How does Google deal with translated content?

Published on September 8th, 2016

Keeping Google happy with your content in English is hard enough, let alone having a multilingual website to optimise too. Getting your website translated is one thing, but how do you guarantee that your pages will rank as well in other languages as they do in your original?

It helps to understand how Google deals with translated content and multilingual websites.

Multilingual SEO

Multilingual SEO

Does Google see translated content as duplication?

One of the biggest no-nos in search engine optimisation (SEO) is having duplicate content on your site or third-party locations. So what happens when you have the same content translated into another language?

The quick answer is that Google doesn’t see translated content as duplication. The reason for this is that when you translate text from one language to another, enough changes are made that you essentially have new content on your hands.

Sounds simple, right? Well, it is – as long as you get professional translation. If you use software to translate your content, you won’t get the necessary changes to grammar structure and wording to create “new” content. Instead, each word is basically swapped for the closest dictionary alternative and that will be seen as duplicate content by Google.

Google’s former head of web spam confirmed all this back in 2011.

You’ll also see on the Google Search Console site that “text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing” is enough grounds for a search penalty. This also applies to WordPress plugins and other free translation tools you may find online.

Google does not want you to use Google Translate

Google invests a lot of money into its own translation tool, but the search provider does not want you to use it for translating pages. Don’t expect any favours from its search team for using Google Translate, because you’ll be disappointed.

The reason is simple: large chunks of machine translated text that haven’t been reviewed by a professional will make little or no sense to anyone. Google doesn’t want that kind of experience littering its results pages – so forget Google Translate and any other automated software.

Get a professional translator to handle your multilingual content and you’ll be safe from Google penalties. More importantly, you’ll be engaging with your overseas markets in the way you need to.

Use translators for your keyword research

Another common mistake multilingual publishers make is waiting until they’ve created their content before sending it to a translator. That’s fine, but how do you know the same keywords in English will be ranking as effectively in another language?

You don’t – which means you need to do extra keyword research with every new language you add to your website. Once again, Google Translate won’t cut it here. Even for single word translations, it’s not accurate enough to guarantee you get the right keyword in return, so you could be creating content for the wrong keyword entirely because of a simple translation error.

Things are even more complex when you consider long-tail keywords (full search queries). These are becoming more important in SEO with every year that passes – so get the translators in when you start planning your content strategy for new languages. It will save you a lot of trouble later on!

Get your technical SEO spot on with translated content

There are so many aspects of the technical SEO requirements for publishing multilingual content, so perhaps this is something we’ll go through in more detail in a future post. It is important you get this stuff spot on though, so in the meantime, get an SEO agency on board to make sure everything is in place.

Even the domain/URL structure you use to navigate between different versions of your site can impact how Google ranks your content. You also need to be sure that your pages can all be indexed and are free from Google’s duplicate penalty rules.

Finally, remember that Google isn’t the only search engine you want to be ranking for. In some countries (China, Russia and South Korea), it’s not even the number one search engine. Google isn’t losing out to Bing or Yahoo in those countries either, so do your homework on each market.

The good news is that translated content isn’t treated all that differently by Google, as long as you make sure the right quality is there. Behind the scenes, there are a number of technical requirements to meet as well, but you’re good to go once all of this is set up. So don’t let Google penalties put you off your multilingual content goals. With the right foundations set you’ll have no problems with keeping foreign speakers and search engines equally happy – no matter which languages you need.

Posted on: September 8th, 2016