When you’re thinking about translating content, one rule applies: garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). The phrase is originally from computer science, and it means that the output you receive is equivalent to the original input. What does this have to do with translation?
It’s easy. If you don’t have quality content at the start of the translation process, the final product won’t miraculously turn into a masterpiece at the end. Trust me; it just won’t. That’s why it’s essential to create great content going in. In fact, creating quality content is a must for marketing and promoting your business and for solidifying your company’s reputation online.
How Content Became King
It’s all Google’s fault.
In the good old, bad old days, all a business needed was a website with content of any kind. Those days are—thankfully— gone for good! Along with poor content, spammy link building practices have also gone down the chute. That’s because Google— and other search engines— have gotten smarter.
Over the last few years, Google has implemented a number of algorithm updates (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, Pigeon and the mobile-friendly update) designed to ensure that thin, low-quality content and spammy sites are penalized. It’s also been showcasing in-depth content that’s likely to be useful via the Knowledge Graph and has made sure that mobile-friendly content rises to the top (that’s a discussion for another day).
Why should you care about Google? Because Google has the lion’s share of organic search traffic in many parts of the world. Millions of people will use Google to search for your business and content and whether they find you or not will depend on your approach to content creation.
Why Content Quality Matters
In an increasingly global market, content quality matters. No matter what language your content is translated into, if the quality isn’t good, people may not be able to find it when they search.
Content quality matters for search engine optimization (SEO) so people can find your content in the first place. Unless people already know about your business, they will find you when searching for information. The research shows that the top three results get most of the clicks when people search, so optimizing titles and descriptions in the languages of your clients is a good choice.
And, it matters to help you avoid the pogosticking effect, where people click on a search result, visit your page and immediately head back to the list of results. That usually means they haven’t found what they are looking for. It’s not enough to optimize titles and descriptions; the content that’s actually on your site has to live up to the promise.
There’s another side-effect of pogosticking: if most people who visit your site from a search page return to the page quickly, the search algorithms may figure that your site content doesn’t deliver the goods. In the long run, that could result in a less prominent search position, with a knock-on effect on clicks and sales. In contrast, as Google’s own research shows, engaging content results in positive brand perception.
What is Quality Content, Anyway?
So what constitutes high-quality content? First of all, it’s content that meets users’ needs. Depending on where they are in your business cycle, they may be looking to get general information about your niche, to find specific information about how a particular type of product or service can help them or to get the final piece of information that helps them decide to buy. Creating content to help them at every stage is good for business.
Set some goals for each piece of content and create an outline to make sure it flows well. If you’re an expert in your field, use this to guide you as you write. Otherwise, pass it on to an expert writer who can create stellar content on your behalf.
Quality content also has the necessary depth. It’s not about meeting some artificial word count tally, but about giving a topic the depth that it needs. Content that explains how a product works is likely to be longer than content that explains your shipping policy, for example.
Correct spelling, good grammar and appropriate language use are all important. Get them right in your original and it will be easier for your translator to provide an appropriate equivalent when it’s time to translate your material. Especially if you’re planning to translate it, shy away from jargon that may not work across language groups. (Actually, avoid jargon anyway for better writing.)
Clear, concise and correct content also helps localization teams who are preparing material for distribution in different languages, so keep localization in mind when writing. Getting voice and tone right can save a lot of time later, and it will also help if you have to repurpose content in other formats.
If your work is online, then remember to format content for online reading and SEO with appropriate use of heading tags and subheadings to break up the text. An appealing image, audio or video can also make your content more interesting. Link to authoritative external sources where appropriate.
When you complete any piece of content ask yourself whether it has achieved your goal and whether it is valuable to the reader. If not, start again.
A New Motto for Translation
Check and double check till you are happy with the quality of your content and are satisfied that it represents your company well and enhances your authority and reputation. Only then are you ready to translate, using our new motto: QIQO (quality in, quality out)!