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Is it worth creating your own website?
Thread poster: Michael Marcoux

Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Russian to English
+ ...
Jan 29, 2014

Hello all,

Today I decided to try to find translators in my pair using Google search, and was surprised that regardless of what search terms I used, I couldn't find any freelancer webpages no matter how many pages I scrolled through. What did frequently come up were sites like e-lance, translatorgo, odesk, and other sites that provide "translations" for less than a penny a word (as an aside, perhaps this is why so many think translation should be so cheap.) Rev.com was the closest thing to an established agency that turned up, but they seem to cater to the 5-or-less cents crowd.

In spite of that fact, most established freelance translators I know have their own professionally designed websites. I am assuming it is not any easier to find these sites on google, so I was wondering if anyone with a website could comment on where most of their traffic comes from, and if in their opinion the websites have been useful in getting work from agencies or direct clients.


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Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:33
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
I think it's worth it Jan 29, 2014

Hi Michael,

My website serves a few functions, but finding new translation buyers on google (new leads) isn't really one of my goals. It is a resource establishing my identity, my credibility, etc. It is a reference for my fields and language pairs for an existing client who may want to check those. Mine also has an occasional blog which functions as a source for a light social media presence as well as a sort of portfolio for me.

In terms of new clients, my lead generation comes (in something of an order) 1) via word of mouth and 2) through my professional organizations memberships. In the near future, I hope to add direct mailings to that list.

Hope my perspective is interesting and / or helpful to you. Hope to hear some other points of view.


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Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much Tim! Jan 29, 2014

Tim Friese wrote:

Hi Michael,

My website serves a few functions, but finding new translation buyers on google (new leads) isn't really one of my goals. It is a resource establishing my identity, my credibility, etc. It is a reference for my fields and language pairs for an existing client who may want to check those. Mine also has an occasional blog which functions as a source for a light social media presence as well as a sort of portfolio for me.

In terms of new clients, my lead generation comes (in something of an order) 1) via word of mouth and 2) through my professional organizations memberships. In the near future, I hope to add direct mailings to that list.

Hope my perspective is interesting and / or helpful to you. Hope to hear some other points of view.


Very helpful indeed! So after a client hears about you, they find your website, which helps to solidify in the client's mind that translation is more than a passing, part-time gig/hobby/side job for you. But - and here I only am conveying my personal impression - it seemed to me that your website isn't designed to "sell," it doesn't focus on value/discounts/gimmicks (good or bad), competitive advantages you might have over other translators in the same field, etc. Is that intentional? (Again, I wanted to underline that was just my impression, I am too new to this field to pass judgements about what makes a good or bad website- just curious as to whether that is part if your overall strategy and how it works/fits in.)

Direct mailing sounds good! I've also heard it is a good idea to go out and try to meet clients face to face, but for translators-into-English like us, I'm not sure how practical that is- we can't just fly to our source language countries on a monthly basis to just show up knocking on doors

Which professional organizations do you belong to? Do you find them helpful for networking?

Sorry for all the off-tangent questions, but I'm trying to soak up as much information as possible Quite literally the day after I quit my day-job to make freelancing a career, I got word that my largest client had their translation budget slashed, so I'm redoubling efforts to get back to square one...


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:33
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes and no. Jan 29, 2014

It is nice to have a website to refer some direct clients to, or even agencies--to put on your business card, or e-business card. I don't personally think you can get too many clients through direct searches, unless you pay thousands of dollars for various search engines. It might be better to belong to some translation sites where various translators advertise, because such sites are usually more visible on the net. I think it is good to have a small website, but I would not spend too much money on it, because it is mostly for the clients you refer to your site yourself, unless, of course you want to pay a lot for the search engine optimizers.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 22:33
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It's an unfixed bug in search engines Jan 29, 2014

Michael Marcoux wrote:
Today I decided to try to find translators in my pair using Google search, and was surprised that regardless of what search terms I used, I couldn't find any freelancer webpages no matter how many pages I scrolled through. What did frequently come up were sites like e-lance, translatorgo, odesk, and other sites that provide "translations" for less than a penny a word...


Up to about 5 years ago, a freelancer could have a web site that came up on the first page of search results for exactly the right keywords, but then suddenly a few large translation agencies discovered black-hat search engine techniques, and suddenly they were all over the search results.

But, you get similar results for things like travel agencies and online dictionaries -- using a search engine to find good pages is practically useless. How often don't we search for a word's definition, and click a link that appears to be an entry about that word, and when we get there, it's actually a page that says "sorry, we don't have an entry for X". That is because their web architect set up the site so that the search engine would index pages for commonly searched words that say only "Sorry..." (but please click these nice advertisements while you're here).

I remember one agency that exploited Google's subdomain loophole by creating a subdomain for each language (and later each language combination), but every page on that site was essentially a template with just the language name changed. Because Google didn't (at that time) cross-check pages on subdomains for similarity, the agency was able to flood the search results for months and months.

In spite of that fact, most established freelance translators I know have their own professionally designed websites.


Yes, but what are their visit statistics? My web site used to be in the top 5 or top 3 results for its keywords and never got more than a dozen or so hits per day, and resulted in perhaps less than 10 jobs in its fifteen year history.

As for "professionaly designed", well, I'm not sure what clients look for. Do they want a fancy-looking site or do they want hard information easy to reach? Does it count against you if your web site is obviously home-made? Do clients want freelancer sites to make it clear that these translators are one-man-bands or do they prefer to be made to believe that the freelancer is a company with an office in a building somewhere?

I was wondering if anyone with a website could comment on where most of their traffic comes from...


Sure, have a look. It's a pity that such trackers went out of fashion, though.


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Susanna Martoni  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 22:33
Member (2009)
Spanish to Italian
+ ...
In fact Jan 29, 2014

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

It is nice to have a website to refer some direct clients to, or even agencies--to put on your business card, or e-business card. I don't personally think you can get too many clients through direct searches, unless you pay thousands of dollars for various search engines. It might be better to belong to some translation sites where various translators advertise, because such sites are usually more visible on the net. I think it is good to have a small website, but I would not spend too much money on it, because it is mostly for the clients you refer to your site yourself, unless, of course you want to pay a lot for the search engine optimizers.


I agree.
For example, I have my own website but is serves as a personal reference between my customers and me. A small but sturdy point of contact.
In general terms, I think it is better to belong to translation sites and platforms.

Ciao!


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Anne Seerup
Ireland
Local time: 21:33
English to Danish
+ ...
It is exceedingly difficult to get noticed on google Jan 29, 2014

Samuel Murray wrote:


Up to about 5 years ago, a freelancer could have a web site that came up on the first page of search results for exactly the right keywords, but then suddenly a few large translation agencies discovered black-hat search engine techniques, and suddenly they were all over the search results.
..


I have noticed this too, and I am attempting all sorts of SEO tips from Google - having more text, being more "marketing like", being more relevant, blogging (hard to find time when you are working), putting keywords all over the place (to the point where it sounds stupid), and no matter what I do, I get zero quality visitors. The top of Google for any language combination is flooded with either free translation tools, or generic template nonsense about the various languages by the large agencies. I wonder what keywords to put on my site these days, and if anyone even looks for independent translators using Google search anymore. I have entered perfectly valid keywords, and all I get is useless visitors who send messages like: "can U translate this word for me. Be quick about it?".
Ideally we should be able to market our services online, just like any other business, but for translation it has become particularly bad.

Another, perhaps slightly unrelated, issue is that Google has become less useful for terminology research lately - especially if you reside outside of you native country.

[Edited at 2014-02-01 13:23 GMT]


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 19:33
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Worth? Check the cost/benefit ratio Jan 29, 2014

Some history and a few examples...

My web site began as a collection of practical FAQs on the Brazilian law on sworn translations. These were explanations that I had to repeat over and over again to prospects every other day.

Almost immediately, a friend from the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, DC, begged me to build a version of that in English, which I did. He told me it spared hours his entire staff spent on the phone every week explaining all that to Americans who needed documents valid in Brazil for official purposes.

I never spent a single cent on SEO, however I used sensible keywords, and:
  • I am second on Google (Wikipedia PT is first) in a search for tradução juramentada Brasil in Portuguese; and
  • I am first on Google in a search for (sworn|certified|official) translation Brazil.

    Why?
    Valuable and useful information - not only self-promotion.
    Item #4 on the main page for this subject provides links to all online official directories for Brazilian sworn translations.

    Now and then I must check and update these links. As I'll authorize anyone to republish this content anywhere, their problem will be to update these links.

    On the other hand, such jobs usually involve hard copy in, and always hard copy out. Therefore logistics/geography play an important role. If the prospect is in Brazil, they should get the nearest colleague; if they are outside, I'll be equally convenient for courier services to reach.

    The results taught me the lesson on valuable and useful information to attract visitors; self-promotion will be a consequence.

    Most translators who only work "L1-text in, L2-text out" might have a hard time to create valuable and useful information. However a web page that only shows their contact data, perhaps their CV and a list of specialty subjects will be boooring! They'll have to get creative and find something interesting to put there.

    In my case, I cover a wide array of translation-related services. I'm always on the lookout for frequent questions prospects/clients ask me and, apart from some self-promotion, that's what I pack my web site with.

    A few examples that hopefully may spark ideas for colleagues planning to buld their web sites:
  • The difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese
  • The video subtitling process explained
  • My personal NDA - Prospects concerned their confidential material get relieved when they read this.
  • Reasons to decide between dubbing or subtitling a video
  • Ways to save money on translation other than merely forcing rates down.
  • A comparison between human and automatic translation, so they are empowered to make a learned choice.

    Every time a client asks me a question that I have answered on my site, I merely give them the link. Saves me a lot of time, not having to write that all over again.

    The tools to build it? I had countless offers from web developers, however It would be costly and troublesome to update my site every time I wanted.

    My elder son is a top-flight IT professional, however he gets busier every day. Years ago, when he was not so busy, it took him 18 months to find time to build me a small web site with the content I had provided. Then he paid me a visit, and did it in a couple of hours using my computer, writing code directly on the Windows Notepad.

    One day I found WebSiteX5 that would enable me to build and update my web site without learning anything about html, php, java, etc. It's quite powerful and affordable, however I've been told that there are cheaper or even free programs available to do the same.

    Hope this helps.

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  • Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
    Germany
    Local time: 22:33
    German to English
    I probably get 1-2 requests for offers per month Jan 29, 2014

    The German version of my website must generate a fair amount of traffic, because I probably get about 1-2 requests for offers from direct clients per month through my site. These probably lead to about 10 or 20 projects a year (it's hard to hit my website if you're not looking for me and my rates are high, but not outrageous).

    The English version of my site is still the wreck it was when I first started out, because I've always been much more interested in the German/Austrian/Swiss market.

    And I only get very specific hits and I think the fact that my domain name is actually "kunst übersetzer" is probably a giant help. The text is geared for this combination as well as a handful of other terms like the German words for "art history", etc. (I've actually forgotten exactly what, it's been a while since I rewrote it.)

    If you are a specialized translator and are willing to put at least a minimum of thought into SEO, then you can certainly generate work through a website.


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    Anne Diamantidis  Identity Verified
    Germany
    Local time: 22:33
    Member (2007)
    English to French
    + ...
    Google updates & algorithm changes Jan 29, 2014

    Anne Seerup wrote:

    Samuel Murray wrote:


    Up to about 5 years ago, a freelancer could have a web site that came up on the first page of search results for exactly the right keywords, but then suddenly a few large translation agencies discovered black-hat search engine techniques, and suddenly they were all over the search results.
    ..


    I have noticed this too, and I am attempting all sorts of SEO tips from Google - having more text, being more "marketing like", being more relevant, blogging (hard to find time when you are working), putting keywords all over the place (to the point where it sounds stupid), and no matter what I do, I get zero quality visitors. The top of Google for any language combination is flooded with either free translation tools, or generic template nonsense about the various languages by the large agencies. I wonder what keywords to put on my site these days, and if anyone even looks for independent translators using Google search anymore. I have entered perfectly valid keywords, and all I get is useless visitors who send messages like: "can U translate this word for me. Be quick about it?".
    Ideally we should be able to market our services online, just like any other business, but for translation it has become particularly bad.

    Another, perhaps slightly unrelated, issue is that Google has become less useful for terminology research lately - especially if you reside outside of you native country.

    [Edited at 2014-01-29 13:51 GMT]


    Yes, that is because Google regularly makes updates to their algorithm (the famous Panda or Penguin) - but they actually changed their algorithm altogether late last year, releasing "Hummingbird", which is the biggest change in their algorithm in 15 years (!) and their quietest too. They rolled it out discreetly in August 2013 and announced it at a press conference in October - about 90% of the websites found themselves affected by then (many of you probably noticed the difference in your stats, one way or another), and most of these websites are still struggling to get back their old ranks - if that's even possible. Hummingbird works in a complete different way than the previous algorithm - many of the old rules, i.e. what used to be important SEO factors are today either completely useless or at least much less significant.

    So-called black-hat techniques are today also much less significant, A. Google has been fighting really hard against black-hat in the past couple years, and B. Hummingbird made most of these methods obsolete.

    This new algorithm is the reason why you find Google less useful for terminology research and other sorts of researches, by the way - because it also changed the way we users (should) search. Basically it's question-based: Google noticed that their old algorithm was no longer satisfying users queries and searches which had become actual questions - supposedly, the old habit of just typing a suite of keywords in your Google bars are over, Hummingbird is meant to answer questions - example "How to set up out of office auto-replies in my Hotmail inbox" vs "set up auto reply Hotmail" like we would have searched a couple years ago.

    The "answering questions" part was apparently the core of the new update - for SEO, it basically means that the days of keywords stuffing are also over (they have been over for a while since Google has been penalizing these websites for a while now).

    In short - rules of SEO have drastically and quietly changed since August/September last year - check out resources like Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch and the Google SEO manual itself - good stuff in there to get you started.

    Cheers,
    Anne


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    Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
    United States
    Local time: 14:33
    Spanish to English
    + ...
    I would say so Jan 29, 2014

    Like others have said, it's hard to get high rankings without spending a ton of money on advertising. I'm averaging about 10 visits a day, I get 3 or 4 resumes a week, but so far not a single client directly through the site. It does work as a way to establish a little bit of identity and credibility, as others have already mentioned. I have personally had more success with Bing than Google, and more success with Facebook than those two combined.

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    Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 22:33
    Member (2006)
    English to Afrikaans
    + ...
    Hummingbird does not affect us Jan 29, 2014

    Anne Diamantidis wrote:
    Anne Seerup wrote:
    Samuel Murray wrote:
    Up to about 5 years ago, a freelancer could have a web site that came up on the first page of search results for exactly the right keywords, but then suddenly a few large translation agencies discovered black-hat search engine techniques, and suddenly they were all over the search results....

    I have noticed this too ... The top of Google for any language combination is flooded with either free translation tools, or generic template nonsense about the various languages by the large agencies.

    [Google] actually changed their algorithm altogether late last year, releasing "Hummingbird" ... in August 2013. About 90% of the websites found themselves affected by then (many of you probably noticed the difference in your stats, one way or another), and most of these websites are still struggling to get back their old ranks - if that's even possible.

    Hummingbird works in a complete different way than the previous algorithm...

    So-called black-hat techniques are today also much less significant. Google has been fighting really hard against black-hat in the past couple years, and Hummingbird made most of these methods obsolete.


    Hummingbird had little or no effect on my site's ranking.

    I think you've got the tail-end of the story. Hummingbird improves the quality of results for long-tail searches (i.e. searches that consist of long phrases instead of just a few keywords), but it does not affect short, keyword rich searches by much.

    In fact, supplementary keywords are going to be very important in future to prevent google from trying to be clever with searches. My site used to be in the top 5 for "english afrikaans translation", but it is currently at #25 for that search. However, add the word "professional" or "freelance" to it, and my site pops up in the top 5 again. The same applies to Bing: a search for "english afrikaans translation" puts me in position #15 on Bing, but add either "professional" or "freelance" to the search query, and my site comes in at number 2.

    Either way, the problem with agencies and free translation tools taking the top spots have existed for quite a number of years, and the situation hasn't changed since August 2013.

    Take a look at the URLs from the first two pages of a google search for "english afrikaans translation":

    http://imtranslator.net/translation/english/to-afrikaans/translation/
    http://imtranslator.net/translation/afrikaans/to-english/translation/
    http://freetranslation.imtranslator.com/English-language_English-Afrikaans_translation

    http://www.stars21.com/translator/afrikaans_to_english.html
    http://www.stars21.com/translator/english_to_afrikaans.html

    http://www.lexicool.com/afrikaans-dictionary-translation.asp
    http://translation.babylon.com/english/to-afrikaans/
    http://webtranslation.paralink.com/afrikaans/translation
    http://mylanguages.org/afrikaans_translation_en.php
    http://www.lexilogos.com/english/afrikaans_dictionary.htm

    There's no way a freelance translator can compete with that kind of SEO.


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    Siegfried Armbruster  Identity Verified
    Germany
    Local time: 22:33
    Member (2004)
    English to German
    + ...
    Jan 30, 2014

    [Please erase this, posted with the wrong account - shared computer.]

    [Edited at 2014-01-30 09:27 GMT]


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    Anne Diamantidis  Identity Verified
    Germany
    Local time: 22:33
    Member (2007)
    English to French
    + ...
    Big picture Jan 30, 2014

    Hi Samuel,

    There are a lot of factors - and your current ranking may be explained by the competition on your main keywords which is lower than in searches like "English to French professional translator" or "English to Spanish professional translator." Keyword competition still plays a major role and this is very likely why you felt you were not - or little - affected. Good for you, you belong to a minority - but for the vast majority of us, Hummingbird and the latest updates made a clear difference, mostly not in the right direction.

    I'm hired to optimize websites - from various industries, including but not limited to ours - and believe me, long-tail or short-tail, stats and rankings of most of my clients' websites (and my own's) were drastically affected. Professional SEO platforms were filled with forum and board messages from other SEOs and SE marketers wondering what in heaven was going on, and we had crazy discussions (even websites from major brands or companies were affected back then). Many, many websites are still struggling to get their rankings back, 6 months later.

    So yes, Hummingbird affected us. Maybe not you, maybe not a lot of other colleagues, but it did affect most of us - and again, particularly those whose keywords were already highly competitive before.

    Samuel Murray wrote:
    There's no way a freelance translator can compete with that kind of SEO.


    A freelancer could compete with that kind of SEO, in theory, but in practice, not that simple - very basically (I'm taking shortcuts here): you'd need to produce a lot quality content, you'd need a lot of inbound (links) from social sites - i.e. you'd need to have lots and lots of people visting your website (traffic, trustworthiness), sharing your contents all over social networks (= high quality content, regularly fresh/new content to keep them coming), you'd need to hire a SEO professional if you want to reach that level of competition to take care of the technical side of things (which at the end of the day would probably cost you less than the time and money you'd invest getting trained - I know exactly how much these training cost). And the problem with content: not all of us have something groudbreaking, revolutionary to say every other week that would make people think we're so-called "thought-leaders" and make them redistribute our contents all over the Web. Online dictionnaries are extremely well SEOptimized, they generate massive traffic, have thousands and thousands of keywords and links, and many have forums or discussion boards (=engagement) and are well-shared. Basically. Very basically.

    So, in theory, yes, freelancers can compete - in practice another matter, I agree.

    One last thing: search results you get for a given keyword/search may sometimes differ for other colleagues - based on your location (e.g. Google.co.uk or Google.de, for example) and mostly based on whether you have a Google+ account and you're logged in to it when searching: based on the people in your G+ networks and certain kewords in your profile, the search, search results can be "personalized" to you (not all searches, but certain, again based on your G+ profile). Sorry for saying that, but now more than ever, the relationship between SEO and the social Web is very, very strong - Google wants trustworthy content, and the best way it found to measure it is the interaction/engagement/link with social media, i.e. the more actual human beings visit and interact with a website (and even better, share it or comment on it - see discussion boards on dictionnaries websites), the more trustworthy this website is to Google, which in turn should positively impacts its ranking.

    Again, it may affect/apply less for colleagues working in language pairs which keywords are less competitive (or specialty fields, for that matter).

    I can only invite again colleagues concerned/interested in this to check the Google SEO manual - it's a PDF e-book (it's free to download, no worries) that you'll find in the Google webmaster tools - as well as serious platforms like Search Engine Watch, Moz or SEJ, and Google's Matt Cutts blog, with very interesting and concrete (and fresh) tips and videos where he regularly answers SEO questions or adresses specific points. http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/

    Anne

    [Sorry about the confusion - my colleague Siegfried had not logged-out from this computer last time he visited ProZ.com and I did not pay attention before posting.]


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    Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
    Netherlands
    Local time: 22:33
    Member (2006)
    English to Afrikaans
    + ...
    @Anne Jan 30, 2014

    Anne Diamantidis wrote:
    I can only invite again colleagues concerned/interested in this to check the Google SEO manual - it's a PDF e-book (it's free to download, no worries)...


    URL here.

    On a slightly different note, I wonder if translators are allowed to use structured markup for their services as if they're "products".

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-rRxKSm2ic


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