It may not seem obvious at first glance, but website translation often requires a great deal more attention than a standard document translation. There are many benefits to translating a site, but it’s a complicated process and can be difficult to do properly. One way to make it easier on yourself is to make sure you have translation-friendly content. After that, it’s all a matter of attention to detail.
Even though a document might have a greater word count, it is still one single file and reads that way. Websites are completely the opposite. They are composed of multiple disparate files — each essentially a document in and of itself. Add the fact that each web page contains numerous other elements in addition to the main text, and you have a complex project that requires a professional translation team.
Unless the team in charge of translating your site is experienced at handling website translations, something is likely to be missed or overlooked. This can have a significant impact on your search engine rankings, because users looking for terms in French, for example, may not see your site if there are English elements that didn’t get translated.
Below are some of the most common things your website translation might have missed:
1) File Names and Links
Many people know that search engines take file names and links into account when determining your rank. But few realize that the same thing applies when localizing a site and using a foreign language. Foreign keywords are searched as-is, meaning that search engines do not translate English keywords in your file names to another language.
So if you want to maximize your French keyword rankings, for example, change that “car-rental.html” file name to “location-de-voitures.html”. This file renaming also applies to any images that have keyword relevance. Not only will this allow visitors to the translated site to navigate more effectively, but it can also help to improve your rankings. It may not get you first page results by itself, but it will certainly contribute.
If your site has been previously optimized for English-language searches and is directly translated into another language, your metadata may be forgotten in the shuffle. As mentioned before, search engines can be very literal when it comes to foreign language search criteria, so it’s a good idea to have all of your title, keyword and description tags changed over when you perform your website translation. Your search rank will thank you for it.
Alt-text is the text that pops up when you hover your mouse over an image. It may seem like a minor thing, but not only does alt-text contribute to your ranking—it is used by accessibility software and read aloud to the visually impaired. By including translations of your alt-text, you enable a better user experience for all of your visitors, no matter what language they speak or how they access the site.
4) Image Text
Image text refers to images that have text written on them. Page and section headers may be some of the more obvious examples, and thus easily caught, but even minor image text (like a “submit” button on a form) needs to be translated, too. And of course when you do translate the image, make sure you translate the image’s file name, and the link it points to. It gives both your users and the search engine crawlers an easier time when you keep everything consistent.
The above items might not contribute much to your search engine visibility when taken individually, but everything adds up. In the highly competitive world of search rankings, choosing to translate your keywords may be the difference between page 1 and page 10.
On a final note, keep in mind that the translation process involves the creation of many new pages — as well as the links to these pages. An experienced translation agency will be able to maintain consistency throughout the course of the project, so you don’t inadvertently end up creating dead-end links on the translated website.