Machine translation can be fast, cost-effective and relatively simple. However, there are definitely do’s and don’ts when considering MT. Below are 3 reasons for and against using machine translation vs human translation.
Pros of Machine Translation
1. It’s VERY Fast
One of the strongest elements to machine translation is speed. MT allows you to upload multilingual content almost instantly. Daily posts, blog articles, news articles, etc are not a problem because the content is fairly instantly available.
But what does this mean for your brand and customers? You are up-to-date. Users are getting the latest information from your site – whatever their language. Also, from a search perspective, Google’s ‘freshness’ update will push your content higher in search engines. Not only can this increase your rankings but it also allows you to be part of an emerging search trend (e.g., reacting to news stories) and then puts your brand front of mind for that individual product or service.
2. It’s Evolved
Remember that for businesses and brands looking to utilize machine translation, this isn’t the same machine that is creating the hilarious Google translate mistakes we see dotted around the world. The evolution of MT is actually quite impressive.
You can add translation memories and glossaries into machine translation. So you’re still using a translation engine like Google, but it will have an improved ability to capture brand identity or create part of your description for a product/service. Essentially, MT technology is making the laughable mistranslations a thing of the past.
3. It Runs off a ‘Majority Wins’ Situation
Often perceived as one of the negatives of machine translation, the algorithms set up by MT technology like Google utilize a majority-wins situation. This means the most common translation across the web (as crawled by Google) is going to be used. Why is this a good thing? Well, if you’re targeting a market, speaking in the tone they most often use could create a positive response when users engage with your site.
Equally, it’s almost tried and tested content with the ‘one-person opinion’ translation over-ruled by the masses, which will ultimately be your customer base. This doesn’t mean machine translation should always win or is an accurate reflection of how your target audience engages and speaks. But it’s a good stepping stone for getting your English content there.
Cons of Machine Translation
1. Is it a good representation of your company?
Machine translation never flows as well as human translation. Despite its evolution, it will still translate the words rather than the concept you are trying to promote. This is important to consider when visitors first enter your site. If a customer searches on Google and finds your company, the first engagement with your company could be tainted by off-message copy and literal translation rather than brand development.
2. It doesn’t work in marketing
That’s right! Machine translation does not work on marketing collateral. Your marketing material is creative, dynamic and forward thinking. Companies pay millions to develop a brand identity and deliver a product/service in a compelling and idealistic fashion. MT uses logic, not creative thinking. This will significantly dampen any creative flair added to your marketing material. You could potentially waste money developing clever and decisive marketing content that a machine simply can’t capture.
3. It Doesn’t help in Search
Increasing your page’s visibility through keywords is just the start of SEO, but it’s a very important step. Machine translation will simply translate your English-optimized content, but the keywords will be translated, not researched. So your content will most likely be irrelevant to the key search terms you are actually aiming for.
You should also keep the Google/Yandex assessors in mind. When you are targeting key search terms, these users will assess the quality of the websites, which appear within that SERP. That quality is also reflected in the use of content. Yandex takes a particularly dim view of machine-translated content in this assessment, and Google is quickly taking the same stance. Poor assessment means a quick drop in rankings – which is extremely difficult to fix once this has happened.
Ultimately, the decision to use MT comes down to defining factors such as content use, target audience, sector, etc. A good mixture of both generally creates an effective multilingual website that won’t break your budget. But content is not one of the areas you always want to scrimp on. Remember 3 important rules to machine translation:
- Do not utilize without a post-editing stage
- Always remember the customer, not the budget
- Never use machine translation on a page targeting search