Want to have a website translated and thinking about using machine translation? Although this solution may seem attractive, due to its speed and low cost, using machine translation to fully translate a website is a huge mistake.

Machine translation

Here we explain why it is better not to use Google Translate, or a similar tool, to translate the pages of your website. We’ll also give you some pointers about how to have your site translated quickly and well, at an affordable price.

What is machine translation?


According to the French dictionary, l’Internaute, a machine translator is a computer programme that transcribes a text into a second language, without any human intervention.

A machine translator will therefore automatically translate raw text without any intervention from a human translator to correct text errors.
To simplify Internet browsing, some web browsers and search engines, like Google or Yahoo!, offer the possibility of systematically using a machine translator.


Machine translation is unreliable, and the resulting translations are often approximate or erroneous, especially when the text is complicated or from a specific field.

However, despite its weaknesses, machine translation can provide many services. In particular, it makes it possible to quickly become familiar, albeit superficially, with large quantities of texts.

Machine translation is particularly useful for the general public, because it allows you to get a (sometimes rough) glimpse of the content of a web page in a completely unknown language.

There is a clear distinction between machine translation and computer-assisted translation (CAT). CAT tools are not entirely autonomous. They require human intervention and are translation support and automation tools.

To learn more about computer-assisted translation, see our “Computer-Assisted Translation and Translation Memories: Definitions and Benefits” and “Translation memory” articles.

Why not use machine translation to translate a website?

Machine translators perform approximate translations. Indeed, these tools are not yet optimal, their development is constantly evolving. Whether you choose Google Translate, DeepL, or Systran, the results will be quite similar.

Lack of sense and approximate texts

Although machine translation tools now use “deep learning” to improve the translations carried out, some translated terms remain inaccurate. This is particularly true when the text contains local expressions or slang. The main reason is that the machine translator is not, for the moment, able to contextualise textual content.

Example :

A product description is usually created by a specialised writer. It is a text adapted to a specific target, with specific vocabulary. A machine translator will transcribe the text word for word, without adapting specific words in any way whatsoever. To obtain a text of similar quality, the text will need to be translated by a professional translator so they are able to adapt the original message.

With machine translation, your site will be translated without grammatical errors, but it will potentially be lacking refinement and its original substance may be somewhat watered down. It’s also likely that certain sentences will have little meaning, or that their interpretation will be bordering on the ridiculous.
Machine translations that have not been proofread cannot be used for a public website or for an e-commerce site.

No SEO optimisation

Nowadays, if you want to stand out on the internet, you need to take care of your site’s SEO. Natural referencing is therefore a must; however, this is never taken into account by machine translation tools. Only a human using SEO tools can ensure SEO optimisation for translated texts.

How can you get a website translated cheaply?

The easiest way to translate a website quickly and inexpensively is to use the services of a translation agency.

Translation agencies offer high-quality translation services. Your text content will be optimally translated and adapted to your target country. Additionally, most translation agencies offer an “SEO optimisation” option.

Translation agencies use computer assisted translation tools. This offers two distinct advantages: The translation of your website will be completed more quickly than if you were to hire a freelance translator;

The cost of translating your site will be reduced. Indeed, when a translation agency uses CAT tools, only new words are billed. Words that are repeated several times are only charged once.

Using a translation agency means having a site that contains the right formulations, in the right context. It means having textual content that uses target language expressions. This creates a link with visitors and gains their trust.

Professional translators can work on the style of a text, using plays on words and common language expressions, something that machine translation tools cannot do.
Finally, only professional translators are able to optimise your site’s SEO in the target language. Indeed, only a human being that knows the culture of the target country will be able to define the appropriate keywords. This will allow your site to stand out and appear in the first page of search results.

What are the risks of using machine translation for an entire site?

If you still decide to have your site translated by a machine translator, you are putting yourself at risk of:

  • Sentences that lack meaning, or that even have no meaning at all: loss of credibility;
  • An approximate translation: lower quality of information;
  • A lack of common expressions and ordinary language usually found in the target language: lack of connection with the Internet user;
  • No SEO optimisation: less or no search engine presence.

In short, there is a good chance that your brand image, credibility, and professional appearance will suffer. You therefore risk losing many potential customers.