Javascript Transation and SEO

Javascript Translation and SEO

When it comes to WordPress translation, there have been a lot of advancements in the technology and systems behind it over the past few years. These have aimed to make the translation process as effortless and efficient as possible.

If you are reading this article in another language than English, it has been automatically translated by our WordPress Multilingual Plugin.

For WP users who don’t have extensive coding experience or financial resources, these offerings have been quite attractive. To meet the need of these clients, a number of companies have used Java-script programming to simplify the process greatly.

However, one may wander what best practices in multilingual website management have been compromised for this added simplicity. This includes not only foreign user experience but also the impact on international SEO. The latter point is an important one for reaching the international consumers you have translated the content for. In this blog, we will examine the impact of JavaScript translation and SEO best practices.

What is JavaScript Website Translation?

JS translation utilizes Java functions to generate translations for your web pages and replace the text being presented in your browser. Usually, all you are required to do is insert a small code snippet in the header of your website.

Technically, how this translation presents your multilingual content is as follows. Your user will visit your foreign language page. This will either be automatically or through a manual language switcher. When this occurs, the script is run and your translations are sent from the translation provider to the user’s browser. This is sometimes the reason that Javascript translations take a few seconds to replace the original source text. As these translations do not alter the underlying source code, it remains in the source language. This is an important SEO point that we will touch on a bit later.

Potential issues with Javascript Translations

Despite the great simplicity provided by Javascript translation, there are a few concerns that have been raised by people in the past. These include efficiency and SEO considerations.

Reliance on a Provider’s Servers

Given that the translation provider will be hosting your translations, you technically don’t have “ownership” over your translations. Essentially, you will be renting them from the translation provider over the term of your plan. Hence, if you choose to no longer make use of their services you may either lose your translations or move them to another Javascript translation provider.

If, however, you wanted to implement these translations into your website on a permanent basis, the process becomes a bit more complicated. You would have to use a traditional WordPress plugin which could allow you to insert your translated material directly on your WordPress admin panel. You would have to copy paste all of your Javascript translations into the language pages created with the plugin. This is obviously a sub optimal solution to transitioning your translations.

Moreover, given that your translations exist on the servers of the provider and it’s partners, you are reliant on their capabilities. Not only do translations take longer to load but there always exists the possibility of downtime (which could harm your reputation).

Javascript Translation and SEO

As mentioned, Javascript translation transforms the text being presented on your user’s browser. However, given that it does not change the underlying source code and meta data, one wonders how Google treats the foreign language pages. This depends on a number of factors but one of the most important is how they structure your multilingual content. When it comes to the SEO best practices in this regard you can read about it in our blog on whether you should use a Country TLD, Subdomain or Subfolder for Multilingual Content.

The most simple option offered by the providers is for you to merely transform the text on your current URL. In other words, if your site is on example.com, the translated version will also be presented on the same URL. Hence from a user and SEO perspective, the page is viewed as one. Hence, any optimization and keywords that you think you are getting ranking power for in your translations, are not being considered by Google.

Some of these javascript translation providers give you the opportunity to use your own sub-folders or sub-domains. From an SEO perspective, this usually allows Google to distinguish between the different language versions of your site. However, if you are using javascript translation, the underlying source code on your foreign language sub-directory is the same as your English language site. So, for example, the source code in example.com/fr is the same as that of example.com. This is duplicate content when viewed from Google’s eyes and can hamper your search efforts. It can be even more detrimental when using sub-domains as it not completely clear how Google views the separate sub-domains. They could be viewed as completely separate sites with exactly the same content (fr.example.com with the same content as example.com).

At this point, it would be helpful to take a look at a site that actually uses one of these set-ups and see whether the underlying code is exactly the same. In fact, let us take a look at a javascript translation provider (anonymized of course). In the image below, we can see the English language version of the site as well as the meta data that is being viewed by Google.

Javascript Translation SEO test English

When switching to the French version of the page, we see the following

Javascript Translation SEO test French

As you can see from the URLs above, this is clearly on different language sub-directories, namely the original English and the French version. However, when looking at the SEO critical Meta Tags, these are all the same. Hence, when viewed as Googlebot, the two sub-directories are the same. Unless you canonicalize your French language page, Google would view this as a the same page. There is the option to pre-render your pages yet that requires a developer to install the pre-rendering software.

Our suspicions can be confirmed if you search for this company name on the French version of Google. The search results will be for the English version of the site as seen below.

Google Search French Test

Let us examine the other alternative that is offered by Javascript translation providers, the sub-domain option. Let us take a look at another Javascript translation provider. From an SEO perspective the title tags and meta description should be in the translated version. The original English language version of the site is on a separate domain as that of their French version. However, when viewing the meta data, the meta description and title tags are the same.

English Meta Data Test
French Meta Data Test

Googlebot is viewing two separate sub-domains with the same meta data and hence can’t properly assign the correct indexing. There is also a debate still raging as to whether duplicate content in sub-domains could hurt the SEO efforts of your main domain.

Another important point to note about both the sub-directory and sub-domain options above is that the URLs are not translated. If we were to go to the pricing section of this Company’s website, the URL is still in the original English URL. What this means is that a very important component of Search Engine Optimization is not being utilized. Similarly, it may be hard for the user to properly identify where in the directory they currently are. We covered the importance of this in a previous blog, Keywords in a URL: Are Yours Optimized?

What WordPress Plugin should I use?

Ideally, from an SEO perspective, you want to have completely separate pages with the underlying source code content changed for each of the languages you are offering. Hence, you will need to create separate language folders or sub-domains for your website. You should translate all of the URLs and meta data such as tags etc. You should instruct Google with hreflang tags in your various language headers as to what region the content is targeting.

Ideally, you would want a translation solution that allows you to implement all of these SEO best practices but also gives you the simplicity some of the javascript translation services provide. That is where the Scrybs Multilingual WordPress Plugin comes in. Our plugin allows you to host your own translations and present them in their own sub-directories or sub-domains. We also help you translate your meta data and URLs.

Given that you host cached translation files on your server, the pages load instantly for new users and you are not reliant on our systems to present your translations. We keep live updates of your translation in the cloud dashboard which means that you can manage all of your translations in real time in one location.

The plugin has also been built on top of a professional translation service, you can also order translation from our large community of “Scrybs”. Most importantly, from a costing perspective, our plugin will not dent your wallet! We offer the choice between a yearly subscription or a lifetime license which means you won’t have to continually pay translation costs on a monthly basis.

Conclusion

Translating your WordPress site is the first step to reaching a broader global market. It will allow you to speak to your potential consumers in their own language. However, if your brand is not well known in other markets, you have to rely on search engines to present your content to these international consumers. When considering Javascript translation and SEO, you have to take into account how Google views these pages. What use is valuable content if it is hard for your intended audience to read it?

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Pascal Evertz
p.evertz@buyersunited.nl