An SEO professional was asking John Mueller during a recent hangout about their language translation – more specifically, how low quality sections of their site can impact SEO.
The SEO professional explained that they have an established website in French. It has existed for a number of years and has had SEO success.
He wants to add a German language version to the site, on the same domain. The website owner uses automated translation in order to create these language translations.
They are aware that Google doesn’t like automated or generated content.
They are wondering how the poor German version, when compared to the established French website, would be perceived by Google.
They asked if the poor German version would affect the French language version.
Would each language version be considered separately from another version? Or could it be considered as more of a neighborhood effect?
Basically, the SEO professional was referring to the possibility of one bad language version causing all other versions to suffer negatively in terms of SEO.
John explained that yes, a poor language translation can have a negative impact on SEO.
Google will examine the entire site overall, and make judgements about that from the whole site perspective.
For example, if one large section of a site is great quality, but another large section of the site is lower in quality, then the lower quality version can pull down the performance of the site overall because of that lower quality version.
This happens at approximately the 6:39 mark in the video.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
SEO Professional 2 6:39
Yeah. Good morning, everybody. Thank you, John, for working on 31st of December and taking our questions. I already asked the question on YouTube, so I might simply read it as it is in YouTube. So I wonder if a poor translation of a new language version can negatively affect the SEO for a domain’s more established main language versions. So let’s go with an example. So let’s assume that I have an established website in French that exists for a number of years and has reasonable SEO success.
And then I want to add a German language version on the same domain. So not the distinct domain, but at the same domain. And the website owner uses automated translation, unfortunately, for the German user interface and the German content. So I know that automated translation is considered as automated, automated generated content, and Google doesn’t like it. So it would be normal that Google probably doesn’t appreciate the new German version so much.
But my question mainly targets the established French version, which has done reasonably well so far. I wonder if this poor German language version can influence or negatively impact the success of the more established French version? So in other words, do you consider the language quality of each language version on the same domain independently?
Or can there be some sort of negative or bad neighborhood effect? So that if one language version is of poor quality, all the other language versions on the same domain suffer as well?
I guess the short answer is yes. The main issue here is less about these being translated versions of the content. But more that, for some things, we look at the quality of the site overall. And when we look at the quality of the site overall, if you have significant portions that are lower quality, it doesn’t matter so much for us, like why they would be lower quality, if they’re just bad translations, or if they’re terrible content, or whatever.
But if we see that there are significant parts that are lower quality, then we might think, overall, this website is not so fantastic as we thought. And that can have effects in different places across the website.
So in short, I guess if you have a very low quality translation that’s also indexed, and that’s also very visible in search, then that can definitely pull down the good quality translation as well or the the good quality, original content that you also have. Yeah,
SEO Professional 2 9:38
Very good. Can I ask one follow up question on this maybe? Because obviously, they’re what– I’m working in an SEO agency. And what frequently happens is that clients will give us, you know, what they consider the SEO tasks as to translate with SEO optimization at the same time.
And then they have somebody else doing the translation of texts, which don’t have SEO importance of the user interface. And unfortunately, very frequently they choose low cost translation services to do that part of the job. And can you tell us something about how Google assesses if something is an automated translation, or if something is of poor quality?
You know, if the entire user interface for example, is of poor quality, can this be balanced out, so to speak, by SEO texts with high quality, things like that?
I don’t know if we have anything that specifically looks for low quality translations. So it’s, it’s probably, at least the way that I understand it, it’s, it’s more a matter of us trying to understand the quality of the website overall. And that’s usually not something where they’re individual things that we could just point out to say, like, Oh, if you have five, five misspellings on a page, that’s a sign of low quality, it’s like these things happen individually.
And all of these factors, I think, individually, are hard to say that they’re a sign of something being low quality, but rather, we have to take everything together and then figure out what the mix is together. And that’s also a reason why, sometimes when you significantly improve the quality of a website overall, or when things get significantly worse, it just takes a lot of time for our systems to figure out like, oh, overall, the the view of our of this website is now better or worse.
So from from that point of view, it’s not that we have anything specific that we could point out, the best that I could do, if you wanted individual items, is to look at the blog post we did on core updates, I think last year, sometime or the year before that, which which has a bunch of different questions in there, which you could ask yourself about the website, which you could also go and look at, together with maybe, I don’t know, some some testers or some users to get external feedback as well.
And it’s not so much that we have algorithms that try to copy that directly. But it’s kind of like, almost almost like a guiding direction where we say, well, this is the direction we want to go. And then we will work to make our algorithms try to figure that out.
SEO Professional 2 12:46
What we usually say to our clients is that, you know, we as human user, we would feel annoyed by the quality that you have. And probably the search engines see it the same way. Would you concur that this is a good way to put it?
Yeah, I think that’s a good way to look at it. The other thing that I think is really important is that you have the active feedback in this regard, in that if you’re working on the website, and it’s like your baby, then it’s going to be hard to accept that people don’t like the color scheme, or that the design looks outdated or not professional enough, like these small, subjective things.
So it’s really, I think, important to have someone external, someone who’s objective to give you this kind of feedback. And maybe even the connection between the SEO agency and the client is almost too personal in that you’re very devoted to that.
So it may be in these kinds of situations that would make sense to say, well, we will put together a small panel of people who are not involved with your website, and they will give us objective feedback. And it’s not that we want you to make these changes, but objectively, people have said this is a problem, or this is an area for improvement.