Web marketing for translators (part one) 19

Daniel Freedman, web strategist for LinguaLinx, writes today’s guest blog post, the first in a series on web marketing for translators:


Do you hate marketing? Are you overwhelmed with contradictory advice from so-called Web experts, none of which seems to have much to do with translation? If so, this blog post is for you.

I’ll offer some surprising advice on a few of the highest priority, do-it-yourself things you can act on right away to get more business – without spending much money.

I’m going to advise you to disregard generic advice that doesn’t apply to you and to focus instead on just two key things:

  1. Establishing yourself as a translation expert
  2. Making sure you have a website that proves your expert status

Is your priority doing great work? Does marketing feel like a burden that gets in the way of that? If so, you’re in good company.

In my web consulting business, I work with many top fitness authors, educators and trainers. I recently edited an e-book of web marketing for fitness professionals. The book quoted JC Deen of JCD Fitness as saying many trainers “are afraid of marketing.” Tony Gentilcore, co-owner of Cressey Performance, said: “I’ve never really thought of myself as a ‘marketing’ type of guy.  I see the word ‘marketing’ and automatically think of those cheesy infomercials that everyone watches when they’re up late and can’t fall asleep.”

Sound familiar?

I’m Daniel Freedman, a Web Strategist for LinguaLinx, an international language services provider. And I also happen to be a Canadian who speaks English, French, Spanish and Hebrew, has lived in Montreal, Toronto, Boston, New York, Washington, DC and London, England, and spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley. In previous lives, I have been a TV producer, magazine editor, news executive, and non-profit executive.

First, some advice on pitfalls to avoid. We’ll then move on to how you can establish yourself as a translation expert with a focused web presence.

Forget about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO_forgetaboutitSearch Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of ranking highly in search engines. Many consider me a top expert in the field of ethical, white hat SEO, and I am well paid for my services. But my advice to almost all translators about SEO is, comme on dit en Brooklyn: “Fah-ged-abouddit!” The translation industry is highly fragmented, with tens of thousands of providers. A few top players have invested heavily in SEO. Your chances of ranking highly on a term like “Chinese translation” are slim to none. Your time and money would be better spent on other strategies. (The only exception might be if your practice is restricted to a particular location and specialty, eg. “Brighton Beach, N.Y. Russian Translator.”) Above all, be mindful of the Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm.” Under no circumstances hire a shady SEO Consultant who promises the moon. At best, you will get no benefit and waste your money. At worst, your site may actually be punished for using the dubious tactics such consultants employ.

Forget about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media

Social media is great and can help many businesses. But not yours, in all likelihood. Social media works best for consumer products or passion-driven pursuits like chess or medieval festivals. It is much less effective in the business-to-business sector. If you enjoy playing on Facebook, please feel free to continue doing so. But I seriously doubt anyone is going to hire you because you have 327 “likes” instead of 84. Again, your time and money is best spent elsewhere. And the same thing applies to paid Google ads.

It’s all about credibility

Your perceived credibility and professionalism are everything. Before you do anything on the Web, ask yourself: “Does this enhance my stature as a highly competent professional who can help solve business problems?” If you can’t answer “Yes!” don’t do it.

What you really need is a great website that clearly establishes your expert credentials and value at a glance. Take a look at www.Louschuler.com for an example.

What should be on your website?

Think of your website as a portfolio of your best work, structured in such a way as to get you more work because it establishes your value. On his Viralnomics blog my friend and former client Jon Goodman says the “About” page of your website is the most important page. Among other things, he suggests you include your story, social proof, testimonials, and a call to action. My client Jon-Erik Kawamoto, an up-and-coming fitness writer, does a pretty good job on the about page of his website, though translators would probably prefer more formal language.

About_meElsewhere on the site, I would also suggest translators include a full resume, extensive work samples, and case studies of the type found on the home page of www.lingualinx.com. The case studies should demonstrate how your work fit into the big picture of solving the client’s business problems. If you have written articles or blog posts yourself, you should link to them or reproduce them on your site (Advanced tip: implement the rel=author tag, explained here).

Note that Lou had the benefit of using a professional design firm, but Jon-Erik did all the design and production himself (He’s a starving graduate student).

Which brings me to my next point….

How do you get all this done?

Don’t spend a fortune on a designer. You could end up with a pretty site with the wrong content. But you do need to be able to update the site with new testimonials or case studies yourself, without relying on your “web guy” for every little tweak. For many translators on a tight budget, a low-cost, do-it-yourself platform like www.squarespace.com is a good option. You won’t win any design awards, but you will get the job done.

Another option is a bit farther up the food chain. Barter your translation services with a designer or developer who uses the WordPress platform. Insist that training you on how to update the site be part of the deal.

Once you have your site up and running, you can turn to more advanced strategies like guest blogging and getting testimonials on third-party sites. More about all that in a future post. Meantime, feel free to comment below or email me directly.


Former everything Daniel Freedman has been a television news executive and a PBS Online guy. A late onset athlete, Daniel has also edited The CrossFit Journal and done web strategy for The Personal Trainer Development Center and Precision Nutrition. These days, he selects clients who match his passions, including a coffee company that sends free samples! He is trying to talk a travel client into a free trekking trip for (ahem!) “research” purposes. Currently Web Strategist for LinguaLinx.


Thanks Daniel! Stay tuned for future installations in this series.

LinguaLinx is a Corporate member at ProZ.com. You can visit their website at http://www.lingualinx.com/, and review their ProZ.com Blue Board record at http://www.proz.com/blueboard/1079.


  1. Professional translators are a completely different business from fitness professionals or fitness writers or whatever.
    In contrast what you are saying I claim that you don’t need your own website, a good profile on ProZ is always better (at least SEO wise) and Twitter and Facebook are excellent resources to get business and to drive your Google ranking.

    Web marketing for translators requires specialization, what you are recommending does not apply.


  2. Thanks for the feedback. And I heartily agree: each business is different and what works for fitness professionals won’t work for translators. Translation is certainly specialized and has it own requirements; again we agree.

    For example, I would recommend fitness professionals spend much more time on Facebook, and less in displaying things like sample workouts on a website. Facebook and Twitter have only an indirect result on SEO as one of over 200 ranking factors.

    A well done website, with testimonials and work samples, can be the cornerstone of a web marketing strategy for translators.


  3. I agree with Jared. For professional providing a service with a paradoxically strong interpersonal element, social networks are not appropriate. Not that such networks are useless, for they serve other purposes: as an example, they boast some high-quality professional discussion fora. Unless you know what you are doing with SEO offers, and can sift the wheat from the chaff among them, I agree with you, Jared, that it’s best to leave them alone. I find that a fair element of my goodwill comes from an old-fashioned form of viral marketing: word of mouth, and another, an “old boy network” of colleagues who have moved on elsewhere and are on the lookout for translators they can rely on. If the web can be crafted made to fit that interpersonal style of network, then I’d like to see it. If it’s just scattering one’s offering broadcast, then the interpersonal element founders. Trust, people’s knowledge and appreciation of the work one does and one’s working attitude are intangible elements of the relationship and are difficult to convey within the framework of social network as they stand.

    I think in fine each man’s wine tastes fair to him (inclusive masculine).

    With kind regards,

    Adam Warren (IanDhu – 41189)


  4. Hi, Adam:

    I agree that trust and word of mouth are paramount. If prospective clients gets a referral from a current client, it’s great to refer them to a website with a resume, work samples, case studies and testimonials. That can seal the deal.


  5. Hi, Daniel, thanks for sharing your valuable insights. As soon as I started translating on an exclusively professional level on a freelance basis, I got myself a website (hosted by GoDaddy), a 5-page econoversion, but although I am a total HTML ignoramus, I produced it myself, with hard work and mostly banging my head against the PC :)… I also have of course my PRO ProZ profile page, and I can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (although the latter is just pro-forma because I simply linked my tweets to Facebook and that’s that; to me it’s mainly a time-waster). Through Twitter on the other hand, I have networked with scores of interesting people (professionally) and I have found it to be a great source for tools and other profession-related tips. Plus, I think that it completes the image of who you are and the impression that you want to give about yourself. Of late I have started being active in LinkedIn (which I had mostly neglected) and I think that maybe colleagues who want to oursource can learn about me and my language capabilities through my contributions there.

    However, most of the people who find me do so through my website, so I concur here with you that it is one of the basics of freelancing. Something like being on the phonebook… And I have taught myself on how to update it without having to pay someone to do it for me (I know that I should maybe add more info but I don’t want to be adding more pages than what I have right now).

    On closing, I wanted to call your attention to a probable typo in your article – although French is not my language – which surely went undetected: it should be “comme ON dit” (instead of “comme EN dit”), I believe?


  6. I think some of the criticism comes from not actually understanding what Daniel said. First of all, he did mention and actually underline the differences between fitness experts and translators, therefore bringing up those differences to criticise Daniel’s points is a fail. Moreover, Daniel correctly identified the unique importance of CV/résumé to a translator. Several years ago in my market, a CV with a print button and contact form (or even mailto link) would have done its job as a website (which does actually lend credit to the argument that you don’t need a website, while on the other hand your own website is that place on the Internet where you make all of the content and presentation decisions, which gives you a bit more to play with).

    As far as the best method of driving up one’s Google ranking goes, Daniel clearly said it wasn’t that important according him. We can agree or disagree with the premise that you should forget about SEO etc. I haved mixed feelings there, I know a successful translator who lives off her ranking, whileI know it’s possible to have good word of mouth efficiency with a cobweb website that nobody ever discovers through a search engine. But if we do accept that premise as Daniel does, then it makes less sense to delve deeply into ranking strategies than otherwise.


  7. Thank you, Lukasz. I could write a book (or at least an e-book) about how a translator could rank highly through SEO strategies. If the translator you know is doing well on rankings, it’s most likely because he is recognized expert who publishes widely on authoritative sites, or is mentioned frequently on authoritative sites. Or perhaps he is in a very specialized niche in which there is little competition.

    A common misconception about SEO is that there is some sort of hocus pocus involved that is centred on the arcane minutiae of keywords, what’s embedded in code, etc…In fact, what you do “on page” (in both text and code) counts for only about 30% of SEO. The other 70% comes from the inbound links to your site from other sites. And it’s not a numbers game. A handful of authoritative links can count for more than hundreds of poor quality links.

    My premise was that most translators have limited time and money for web tasks. Hence my focus on the high value tasks that are of the most use to the most people.

    But to every rule, there are always exceptions. Life is complicated!


  8. Daniel – it’s refreshing to read advice saying that Facebook, Twitter, etc. aren’t necessarily the best ways to drum up business for translators. I attended a conference seminar a couple weeks ago that urged us translators to go all out and develop our presence on all the social media sites. I sat there the whole time thinking, “Whaaaa??” I had hoped to be convinced, but it failed. Your advice sounds much more realistic. IMHO, social media is for socializing, a website is for business. I’ve even heard from a couple of the most successful translator-bloggers who recently announced they are discontinuing their translator Facebook/Twitter accounts because they’re not bringing in enough business (if any) to justify the time invested.

    There’s only one thing you say that I *strongly disagree* with, and that’s on the issue of posting one’s full resume. We translators have had extensive forum discussions recently about scammers stealing legitimate translators’ resumes and using them to get business, submitting lousy work (often done purely by machine translation) or subcontracting other translators and never paying them. By the time legitimate translators find out their identities have been stolen through their resumes, serious damage has been done to their professional reputation. This practice is growing and morphing into frightening off-shoot frauds. As a consequence, the emerging consensus is that we should NOT post resumes, but offer them “upon request” so that we can first check out the credentials of who is soliciting them. A lot of us don’t even post our contact information on our websites any more, using instead a contact form for inquiries, which will be directly sent to our e-mail, much like the Proz.com method of mediating e-mail contact. Such forms are a cinch to insert through WordPress and the like.


  9. A very good piece of advice, and part two, as well. Pity it came a little late but at least I know what to improve on my website. Good to know I can forget about SEO, it gave me nightmares but I’ll keep my FB and twitter accounts.


    • In my opinion it is interesting to note that SEO was actually one of the presentations that was well received at the ProZ Porto conference. There seem to be more translators who find this topic relevant. But hey, they are just translators, so who cares.


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