Google launched its automatic translation feature for Gmail last week. What implications does this have for your email marketing campaigns?

The automatic message translation tool, otherwise known as AMT, has been in development since 2009, and it has now been completely rolled out across the Gmail website.

The way AMT works is actually quite simple, providing an automatically prompted translate button whenever a user receives an email that is recognised not to be in their default language. Users can change the default language they wish all emails to be translated into, and either translate them one by one or set Gmail to automatically translate them all. If you wish, the automatic translation tool can even be turned off all together.

Whilst Gmail’s automatic translation tool is good for consumers who only require a very basic translation of emails they receive, it will no doubt present huge problems for marketers who rely on email campaigns to reach their core audience. We are not just talking about unsolicited emails or spam, but genuine business to consumer marketing emails, whether as a result of an opt-in or after sale follow up.

Problems arise as most email marketers will be trained to speak to their customers in a very particular way, using specific language and a well-honed tone of voice. This is key to good marketing, but it all becomes irrelevant when automatic translation comes into the picture. Automatic translation can interpret 90% of what the email is trying to say, but the real meaning of the message, the subtle nuances and play on words, will never translate. This could be the difference between a warm lead and a cold shoulder.

With this in mind, here are some short tips to accommodate Gmail’s automatic translation tool in your email campaigns:

  • Make sure the email’s design is perfect. If most of the meaning can be conveyed visually, then use that to your advantage.
  • Keep the amount of text to a minimum. More text means more margin for error when it’s been translated, so ensure your sentences are short and sharp.
  • Always provide a link to the web based version of your email. If the email becomes distorted as a result of translation, this will allow the recipients to view it in its original format.

One of the best ideas is to include a preferred language selection on your sign up form, enabling you to segment subscribers by their native tongue. Marketing emails can then be translated thoroughly by a human who will understand the meaning you are trying to convey, and finally, sent to the separate segments grouped by their mutual preferred languages.

Have you had any experience of Gmail’s automatic translation feature? Let us know in the comments below.