What You Should Know About Website Translation Services
Fluency takes a look at website translation services, whether they would work for your business and what you should expect from them.
You have a nice shiny website, or you're about to have a nice shiny website, or you just have an idea. You sell dog leads, or you are some random SaaS service that is niche but does extremely well. One little problem - a lot of the world does not speak English, and those who do would probably prefer your products and services to be localised. Spoiler: we discuss this later on, and they would.
Does website translation make sense for your business?
Not every website needs to be translated. The Fluency website is not translated, because even though we have clients across Europe, we communicate in English.
If you are thinking of entering a new market, consider "will these products even sell in a new country?". For example, McDonald's sells homogenised beef burgers, but in countries like India, beef and pork products are unlikely to sell very well and would even be offensive. Beef products are arguably a staple of McDonald's, so instead of the Big Mac their signature burger became the Chicken Maharaja Mac.
If you already sell to Europe or are thinking about doing so, it might be more cost-effective to do so in the language of the countries you're selling to. The European Union did a survey across all its member states. The numbers speak for themselves: translating your website can result in the perfect return on your investment.
When looking at the figure according to the European Union:
- Nine out of 10 Internet users said that, when given a choice of languages, they always visited a website in their own language.
- Almost one in five Europeans said they never browse the Internet in a language different from their own.
- 42% said they never purchase products and services in other languages.
Not only would European citizens prefer to read websites in their own language, based on research by the CSA, most citizens in many countries would also much rather purchase products and services that are in their language, so much so that 40% of them are willing to read a poor translation.
If you do ever pick Fluency for translations, it's worth remembering that we localise your content properly and follow the ISO standards for translation. We should also warn you that we find it unlikely that 40% would pick a poor Google Translate interpretation of your product over native speakers translating your branding, tone and meaning correctly.
If you think you have a product or service that will sell, then brilliant. Translating your website can result in the perfect return on your investment. The numbers speak for themselves.
What do I need?
Whether or not you pick Fluency for your website translation, we believe that a good translation company should be able to understand your needs.
Fluency is made up of people from both the computing and translation industry. When we founded Fluency, we saw the frustration of businesses that are good at what they do, only to have problems with procuring translation services because the translation company didn't really understand how to translate the content in practical terms.
Here's one key aspect we believe is important for website translation services:
The service should be end-to-end:
Imagine if you went to a travel agency that booked you on a flight to Munich but only bothered to fly you to Brussels. A travel agency must offer you the same service regardless of whether you say "I want to go to Munich, in Germany, via this very specific route, as I'm a keen traveller" or "I really want to go to Oktoberfest".
A language service provider should be the same:
Website translation services are about understanding what your business does, trying to help with creating glossaries and offering cost-effective and viable solutions, such as recommending machine translation where there's a positive return.
So - regardless of whether you say "We're a headless CMS in Next.JS and using Netlify and here is a JSON export" or "All we know is we put our website address into Google or Bing, and there it is" - you still get the same high-quality, localised, cost-effective translation service.
So, what do you need? It depends.
If you contact Fluency, we will support you in any way possible and are happy to talk to your marketing team or external web developer, but what can you, as someone looking for a website translation service, actually do? We can recommend a few things for you - some of this is a little technical, but they are all aspects Fluency considers:
- Get a domain name that fits the country you want to sell in. Do you have example.co.uk but want to launch in Germany? Try using a domain such as example.de - this will take you quite far.
- Do you have a marketing budget? If so, be prepared for that to go towards the website, the advertising of it and even the cost of the translation.
- You can also use subdomains such as de.example.com or a url scheme such as example.com/de/product-123.
- Translate those alt tags, the aria-attributes, schema.org, OpenGraph and all the other nice stuff that makes your website an SEO success.
- Let the world (by which we mean Google) know what language your website is in, and optionally which variation of that language:
<link rel="alternate" href="https://example.de" hreflang="de-de" />
Quality website translation needs better words
Getting a good-quality website translation is about more than replacing words in one language with words in another language.
Translation is not just about words. It's about understanding the culture, the context and your audience. That's why it's important not to just simply translate but to localise. For example, you could not launch your website in Switzerland with your .de domain and German (Germany) product pages with Euro pricing. Not only would that not be a good look, culturally, there are differences and, of course, linguistically, the two language variations don't even share all the same words.
A good example of this is the difference between British and American English. Plenty of American companies sell "sneakers" in the UK and get away with it, so it's not often many British people think about the fact that the same word can have very different meanings.
A lack of proper understanding of localisation is why Coca-Cola's failed launch of Dansi water is probably best remembered for its advertising slogan "can't live without spunk" (and several humorous variations of this), which does not land as well in the UK as it does in America. Dansi water failed for several non-marketing reasons too.
There are a few different kinds of translation
Translations with the same writing style as the original content - such as translating a product brochure from English into Spanish while maintaining its original voice and tone (but in Spanish).
Translations that are written in a different style from the original content - such as translating a blog post from English into French while adjusting its word choice and sentence structure accordingly (so that it reads more like a piece by Voltaire than someone who just learned French last week).
Machine Translation and Post-Editing - which is becoming popular amongst those needing a lot of words translating. It can be cost-effective, but not always. Machine Translation is when a machine translates your content, sometimes with Google Translate, or it could be with many other services such as DeepL. Post-Editing is when a linguist goes through what a machine has translated and edits it to ensure it makes sense.
Unlike many language service providers, we do offer MT/PE directly to you and will help you know when and when not to use it. We also feed the machine translation with our corpora of pre-translated terms and with a glossary of your branding details.
It can be more than just about websites
The obvious benefit of a website translation service is that it will help you translate your site into other languages. However, this service can also be used for much more than just text. If you're looking to expand internationally and not sure where to start, website translation services can help with some of the following:
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Doing so allows your business to show up on search engines in the country or region for which it's most relevant. This increases visibility for potential customers and helps drive sales from within those countries or regions.
A translated website is an excellent way to market your business abroad because it shows off how well-known and respected you are as an international brand - and how willing you are to go above and beyond for customers who don't speak English as their first language.
It lets everyone know that, no matter where they live or what language they speak, there’s a product or service for them.
Translating web content can also help create more streamlined layouts by eliminating extraneous elements such as navigation bars or footers (which may differ depending on where in the world someone lives), while still being accessible regardless of location.
By working on localising your website, you can make predictable UX (user experience) changes and make the website feel at home. Relying on services like Google Translate could cause a pretty horrible user experience by messing up your website's UI (user interface).
Technology is also about cost and understanding
Working with a translation service for websites requires an understanding of the whole technical stack (the technologies that make a website). Traditional language service providers might feel comfortable putting a WPML (WordPress Multilingual) export into a CAT (Computer Aided Translation) tool, but then what? Not a lot.
When working offering highly technical services such as website translation, would you trust language service companies that themselves do not understand SEO, have poorly designed websites and offer website translation as an afterthought? We don't think so.
Fluency built its website in-house, with complete control over every aspect. We did this for several reasons:
- We take a privacy-first approach to the website
- We did not want to rely on third parties
- We wanted to handle all the SEO in-house
- If we can't handle our own website content, then how can we be trusted to handle it for third parties?
Our first-hand experience allows us to offer not just website translation services for businesses but also translation services for Website Agencies.
Tools such as Regular Expression are used as standard for all the website translation services we offer. What might that look like?
- Let's not charge for your brand names, product names and other wording that needs to stay the same as in the source language.
- You have a button and it says "Click here to read more about our product" - however, it gets exported in lots of different ways when Fluency comes to translate. That's not a problem, we can filter these out so we only charge once for the sentence.
- You're the person in charge of making sure the website is translated, but some in-house tech team made a website with an API and a CMS but you don't really understand or care what that means. That's fine with us, we'll filter out any variables, placeholders or anything else that should stay in the source language.
Technology isn't just about getting the content out, it's also being able to understand the benefits of using it.
Many businesses we talk to didn't even consider the implications of translating their website content using services like Google Translate compared to using services like those offered by Fluency.
We believe that translating your content should be easy and that you're getting a return on investment. As your business grows and your marketing material grows, the cost of your translations can become more effective. Fluency can use your existing translations such as your website or marketing materials to then lower the cost of future translations.
Did we miss an attribution, get something wrong or you just have something to add? If so, you can contact us in various ways. We will be happy to hear from you.