How using professional translators and SEO company can ensure your website has the best chance of ranking well in the search engines.

Why Shouldn’t I Simply use Google Translate?

Adapting a website to another language and culture is a challenging task but is well worth the effort in terms of increased market share. When selling to German customers, translating your web pages well into German is very important when it comes to gaining a high ranking in search engines. Google Translate is free, very user-friendly and allows you to switch your content instantly between 65 different languages. Maybe this sounds too good to be true?

There is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of free translation services in organic rankings. Google’s algorithm is certain to flag up grammatical errors and spelling mistakes while its ability to rank will be confused by poorly-written content. Automated translation tools always throw up a range of issues, ranging from subtle mistakes to complete nonsense; without native German speakers or professional translators in-house, how will you know how accurate the translation is?

While some people believe that running their web pages through a free translation service such as Google Translate is sufficient, this is far from the truth. While technology, such as translation memories, does play a role in speeding up professional translation services, using free translation technology as a substitute for high-quality human translators is always a poor business decision. Automatic translation services often provide only a general interpretation of the content, missing finer points altogether and failing to convey the meaning of thoughts and words correctly.

Even if your copy is grammatically correct, cultural differences also pose problems. For example, in German, the difference between formal and informal personal pronouns sie and du still persists and while an informal tone may be acceptable in English, it may come across as too familiar to German customers. In the worst case, your target audience may receive misleading information as the original sense has been lost in translation.

You and your business run the risk of looking amateurish at best while, in the worst case scenario, you could tarnish your professional reputation by causing offence and public outrage that could be difficult to recover from. Using a poor translation also puts you in danger of misleading customers and hence to customer service problems you do not the resources to cope with.

It is important to remember that localisation is the key to transposing your website into German. Poor localisation is often the result of trying to cut corners by using free translation services or bilingual employees. Saving money by not searching for professional German translation services can be seen as a winner in the short term but is unlikely to achieve the desired results. Localisation applies equally to images and the layout of the website as it does to the words used. For example, a German translation of an English website will use up to 30% more words than the original content so the layout will need to be reconfigured.

Using a Professional Translator and German/SEO Marketing Specialist

Why use a Professional Translator?

While many Germans speak and understand English, translating your website into German is the best way to achieve your goals when selling to German customers. While free services such as Google Translate can give an overall interpretation of what the website content is about, misunderstandings often arise and you run the risk of giving your customers incorrect information that could end up costing you dearly. A professional translator will provide a fluent, grammatically correct translation of your content that will flow naturally and be localised; this will give your business a professional image and will avoid sending incorrect messages.

A professional translator will take care of all the SEO points that need to be considered; for example, directly translating keywords and phrases is rarely effective: an automated translation service might come up with Mobiltelefon as a keyword while a German user is far more likely to search for Handy. Research shows that different marketplaces use widely differing search terms, so SEO strategies need to be adapted accordingly so that your customers can find your content easily.

Language Markup

Many webmasters are unaware that language markup exists; it is written in HTML and alerts search engines to the language in which content is written and points to where other pages in the same language can be found. Google is often clever enough to work out the content of multilingual websites, but alerting search engines to the precise URLs of language variations, for example between dialects of German or Spanish, can only be helpful.

Hreflang

Professional translators will use an attribute known as hreflang to ensure that content is not duplicated: without it, your pages will lose value and struggle to attract traffic. Hreflang’s unusual name derives from the HTML term href, meaning hypertext reference, attached to lang, short for language, so the combination refers to a linked reference to a language. This link element is hidden from users but will be seen by search engines. Hreflang should be used to mark up any page that has a language variation. Canonical link elements are also used to avoid duplicating content but if using hreflang, canonical link elements are not advised.

Onpage SEO

There are many other onpage SEO points to consider when translating from one language to another. A professional translator can help ensure that meanings remain semantically identical; however, some on-page elements, such as titles, will need to be changed so that they are in line with your keyword research. Occasionally, it may be preferable to keep an English keyword if research shows that there are more searches for it than the German variant.

Language Sectioning

Each language must be sectioned so that on a multilingual website, German, for example, does not overlap with French – this avoids confusion for users and the focus on a particular language will be reinforced. Google will spot this and rank your page in the .de search engine. Users can switch between languages with a link at the top of the page.

Alt Attributes and URLs

Alt attributes should not be forgotten – taking the trouble to re-upload images with file names translated to the respective language will give you the edge over your competitors. URLs are also often overlooked – a professional translator can check that your URLs are optimised and contain the language of the German section.

Address Details and Link Building

If you have a physical office in your target country, include the address details on your landing page or contact page. Use microdata to mark them up and create a Google+ local account for that address. Create German social profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Have your head office listed in German business directories, then link to your German social profile from your German URLs. Improving your ranking in a new location requires you to use the practices you are already familiar with, but with a slight change of focus.

Using Relevant ccTLDs

If you are trying to rank a German page on your website, acquire some .de links as German domains will impress Google that you deserve a German ranking. There is no need to overdo it – do not reject great links that have proved their value to you, just ensure that your link profile is slanted slightly towards .de domains.

Build Links that use the German Language

If possible, find .coms or .nets that are written in German, as these will have already been categorised by Google as being German and will up the off-page relevance of your website towards Germany.

Distribution of Anchor Text

Mixing the language of your texts between English and German, with exact, generic and partial all included, gives you the opportunity to distribute your anchor texts more broadly.

Some Other Pitfalls To Avoid

Space and Layout

After spending weeks or months perfecting your website design, you may be surprised to find that when you translate it into another language there may be considerably more or fewer words than before. German is notorious for its long compound nouns and the number of characters you use for your German pages may be up to a third more than in English while a Finnish translation will use up to 60% more space. This could leave your website looking less than impressive!

You also need to bear in mind that while most languages are read from left to right, and the reader’s eye scans them in an F-shaped pattern from that direction, languages such as Hebrew and Arabic are read from right to left, so the layout of our pages will need to be adjusted, taking this into account.

Language Translation isn’t Enough – Don’t Neglect Other Localisation Work.

Language translation is just one aspect (although a major one) of what is known as localisation. The aim of the localisation process is to give your company’s product or service the look and feel of having been created specifically for the target market, minimising or eliminating altogether any local sensitivities.

When translating your web pages into German, the user’s online experience must be culturally correct and relevant. When you have carried out research to understand the cultural differences of a German audience, you may need to adapt graphics and modify content. The layout may need to be adapted to accommodate a larger number of words and text and graphics may need to be altered to use different currency symbols. Formatting for addresses, phone numbers and dates may also need to be changed.

Special Characters

When you are not prepared to display special characters, they might end up as weird symbols instead. You may try to solve the problem by not using special characters at all, but then you risk changing the meaning of your translation. This difficulty can be avoided by properly encoding the website: UTF-8 should be used in most cases, except for websites in Asian languages, where UTF-16 is used to reduce the bandwidth of websites using mostly non-Latin characters.

Changing Locale and Language

Obviously, the best guideline is to automatically show German users content in their native language. This should be planned for from the early stages of designing your website. There are a few options available: you can display a language version based on the user’s IP address or on the browser’s settings, or you can ask visitors to set their language on arrival at your landing page and remember their choice.

Other Reasons to have a Well-Translated Website

Reach a Wider Audience

The prime reason to have your website professionally translated into German is that it will set you head and shoulders above most of your competitors. Good, accurate translation with a natural flow will open up your business to new audiences and opportunities which other e-commerce sites fail to reach.

Your Content is more Likely to be Shared

International website users want well-written content that is easy to understand that they can share with friends and family. German visitors are more likely to share content localised for German audiences with other people who live in their country or who speak German. By integrating your website with localised social media sites, you create an even more effective system whereby people who speak a different language can share content more easily.

Build Trust with Good Translation

Using a professional to translate and localise your website shows respect for foreign visitors; this, in turn, builds trust, so important in the world of e-commerce. Badly-translated pages with mistakes and inaccurate information give a poor image of your business and will put off prospective customers. If the language used is full of mistakes, people will assume that your product or service will also be sub-standard. For UK based businesses who wish to reach a German audience, the solution is to use a professional translation agency specialising in website and business translations; this will ensure high quality and accuracy.

Professional translation services are one of the fastest-growing sectors in UK business and demonstrate the importance of accurate translation and interpretation to both private and business clients. Reach a wider audience with less effort. Having your content translated properly makes you more efficient – the content on each page of your website only has to be written once and can then be translated as required. Professional translation converts and localises your content to German or any other language, so in effect you are re-using the same content to attract a much wider audience, saving yourself both time and money.

Choose an SEO Company that Specializes in Optimisation for the German Market.

While professional translation is essential if you really want to give your website the best chance of gaining visibility in Germany, choosing a reputable digital marketing company that specializes in organic German SEO is equally important. In this regard, Twigg’s Translations can highly recommend Vision64 GmbH & Co KG. This is a German-based company that is active in both the UK and Germany. Vision64 speaks English and German.

Other good resources for companies interested in Germany: