Can Google Translate affect your SEO?

03/06/2021 | Rebecca Twose

Website translation can be extremely beneficial for businesses that are trying to expand in new countries. Advantages of website translation include building brand awareness in your new market, increasing engagement rates with your target audience and converting leads into sales. However, these benefits do come with a cost and using professional translation services for your content is an investment. In any business, keeping costs down where possible is important, so it is no wonder that many businesses often try and look for cheaper alternatives that will fulfil their translation needs. One of these alternatives is using free, online translation tools like Google Translate.

Website translation

Google Translate is easy to use and offers a quick, and sometimes fairly accurate, translation. But can using it to translate your website actually cause more harm than good? Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller spoke recently on Google Search Central’s YouTube channel about the impacts of using Google Translate for website translation. Mueller answered a few questions that many Google Translate users have probably wondered, check out what he had to say below:

Is the content created by Google Translate considered to be duplicate content?

Question: “…I have an English website. So now I want to make a German website. I want to ask this question about duplicate content issues.

So I have German content. Then… suppose use a translator like Google Translate to translate. So will Google tell me it is duplicate?”

Mueller’s response: “No. If it’s translated content it’s not duplicate content.”

Mueller then goes on to explain that whilst it would not be classed as duplicate content, there are still issues when using Google Translate to create the German content from English content.

Mueller: “I think that’s a different problem then, though.

So just in general, translated content is unique content. It’s different words, different letters on the page, so it’s different content.

Depending on how you translate it, that would be more of a quality issue.

So if you use an automatic translating tool and you just translate your whole website automatically into a different language then probably we would see that as a lower quality website because often the translations are not that great.”

Does the content created from Google Translate violate Google’s auto-generated content guidelines? 

In the video, Muller goes onto expand on his previous point about the quality issues surrounding Google Translate and states that these issues are now more about violating one of Google’s big spam rules, which is the prohibition on publishing auto-generated content. Google currently has guidelines in place that prohibits the use of auto-generated content on a website and they even penalise sites that use this type of content. Auto-generated content includes ‘text translated by an automated tool without human review’.

Mueller: “I imagine, over time, the translation tools will get better so that it works a little bit better. But at least for the moment, if you just automatically translate it, from a quality point of view, that would be problematic.

And even a step further, if that’s something that is done at scale, then the webspam team might step in and say, this is automatically generated content, we don’t want to index it.”

Does the content from Google Translate affect the performance of a website?

Mueller’s response: “I think you have to consider the quality aspect. Just like, what kind of content you would expect in your own language.

Like if you’re searching in your language and you find a page and you read it, and it’s like…

I don’t know who wrote this. This doesn’t make much sense. Then you wouldn’t trust that page, right?

Essentially it’s the same thing. You’re creating content for German users and if they look at it and say, ‘oh, this doesn’t make much sense’ then they’re going to go somewhere else.”

If you’d like to watch the full interview with John Mueller, please click on the video below (discussions about Google Translate begin at 00:04:50).

Google Translate can be great if it’s used to understand the basic meaning of the content that is in another language, but it does not provide a perfect translation and can read awkwardly. By using a professional, human translator you are guaranteed content that is accurate and flows much clearer for the reader, not to mention it is likely to be much more engaging!

If you’d like to know more about our high-quality translation services, please click here. 

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