The fact that the Web is global by design is a blessing and a curse for companies. On one hand, companies can reach a broad audience simply by launching a Website. On the other hand, ensuring that their Website’s content is available in the language of the visitor is a much more difficult task. There are a lot of things to consider if your company wants to effectively reach and influence a global audience. The following are five best practices for translating your company’s Website content.
Best Practice No. 1: Use the translation technology that is most appropriate for each content type
There are dozens of content types within a company. These types include company policies, e-mail, training material, blogs, knowledge bases, product documentation, and user forums (to name a few). Every content type has a value that it serves for the business. Each has an audience and a value that it serves for that audience. As a result, each type of content has different requirements when it comes to translation. Some content types (such as advertising material) are highly influential and need to be perfectly written, which requires human translation.
Content types such as documentation need to be near-perfect, but they don’t require the same nuance as other content types. This type of content can be served up with translation software and then post-edited by a human reviewer. Knowledge bases, FAQ pages and similar content types simply need to convey facts (but need to do so quickly). For these types of content, automated translation software can be effectively leveraged.
Adjust the Pace of Translation
Best Practice No. 2: Adjust the pace of translation
Be sure to adjust the pace of translation to the business need. Taking the “value that a content type serves for the business” idea from the previous point, some types of content only need to be updated and translated every time a new product or service is introduced (such as product documentation, marketing material and product-oriented Web content).
Other types of content may need to be translated as soon as they are written (such as bug fixes, FAQ pages and knowledge base articles) in order to save on ongoing support costs for known issues. Mapping the translation frequency to the value it serves for the business is important to ensure that your company is getting the greatest value out of translation.
Best Practice No. 3: Ensure that your Website is searchable in the native language of the visitor
Search is how most people will find information, so content needs to be translated to make it searchable in a visitor’s native language. Some Websites prepublish all translated content to make it visible to search engines but others don’t. Companies that don’t translate content upfront are subjecting their Website to an unreliable user experience delivered by a free translation plug-in.
When updating Website content, think about how visitors will find that information if they speak another language. If it will require the use of a free translation Website, you may want to consider translating more information upfront, either with human translators, post-edited automated translation or automated translation on its own. This way, you can maintain more control over how the visitor experiences and interacts with your Website. Review the content type and publishing cycle when deciding on the best approach for translation.
Company Branding and Content Control
Best Practice No. 4: Company branding and content control
Be sure to think through how you want to exercise brand and term control. Whether you use human translation, post-edit output from translation software or automated translation, brand and term management is something that is crucial to a business. For example, what should your product name be in Chinese or Japanese? How should you describe a particular experience or interaction with your product or service in another language? All of these are a critical part of brand control and managing the way a visitor experiences your Website. Working this out ahead of time also helps any translation project go smoothly and allows you to maintain more control of your brand across languages.
Best Practice No. 5: Use the Google “notranslate” metatag if you want to exercise control over your brand and terminology
A Website owner can control their content by ensuring proper tagging of the information. While there are several page-level metatags available to exercise this control, the most exciting one was recently added by Google. At the page level, Website owners can now add a metatag called “notranslate.”
This metatag is interpreted by the Google crawler as a “do not translate” instruction. By setting the “notranslate” metatag, you ensure that Google’s automatic translation is not offered as an automatic option to anyone performing a search. This is especially useful for those pages or parts of your Website where you want to make sure YOU, the Website owner, decide what the translation should look like, without handing over control of the translation to Google’s algorithms.
To exercise the most control, Website owners must make sure that they perform their own translations a priori so that the content becomes findable in the native language of the Website visitor. By doing this, Website owners also make sure that the content being translated meets their expectations of quality for a given content type. This way, they can make sure that all brand and terminology is managed consistent with their expectations.
With the global nature of the Web, companies of all sizes have been handed wonderful business opportunities. However, in order to meet the ongoing and growing needs of a diverse audience, language and multilingual communication need to be addressed. Before embarking on your next translation project for Web content, consider the content type, pace of translation, search requirements, required level of brand control, and new tagging options from Google. This will help to ensure your customers’ language needs are met, and your brand is correctly represented across the world.
Swamy Viswanathan is Vice President of Products at Language Weaver. Prior to Language Weaver, Swamy was the co-founder of Qlip Media, a browser-based multimedia and video collaboration application. Prior to that, Swamy was part of the team that helped grow Vignette and Claremont Technology from early-stage startups to public companies. Swamy started his career with the management consulting division of Arthur Andersen (now Accenture). He has a Master’s degree in Computer Applications from the National Institute of Technology in India. He can be reached at email@example.com.