Search Engine Tips for Translators

Motores de Busca: sugestões para tradutores

"All publicity is good, except an obituary notice"
Brendan F. Behan (1923-1964), Irish Writer

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Why is your site so hard to find?

Or, why people end up in my Translator Colleagues page
when you run a search on your name or your website?

When collecting the 1600+ homepages of my Translator Colleagues page, I have noticed that most of them would never be found or properly indexed by the major search engines. Why so many translator's pages do not even have a properly formatted title?

So, read on, go ahead and polish the HTML code of your pages. Pay for it, if you have to! After all, who wants to have a website that nobody can find?

It is a myth among web designers that with the right meta tags you can make it to the top on all search engines. The truth is very close to being the opposite.

With the wrong meta tags, you can make it to the bottom.

But, meta tags alone do not take you to the top anywhere.

When search engines first started to look for these meta tags, the intention was that web designers could emphasize what the pages were about. For example, a scientific page about the surface of the moon might not have the word "moon" on it, although the page is definitely related to the topic "moon". Creative minds didn't take long to find out that this could be an excellent tool for improving search rankings. Many webmasters included keywords and descriptions that held NO relevance to their page. The strike back: The biggest rule today is NOT about keywords, hidden text, or a secret way to submit your website to 10,000 search engines – it's all about "CONTENT". If your site contains pages of information, then the text of the page will be picked up and it will be cataloged, indexed, and listed – and your website will be found!

Give (All) Pages of Your website a (Meaningful) Title

Many search engines compare the title of your page to the keywords and content of the page. Leaving the title as "index.html", or "untitled document", or "new page" won't help you improve your search engine listing.

The HTML title tag isn't really a meta tag, but it's worth discussing in relation to them. Whatever text you place in the title tag will appear in the reverse bar of someone's browser when they view your Web page. For instance, within the title tag of this page that you are reading is this text: SEARCH ENGINE TIPS FOR TRANSLATORS • J. Roque Dias

Assuming that your name is Donald Duck, and that you translate from English into Portuguese (i.e., you're my competitor), maybe a good title would be: Donald Duck – Translation Services from English into Portuguese. The title tag is also used as the words to describe your page when someone adds it to their "Favorites" or "Bookmarks" lists.

Use The Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag allows you to influence the description of your page in the crawlers that support the tag. In the source code of your pages, look at the meta tag that says "name=description" That's the meta description tag. The text you want to be shown as your description goes between the quotation marks after the "content=" portion of the tag (generally, 200 to 250 characters may be indexed, though only a smaller portion of this amount may be displayed). For this page you are reading, I would like it described in a search engine's listings like this: Helping translators have better formatted Web pages. Will this happen? Not with every search engine. For example, Google ignores the meta description tag and instead will automatically generate its own description for this page. Others may support it partially. While it may not be the most important thing to a search engine, it is very often taken into consideration when search engine databases index, catalog, and rank a website. Use a descriptive sentence in that tag that tells the search engine exactly what your page is about, what it is offering, and how it should be listed.

Use The Meta Keywords Tag

Use the meta keywords tag at your own risk! Google does not use the keywords meta tag in Web ranking. But, will the Meta Keywords Tag help you? Well, for most major crawlers, it doesn't. That's because most crawlers now ignore the tag. The meta keywords tag is sometimes useful as a way to reinforce the terms you think a page is important for ON THE FEW CRAWLERS THAT SUPPORT IT.

For instance, if you had a page about your special skills in the field of stamp collecting translation – AND you say the words "stamp collecting translation" at various places in your body copy – then mentioning the words "stamp collecting translation" in the meta keywords tag MIGHT help boost your page a bit higher for those words. Remember, if you don't use the words "stamp collecting translation" on the page at all, then just adding them to the meta keywords tag is extremely unlikely to help the page do well for the term.

The text in the meta keywords tag, FOR THE FEW CRAWLERS THAT SUPPORT IT, works in conjunction with the text in your body copy. The meta keyword tag is also sometimes useful as a way to help your page come up for synonyms, unusual or even misspelled words that don't appear on the page itself. Believe it or not, many sites, including University and government sites worldwide, insist on calling "Portugese" to the language I speak! Well, I had no choice other than to include this misspelled word it in the keywords of my pages.

For instance, let's say again you had a page all about "stamp collecting translation". You never actually say the word "translation" on this page. By having this word in your meta keywords tag, then you may help increase the odds of coming up if someone searched for "stamp collecting translation." Of course you would greater increase the odds if you just used the word "translation" in the body copy of the page itself.

Here's another example: Let's say you have a page in your site about "horseback riding" (maybe it is one of your hobbies...), and you've written your page using "horseback" as a single word. You realize that some people may instead search for "horse back riding," with "horse back" in their searches being two separate words. If you listed these words separately in your meta keywords tag, THEN MAYBE FOR THE FEW CRAWLERS THAT SUPPORT IT, your page might rank better for "horse back" riding. Sadly, the best way to ensure this would be to write your pages using both "horseback riding" and "horse back riding" in the text – or perhaps on some of your pages, use the single word version and on others, the two word version.

Do NOT Try To Trick The Search Engines

The algorithms, and program codes that today's search engines use are very complex and sophisticated – don't try to bury hidden words or non-relevant keywords over and over again on a page. The search engines will pick this up, and you can lose your listing very quickly. Do NOT try to use keywords you think are popular if they have nothing to do with your page or site. If your business is legal translation, then putting words like "sex", or "cars", or "computers" in your keywords won't help your cause. If you think about it – you really don't want that kind of traffic anyway. Target your audience, think about the demographics of who you want to see your site. If you sell legal translation, then the people you REALLY want to see your site are legal offices and translation agencies specializing in legal translation. In the past, it was popular to fill a page with keywords, then place hidden words on a page by making the text the same color as the background, and submitting a site to search engines over and over again. Today, this will only hurt the site, and can actually get it disqualified from some listings.


The biggest source of email addresses used by spammers is your own website, as it might be contributing in how much junk mail you receive, especially if you include an email address on your pages. Spam-lists are generated by Spam-Crawlers and Spam-Bots. These computers only purpose is to constantly comb the Web in search of email addresses to add to their lists. Thankfully they are in such a rush to keep up with the massive amount of web content that they ignore everything but the plain text of each site. Any time an email address appears on your website in plain text, even if it's hidden in a form field, or without a mailto: link, you're opening yourself up to having that email address captured. To combat this menace, just use one good JavaScript snippet widely available online to protect (i.e., disguise or obfuscate) your email address. Or, better yet, use a contact form with a CAPTCHA to allow visitors to contact you.

Be Patient

Getting a top listing for your site won't happen over night. Read, research, investigate, and get feedback on your site. In time, you will get a decent listing, if you are providing content worth viewing. Remember, not everyone is going to be interested in what you offer (who needs translation services, anyway?), so try to target those folks that are interested in your specific translation skills and services.

Adapted from "Meta Tags & Search Engines" by Danny Sullivan, Editor, and other sources




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Copyright© 1999 João Roque Dias   •   Technical Translator   •   Tradutor Técnico   •   Last updated: 7 Jan 2013 11:42 WET