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The Promises and Pitfalls of Translating Marketing Content

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When you're marketing to global audiences, your messages must be accurate, concise, and targeted to establish consumer trust and brand loyalty. Satisfied customers often result in repeat purchases and increased return on investment (ROI). That is where translating marketing content comes into play, ensuring that messages are properly conveyed to various global audiences.

Marketing groups have traditionally approached translation with caution, because it's expensive, time-consuming, and somewhat of a black art. Consequently, translation was applied only to documents such as manuals or to ads.

With the advent of the Internet, however, translation was extended to cover websites as well—with the main intent being localization of a site for a specific market.

Within the last few years, we've seen a radical transformation not only in website content but also in how the content is created and used.

User-generated content now dominates by volume. It can be created either by nonprofessional writers who are employees of a company (e.g., bug-fix write-ups, how-to's, chat logs, and other such support content) or by users of a company's product or service (e.g., product or service reviews).


Needless to say, Web users are heavily influenced by the product or service reviews of their peers and by the utility of the content needed to resolve an issue at any given moment. And for Web properties that depend on visitor traffic for monetization, translation of content is invaluable in several ways.

Here are some promises and pitfalls of translating marketing content to maximize ROI:

  • If content on a page is translated along with its corresponding page tags and keywords, users can easily find website content in their native language. Why is that important? Bounce rates are typically lower and conversion rates are typically higher if visitors can find content in their native language on a page.
  • If the content of a page is translated, then it is indexed by the popular search engines and becomes findable when a search is conducted in the site visitor's native language. Making content natively findable is a good way to increase organic traffic to a page. For that to work, the appropriate search terms leading to the page also need to be translated.

A typical challenge that site owners face is determining how they should translate the site's content. Depending on the type of content, different translation methods should be used:

  • Ad copy, brochures, manuals, and legal documents are examples of content that is best translated by humans so that emotions and nuance can be properly conveyed.
  • On the flip side, all "fact-based communications"—which cover much of the user- generated content to be found, such as reviews, product-support information, and chat logs—are well served with automated translation performed by domain-trained engines.

Although human translation is obviously "human perfect," it tends to be slow, expensive, and frequently inconsistent. Automated translation, on the other hand, is fast and less expensive.

With that said, it is necessary to ensure that automated translation conveys facts accurately and is of appropriate quality, so that readers find the translations understandable and the information useful.

Delivering understandable, useful information on the Web can have a measurable impact on a company's brand promise to communicate with its customers. But that information must be delivered timely and in the appropriate languages, else website visitors may view the company poorly.

Selecting the appropriate translation method for each type of Web content enables companies to extend their marketing reach and deliver on the brand and customer experience.

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Translation applied correctly enables marketing to achieve its goals of making content findable, increasing Web traffic, retaining visitors, and improving monetization. Translation applied carelessly, however, can result in misinformed and unsatisfied customers, a damaged brand, and a lower ROI for marketing campaigns.


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Swamy Viswanathan is vice-president of products at Language Weaver (www.languageweaver.com), where he is responsible for strategy, products, and marketing.

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  • by LOL Tue May 4, 2010 via web

    I have to respectfully disagree with this article. I have yet to see an automated translation service that would generate content that wouldn't offend a native speaker of the "translated to" language. Consumers want authentic communication, and communication via a machine is hardly authentic.

  • by Marina Thu May 6, 2010 via web

    I also have to disagree. You describe human translation as "slow, expensive, and frequently inconsistent". That it absolutely false! There is no way that a machine can translate as well. Skilled, qualified "human" translators usually do an excellent job at capturing the true meaning of a marketing piece. I understand that you are promoting the services of your company, but it will be a long, long time before machines take over translation from humans.

  • by Keith Fri May 7, 2010 via web

    In every example I've seen that compared machine-generated translation to human-generated translation, the human version won out overwhelmingly for accuracy.

  • by Janine Libbey Tue May 11, 2010 via web

    Even Google Translate relies on human translators. Their translations are based on texts already translated by professionals.

  • by Beth Worthy Sun Nov 10, 2013 via web

    Fortunately now there are several translation companies who hire highly skilled professionals for their translation job. Moreover the best thing is that they provide their services at affordable rate and are best known for their timeliness. All you need to do is to find the best.

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