Why you shouldn't translate your website.

10 Reasons You Should Not Translate Your Website

If you’re a translator with your own website, eventually you’re going to ask yourself if you should translate your website into your second language (assuming you built your original in your native language).

Believe it or not, when I started my first translation website, I faced the same conundrum.

My thought process was something like this:

“Well, my website is in English but since I’m a translator, I should probably show any potential clients by translating my own website.”

“Wait, that’s a lot of work. Would it be worth it?”

“But what will people think if I don’t even have my website translated? How will they trust me with theirs?”

“Yeah, but again, is it worth it?”

And round and round I’d go.

Telling myself that people would judge me by my lack of Spanish-language content (my second language) and following that up with convincing myself that it really was too much work.

Well, if you’ve looked around TR for any length of time, you’ll notice which side of the argument I ended up on.

I chose not to translate my website into Spanish.

And I made that choice deliberately.

And while many people will tell you that you have to translate your website into other languages, I’ve got 10 reasons why you shouldn’t.

10 Reasons To Not Translate Your Website

#1 – Marketing

You might think that translating your website into another language (or multiple languages) is a good marketing tactic.

It’s not.

There are lots of other marketing techniques that you should be spending your time on instead of worrying about translating every page on your site into another language.

I’ve talked before about the myth and the math of finding freelance translation clients.

As a freelance translator, you’re better off finding good clients as you go along instead of trying a shotgun approach like translating your website.

#2 – Different Translations

You’re a freelance translator.

Unfortunately, as I found out early on in my career as a translator, translation is an art and not a science.

Meaning, that oftentimes there are multiple ways to translate a phrase, a sentence, or a whole document into another language.

However, that also means that people will always disagree with your translations.

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it will. Wait for it.

That problem is compounded when you translate your website into another language. Inevitably, you will get haters that think you suck as as translator and that if you don’t even know how to translate your own website, how could you do someone else’s?

That’s what they spew out, even if you know that your translation is correct.

It becomes even worse when you don’t know the translated language because then you’ll be second-guessing yourself, wondering if the translation is correct or not.

#3 – Too Much Work

The first two lead to the third. Translating your website is too much work for what you’ll get out of it.

When you’re a freelancer that is doing your own marketing, translating, accounting, website creation, and everything in between, you have to be able to manage your responsibilities.

You have to know when engaging in some activity, while it might produce some results, won’t produce as much as another activity you could devote your time and energy to.

Sure you might get a couple of visitors to your translated website, but is it enough to justify taking your time away from potentially more valuable endeavors?

#4 – The Market Isn’t as Global as You Think

One of the arguments that people usually cite when saying that you should translate your website is that the number of users of the Internet using languages other than English is growing.

I don’t argue with that.

That is certainly the case and will continue to do so.

What these same people fail to say, however, is that the number of English language Internet users is also growing, faster than some languages, slower than others.

So basically this just tells us that the number of Internet users (in all languages) is growing. Well of course it is. Nobody would argue with that.

Here’s the number of Internet users per language as of April 2018:

Internet Users Per Language
Number of Internet users per language as of April 2018.

There are over 1 billion English-language Internet users. In order to make a living as a translator or as a successful as a language professional, you would only need to have a client base of 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent of that number.

Don’t worry about marketing to the millions of other Internet users when you haven’t even taken advantage of the users of your own native language.

#5 –¬†Geographic data (Google Analytics)

Most people, when they decide they want to translate their website into another language, don’t have a strategy.

They think one of two things:

  1. Translate the entire website into every single language imaginable using an automatic language translator
  2. Translate the website into another language that they are familiar with.

Both of these options are a waste of time and resources.

If you feel like you have nothing better to do than to translate your website, you want to at least approach the operation with some data behind you.

One of the ways to do this is by using Google Analytics on your website.

You do have it set up, right?

(If not, head over to analytics.google.com and get it set up.)

One of the cool features of Google Analytics is that you can see where your visitors are coming from.

For example, looking at last months data for TR, I get the following information:

Language Map
Visitors to TranslationRules based on geographic location.

I can even break this down further based on city:

Don't Translate Your Website
Visitors to TranslationRules drilled down to the city level.

So what can you do with this data?

If you want to translate your website, at least start with the language of the locations of the users that are already visiting your website.

So if I wanted to translate my website, I would start with these three languages and locations based on my Google Analytics data:

  • Spanish – Spain
  • French – France
  • Portuguese – Brazil

Making smart choices based on the data you have makes more sense than doing it at random.

#6 – Your Visitors Might Not Be What You Want

When you build your freelance translation website, one of the main purposes is to find clients. To get clients that are willing to use your services.

You don’t want to attract people to your site that don’t fit your client profile.

Before I built TR, I had a different Spanish translator website where I talked about translation, and specifically about Spanish translation.

Eventually I started translating my website into Spanish (because I thought translators had to translate their websites, like it was some sort of translator commandment).

Sure, my traffic increased.

But the number of clients did not.

I was attracting visitors that did not fit my client profile and of course they weren’t interested in what I offered.

#7 – English is King

If you’re a translator to or from English, your website should at least be in English.

That’s because as¬† I mentioned above, most Internet users are English speakers.

And it’s not just me saying that.

Languages for Websites
Percentage of the top 10 million websites using various languages in their content.

As you can see over 50% of the top 10 million websites have English-language content. Only 5% have Spanish-language content.

#8 – Visitor to Client Conversion

Another thing you should ask yourself if you decide to translate your website is this:

How many visitors to my site become my clients?

This is a really important question to ask (and answer).

If you’re getting your translation clients from other places besides your website, then you should focus on exploiting those marketing efforts instead of spending time translating your website into another language.

What are you using your website for?

Where are your clients coming from?

How do you make your money as a freelance translator?

Answer those before deciding to translate your website.

If you’re a Spanish to English translator, does it make sense to translate your language into 10 different languages?

#9 – You’ll Lose Focus on What Matters

To go along with the previous point, you need to focus on what matters.

I think that a lot of people choose to translate their website because they don’t know what else to do to improve their freelance translation business.

However, if you want to be successful, you can’t just do things because they’re easy to do or give you something tangible that you can point to.

You need to focus on what matters.

For most new freelance translators, that means focus on getting another client.

And if you’re not getting clients through your website, you need to find other methods for building your client base.

#10 – You’ll Lose Momentum

Momentum is a very important principle that every person should learn.

And the best way to describe it is to quote Newton’s First Law of Motion:

Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

If you are focused on working on the things that matter in your business, and then stop to translate your website, you could easily lose momentum on the gains you’re already making.

And once you lose momentum, it’s really really really hard to get it back.


P.S. If you want to know what does matter in order to become a successful translator, read my book.

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