Title: why you don't get Germans to buy from you if you use Google translate

Why you don’t get Germans to buy from your website if you use Google Translate

Are you a solopreneur thinking about offering your website and online shop in different languages, like German, to reach more international customers?

Then, if you’re like most people, you’ve probably thought about using tools like Google Translate to do the job for you.

After all, most of today’s machine translation tools are free to use, and they get better and better every day, right? Haven’t they even reached near-human level? What could possibly go wrong?

Clickedy-click – and there you go. Website set up in multiple languages and ready to attract customers.

In this article, I’ll show you why this is actually a pretty bad idea. And why using machine translations for your web presence could even turn your potential customers away rather than attracting them.

Google Translate will make your website sound slightly funny

We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through your social media feed. An interesting ad pops up and you click on the website. “Oooh, nice products”, you think.

But then you start reading the descriptions, scroll through the shop, click on the blog – and slowly but surely question marks appear above your head.

Something is weird about this. But you can’t really put your finger on what it is. You just don’t really get what this website is trying to tell you. And things sound a little odd.

Well, you might have got lost in machine translation.

And that’s exactly how your German visitors will feel when they browse your website: things will strike them as odd. Or they might even make fun of your word choice.

Not the best starting point to convince them to buy your products, is it? And certainly not the way to build a great brand image.

The thing with machine translation tools is that they’re almost really good. Almost. And almost good copy won’t get you very far.

Quite the contrary: A funny sounding website will drive people away – which is a real shame. You almost had them.

Google Translate will make your products, website and brand look cheap

If you’ve thought about using machine translation tools like Google Translate, you’re definitely not alone: I see machine translated web copy across all price ranges and company sizes.

However, the slightly weird and funny sounding web copy that Google Translate produces will make all your branding efforts and months of work to make your website look shiny irrelevant.

Why? Because to your audience the quality of your writing (or the writing of Google Translate) will reflect on your business in general. By making your German audience read low-quality copy, you suggest your products are low-quality too.

Why should your potential customers trust you to put effort into creating great products if you obviously don’t even put any effort into making your German copy sound good?

Keep in mind that Germans are keen on good quality and willing to pay for it. So, you’re basically wasting a lot of potential for gaining loyal German customers, just because you wanted to save some money on good (human) web copy translations.

Using machine translation tools could prevent you from generating trust in your brand and products. Your brand’s reputation will be damaged faster than you can say Google Translate.

By using Google Translate you neglect the cultural background of your German audience

Remember that your German customers come from a different place. They have a different cultural background. They lead different lives, have different habits, eat different meals and have different conversations and hobbies. So, your High Tea web visuals might not resonate with them at all.

The cultural aspect is one of the most frequently neglected when businesses decide to go global. But at the same time, cultural knowledge is one of the most powerful tools (if not the most powerful tool) for reaching your customers abroad.

If you make the effort to learn about their culture and use that knowledge on your website, you will get the key to their hearts in no time. And if all this sounds like too much effort at the moment, here’s an easy solution: any human native German translator will do it for you. Cultural knowledge is part of their job description.

If you just use Google Translate to transfer your website into German, you’re squeezing your English-native perspective and cultural background into German words. It’s like handing your German customers a hotdog and expecting them to see a bratwurst – and buy it.

Google Translate simply can’t make the cultural adaptations that are essential to reach your new German audience.

With Google Translate you can’t address questions, fears and worries specific to your German customers

If you want your German customers to buy from you, you need to be able to address the questions, fears and worries they might have about your products.

And those can be quite different from your domestic customers, because – you guessed it – they have a different cultural background and come from a different region.

For example, Germans are rather risk-averse and keen to protect their personal data. And if your Google Translate website doesn’t reassure them that their data is safe with you because it simply wasn’t necessary on your English website, they might be hesitant to buy.

Also, remember that from their perspective you’re a business from abroad, and they’re probably a little unsure about how things are done and what to expect.

So, they might need some additional information specific to their region. This could be how long it will take until their parcel arrives in German, or whether they can email you in German and pay in Euros.

On the other hand, presenting them with a banner saying “free shipping across the UK”, even if it’s perfectly translated by Google, won’t be much use to them.

Summary

If you’re like most people, then Google Translate or similar machine translation tools might look like the obvious solution when you want to reach other markets with your website. It’s free, it’s fast and easy to use.

However, with a machine translation, chances are that you won’t reach your German marketing goals.

Your German website will sound odd to your German readers and might even cause them to make fun of it.

Also, the quality of your German web copy will mean your German audience draws conclusions about the quality of your products. And that can prevent your brand from standing out and gaining new customers.

Another thing that Google Translate simply can’t do, no matter how good the technology gets, is adapt your copy to the culture of your German audience.

And if you want to address questions, fears and worries unique to your German customers to make their purchasing decision easier, Google Translate won’t be very helpful either.

Instead, learn about your new German audience, find out what they want and need, try to use that information on your German website and, of course, partner with a human German translator.


By the way: I know, tackling your website in another language and for another audience can look like a huge amount of work. But you don’t have to do it alone.

I’d be delighted to help you with your German website with my 1:1 Website Package. In this 2-week coaching package we’ll get your English website ready for the German market, so that you can start attracting German customers and grow internationally.

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