Published On: 2022-09-09Categories: English-French Translation

Adapting content is key for the translation of a website

You’ve spent a lot of time and resources designing a website that will rank high in Google results. Now that you’re thinking about translating some pages or the entire site, have you considered that it’s not just about offering content in another language, but also about speaking to users in their own words? Let’s take a look at what I call “SEO translation”.

What is SEO?

website translation

The acronym “SEO” stands for “search engine optimization” and refers to the work of optimizing Web content for search engines. In other words, these are all the measures that are taken on your website to ensure that it is well indexed on Google and likely to appear in the first pages of search results (or even in the first results).

A Web agency that works on your SEO will make sure that:

  • your site loads quickly;
  • your images are not too heavy;
  • the structure of your site is user-friendly;
  • your texts feature relevant keywords;
  • your metadata are well written.

To learn more, I invite you to read the article What is SEO? from Neil Patel, a subject matter expert.

Optimization when writing texts

When I wear my Web copywriter’s hat, I make an exhaustive search using certain tools to find keywords relevant to the client’s offer. Above all, these keywords must be really searched for by Internet users. For example, for an event planning company, the keyword “successful wedding” could stand out as interesting. It could be used as a page title, in the metadata (the title and description you see in search results) and throughout the text of that page.

Adapting keywords when translating

Here’s where the translator will have to be careful: he or she must adapt the main keyword. When translating into French, for example, it’s easy to fall into the trap of translating “successful wedding” by “mariage réussi”… But in French, “wedding” and “marriage” are both translated by “mariage”. The event planner can surely help you create a successful wedding, but the success of your marriage is another ball game! Instead, we could select a French keyword such as “réussir sa réception de mariage” (successful wedding reception). Nuance and knowledge of the target culture are essential in this kind of work.

Also, French-speaking clients may not have the same concerns! They may be more into themes, dresses or locations (pure guesswork here). This is why it is important to perform a new keyword search in the target language.

Let’s look at another example. I once had to adapt a series of keywords from English to French for a multinational’s blog, including the keyword “chatbot”. The correct equivalent of this term in French is “robot conversationnel”. Hands up those who would write the whole words, “r-o-b-o-t c-o-n-v-e-r-s-a-t-i-o-n-n-e-l”, to research this… Anyone? No? That’s what I thought. French speakers use the term… “chatbot” instead. The translator in me is disappointed (because I love when there’s a perfect French equivalent out there, as short and “sexy” as the English term), but the Web copywriter must take into account these frequency requirements!

Professional language services

So, how is a website translation done properly?

A good Web translator must have knowledge of SEO and Web writing, as well as the ability to put some water in his wine. Here is how I approach this type of project:

  • I extract the content of the website and its metadata, which I copy into a document (Word, for example).
  • From the main keyword in English, I perform a broad search in French to find an equivalent keyword searched by French-speaking Internet users. This keyword may or may not deviate from the original.
  • I translate the website making sure that the French keyword is present in all strategic places and has a good density. The result may not be a perfect match to the English, but it may be an adaptation, which I make sure to explain to the client. The translation is saved in my translation memory for future use by the client.
  • I deliver the French text to the clients in Word format, or I integrate this text directly into their content management system (CMS) if they grant me access to WordPress.

Translating a website goes beyond the usual tasks of a translator. That’s what makes it so interesting!

What about using several similar keywords?

It is a good idea to use synonyms, because you can then distribute the keywords throughout the pages. French can sometimes offer several options for an English term. Think of “real estate agent”, which in Quebec can be translated into “agent immobilier”, “courtier immobilier” or “agent d’immeubles”. If these three keywords have a similar search volume, an interesting solution could be to adapt the content so that the three expressions are present. They can even be a main keyword for three different pages. This is only one of the possible ways.


Give your website as much love in a foreign language as you do in the language you wrote it in. Your efforts will surely be rewarded!

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