10 mistakes in website translations

Reach international customers

If you want to reach international customers with your website and convert these potential customers into valuable existing customers, you can’t avoid professional website translation. Researchers suggest that less than a second usually determines whether a user stays on your website or not. Since people are more likely to perceive a website as positive and interesting if they understand what is written there, a translation into appropriate languages is advisable in any case. However, serious mistakes are often made in website translations, whether by private individuals or translators.

Today we would like to list the 10 most common mistakes and explain how you can avoid them in order to offer your customers an attractively designed and accurately translated website.

1. Translation without localization

Often, simply translating your website is not enough to convince potential customers abroad of your product or service. The fact that the localization of a previously translated website is often forgotten can lead to mistrust and doubts about the seriousness of the provider. However, this can be easily prevented if you always make sure that your texts are localized according to the target group. For example, if you want to address US customers, you should not simply translate the website into English, but pay attention to the linguistic peculiarities as well as cultural differences, units of measurement (including punctuation), currencies and number spellings and modify them accordingly. This way, the potential customer gets the feeling that this website speaks to him personally and that it is not just a simple translation of another website.

2. No new domain and no new design

In some cases, it is advisable to create a new domain with a new and fresh design according to the target market for the website translation instead of adding a button for translation on the original website. Customizing the domain and design can bring your brand closer to the customers. The design of the website can also be customized to suit the target market as desired through layout, text placements and icons. In addition, you can also opt for a different approach to the new website. With respect to your URL, or website address, decide whether you want to use:

  • A subdomain like https://store.mysite.com/
  • Directories like https://mysite.com/store/
  • Your own country-specific domain like https://mysite.es/

3. Translating without multilingual CMS

The easiest way to translate websites is if your website runs on a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress. This allows you to install plugins, such as WPML, that help translate different pages, sections and environments of the website in multiple languages. If your website does not run on a multilingual CMS, the translation process will be much more complicated, resulting in longer turnaround time and thus lower efficiency.

4. Performing website translation by yourself

Of course, you can translate your website yourself if you are a native speaker of the target language and can translate the text according to the cultural and linguistic specifics. If you are not a native speaker of the language and plan to use machine translation à la Google Translate, we can only strongly advise against it. By using machine translators, your content will be difficult to read for frequent customers, as texts are usually only translated word for word and the natural expression of emotions, idioms and humor will also fall by the wayside. In addition, by using machine translations, you risk that your website will not inspire confidence and, in the worst case, will even be penalized during indexing, which in turn will have a negative impact on your ranking in search engines. If you need assistance in translating your website, we advise you to use a professional translation service provider who is familiar with the subject-matter, country and culture.

5. No regular maintenance or updating

As soon as you offer your website in more than one language, you need to think about translation maintenance and updating. As soon as you change something on your original website, such as adding a product, this should also be done on the translated website, including translation and localization. This means that the translated website should be kept up-to-date with regular updates.

6. Not updating your blog

When it comes to website translations, people often forget about translating the blog, or rather the articles on the blog. However, translating blog posts in particular can be very beneficial, as a blog is usually there to lead new potential customers to your site through informative content. Therefore, you should always pay close attention to updating and translating your blog posts as well, because this will help you attract new customers to your foreign language website. However, translating is only useful if the topic is also relevant to the target audience.

7. Do not adapt search engine optimization to target country.

If your website is to be found by the major search engines, high positioning is the key to success. It is important to remember that the positioning of your German website does not automatically represent that of the translated website. It is important to develop a differentiated strategy for each linguistic variation of your website to guarantee long-term visibility. This includes adjusting content, keywords, meta titles, meta descriptions, meta tags and the URL. SEO should definitely be considered in the newly created content and page.

8. No optimization for mobile devices

In order to rank successfully in search engines, it is important that you make your website responsive and optimize it for mobile devices in all variations. This applies to your original website as well as the translated version. “Mobile” optimization is an important factor recognized by algorithms to determine positioning, and therefore should not be neglected.

9. Insufficient research about the target country

Not finding out enough information about the target country before embarking on a website translation is one of the most common mistakes made in website translation. Therefore, if you are translating the website yourself, you should always be well-informed about the target country, language and cultural characteristics in order to be able to localize the text if necessary. As a general rule, you should know which customers you are dealing with, so that you can also tailor the subsequent communication to them. An absolute plus are contact details that are not an obstacle for the user or customer. This is especially true for phone numbers. Foreign phone numbers can mean more costs for the caller and he might doubt whether he is understood at the other end of the line. Think about whether you also offer foreign language customer service, if any.

10. Forgetting to translate your terms and conditions, privacy and shipping policies

At least as often as translating the blog, people forget to translate the terms and conditions, the imprint and the privacy policy. The translation of these pages is of great importance in order to be protected in the event of an incident, or to ensure that users and customers are sufficiently informed. In addition, you should definitely remember to translate warnings, error messages, or pop-ups as well.

Conclusion for website owners and online marketers

Professional translation of a website means a lot of work and should only be done by yourself if you speak the target language at a native level and can translate and localize the text yourself according to the technical terminology. In doing so, you should make absolutely sure that you avoid the previously mentioned mistakes, because only then can your translated website become successful. However, the use or support of an experienced translation service provider can also offer you some advantages if you are not able to translate your website into the desired target language yourself. Professional translators know the pitfalls of website translation and, through years of experience, can create a user experience perfectly tailored to the local market. They can also help you lay the right foundations to ensure the quality of your website over time.

Need help with your website translation/localization? Get in touch!

Nathan Woods

About the author

Nathan is a lead project manager with over 16 of experience directing translation projects, as well as website and software localization projects.

ABC Translations