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Is translation an SEO duplicate content issue for Google?

By Rowena Smyth, 

Duplicating content is a well-known no-no in marketing and promoting websites. For the purposes of performing well in search engine results, it’s always better for copy and content to be original.

But what about when you have translated content on your website? In other words, content that’s effectively saying the same thing, but in a different language.

Here we address the question of whether translation is a duplicate content issue. In short, translated content shouldn’t cause you any problems, so long as the translation is done properly. Let’s go into a bit more detail.

What is duplicate content, and why is it best avoided?

According to Google: “duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or are appreciably similar… Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.” In layman’s terms, this means duplicate content is text which appears word-for-word on more than one website, or multiple times on one site. 

Sometimes duplicating content is inevitable. For instance, the passage from Google above is – ironically – taken verbatim from a Google support page. And it also appears on many websites discussing this issue. Taking direct quotes from reputable websites isn’t problematic, especially if the quote is attributed to the source. But copying and pasting passages wholesale from other websites – or from your own – is getting into dodgy territory.

In the case of the former, you’re not creating high-quality, original content for your readership. In the case of the latter, it looks like you might be repeating keywords and phrases in order to game search engines. Even if this isn’t the case, it provides your readers with a poor experience, as they won’t want to read the same passage twice.

There’s some debate as to whether Google actually penalises duplicate content, as Google doesn’t like to issue ‘penalties’. This is to a degree academic, because the result is effectively the same – sites with large quantities of duplicate content are unlikely to rank. So, if your site has a significant amount of duplicate content, potential customers are less likely to find you on search engines.

If you’re looking for more SEO guidance – in addition to some stellar marketing advice – pop over to our ultimate guide to marketing translation.

How does this relate to translated content?

The answer seems like it should be obvious. Translated content is different… It doesn’t completely match its source and – crucially – it’s intended for a different audience. So it shouldn’t affect search engine rankings – right?

This is correct if you’ve translated your content properly. However, it’s also where the ‘but’ comes in. If you’ve automated your translation, it could be considered to be spam, which has negative consequences for search engine rankings. If you need your content translated into another language, or perhaps several languages, it’s best not to cut corners. Using Google Translate for entire pages or sites may seem like an easy solution, but it could actually stop your content from reaching its intended audience.

Even if your website does reach your intended audience, you risk alienating the reader. Although automated translation tools are improving over time, the quality of the translation is likely to be insufficient for the reader. If they leave the page almost immediately, this will contribute to your page having a high bounce rate, which is also likely to negatively affect your SEO. 

The key here is quality. Google wants to surface relevant, high-quality, original content for its users. So it really pays to incorporate the human touch in your translation, to ensure your content is of the highest quality – regardless of what language it’s in.

Contact us

If you want to make sure that your web content is of an exemplary standard in any language, talk to a professional translation agency like Brightlines. Our expert translators ensure the content you provide your audience is fresh, original and digestible. Contact us today to find out more. 

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