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The downfalls of using auto-translation WordPress website plugins

By Josian Phillips, 

A WordPress auto-translation plugin can be an extremely useful tool. It’s a great way to save time, keep costs down and broaden the number of languages used on your website. But are there any downsides to using automated translation plugins for a professional website?

In a word – yes. When it comes to professional websites, machine translation can seriously affect the way a customer perceives your business. If the translation isn’t spot on – which it often isn’t with automated translation – the customer is likely to doubt validity and professionalism of your brand.

We’ve taken a look at how using auto-translate WordPress plugins can negatively impact your business, which should hopefully give you a better understanding of when you should and shouldn’t use machine translation.

Lack of localisation

Localisation is the process of adapting your content for different cultures, bearing in mind cultural nuances and different consumer preferences. It can involve everything from changing colour and images on marketing material, to the design and layout of your website.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re translating your website for a Chinese market. In China, the number ‘8’ is considered very lucky and could grab the attention of your audience. The number ‘4’, however, is perceived as unlucky because of its similarity to the word ‘death’ in Mandarin. So, if you were pushing a campaign in China, you’d want to leave this number behind – but your automated translation plugin wouldn’t know this.

Unfortunately, localisation is not yet a feature of machine translation. So, by automating your translation, you’re jeopardising your ability to successfully target a whole new market. That’s a lot of customers you could be missing out on!

If you decide that you want your content to be localised, it’s important that it’s done right. Otherwise, you could risk putting off potential customers instead of connecting with them.
That’s why we’d say it’s best to avoid automated translation and hire a professional translation agency which can provide you with a high standard of localised content.

Translation errors

One of the most obvious downfalls of using automated translation is the fact that the content has not been written by a person. This means that some definitions and grammatical structures are translated incorrectly, which can seriously alter the meaning of the text.

Machine translation isn’t able to understand context, and can sometimes translate words into their literal counterparts instead of the word that fits best. So, when copy is translated, it sometimes doesn’t make sense in the other language. Take, for example, this Vietnamese-to-English translation from a mainstream sports channel:


This is a prime example of how automated translation is unable to interpret context into the meaning of the text. If this were translated by a professional translator, the outcome would’ve been very different!

When these sorts of mistakes are made, the content lacks authority, which can seriously damage the perception of your business. Think about how you’d feel reading a website that didn’t fully make sense – you’d be sure to question its credibility. When visiting a professional website, people expect to read succinct content that is grammatically and structurally correct. Although auto-translation has greatly improved over the last five years or so, there is still a long way to go before it can be used confidently without errors.

Automated translation doesn’t consider SEO

Let’s say you’re writing copy for your website based on specific search terms that you’ve researched and want to target. If you then decide to use a WordPress plugin to translate that content, those keywords and phrases will be lost. Unfortunately, auto-translation doesn’t incorporate SEO search terms, and Google doesn’t even rank websites that have been solely translated by machine. As a result of this, your website is likely to get less visibility. Have a look at our blog post about how auto-translation can reduce your website visibility for more information.

To maximise your SEO efforts in another language, it’d be much more effective to use an actual translation agency who can search for relevant keywords and interpret them into the text. Native linguists rarely know how to write content for search, whereas a translation agency will have a native SEO expert who can produce a list of keywords that should be used on your website. This’ll increase your search visibility and ensure that your content is reaching the right the audience.

If you want more advice and guidance on translating your web content, have a look at our blog post which pinpoints the 7 best practices for website translation.

What now?

We’re not saying that you shouldn’t use auto-translate WordPress website plugins – as mentioned previously, there are definitely benefits to using them! We’ve even written about when machine translation should be used so you can identify if and when your business should consider it. But for a professional website, your content needs to be concise, coherent and – most of all – correct!

That’s where we can help – for a reliable, professional and localised translation service, contact us today.

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