Translating product descriptions is one of the most time-intensive tasks for multilingual e-commerce brands and online retailers. It can turn dozens of product pages into hundreds, hundreds into thousands (and so on), with each page needing to rank in search engines and convince online visitors to complete a purchase of the product. In this article, we explore five key steps for product description translation that make the workload more manageable and improve the quality of every page.
Product description translation comes with a number of unique challenges you will need to overcome:
- Volume: For e-commerce brands and retail businesses selling a lot of products, it is already difficult enough to create product descriptions that convince consumers to buy, let alone having to translate each one into multiple different languages.
- Similar products: Similar products with moderate variations (colour, features, specifications, etc.) make it harder to produce unique descriptions for each version – and the challenge multiplies with translation.
- Duplicate content: If using machine translation to convert the same product description into multiple languages, search engines like Google will potentially pick this up as duplicate content.
- Keywords: Translating the original keywords from the source language into each target language will often not produce the keywords people actually use and you need to target. In many instances, they may not even make sense, so similar keyword alternatives need to be found in the target language(s).
- Conversions: Effective product descriptions convince people to buy, and it takes time to craft these types of messages and CTAs.
- Market differences: Products may have to adhere to different regulations in certain markets or you may have to provide certain information or safety warnings, and even audience priorities can vary – you will need to address all of these in each language version of your product descriptions.
- Transcreation: Translation alone often isn’t enough to convert product descriptions (copywriting) into other languages, especially when dealing with tag lines, benefits, headings and the more creative elements of product pages.
Now, let’s run through the five key steps that can overcome these potential issues:
Product description translation can involve high volumes of content, especially if you are dealing with large product ranges or translating into a lot of languages. To make the workload more manageable, automating as many of the repetitive content management and translation steps as possible is going to help.
This requires the right mix of translation technology: a powerful translation management system; machine translation; terminology management and content review tools as well as translation memory.
Duplicate content is one of the most common challenges of product description translation. This does not mean that every word across all product pages needs to be unique. However, understanding the thresholds for avoiding duplicate content is essential for managing workloads.
As a general rule, the ideal percentage of unique content on every product page (even without translation) needs to be 30%. This is so you don’t need to worry about spec sheets and other repeated elements using the same content.
In addition, properly translated product descriptions won’t have any problems with duplicate content. However, if you simply use machine translation tools without any kind of post-editing process, then you will most likely run into problems.
With product page translation, certain page elements can gain more attention than others. When it comes to spec sheets and a lot of technical information, these can be run through machine translation with post-editing as a next step, to make sure everything is correct.
The same approach is not going to work with the more emotive elements of webpage copy such as: titles, headings, benefits and social proof (e.g. testimonials, reviews, etc.). These are the elements where you should focus the majority of your manual translation efforts to pinpoint the needs of each audience and capture this in every translation. You should easily hit the 30% unique content target by prioritising these elements too.
A key step in product description management is localising numerical values to make them suitable for every audience. You may also need to adapt units of measurement, date formats, phone numbers and a variety of other numerical values.
Moreover, another aspect that needs to be considered is the use of any symbols and icons that need changing for specific markets. This includes any instance where symbols lose their meaning for audiences.
The content in images and other visual content, including videos or interactive elements, also needs to be taken into account. If your visual content includes models or other people, consider whether you should localise these images to include people who represent each target audience.
Likewise, any text that is visible in images will need translating for each language version. This includes any images of user interfaces for software or electronic devices or the labels on any physical buttons.
All in all, it is very important to ensure that every aspect of the visual content that appears in product pages is translated and localised for its intended audience.
To discuss your product description translation strategy, feel free to call us on +44 (0)20 7324 0950 or fill out the form on our contact page, and one of our e-commerce translation consultants will get back to you.