Machine Translation SEO For Foreign Language Search Engine Success
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Machine Translation SEO For Foreign Language Search Engine Success
Copyright July 12, 2006 by Mike Banks Valentine
Are English speaking websites based in the US simply insular
and uncaring about foreign web traffic or are we actually
Xenophobia - a phobic attitude toward strangers - comes from
the Greek words xenos, meaning "foreigner", "stranger".
Trolling through the "referrers" section in my web site
traffic logs routinely shows hundreds of Google foreign
language searches. Those foreign language search referrals
usually total just slightly more than the combined total of
Yahoo and MSN English language search referrals. So doesn't
it make sense to pay more attention to foreign language
search in SEO than to fiddle with Yahoo and MSN optimization?
My traffic logs routinely show hundreds of translation tool
Those referrals come from foreign language searchers that
REALLY want to read the pages. Foreign language visitors
who don't know about online translation tools (like Google's)
will leave the search result pages without visiting your site.
Why not provide your pages in the most common European
and Asian languages with your text in their native language
already? Look in your logs for the following referrer URL:
188.8.131.52/translate_c with URL's of your own
site appended. This query at "Google English" is a request by
a foreign language user for a translation of that page on your
site. The most common of them are from Google.es (Spain) and
Google.de (Germany) and Google.pt (Portugal). Last month
there were nearly 1,000 of these queries from Google
translation tools in my logs. Check that tool out here:
This translation - or "Language Tools" page at Google is
helpful in escaping our insular attitudes about English
language search by showing us that Google currently supports
34 languages and hosts servers in 141 countries - literally
from A to Z. www.Google.ae (United Arab Emirates) to
Google has 117 languages listed on that page, but they've
buried a few ringers in there with "Elmer Fudd", "Klingon",
and "Pig Latin" to throw linguists for a loop. While it's
interesting to use those funny options, clicking the "I'm
Feewing Wucky" on the "Elmer Fudd" language produces the same
results as does the English language search, it's just cuter
with the letters "L" and "R" replaced with "W's" on the
But we need to look at the fundamental reason that Google
offers this "Language Tools" page and the machine translation
there. It is because web site owners in the U.S. don't offer
multiple languages on their own sites.
While it is not uncommon to see a row of four to six flags
representing the top few languages on many European based
sites (especially Italy, Spain and France based companies) -
it is actually rare to see multiple language options on U.S.
based business sites.
There are manifold reasons for this lack of communication by
English speaking countries with the rest of the world. The
top reason is that we simply don't need to know other
languages to live our daily lives in this country, so we
rarely think of using other languages online. While English
is a primary language spoken around the world, including
Canada, Australia, India, Britain and is a second language
spoken by millions of primarily foreign language speakers.
While it is common to visit major cities in Japan, Italy,
Mexico and dozens of metropolitan cities around the planet
without fear that we'll be unable to find English speaking
hoteliers, restaurateurs, and even cabbies - it is an
arrogant expectation. I've been to each of those countries
and didn't need any Japanese, Italian or Spanish language
skills while on either business or pleasure.
But we've got to be realistic if we are to take part in the
global medium of the web. Those web pages are viewable by an
estimated 700 million people around the world and millions
of those would happily visit and read your web site if it
were available in the world's top languages and indexed in
foreign search engines. So why not provide that option?
Major corporate web sites in the U.S. will inevitably require
polished human translation of their major web pages, with
variations for international tastes and preferences - most
small and medium business sites cannot afford that option.
This leaves machine translation as the best remaining option.
While it is possible for any site visitor to use translation
tools online to convert your English language text into
foreign tongues, it sends the visitor away from your site to
the translation service. Not ideal.
The best option is to use translation software to put those
foreign language variations on your own site and host them
from your own server in the languages you offer. The reason
to host them is, very simply, that if you provide machine
translated foreign variants of all your pages, they will be
crawled by foreign search engines and indexed and ranked on
European and Asian search engines.
The web audience in China was roughly estimated at just over
100 million in 2005 and is expected to balloon in the near
future. Simply being indexed for Chinese language searches
and reasonably ranked could increase traffic for U.S. sites
dramatically. The European audience is fragmented with many
more language options - the main representative languages on
the web are Spanish, French, Portugese, German & Italian,
while Chinese, Korean and Japanese make up the bulk of the
remaining web audience. Those eight languages are offered in
popular machine translation software packages.
If a site has already been optimized for English language
search, the SEO will have included the most important
keywords. While machine translation is not entirely reliable
for proper sentence structure and grammar once translated, it
at least gets most words and many word combinations correct.
Content sites, who often rely on advertising for income,
would love to see the extra pageviews and ad clicks coming
from foreign visitors reading their pages in their native
Once a content site owner sees their largest foreign audience
trends (through web traffic analytics statistics), they can
fine-tune their SEO for individual languages and actually pay
for professional translation and foreign language SEO of the
most profitable pages. But simply getting a content site
indexed by search engines in more than eight new countries
will bring waves of new visitors and increase advertising
About the Author: Mike Banks Valentine is a Search Engine
Optimization Specialist offering affordable Foreign SEO at
For more about Foreign Search Engine Success, visit
This article is available online with working translation to
eight languages, visit: snipurl.com/t5jg (WebSite101)