Google: Automated translations may be bad for website ranking

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Automated translation tread on Google Webmaster Central

Read this post in Spanish

I was writing a piece on website translation and its relation with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), when I came across a tread in the Help Forum of the Google Webmaster Central Blog regarding Google bots’ crawling, indexing and ranking for websites.

automated translation not good for indexing google robots and spidersFirs, allow me to situate you, I am quite versed in SEO, and personally I am of the opinion that with the ever changing tide of rules on indexing and ranking from the mayor search engines, is best to update your knowledge and diversify your options regularly if you would like your website to rank on the first page of your subject’s keyword search.

Since the world is getting smaller, the internet community rightfully wants to globalize and multilingual websites are the answer. But I see a great number of webmasters asking for text translation boxes, scripts and widgets that with a single paragraph of coding would enable them to rub Aladdin’s lamp to invoke the translation genie.

Don’t get me wrong, automated translations have come a long way, but the act of translation is more about translating entire concepts that are understandable to the target audience, than merely converting words from one language to another.

Back to the subject; a concerned webmaster had a question about allowing googlebot to index the auto-generated translations.

A Google Employee provided the best answer

We recommend that you do not allow automated translations to get indexed. Automated translations don’t always make sense and they could potentially be viewed as spam. More importantly, the point of making a multilingual website is to reach a larger audience by providing valuable content in several languages. If your users can’t understand an automated translation or if it feels artificial to them, you should ask yourself whether you really want to present this kind of content to them. (

Wow! Here is an official, honest answer from a Google employee.

Here is my take on the whole subject for Webmasters and SEO Optimizers: Google has given us some wonderful free tools to improve our labors, but don’t be too dependent on them. Language localization is a serious thing and automatically translated words may not give you the punch you seek for indexing or good ranking.

Keep in mind that many translated words may be correct to one society but erroneous, ridiculous or even insulting to another, even within the same language.

I know I will get a lot of emails and comments on this posting (and I welcome and encourage you to comment your thoughts), so I will save what else I found on the subject for the next time.

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  2. Sergio Guillen Rodriguez  November 8, 2011

    Absolutely true, automated translation software is never advisable, even less when localising a website. Readers won’t buy it and Google will penalise your site–a complete no-no.

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