30 May /12

Website automated translation: mistakes and pitfalls

website translation mistakesOnline users prefer to browse the internet in their native language. According to a recent report of the European Commission, 82% of users who were interested in placing an order online were reluctant to do so if the online resource was not containing information in their native language.

Nowadays, for companies that deal with international markets, having their website available in multiple languages is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have. Especially as in some sectors, a companies online presence and online marketing is more profitable than their offline presence.

Due to the time and cost efficiency, some businesses utilise the free machine translation options available on the market such as Google Translate or Yahoo Babel Fish. Although these tools serve a purpose, the output can be wrong or misleading.

Companies spend a lot of time and money, utilising the skills of specialist copywriters ensuring that their website content is the best it can be in the original source language. This same attention-to-detail must be used when providing customers with information in foreign languages. If not, this can lead to disgruntled customers, complaints and even tarnished reputations.

A recent example is the website of the Ministry of Defense of Malaysia (Mindef). In January 2012, the Mindef website released a web page into English regarding the dress code of officers and stuff.

Some examples include: Do not wear “Clothes that poke eye”; however, “Shine closed” is allowed; and remember the “Mongoose fight” uniform for official functions.

Later the Ministry took down the translations and came out with an official statement, in which it blamed Google Translate for the bad quality translation results, stating that in the future all translations will only be performed by professional translation experts.

If the aforementioned example is not convincing enough, here are the main pitfalls associated with automated website translation to consider:

  • Automated website translations are highly prone to generate mistakes with translations of slang and colloquial texts, abbreviations and contextual variations.
  • Automated translation is based on a literal dictionary translation and it does not take into account the cultural differences and localisation issues.

This strongly refers to websites that have to be properly localised to serve a specific country which shares its official language with other nations. This could be Brazil, which has an official language as Portuguese. However Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese for Portugal can vary greatly linguistically and culturally. In order not to offend users in your focus market, you must localise the content to suit local readers.

  • Automated translation is not to be used for search engine optimisation and on-site content optimisation.

The success of an online business is highly reliant on their SEO strategy. A successful SEO campaign requires in-depth research on the most effective keywords for a given market or consumer segment. Effective optimised content is driven by carefully selected keyword, optimised content and keyword density which needs to be provided by qualified and experienced SEO experts. Best results often cannot be achieved by the statistical methods of the automated translation tools.

  • Automated translation is not to be used for Pay Per Click or other Search Engine Marketing campaigns.

Many companies have made the mistake of using machine translation for their multilingual PPC and SEM campaigns. When businesses invest money to advertise online using PPC or SEM campaigns, they must make sure that their chosen phrases and keywords are selected correctly to bring the most cost-effective results but more importantly drive traffic to their site. Professionally researched and localised campaigns, conducted by specialists, are the best way to achieve these results.

  • Often the machine translation of a given web page resides on the server of the machine translation provider and not the company itself. Therefore the benefit in terms of link building and SEO is for the automated translation tool provider and not for the website that uses this tool in order to translate its website or web page.


EVS Translations is able to offer the highest quality complete website translation, localisation and optimisation services.