Using Google Translate on Your Website is Bad for SEO
Translating your website is a great way to reach clients with limited English proficiency. The US Census Bureau estimates that 4.4% of households in the United States speak only limited English. Almost 25% of those households speak an Asian or Pacific Island language, and close to 22% speak Spanish.
As an attorney, you have the responsibility to provide the same
quality of service to all clients, regardless of a person's native language.
But if you want community members with limited English proficiency to be able
to access your services, you have to make sure they can read your content.
And so you decide to translate parts of your site. It's a good
thought, but keep in mind that how you translate matters - and that Google
Translate is not the way to go.
The Problem With Google Translate
It would be easy for your law practice to auto-translate its website
into a second or third language. Clients could see the practice's services and
the attorneys could hire interpreters if necessary.
But there's a hole in that plan, and it has to do with how search engines view automatically translated content.
Automatically Translated Text = Auto-Generated Content
Google constantly refines its algorithms so that relevant, high-quality content will appear on a user's results page. To achieve that goal, Google seeks out content that appears to be generated by a computer program.
According to Google, automatically generated content includes “text translated by an automated tool without human review or curation before publishing.” Content that goes through Google Translate fits that definition perfectly.
John Mueller, a webmaster trends analyst from Google, posted on one auto-translated site that this kind of content “should be blocked from crawling/indexing.”
In case you're not familiar with Google's lingo, “crawling” is how
the search engines' bots find new and updated pages. Indexing is what happens
when Google adds the information about those sites to its list of all active
and legitimate websites.
If your site is auto-translated, Google might ignore the translated
content altogether. So when a Spanish speaker searches for your site, he or she
might not see it. Knowing this, you can see clearly why auto-translation
is a poor SEO strategy.
You might be considering adjusting the auto-translated content
enough that Google will recognize the “human review or curation.” That's a fine
solution, provided that you can follow through and serve the client when he or
she does get to you.
Consider whether you're able to offer human interpretation and
translation services to your clients with limited English. If you only have the
resources for automatic translation, you'll serve those clients better by
referring them to an attorney who is more proficient in their native languages.
You'll be helping a colleague, perhaps establishing a referral relationship,
and ensuring that a client in need gets the best service possible.