Website translation is one of the most worthwhile investments you can make if you run a digital business and are ambitious to expand your reach overseas. By making your web content accessible in multiple languages, you can extend your global reach substantially.

Smartling, a translation management provider, extols the benefits of website translation in its recent paper ‘Prepare your Website for Localization’. As it notes: “People don’t buy stuff or engage with companies that don’t speak their language.”

At Language Insight, we couldn’t agree more. Here are our top reasons why website translation is a worthwhile investment:

  • Increase online visibility
  • Increase accessibility
  • Improve image

Increase online visibility

When more than half of the world’s internet traffic is made up of people whose mother tongue is not English, there is a wealth of opportunities waiting if you make your website accessible in their language.

The overwhelming majority of content on the internet is English, yet native English speakers make up less than half of all web traffic. This means that whatever line of business you’re in, your English-language website is directly competing with countless others all over the world. Even if you have taken care to intelligently research keywords and optimise your website’s content, the competition you face to rank high in SERPs for any of these keywords is stiff.

There is far less competition if you are working in a different language, though. Furthermore, when you translate your website you have the potential to tap into far more web traffic. Really, it doesn’t take Albert Einstein to tell you that translating your website makes sense.

Increase accessibility

People often prefer to do business in their native language, whether that’s purchasing a product or signing up for a service. Having all of the relevant information in their mother tongue allows them to thoroughly read and process it in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in your business.

No matter how competent their English language skills are, a consumer will prefer to do business in their native language as it rules out any potential mistakes caused by a mistranslation. So, by translating your website you are making it easier for non-English speakers to do business with you.

Improve image

While being able to use your website in their native language is a practical benefit for users in foreign markets, it can also influence their perception of you. Having the ability to select what language a website’s content is displayed in is still not a common option and users will appreciate the effort you have gone to.

What to consider

Now you’ve decided to extend your reach by investing in website translation, there are a few things to consider. Most importantly, you will need to select how your website will be translated.

The four most popular options available to you are:

  • Machine translator
  • Crowd-sourced
  • Professional translator
  • Language services provider

Each of these options has its own pros and cons, so it’s worthwhile conducting your own research to determine which is best for your needs.

Machine translation

Software and machine translations are widely-available and cost very little to use, if they cost anything at all. They are also easy to use and the results are fast, which makes them popular.

However, they are not known for their accuracy. For example, if we take the above paragraph and use Google Translate (one of the most popular free translation tools) to translate it into French, and then translate that back into English, we get:

“Translations of software and the machine are widely available and cost very little to use, if they cost nothing. They are also easy to use and the results are fast, which makes them popular.”

The change is only slight, but it completely alters the meaning of the original paragraph. Rather than saying software and machine translators are commonplace, it says that there are plenty of translations of machines and software available.

In order to portray your business in the best possible light, you need your web pages to send the same message in all of your target languages. Using a free translation tool to produce your content will result in your web pages displaying content that ranges from nonsensical to factually inaccurate.


Crowd-sourced translations are becoming increasingly popular and because they are produced by humans, they are far more accurate than the artificial equivalent.

Businesses can have their pages translated for them by volunteers who can read and understand the original text and who speak your target language as their mother tongue. Best of all, they will do it for free, often in return for no more than a credit.

If all of this sounds too good to be true, it’s worth remembering that crowd sourcing your translation involves a great deal of project management. In addition, every word will need to be checked and quality assured by a professional translator to make sure it says what you want it to, so you shouldn’t assume you can select this process and pay nothing.

Professional translator

One of the benefits of hiring a professional linguist is that the resulting content will be correctly localised. Translations should only ever be produced by someone working into their mother tongue, and who lives in the country where your target language is spoken natively.

The reason for this is to ensure the resulting content is localised. Localisation takes into account the cultures and customs of the specific market you are targeting, plus plenty more besides. For instance, the translator should be aware of any vocabulary updates, slang or idioms used in the original text that will mean something completely different when translated. Other considerations include formatting of currency and numbers – whether a decimal point or comma is used – and what units of measurement you use, how telephone numbers are displayed, what address information you ask for, and even the direction of the writing.

All of the above is included in the localisation process and all of it is provided by a professional translator. Some of these considerations might be overlooked by a volunteer and a machine translation would certainly not account for them, but an expert would know how to tailor your content for the locale you specify.

There is a drawback to employing a professional translator in-house, however, and that’s the expense. If you are having your entire website translated into French, hiring one French translator is not enough as you also need someone to proof all of that content. Plus, if you want your website translated into more than one language, you’ll find costs spiral as you try to put together a team of linguists.

If you choose to employ the services of freelancers instead, you should expect to dedicate a sizable chunk of time to managing the project. It’s for these reasons that businesses are increasingly turning to:

Language service providers

A language service provider will assign your website translation to a fully-qualified translator who has experience in your particular industry. This means they will lend their own knowledge to your translation and will know how to correctly translate any technical terminology you use in it. Often language service providers have a large network of translators based all over the world they can assign work to, meaning they can find the perfect linguist for your project quickly.

Once complete, your translation will be checked by another professional to ensure it makes sense, is factually accurate and contains no errors. All of this will be sorted for you by the language services provider, which will oversee the management of the whole project and, in doing so, free up your valuable time. In addition, it is a more affordable option than assembling a team of linguists in-house, as you won’t have to count the cost of annual leave, sick days and pension contributions.

Whichever option you choose, in an increasingly connected world website translation is certainly an investment worth making.

Have you translated your business’ website? Share your experiences below.