Even if you’ve never thought of going global, perhaps now is the time. Why? Because you can go global by simply sitting back and waiting! Last week Google rolled out new features throughout much of the world—with the notable exception of English language “Googles”— called “foreign pages translated,” which in theory could deliver this result. In many versions of Google from Scandinavia to Italy, this new option is now listed to accompany “the web,” “pages in language” and “pages from country.”
The example below from Google France shows how a search for “acheter pc portable” has been searched for within English language pages using a keyword translated from French to the English keyword, “buy laptop.” The resulting listings and snippets have then also been translated by Google to produce a set of search engine results for a French keyword, from English pages which are listed in French.
Google France for the keyword “acheter pc portable.”
To find the feature, look to the bottom right hand side for the fourth item in a list which often starts with the word “web.” On the screenshot below you can see the selection in the highlighted square red box on the right. The square box under the keyword shows you the languages which have been automatically searched by Google and the red circles throughout the listings show the original language of the result. Google typically presents two to four languages with the top results from throughout the world in those particular languages.
Google Hungary for the keyword “palacsinta.”
Translation Is Geo-Targeted
At first sight, the thought crosses your mind that this is a mind-boggling task—presenting results indexed from the all over the world. But that’s not actually how it’s working. The target languages which are suggested are indeed linked to the keyword in the search box—but most often the languages which automatically selected by Google for the search and for which results are listed are those connected with the nearest neighboring countries.
The Google Norway results for the search for “video ads” proves the point succinctly since the three languages selected automatically for the foreign language search are English, Swedish and Danish. It cannot be a coincidence that Sweden and Denmark are Norway’s nearest neighbors.
Google Norway for the keyword “video reklame”
What Should International Search Marketers Do Now?
The implications of this new development are huge, but I suspect that they are not exactly what people imagine they are at first sight. I am sure there are those who will argue that webmasters no longer need to localize their sites for local markets because Google is doing this automatically. The problem is that if you’re selling a service to the folks in Japan, for instance, and they click on a result landing on a page in English with delivery options to locations in the US, priced in dollars, you’re not that likely to see many of these visitors turn into customers.
The jury is out as to whether this how much actual traffic this new function will generate. Whilst the other geographic filters of Google’s web results all narrow the set of results, these translated pages results actually widen the options well beyond what would normally displayed in the apparently unfiltered “web” results. Don’t forget that the default “web” results are only presenting results from one language, whereas the translated pages results are often from up to four languages.
Google’s Reminder That These Are “Translated” Pages Is Deliberate
It is no accident that Google’s name for the new feature is “translated foreign pages.” Google could quite easily have chosen to call them “international search pages” or something similar. But I’m sure the team at Google wanted users to be clear that these results are created through a translation process so that they are not disappointed when they click a link and go through to a web page in a different language.
There are weaknesses in the system and Google will be well aware of these. Keywords translated automatically often don’t give the best results. The biggest issue I have with the new system is that, since it always gives some kind of result, it doesn’t demonstrate to users that they would have had better information if they had used a more appropriate keyword. The keywords that are suggested to the user when they make their original search are from their own language so they have less control over the keywords they are using in the “foreign” languages, but will still believe that it is an appropriate translation from their original keyword when in fact it will often have a different and less relevant meaning.
Should We Check Our Rankings In Translated Foreign Pages?
I’d like to say “no” to this—but I know that most of you will anyway! So let me make the point that you have to do keyword research first. Remember that the keywords you know—in English for instance—will not have a direct parallel in other languages. So by looking at the keywords that Google translates from your English terms will not mean that people are searching for those products or services using those keywords.
Most importantly, you should spend more time monitoring your web analytics because it is now the case that a sudden increase in your international web visitors could be a sign that there is demand out there that you can tap into, but which will probably be wholly wasted unless you react.
Should We Adapt Our Pages To Rank Better In Translated Foreign Pages?
You probably expect me to say no to this, but I’m actually going say yes—though not for the reason you might expect. If your web pages work well online through automated translation processes, they will potentially attract more business, but there is a secondary benefit in that a full localization or translation of your website will be easier to implement.
The Primary Benefit Of Translated Foreign Pages
I believe that the development of a separate “translated foreign pages” filter will raise the level of interest in international search and the business it can potentially deliver. Now that Google offers free online live translation of results globally, more webmasters and marketers will be forced to publish and promote their web pages in a wider range of languages.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.