necessary adjusting for customer or text difficulty and that’s it.

For a website it’s a little bit more complicated. First, usually you do not get the translation in a nice little package up front, so that you can count the words. Typically, you’re told that they want to translate site-so-and-do. Go, have a look and tell us how much it is. Yes, sure, especially if the site has a few hundred –or thousand– pages. Looking at them one by one? That would be madness. Count them? You must be kidding.

A little trick that I know some fellow website translators use is to use the “site:” search in a search engine, such as “”. I get (as of today) about 152 results in Google. Is this reliable? To be honest, probably not. When I search in Yahoo I get 46 results, that is, less tan 1/3 or the Google results. Why? Because the search engines show up the pages that they have indexed, which may not be necessarily all site pages. And even so, some of the pages are dropped from the search results because they seem to be “too similar”.  So the result can be quite inaccurate.

I personally use a website downloader, and download the whole web site to local storage. This works pretty well, even with active server pages or php pages, as what is downloaded is what you see in your browser. You can run an analysis tool on those web pages and get a proper word count. Easy, will you say? Boy, are you wrong!

The very first problem is that those pages are *not* the original pages. Especially in the case of server-side scripting, a lot of code will have been executed that you will never see in the page itself. And even if you have nothing to translate in the code –which, believe me, you usually do– it’s something that you will see when you get the original pages, and review carefully so as not to mess with the code. That takes time, and effort, and you will not be counting that. Your price is too low.

And even so, not everything in the page can be translated. Forget a moment about tags, as any reasonably good CAT tool will filter those out. But what about things such as java code? You’ve counted the words, even if you’re not going to translate them. Your price is too high.

Oh, you thought you were going to use a CAT tool? You might have messed up with the cost if you made that assumption, my dear. What if the translation needs to be done on-line, using some kind of CMS (Content Management System)? Your productivity will drop like a rock. It’s irrelevant if the text is repeated in every single page, you will still need to type it in for every single page. Worst of all, you may not see the context, and need to flip over to the original page to find out what it is all about. The two weeks that you forecasted for the whole website could easily become a month of painful translation. And you might also get penalized for not meeting the deadline.

And what about the links? You may only need to translate the anchor text, but believe me, it’s really difficult with many CAT tools. And that assuming that you’re not being requested to change the file names, for improved SEO. Remember, translated file names and liks provide you additional SEO juice. Even if you do not do that, you may still need to change the links because the original links point to pages in the original language, and you need to link to the translated pages. But changing the links across the whole site is pretty complicated. How many cross-links do you have? One hundred? One thousand? Or several tens of thousands? If you did not consider that, your price is far too low.

Keyword research? That is a pretty common request when somebody asks you to localize his website. Because if he knew the language so well that he could do the research himself then probably he would have it also translated himself. And yes, I forgot: for proper SEO, the keywords should be different on each page. More work, my dear. Higher price.

And yes, we have the translation itself. Easy, you say? Not if your customer wants to score well in the search engines. You need on-page SEO, stressing the keywords you want to score well for on each page, yet making the text flow properly. Anybody who has performed that kind of work in his native language knows how difficult that is. Why do then people think that it is any easier in a different language? Oops.

And of course, the checking. A professional SEO translator provides a “ready to use” localized website. And that means testing the java or PHP scripts, each individual link, etc. I usually put it up on my own server, for proper testing. Sometimes I’ve even had to develop some code or database to test it properly. Not quick. Not easy. Not cheap.

Every time that I make a quotation for a website translation I have to sweat through all this. Yes, I have developed some tools to help me out with this (good thing, being also a computer scientist), and even so I have to cross my fingers that I won’t be burned. Only to have the customer coming back and saying I am far too expensive. Sure.

A well-done website translation, depending on the page complexity, number of links, internal scripts, etc., may cost anywhere between 5 and 25 times what it would cost to simply translate the text. Sometimes even more. So it’s not cheap. It is the price for a properly working website and adequate ranking in the search engines. And if somebody thinks that he can cut off corners and not spend a significant percentage of what the original website has cost him, then he’s in for a rude awakening. Because you get exactly what you pay for. Even worse, a bad translation could also penalize his highly ranking (and very expensive) site. But that is a different story, that I will address sometime in a different post…

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