Can auto-translated websites get penalized by Google?
Today, I submitted a pitch to a reporter through HARO(help a reporter out). The question was really great – and it’s something every SMB should think about.
Google has started to penalize websites for using auto-translated copy from tools such as Google Translate. What impact will this have on global marketers/website owners, and why is this move on Google’s part important? What do you think about it?
Below is my response.
Google’s Panda Algorithm Expanded
In 2011, Google unveiled its Panda Algorithm update, which targeted websites which poorly written content(English), and penalized them severely. Unfortunately, this update did not impact websites who had content in other languages.
That means that hypothethically, you could have a website in Spanish, with terrible content and grammar – rank like a King, even though it’s English counterpart would be penalized into the ground for having terrible content.
This new penalty, is essentially an expansion of Google’s Panda algorithm, which is now being applied, essentially, to non-english websites. What you’re seeing now, with this update by Google – is to bring in alignment it’s policies towards websites in English, versus other websites. This was to be expected, and is something which was due.
Auto-generated translations lead to a poor user experience
Google’s goal is to provide the most optimal user experience. Websites that are essentially auto-generated translations, are often filled with grammar mistakes. That is a clear no-no, to Google’s goals. When you review Google’s new update based on this, it makes total sense why they are doing this.
SEO is one of the reasons websites auto-translate
If you’re in the city of Los Angeles, or NYC, where there is a large Spanish speaking population, it’s not implausible that some of them are typing search queries into Google, in their native tongue. For example, instead of typing in “lawyer,” a person who only speaks Spanish, might type in “Abogado” into Google, in order to find Spanish-speaking lawyers.
Many businesses try to leverage this source of traffic, by auto-translating their website. This enables them to rank for those “non-english,” search queries using their translated website.
How should it be done?
The best way to avoid Google’s wrath when it comes to auto translating is to have a legitimate speaker, translate your content. When Google’s panda update was unveiled, websites owners realized quickly they could no longer write cheap content. Everything had to be properly written, as if a native-writer published it. The same rule now applies.
Who will feel the impact?
This algorithm update will probably be felt by small and medium sized businesses all over the world. Many websites in the USA, and other English speaking countries, have content in English only. Big brands, in rare instances, have content in other language – but because they are big brands, they can afford to pay for the content to be written properly, and avoid using auto-translation services.
Marketers in other countries, who don’t speak English and translate their native content into English have already been penalized by the Panda Algorithm of 2011. At this moment, anyone who is a small, or medium sized business – and auto-translated instead of manually translating, due to budget restrictions, will likely be hurt.
The penalties will not be limited
Algorithms like Panda, which are on-site content algorithms, typically will penalize an individual page on your website, or they’ll penalize your entire domain. It depends on aggressive you were in your black-hat SEO efforts. I have seen many marketers translate their English website, into 5-10 different languages. I suspect, these marketers will not only lose the SEO rankings from their “translated pages,” – but moreover, the penalty will flow into their English landing pages and cause them to lose rankings as well.
Depending on the seriousness of the black-hat SEO translations, entire websites could be penalized.
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