How Google's Translation Gadget Can Boost Your Revenue

Last Updated Mar 9, 2010 4:00 PM EST

Google continues to aggressively improve one its most promising, if less-known, products -- its "website translation gadget."
As we noted when the search giant launched this tool last September, it can be used to quite literally "put money in your pocket," or -- perhaps more appropriately -- into your company's coffers.

That's because it allows you to post your site's content in over 50 languages, as auto-translated by Google. As the company puts it, "(W)hen people visit your page, if their language (as determined by their browser settings) is different than the language of your page, they'll be prompted to automatically translate the page into their own language."

You can then use this translated version with Google AdSense or other ad networks to attract targeted ads in those languages. When I've experimented with it, I've been able to attract high eCPM ads in various languages (like Hebrew) where there may be more ad inventory than current content options available to display against.

Over the six months since the gadget's launch, Google has continued to improve it as only Google can -- by feeding it huge documents to learn how to translate better. As Miguel Helft reports today, "The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world's largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology."

In other words, Google is using its sheer size and scale to do a task better than anyone else out there. Rather than using a billion or so words to model a language, Google uses hundreds of billions of English words.

But a word of caution may still be in order before you rush out and assume this is the perfect answer to your site's ability to publish in multiple languages. What auto-translation yields is not a perfect replica of what a human translator can provide, but rather a serviceable alternative -- think of it as a rough translation that conveys the essence of what your native language content imparts.

The optimal way to use this service (assuming you do not have an in-staff fluent in 50-plus languages), is to compare versions back and forth between languages a couple times to make sure the integrity of your content is not being seriously compromised in the process.

This, BTW, is what I did a while back when preparing a short tribute for my oldest daughter's wedding. Her husband is French and many of his relatives were in attendance, so I auto-translated a talk that included the phrase, "It takes a great lady to raise a great son," which, when re-translated yielded the rather unfortunate: "It takes a very large lady to raise a very large son."
Google has since improved its performance on this particular phrase. Today, the same auto-translation produces the somewhat awkward but serviceable: "Ça prend une grande dame de soulever un grand fils."
Related BNET links:
Google Translation Gadget Puts Money in Your Pocket
A Simple Way to Grow your Online Audience (Una Manera Simple para Hacer Crecer su Audiencia En Línea)
Thanks to Loic Comolli for help with this post.
image: Google

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.