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I want to make my website available in many languages and get ranked in search engines around the world. Can I use machine translation on my website to get started?

Getting professional translation done is expensive and I'd like to go that route only after seeing which languages attract the most users.

  • Well in theory and a little bit of common sense it would be Chinese, Spanish and Hindi, as these are the most popular used languages. If you don't see Chinese using your site then Spanish would be your top priorty. – Simon Hayter Feb 11 '16 at 17:57
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    Getting professional translation done is expensive for a reason. If you do not speak the language yourself then you have no idea what the machine translation has given you. If the machine struggles with any of the wording or phrasing, the result could well be unreadable for a native speaker of that language. Depending on the purpose of the site, that could be more costly than paying for it to be done right from the start. – Kat Feb 12 '16 at 13:39
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It is against Google's webmaster guidelines to put machine translated text where Googlebot can find it and index it. Google will penalize your site for auto-generated content for doing so.

Here is the excerpt from the guidelines:

Q: Can I use automated translations?

A: Yes, but they must be blocked from indexing with the “noindex” robots meta tag. We consider automated translations to be auto-generated content, so allowing them to be indexed would be a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines

Google's Matt Cutts says in this video:

A word of caution: There are some people who might think, "Oh, I'll just automatically translate all my content into 40 different languages. Now 40 different language markets can read what I have to say."

We are going to make clear (or I'm making clear right now) that our guidelines about auto-generated stuff can also apply to auto-translated text. If you are searching in French and you show up on a French page that has all be auto-translated, and it doesn't even read well at all, and no one has put any kind of human care into proofreading it or making sure that it flows, that is really a bad experience. So we would prefer that you maybe add a widget that says "translate into this language" or something like that and not just auto-translate into a bunch of languages and just throw that content up there.

John Mueller from Google says the same thing:

I just want to add a word of warning here -- using automated translation tools to directly create content for your site could be seen as creating auto-generated content, which would be against our Webmaster Guidelines. Instead of just taking the output of a program like Google Translate, I'd strongly recommend at least having it corrected before putting it online. While Googlebot may initially fall for some Spanish keywords in your text, your users are not going to appreciate content that has been automatically translated and published without a review. I love Google Translate, but if you publish the results and get them indexed without having them reviewed, you're not showing a lot of respect to your users...


If you want to know the top languages to target, Wikipedia maintains a page with the top languages on the internet by both number of websites using them and number of internet users.

  • How can Google differentiate automatic translation and translation done by human? Google advises to markup human translations with hreflang, but bans for not noindexed automatic translations. – Evgeniy Feb 12 '16 at 9:31
  • I'm sure that Google uses usability signals and manual reviews to identify bad translations. – Stephen Ostermiller Feb 12 '16 at 11:47
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If you automatically translate into a number of different languages, then you are producing "auto-generated content" which is penalized by Google.

I suppose a more important question is how you will be able to attract users to your site with unprofessional translations? You won't be ranking in Google in those countries so it will be difficult to determine which languages to translate ex-post.

Obviously, it also depends on the type of site you have, but there are a few languages which one knows are widely spoken. Definitely put Spanish and Chinese. on your list. Consider German and French if you are targeting Europe (spoken in a few countries) or Arabic if you want to target the middle east (a number of countries).

  • Linking to your own site is strongly discouraged – John Conde Apr 19 '16 at 20:12

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