The problem with translation memory (and how we can help)


Katie Selby

Translation Project Manager


Translation memory is a linguistic database that stores terminology, phrases and passages of text which have been previously translated. Each entry contains both the original language (source) and the translation (target), meaning you will never need to translate the same sentence twice.

When a file is opened for translation and a translation memory applied, the database will flag any identical or similar matches to previous translations. These matches can then be accepted or overridden with new alternatives. Any translation which is overridden will be stored in the translation memory for future use.

Translation memory is an invaluable tool for brands who are entering new markets and need to translate entire websites. Not only does the database make it quicker to translate content, but it also ensures a consistent quality of translation. For those outsourcing translation, translation memory reduces the cost required to translate as typically translation is charged on a cost per word basis.

The problem with translation memory

As a tool for translation, there is little fault that can be found with translation memory. The problem occurs when we take a step back and look at the bigger picture that happens when translating a website.

The typical process for localising a website for a new market is as follows:

  1. The original language website is translated page by page
  2. Once reviewed and approved, this translation is put into translation memory for future translations (e.g. for new product pages or blogs)
  3. The translated website goes through an SEO audit, which involves on-page optimisation.

The issue lies with where the translation is saved in the database. On-page optimisation is carried out outside of translation memory, which means each new page that is translated is not optimised for search. Companies will either need to reinvest additional time and budget for optimisation or leave the page unoptimised and miss out on traffic and sales.

An optimised approach to website translation

Our approach to website translation incorporates digital marketing from the very beginning to ensure your new site has the best chance of succeeding online from the get-go.

Prior to carrying out any translation, our mother tongue digital marketing experts carry out localised keyword research to identify key search terms for that market. Due to cultural and linguistical differences, the searches used by different markets may not directly translate; using native speakers to identify variations ensures we do not miss out on any keyword opportunities.

Once we have identified keywords we want to rank for, these are incorporated into the localised copy throughout the translation process, as well as the meta data, in a way that makes linguistical sense for the market.

It is these optimised translations which are fed into translation memory, so that future translations are optimised for these high-ranking keywords.

Conducting cultural audits

Different markets have different cultural norms, and what works in one market may be ineffective in another. Directly translating your original language can miss out on opportunities at best, and outright offend at worst.

We carry out cultural audits alongside local keyword research, so that the translation is linguistically and culturally accurate, as well as optimised for search. During a cultural audit, we assess the market readiness of the existing website against the digital landscape and the expectations and user behaviour of your target market.

Examples of elements we look at in this audit are:

  • Legal requirements and compliance such as required terms and conditions and cookie policies for that market
  • User experience including which call to actions are effective and whether checkout forms are appropriate for address formats
  • Trust signals – does the site contain the relevant certifications and protections for that market?

Where conducting localised keyword research ensures the site is optimised for search, cultural audits ensure your website is optimised for consumers in the market.

As the cultural audit is carried out at the same time as keyword research, both findings are implemented into the translation and therefore translation memory, meaning any content put on the localised site is ready to drive traffic and convert from day one.

You can read all of our international insights and advice on our blog, or get in touch to find out how our international digital marketing experts can help your global expansion.

Get international insights straight to your inboxSubscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest digital marketing insights delivered to your inbox