Should you translate your website content for increased traffic? (NO!)
Let me tell you why it’s one of the worst ideas ever. I keep seeing this tactic recommended again and again by top bloggers and other “blogging experts” like Neil Patel and can tell you it is a big waste of time and energy.
If you even had to ask this question…there’s a good chance it’s not a good idea for you. Let me share from my 6-year experience of dealing with translated content.
Translated content – seems like a GOOD IDEA
I hear this “great idea” all the time from people scheming to increase traffic and improve their website SEO. Earlier today, a client of mine referenced a blog from online marketing god Neil Patel that spoke about how to translate your content to get more traffic. And what frustrated me the most about it is that he clearly had very little experience actually doing it and yet was being read and followed by millions of readers around the world. Let’s go over some common ideas people have about translating content, and then finally I’ll burst your bubble about why it doesn’t work the way people think it does.
Why translated content seems like a good idea:
- There are so many other languages spoken in the world.
- Translating your existing content into other languages is easier than coming up with new content.
- Just hire translators.
- And now you have tons of new content…with access to tons of new readers!
- More ad revenue, and oh hey! You can even translate your info products as well!
- More traffic, more buyers, more conversions!
- Win, win, win all around. What could go wrong?!
Horrible suggestions for translating content:
- Choosing languages based on your existing traffic from other countries.
- Choosing languages by countries with highest internet users (China, India, etc).
- Using (cheap) 3rd-party services or Google plugin to translate your posts.
Reality check – why translated content is a BAD IDEA
1. It’s (almost) NEVER worth the effort
Most people with this silly idea have never gone the lengths to know how much work it takes to get REAL results. I’ve already done it about six years ago now. Back in 2013, I translated a massively popular English blog into 6 languages and boy was it a lot of work. It’s not enough to just TRANSLATE the content, you have to LOCALIZE the terminology, and also TRANSLITERATE the urls. It is sooooooo much more work than simply translating content.
2. Content translation is TOUGH to manage
Oh, and in case you thought the content translation was the only “hard part”. Let me tell you that it’s so much harder than you think it is! I understand the logic first of all. For people managing their own blogs, most will tell you that the actual content-creation can be the hardest part…especially after all these years. Content creation gets especially tiring. Now if you LOVE creating content, then perhaps it’s the marketing part that’s the most tedious part. Well, either way…it’s either you love content creation and hate marketing, or you love marketing but hate content creation.
So by that logic…many people think translating content is so much easier because they’re not the ones actually doing the content creation. Just outsource it and then sit back, right? ***ANHHHH!!!*** WRONG!!!
Content translation is almost damn near impossible when you understand what “content” really is. What gives a blog post quality is not only the information pertained in the message but also the personality behind the message. It’s the “voice” of the writer that lends personality and identification to the words. It’s the VOICE that readers connect with more-so than the message itself. So tell me…how DO you translate the voice?
Do you really think that super cheap translator you found on Upwork or Fiverr is really going to translate your tone and personality? Do you think they’re even going to translate the totality of your message instead of looking for easy summarizations left and right? Do you think they even know or care enough about your topics to write it with the same passion that you did? I think the hardest part about translated content is that it’s never anywhere near as good or as impactful as it was in its original language. (Oh and if you ever think of anything as silly as using an automated translator plugin, just slap yourself right now!)
What about little typos or grammatical errors? Who’s going to catch those? Who’s going to make little adjustments over time to keep the content updated? Who’s going to make sure your content isn’t being (or even already) stolen and reused by competitors in other languages.
But ok sure, if you insist…here’s my multilingual strategy guide.
3. Translated content is harder to market (and connect on social media)
Remember all those times you wrote amazing blogs on your site that nobody ever read? Ok, that’s a bit like how translating content is. Just because you have translated content doesn’t mean readers will flock to you. You’ll probably have to engage on social media in other languages and maybe even other social media sites that you aren’t familiar with. Is that even worth the extra work? Are you even able to do all that? What about when people leave comments; are you going to translate their comment and then translate your reply?
4. Other languages aren’t worth as much (financially)
This is going to be the biggest shocker for many people! Financially-speaking, English language readers are the most valuable readers by far. This will be the case no matter what type of conversion you want. Whether it be in ad revenue, sales purchase, or social media engagement…English readers are by far the most valuable. The rest are almost a waste of time to engage with.
If I could illustrate a scale (from my own experience) comparing the value of readers in different languages:
- English – $5,000 made for every 100,000 visitors.
- French – $200 per 100k visitors.
- Spanish – $150 per 100k visitors.
- Russian – $150 per 100k visitors.
- Portuguese $50 per 100k visitors.
- Chinese – $30 per 100k visitors.
- German – $10 per 100k visitors.
I’m dead serious. All that work that you do for other languages will hardly make you any money. Ad companies care very little for readers in other languages. Social media doesn’t do as much for readers in other languages. If I had to suspect, many of them at not on their phones as much as Americans are. Their mobile plans are not unlimited data or perhaps the wifi isn’t as fast. Their incomes are much lower than in English-speaking countries. I also feel the countries with higher incomes are already speaking English fluently and prefer to buy the content in English.
Of course, there are many reasons and also many variables. Maybe the translated content isn’t as good. Maybe I’m not engaging these visitors on the same level that I am in English. Either way, I can state simply that the efforts I went through to translate the content with quality were not worth it financially. If you want to connect with and help people around the world in other languages, then do it. But if you think it’s going to be a windfall of money, you’re going to get your heart broken.
5. Deciding on which languages is a tricky decision to make
As mentioned above, I think the worst way to decide which languages to translate for is going by which languages have more internet users or which languages are already visiting your site. Here’s why those are flawed ideas. Going by which language has more internet users is a terrible way of calculating as many users in those countries are either A) have no money or only very limited internet access, or B) have money and decent internet access but also already fluent in English. Going by which language you already have users for is also silly as many of those users are probably already very fluent in English and may even prefer English content.
The best languages to translate should be chosen by these criteria:
- They don’t already speak English. – This is becoming less and less of an issue as much of the world growing up today learns English at a young age. It’s quite a universal language.
- They are culturally similar in your topic – for example, are you blogging about cars? Well make sure whatever language you want to translate to is interested about cars in the same way that you are. Otherwise, you’ll have compatible language but not truly compatible interest and nobody will care to read it!
Trying to choose languages randomly just because you think it’s an easier way to get traffic (or make money), and not factoring in their cultural compatibility with your topic is a great way to waste lots of time. More so than the language itself, you have to absolutely make sure that your content is relevant to them!
6. Strengthening your presence in other languages doesn’t help your main language
I think this would be the greatest mistake of all. To waste so much time chasing other languages that you lose focus and lose rankings in your main language. How silly! When you look at how fast trends are moving in the internet…I think we can barely keep up with the current trends, why take a chance trying to play catch up with other languages when you can focus and establish more dominance in your main language?
Ultimately, you’re better off focusing on your main language
The conclusion I always come to is always the same: your efforts are always better spent on your main language. Much easier to create quality content, easier to connect with readers, easier to market, easier to monetize, easier to track stolen content, easier to maintain your brand quality over the longterm than to divide your focus in other baskets that don’t give anywhere near the same dividends.
I highly doubt ANY of you have completely saturated all the possible content you could make for your own language, so quick messing around and stick to your main language.
STILL want to translate your content to another language? Fine, do it like this:
- Focus on your main language first and absolutely kill it. After all, you shouldn’t bother duplicating it to another language when you’re not even successful in your main language.
- Have somebody else that you trust completely manage it. Preferably someone who really loves your tone and message. Let them translate it and organize it and even manage the comments and social media.
- You keep your focus on your main content. Doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for you to give the other language any focus unless you are being rewarded for it!
- Even better, don’t hassle yourself with translating for another language until you’re sure you even have incoming traffic from other countries/language-speakers.
I can’t speak English well. Please understand me…^^
I have some question about it. I am Korean and have a small blog. I will write English content someday. Because WordPress is not popular at all in Korea. I heard only 0.2% of WordPress users… And Google is not best in Korea but most of my traffics are from Google and Naver(Korean best search engine) gives a penalty to non-Naver users on a search result.
1. I feel shocked first because of ‘the value of readers’. There is no Korean there. It means… the value of Korean readers is less than $10 per 100k visitors? If it is really less than $10, I think translation by English is not bad at all… I can speak English very little but I study English every day.
2. When I make global contents, I tried not to use a plugin like polylang because I had a bad experience with a translation plugin. My blog was almost broken when I deactivate it… I saw a blog don’t use a translation plugin but just make another article page and menu with another language. Then I could change its language by a button on the menu and it is like a global blog. When I make my blog like that, I think I will make 2 posts with the same content different language. Then I don’t have to worry about SEO like URL. It will be bad?
Hi Taeheon, I recommend using WPML plugin if you really want to have multiple languages and benefit from SEO with them.
Though I could argue on internet/smartphones popularity and other technical stuff outside US (in fact only in Israel I’ve seen better/cheaper internet than in Russia), I have to confirm: while running a Russian website with around 200-250k visitors per month, I only make around $300-400 per month from Adsense. It’s not 150, but it is around the same. So Johnny is absolutely right.
I do have some direct adverts, otherwise I couldn’t run this project at all, but this is a totally different story. You can’t have direct adverts if you only translate content.
Oh wow…$300-400 off a Russian content site with 200-250k visitors/month is really good! I’d expect only around a quarter of what you make. Perhaps Adsense is getting better for other languages. I should try it!
Paragliding in Mexico
I read your blog post (this one), when I was thinking about going “global”.
Basically, you state here it’s a bad idea.
However, after much hesitation, I took the plunge about 6 months ago.
I must say the results are beyond my expectation.
My niche was to propose paragliding tour to french people in Mexico in winter.
I translated it to English, and now my traffic almost doubled up.
Granted my initial audience was quite confidential (quite a niche, to say the least).
On the other hand, it makes more sense to US pilots to cross the border to go paragliding during the winter season.
And some international pilots tend to google up their search in English (I am one of them).
So maybe you were talking from an English-speaking point of view (translating to other languages), but if your site is not primarily in English and you want to go global, providing an English version is a must.
Of course, if you want to do it right, you need a proper translation solution.
Google-on-the-fly translation is poor, and won’t help grow your keywords.
I personaly use TranslatePress, with the premium SEO add-on (for custom URLs).
Hahah….yes! I thought it was obvious but I never clarified that I meant it from an English point-of-view. Thanks for commenting and cheers to your success.
I am translating my posts one by one but there is no traffic-up yet. But you give me courage. Thank you so muchh
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