Translation and Localization Impact on SEO

Why Translation Tools Don’t Work Well With The Japanese Language

In most cases, foreign companies’ websites for the Japanese market are based on their English (or parent) site content. While the text may be in Japanese, the content is not localized for the Japanese audience. This is one of the big challenges for SEO performance.

The low quality of translated content is another challenge. Due to the sheer volume of content that needs to be translated, they often use the translation machine. (When you have a translation agency, it’s most likely that they first use machine translation. A better agency may have a human edit the output before they deliver it to you.) As you can see in the below chart, Japanese sentence is structured quite differently from Western languages such as English. The Japanese language also allows sentences to have different structures to say the same thing, which creates more challenges.

While machine translation has improved the quality significantly over the past 10 years, it still has a lot of issues, and it’s easy to tell if the content is machine translated.

Another challenge is that the translation machine (or translators) doesn’t always use the words people use to search for information or topic. They are tasked to use the correct words, which are not always the best words, if you are hoping to get more visibility in the search results with that content.

The Impact On SEO Performance

Google and other search engines have been emphasizing the importance of content quality. If the content is not translated accurately or doesn’t read naturally to the Japanese audience, there’s a good chance that it won’t perform well against the content written by Japanese natives with knowledge of preferred words used by the Japanese people.

Solutions To Improve SEO Performance

The use of the translation machine is inevitable considering the cost of 100% human translation. Even if you can manage it, it still won’t solve the word selection challenge. In order to keep the cost manageable, and use the correct words which will bring more visibility, here’s a list of tips that you can try.

  1. Select the translation agency carefully
    • Review several agencies’ translation work to select the best one for your industry. Some agencies may be good at e-Commerce content while another may be good at technical content translation. Check their past work, or have them translate 1000 words doc to test the quality.
  2. Conduct in-house review
    • At least until you feel confident in the translation work, review delivered Japanese content in-house for quality check. Edit the content as needed before you publish it on the website.
    • The low quality translation will give an impression to the Japanese audience that it was not created for them and that they are not important to the business.
  3. Create a list of important words for the agency
    • To ensure for the agency uses the words you’d like to appear in the content, it’s best when you create a list of important words and have the agency use them for translation. You know your industry and the customer base, but translators or the translation machine don’t. By providing a such list, you will reduce the editing work after you receive the translated content.

Creating a site for a different country or language can be costly, but it should never be a copy/paste version of your original site even when it’s the translated version of the original content. Instead of automating the process 100%, make sure to put a couple of human-check steps to ensure the quality of local site content. By doing so, you can expect to get more return on investment in those countries, especially Japan.