Recently, I received a question via email asking me about one of my blog posts that I had translated into Spanish. I thought I would share the question and the steps I took when I conducted an experiment to choose a blog post and translate it to different languages. Some folks want to know whether it was worth it and how to get it done.
I noticed that your post about the Facebook Messenger was translated into Spanish. I have a WordPress blog and have considered translating some of my posts to help attract visitors via organic search. Do you have recommendations on how to translate blog content into another language? Did you use Google Translate for WordPress or another translation plugin for WordPress? Do you hire a translator to translate your blog posts? Is it tough to maintain your blog in two languages? Can you share your process?
Thanks for any help.
If you are a blogger looking to expand your audience, translation of your existing content might have crossed your mind. Imagine being able to take a well-performing piece of content that you have already written and simply translate it to another language. Or maybe go beyond just a single post and translate your blog in different languages.
If you are like me, you are always wondering how to get more traffic to my WordPress blog and one way to do it is to expand your audience. Making your content could be one way to do that.
Doing so can expand that content to an entirely new audience, potentially bringing in additional traffic…and who doesn’t love more traffic? Heck, you could potentially translate your entire blog in different languages (if the content is appropriate) and generate even more traffic. Imagine writing one blog post that then could serve multiple audiences and gaining traffic from around the globe.
If you fluently speak and write in multiple languages, and your content would be valuable to multiple audiences, then it might make natural sense for your to blog in different languages. A multi language blog can open up new opportunities for both traffic and engagement.
Note: Just because you translate your content into multiple languages, doesn’t mean you’re going to double or triple your traffic. It all depends on the size of your audience. For instance, imagine you blog in two languages – English and French, and English is your primary language. You might see that your French traffic only makes up 10-15% of your additional traffic. It all depends on the demand for the specific content.
Before you set off looking for translation plugins or services, though, it might be work taking a few minutes to consider the benefits that you might get from translating your content and balancing them against the potential pitfalls that might arise.
I have been down the translation path for my clients and for my own personal blog, so I thought I would share some of my experiences and help you think through whether translation is right for your content and which path might offer the best benefits with fewer downsides.
The Quick Overview: Translating your blog posts into other languages can have positive impacts on your search engine traffic. The key, though, is to consider the pros and cons and determine whether the effort of translating content will deliver the results you’re looking for. Before you just install Google Translate for WordPress and let it do it’s thing, you need to understand the pros and cons of doing that.
Thinking Through The “Why” Of Translating Your Blog Content
Before you start down the path of adapting your content to a new language, take a moment to think through the “Why”. Some benefits of translating your content might include:
- Helping those who need the solutions that your content provides, but don’t speak your native language
- Expanding your social network by including those who speak a different language
- Increasing your organic search traffic by adding articles to the search engine results in multiple languages
While all three are valid reasons for translating content, if #1 and #2 aren’t even on your radar, then I would reconsider going down the translation path. Translating your content should be about helping others find solutions to problems, rather than just about more traffic and revenue.Translating your blog posts can have some search results benefits, but before you go down the path, think through whether there's a multi-lingual audience. Click To Tweet
In my experience, translating even your best content isn’t going to add a substantial volume of traffic unless it the content is really localized to your targeted international audience. What that means is your audience needs to find the value in the content.
In addition, just publishing the content doesn’t mean your target audience will be able to find it. You need to be able to promote your blog post to your various audiences, which means being able to also translate your social media posts and images into the target languages.
As an example, a while back I translated my top-performing blog post about issues with Facebook Messenger into this version of the post written in Spanish. I did this because I was seeing inbound search terms to my blog that were specifically in Spanish.
Because of the inbound search terms, it was obvious that the Spanish-speaking audience was experiencing the same issue as English speakers. To help those folks out, I felt it might be a good opportunity to translate the article into Spanish and give them access to the solutions that the article provided.
From a traffic perspective, I’m glad to see people reading the blog post and (hopefully) solving their issues. The difference in traffic between the English version and the Spanish version is drastic, though. In fact, last month the English version of the blog post saw more than 150K page views.
In contrast, the translated version of the same post saw just over 300 page views.
That means the translated version of the post saw less than .5% of the traffic when compared to the original post. Now, remember, I wasn’t translating this post for traffic purposes but I still saw 308 new page views so I’ll take the win.
Additionally, the translated content has only been live for about 6 weeks, so it will continue to grow from an organic traffic perspective. Remember, it takes long-tail content 18 months to 3 years before it is really ranked appropriately and generating ongoing traffic.
In this situation, I also translated a series of social media posts into Spanish so I can add them to Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
The “Why”, though, was helping people who were specifically seeking the solution that my post provided. I got a little traffic, they get the solution to a problem with Facebook Messenger.
If, however, you are thinking about translating your blog content to another language just for traffic purposes, I would seriously reconsider. The effort, cost, and potential negative impacts to your search engine rankings will probably not justify the minimal traffic increase.
Yes…negative SEO impacts because of translating your content. More on that later.
Thinking Through The “Who” Of Translating Your Blog Content
In the end, every piece of your blog content should be developed for your audience. Unless you really like to write and you aren’t interested in traffic at all, the goal is to write content that others will find useful. Right?
To do that, though, you have to think about the potential audience for your post.Questions like these often help:
- Who are they?
- Why would they want to search for your content?
- What problem are you helping them solve?
- What headline would inspire them to click through to your content?
- What would inspire them to share your content with others?
In my case, I wanted to make sure that folks who were already searching for my solution were able to read my post without having to resort to Google Translate. I felt that it was worth some time, effort, and budget to translate the content and save my readers a few steps.
Let’s face it, based on the comments from the original post in English, people are already frustrated when they reach my blog post, so why make Spanish-speaking searchers go through the extra step of translating the post?As with any decisions about your content, you should consider your potential audience before you go down the path of translating your blog posts. Click To Tweet
With respect to answering the questions above, I already knew some of the answers:
- Spanish-speaking community
- Searching for the solution to a problem with Facebook Messenger
- The problem was that Facebook Messenger keeps showing a notification on their phone or tablet, even when they didn’t have unread messages
- The headline for the English post was performing well, so I didn’t have to make any adjustments
- Hopefully, the fact that this post helped them solve there issue would inspire them to comment or share
Simple enough, right?
Thinking Through The “How” Of Translating Your Blog Content
To be honest, the justification for translating my blog post was the easier part of the equation.
I already knew that there was an audience for the content because the English version was performing really well. The next step was determining how I wanted to go about translating the content.
The way I saw it, I had three options:
- Use Google Translate and go through the process of translating the content myself
- Install a Google Translate WordPress plugin and let the Google Translate API do the translation for all of my posts in a variety of languages
- Hire someone to translate the post for me and publish it as a new post
In the end, I decided to go with option 3 and here are some of the reasoning that led me to the decision.
Using Google Translate To Convert Your Content To Another Language
If you’re just going to translate 1 or 2 posts, then Google Translate is probably the easiest, most cost-effective way of making your content available to speakers of other languages. It only takes about 15 minutes to add Google Translate to WordPress using the GTranslate plugin and configure the settings, so it isn’t a difficult process.
In a matter of minutes, you could be translating your blog into Spanish or French or Hindi.
The problem is Google Translate isn’t always perfect.
Google Translate certainly follows all the grammatical rules of each language to translate as effectively as possible, but it doesn’t always get it right. Don’t take my word for it, though. Here’s a link to 15 funny Google Translate fails.
If you want your content to be taken seriously by your viewers, a failure in translation might undermine that goal. Topics like technical topics, health and wellness, fitness, finances, and relationship advice might not be topics that you want to trust with Google Translate.
If, however, your blog is light and whimsy and the content isn’t all that serious, Google Translate might be a good bet.
Pros of using Google Translate
- Easy to use
- Copy and paste your initial blog post and Google will do the rest
- Allows you to create a URL that is specific to the blog post, which is good for SEO
Cons of using Google Translate
- There is a risk that Google Translate won’t convert everything properly
- Sometimes doesn’t take colloquialisms into account
- While grammatically correct, your post might sound a little less natural
Final Thoughts On Google Translate
For a few short blog posts that are not technical or serious in nature, it’s okay. For anything complex or serious in nature, skip it.
NOTE: Earlier, I mentioned a potential SEO penalty for translating content using automated services like Google Translate. As odd as it might sound, Google could actually penalize your content for using the Google Translation tool.
Google treats auto-translated content as “automatically generated content” which could be seen as manipulating their algorithm.You can read about this type of content here. None of my clients have experienced this type of penalty, so it may be more of a warning not to over-use it.
Using A Plugin To Translate All Of Your Blog Content
If you are looking to offer the ability to translate all of your blog content into multiple languages, then there are a few plugins out there that can help you do that. I have used the GTranslate plugin successfully for a few different clients who wanted to have all of their content translated.
GTranlsate uses the Google Translate plugin, so it comes with all the cons that are listed above. The benefit is the fact that it is pretty much “set it and forget it”. Install the plugin, add the widget somewhere on your site that allows users to choose their language and the plugin does the rest.
The plugin is easy to setup and has an admin settings page that allows you to choose from ~100 different languages. You can also choose from different flag designs and adjust a few settings.
There is also a paid version of the plugin that allows you to assign URLs to the translated content. This is really nice if you want to have URLs that are specific to the language. If you’re going to translate your entire site, I would advise you to look into the paid version.
There are a bunch of other translation plugins our there including PolyLang and Babble, but I haven’t used them a lot, so I’ll do some additional testing on those plugins and compare them to GTranslate in a future post.
Pros of using a WordPress plugin like Google Translate
- Easy to use
- Support from the developer or WordPress community if something doesn’t work
- Simple to configure and often offers quite a few options without any code knowledge
- Paid version of the plugins often allow you to create a URL that is specific to the blog post, which is good for SEO
Cons of using a WordPress plugin like Google translate
- All of the cons that can come with installing plugins on your WordPress site
- Plugins can misbehave or cause conflicts
- Still uses the Google Translate engine, so everything might not be perfect
Final thoughts on using a plugin to translate
I like the GTranslate plugin for situations where the content isn’t technical or focused on giving advise. It offers a lot of options and gets most of the translations right. It’s particularly good for Web copy, as opposed to blog content, since Web copy tends to be more formal and less colloquial.
NOTE: Be aware that a plugin solution will not translate text that is embedded into images. As an example, at the bottom of this post, there is a “Pinnable” image that has text in it. That text would not be translated by a plugin because it technically isn’t text on the page.
Hiring A Native Speaker To Translate Your Blog Post
In my opinion, hiring a native speaker to translate you content is the ideal way to go. I chose to go this route for the blog post that I wanted to offer to the Spanish-speaking community and it worked out really well.
One thing to note is that I speak conversational Spanish. I probably could have translated the blog post myself, but it would have taken me 3-4 hours and it would have been rougher than I would have liked.
So, as an alternative I jumped on Fiverr and found a highly-rated translator who converted my article for $20. I paid a little extra for a 48 hour turnaround. The result was excellent.
I sent them a Word document with the original post and they translated each paragraph, placing the translated text directly beneath each paragraph. That way, I could read through and proof-read each paragraph. If I have a few more posts that I choose to translate, I’ll definitely use the Fiverr seller again.
Once I had the translation completed, I just used the Duplicate Page plugin and created a copy of the original post. With the new post, I went through paragraph-by-paragraph and replaced the English text with the translated Spanish text.
The reason for using the plugin is all the images remain in the post and I didn’t have to re-insert them into the new post.
Overall, it cost me $20 and it took me about an hour and I had a new post that was already being searched for.
Pros of hiring a native speaker
- Higher quality of translation
- Native speakers understand how to handle subtle differences that machine translation might not.
- Takes less time than doing it yourself, unless you are a native speaker
- Gives you a unique post with an additional URL, which is good for SEO
Cons of hiring a native speaker
- Costs money
- Takes time while you wait for the translation
There you have it. Several different options for translating your blog content into other languages. Some might help your SEO, others might not.
One final note (because I know someone will comment on it) about using WPML to translate content. I didn’t include WPML as an option because my experience is that folks who are using WPML aren’t looking to translate a few posts. Instead, WPML can be used as for much more complex multi-lingual, regionalized Web sites. I love WPML, but thought it was a big much to include in this post. I’ll add it to my list for a follow-up post, though.
If you have experience translating blog content, I’d love to hear what you think about these options (or others) in a blog content. Let me know what did or didn’t work for you. Also, shoot me any questions in a comment or via my contact form and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.
Update #1 – 6 Month Traffic Results For A Translated Blog Page
Just thought I would share some actual traffic numbers for those who are still curious as to whether it’s worthwhile to go through the process to have a native speaker translate your blog post.
As you have read above, I translated my most popular post into Spanish, because I had some clear evidence that some of my Spanish-speaking audience was experiencing the issue. From the chart below, you can clearly see that translating the content was definitely worth it.
Over the course of the last 6 months, the translated post has gone from about 25 page views per week to almost 1,000 page views per week and the number is still climbing.
During the month of March, the original post saw approximately 13,000 page views per week. This means that the translated post is currently bringing in about 7% of the traffic of the original post. My gut is that it will continue to grow and (hopefully) even out somewhere around 15%. We’ll see about that.
Let me know what you think and whether there are any questions about translating your blog posts.
Update #2 – WPML vs Google Translate
Recently, I took over a client site that runs on WPML, or WordPress Multi-Language. I will be writing an entire blog post about the pros and cons of WPML vs GTranslate, but I thought I would share a few quick insights here for those who are searching for answer.
Pros of using WPML instead of Google Translate
- WPML is a plugin framework that allows you to create and maintain separate pages that are translated into your various languages. So, for instance, if you want to blog in Spanish, Quebec French, and Mandarin then WPML would allow you to create a separate page for each blog post. This is great for language-based SEO.
- WPML is fairly easy to set up and configure for basic use, but be sure to follow the installation guide so you get everything set correctly.
- WPML will translate the functionality of WordPress (admin console, admin menus, etc…) into your target languages so native speakers can use the WordPress admin console in their native language.
Cons of using WPML instead of Google Translate
- WPML is a paid plugin. That means it’s an extra cost to use, while the GTranslate plugin offers a free version.
- WPML does not automatically translate your content like Google Translate does. It simply provides you a framework in which to manage multiple copies of your blog posts and pages that are translated into the target language.
- WPML is complex. While you can probably get it up and running in about 30 minutes, there are a TON of different settings and options. If you are going to manage a WPML blog, be sure you do a bit of research before you jump in and buy the plugin.
I hope that helps. As I mentioned previously, more content will be coming about using WPML to translate a WordPress blog.