Sometimes, in technology, massive changes take us by surprise. For example, it took decades for most people to realize that the Internet was changing human life in fundamental ways.
Other changes are anticipated for decades before they finally become a practical reality. Artificial intelligence, commonly abbreviated as AI, was widely discussed with a mixture of excitement and fear for over half a century before there were even any real examples of it.
The label AI is applied to a broad range of things, some ridiculous, but there is one type of AI that is already making a profound difference to my life and is now set to make an equally profound difference to your website and business.
I travel a lot. I enjoy living in different countries and, over the past few years, that has become infinitely easier. Last month, I was in Barcelona. My Airbnb host could speak no English, I could speak no Catalan, but we were both able to speak into my cheap, battered, 3-year-old mobile phone and have it instantly speak out translations in both languages.
When I was in a supermarket, utterly confused, I could hold up my phone and see the words on the packaging transform, right before my eyes, into English. It felt like magic.
When I visited an official website and the only language options were Spanish or Catalan, I could instantly translate the whole thing into English, saving me many awkward hours of fumbling with a dictionary.
This form of Artifical Intelligence, known as Machine Translation, makes me confident that I can now parachute into any city and be okay, with no preparation and no knowledge of the language. It opens up possibilities, in both my business and personal life, that simply did not exist before.
Harnessing the Power of Machine Translation for Your Website
We are only at the start. Machine Translation will become smarter and easier to use, but it is already a game-changer. This article is about harnessing that transformative power in your own websites, about using it to reach out and convey your message, or sell your products, to every human on this planet.
Remember, only 360 million people speak English natively, compared to over 400 million Spanish speakers and almost a billion Mandarin Chinese speakers. There are almost 7.5 billion people in the world, so, only 20% of your potential readers and customers are in our cozy little English-speaking bubble.
Yes, anyone can already visit your existing website and use one of the free providers to translate it into their language, but they have to be aware that this is a possibility in the first place, and the vast majority of Internet users are not.
More importantly, they first have to find your website but, presumably, they will be more interested in searching for websites in their own language. Google is smart enough not to send a user to English-language sites if that user speaks no English.
Let’s say you already own a website. You already spend some amount of time on it, adding content and keeping it up to date. What if you could add a simple plugin that hooked into the major online machine translation providers and automatically created a version of your website, but in another language, with its own URL?
Well, that is now entirely possible. That simple plugin is ConveyThis Translate and it is available, for free, from the WordPress.org repository (or just search for it from within the Add Plugin page of your WordPress dashboard).
You might have a website in the English language with the URL MyWebsite.com, but simply installing ConveyThis Translate would allow you to also have a Russian language version automatically created with its own subdirectory, MyWebsite.com/ru/.
All the internal links would link to the other Russian pages while preserving the URL hierarchy. For instance, your English language About page at MyWebsite.com/about would become MyWebsite.com/ru/about, and so on.
Any visitor or search bot that landed on one of your Russian pages would see only Russian as they navigate about. Search Engines would consider your English and Russian language versions to be separately indexable, meaning that content you only had to write once gets ranks twice, for entirely different groups of potential visitors – suddenly, your website exists for Russian speaking visitors who would have been very unlikely to discover it before.
Just to repeat, because it is extremely important: the new Russian language version of your site exists as an entire, free-standing copy of your site in its own “ru” subdirectory, and search engines will treat it as a separate entity that must be made available to Russian-speaking users.
Another major SEO advantage of having multi-language versions of your site is that the search engines treat multiple languages as a sign that a website is important: usually, only big companies or organizations bother to have more than one language. So, even if you don’t care about getting Russian visitors, having a Russian version increases the overall ranking of your English version too.
More Than One Extra Language
How about more than just one extra language? Would it get too complicated if you have two, or three or even four extra language versions of your site?
No, not at all, because each version exists independently in its own subdirectory. You can have as many as you want, the only limit is the number of languages for which competent machine translation is available.
So, how many languages does ConveyThis Translate currently enable?
Incredibly, you can translate TO and FROM 93 different languages, meaning you can create 93 different versions of your site, all automatically updated whenever you add new content to your original version:
I don’t know much about the Bantu people who speak Xhosa but if all 12 million of them want to visit my website, I am more than happy to have the traffic. Hell, I don’t even mind Welsh people!
So, having 93 language versions of your website, or even just a dozen or so of the top languages, is a pretty compelling proposition, but how hard is it to achieve this?
Not hard at all. First, you install and activate the ConveyThis Translate plugin which, again, you can find on the WordPress.org plugin repository or via the Add Plugin page of your WordPress dashboard.
Once activated, you will be invited to configure the plugin. You will need an API key, which you get by creating a free account at the ConveyThis website, it takes only a minute. Then you specify the current language of your website, which they refer to as the “source” language. Then you specify your “target” languages, meaning the languages you want the plugin to create automatic versions of, each in their own subdirectory.
Start with just one language. The subdirectory created will be based upon that language’s ISO language code: “ru” for Russian, “es” for Spanish etc. Simply Google for a specific country’s language code if you don’t already know it.
Each page of new language version of your site is created when you visit it for the first time, so, unfortunately, this part of the process is not automated. It takes a minute for the page to fully generate, but then it is cached, so, the translated page should appear instantly on subsequent visits.
A really nice feature is that, as soon as the translated versions of your site are saved to your ConveyThis dashboard, you can go in there and edit individual translations. You can ask native speakers of that language, or even professional translators, to check your site for any obvious errors and implement their suggestions, but the key point of using machine translation is that the tech behind it is now sufficiently developed to that the automatic translations “good enough” to make sense and satisfy all your new visitors, you don’t really need to spend time or money on human involvement.
The normal ConveyThis Free Plan would entitle you to 1 extra language, with up to 2000 words and 5,000 translated page views per month, which is enough for a small website.
Until the end of this month (April 2018), however, you can grab their Grand Opening offer: free for three months with no credit card required, unlimited languages, with 200,000 words and 200,000 translated page views per month, and premium support. You can use your account on as many different sites as you want.
That is certainly an attractive offer, but it is a good way for them, as a company, to generate lots of interest in their plugin from the start. It certainly makes sense to take advantage of that and be an early adopter if you think you might, at any point in the future, want to have different language versions of your site, just make sure to grab this free opening offer before the end of this month.
How do you feel about multi-language websites?
Do you see this as an opportunity for your business?
Have you tried the ConveyThis Translate plugin, and how did you get on?
What further changes do your think Artifical Intelligence might bring to your websites in the future?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.