5 reasons why your website translation doesn’t work

To follow the trend and reach more customers you decide to have your website translated into two or more languages. What could possibly go wrong? The benefits seem to be clear and the whole process quite straightforward. Yet, your new website versions fail to generate lots of buzz. The number of visitors and potential customers stays flat and you wonder why other language versions are not as great as the original. Here are the most common reasons why your website translation might have gone wrong:

 1. Machine translation

Don’t get tricked by cheap, easy and quick solutions. As convincing as it may seem for a set of simple phrases and for translation between the most common languages, machine translation is not your best friend. A dull text with awkward structure and unnatural flow won’t help you reach a new market and attract more customers. If you target your website at humans, you need humans to assist you with appropriate and correct translation.

website translation

2. Time pressure

Time pressure may seriously affect the final result of your website translation. As in many things in life, you can either prioritise speed or quality. Try not to make unrealistic demands, asking your translator to deliver a text of 5 thousand words overnight and don’t get surprised if it turns out that translation of your short About page takes 2 or 3 days. A website text isn’t merely a text, but the face of your company and a powerful marketing tool. That’s why good website translation needs time and patience.

3. No target group

Before you choose a language and translate your website, try to specify your target groups and find out why exactly you want to reach them. The profile of your potential user may vary from country to country and different content may be attractive for users in certain countries. Do your research properly to know how to get your message across.

4. Lack of localisation

Quite often new language versions are nothing more than translation of the original. And that’s where the potential is lost. To speak the real language of your customer you’ll need to localise your website, i.e. adapt it to the culture and expectations of the new market. This doesn’t refer to the website layout and graphics only, but also to the content and text types published online. Some cultures (e.g. Greek or Portuguese) rank higher on uncertainty avoidance than others (e.g. American or British) and that’s why it might be useful to add detailed FAQ sections or guided navigation to ensure a proper level of predictability, right structure and order.

5. Lack of multilingual SEO

Even if the translation and localisation is top-notch, your website may still fail to deliver good results. In this case try to improve your multilingual SEO, e.g. create a subdomain for every language version or link translated pages to the appropriate version of the page in a different version and not to the home page. You can find more practical tips on this topic here and here.


What do you think are other reasons of unsuccessful multilingual websites?



Dorota helps digital brands infuse their content with a local touch. She is a localization consultant, translator specialized in IT, prompt engineer, and a book author. Dorota teaches online courses on localization, writes for her blog and a Medium publication. She also runs a Small Biz AI, a Substack newsletter for freelancers and small business owners ready to discover handy AI tools.

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