So Your Website Needs to Be Multilingual?

Papercut’s Guide to Translating Your Digital Marketing

If multinational business is important to your bottom line, you should consider delivering web content in multiple languages.

Understanding Translation

Translating is not the practice of switching words verbatim into the secondary language. We’ve all seen some pretty crazy “translations” with free computer tools such as Google Translate and Facebook Translation.

To accurately communicate your meaning in another language, it’s essential to understand the nuances of phrasing and grammatical structure of the secondary language. Furthermore, the translator must understand industry-specific terminology and when to translate those phrases directly or to create a different phrase to explain the meaning.

Most professional translators use a combination of human and computer-aided translation to efficiently and accurately translate text. This approach takes advantage of the human’s understanding of the language, while also creating a client-specific glossary of terms related to brand names and a cache of often-translated phrases.

Using a software tool, the translator may be able (after the initial translation) to use computer translation for upwards of 60% of new text. For example, a phrase such as, “Our stock products are sold through distribution only. Please contact your local distributor for pricing or to place an order,” might appear on multiple pages of a manufacturer’s website. Using computer-aided translation, the cost to convert this phrase from English to German will be much lower than a fresh human translation every time.


What’s the Best Choice for Your Company?

As businesses have entered the global marketplace, website content providers have developed new ways of translating site content into numerous languages with accuracy.

Regardless of how the content is translated into other languages, the chosen process must deliver:

  • Quality translation – must accurately represent your ideas
  • Translation maintenance – process for updating the English content must include plans for efficient and quality translation equal to the initial “bulk translation” at site launch

Your approach to translation should consider:

  • How often content will change
  • Staff members who can manage the translation process
  • Search engine optimization
  • Website structure
  • Requirements for content to vary by language
  • Cost for initial translation and cost to maintain


Tools to Consider

Proxy Services

These tools allow you the freedom to be almost on translation autopilot after the initial translation and glossary are complete.

The provider will deliver a snippet of code to your website manager. The code is installed on the site, which will allow the site to be scanned every 24 hours.

Any changes to the site content are queued up to be translated by computer with human oversight and translation, as necessary.

Things to Consider:

  • Keeps site current across all languages
  • Requires little to no staff time
  • Maintains quality of translation over long term
  • SEO services (including SEO-friendly, translated URLs) are available
  • Website vendor builds one English-language website with content management system (CMS)
  • Translated version of the website lives on translation company servers
  • Provides dynamic translation to the website visitor
  • Website vendor can configure your entire family of language sites to reflect different marketing messages or content, as necessary

Cost Structure: Fee for initial translation, as well as ongoing monthly costs for use of software, new translation volume, and additional tools in subscription

Companies to Consider:

  • Transperfect: Roots as a translation provider; grown into the industry leader
  • MotionPoint: Began as a technology solution; grown into full service translation resource


Workflow Automation Software + Translation Vendor

With this route, companies elect to have greater control of what new content is translated and when. Workflow automation software is specially designed to keep up with all of the snippets of text that need to be translated.

The key: that information has to get into the software somehow. Most likely, your company would have a staff person who would log any English changes in the software. Then, a selected translator would translate the text. The staff person would then update each language version of the website.

Things to Consider:

  • Requires internal staff oversight and ongoing work
  • Helps maintain quality and efficiency of translation when managing in house
  • SEO planning would need to be considered
  • Website vendor builds website (often a subdomain) with CMS for each language version
  • Multiple versions of the site live on your company’s web server

Cost Structure: Fee for initial translation, ongoing monthly costs for software subscription and per-word cost for new translation as needed

Companies to Consider:

  • Smartling: Software technology company; still in venture capital funding mode
  • SDL: Global behemoth; buying up other translation companies

Local Translation

Whether by a person on staff at your company or by a local/regional translation company, to be successful, this option needs to be managed carefully to ensure that all language sites are maintained to the highest standard.

Things to Consider:

  • You will need to create a procedure within the marketing department to ensure that the English and translated sites remain current and accurate.
  • SEO and site structure will need to be considered for ease of maintenance.
  • Requires staff oversight and ongoing work
  • Adds risk to quality equation
  • Website vendor builds website (often a subdomain) with CMS for each language version
  • Multiple versions of the site live on your company’s web server

Cost Structure: Fee for initial translation and per-word cost for new translation, as needed


Thoughts on Pricing

All translation companies and proxy providers require the English content in order to give an accurate cost estimate. Translation is typically priced by the word. Most translation companies will scan your current site to develop an estimate.


At a Glance

Method Internal Staffing SEO Concerns Website Structure Initial Cost Ongoing Cost
Proxy Minimal Included Single English-language website with CMS $$$$ $$
Workflow Automation Moderate Must be Considered Multiple websites (one for each language) and CMS install $$$ $$–$$$
Local High Must be Considered Multiple websites (one for each language) and CMS install $$$ $$$$