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Automatic translation vs Machine translation explained

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A question that we’re frequently asked is whether or not our translation solution makes use of automatic translation. In short, yes it does. However, despite popular belief, automatic translation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s not the only type of translation we incorporate in our solution. 

We here at Weglot think that automatic translation gets a bad rap and so we’ve decided to explain it a bit more in depth so you can make an educated decision when deciding on a translation solution that’s suitable for your needs. 

What is automatic translation?

A common misconception is that automatic translation is the same thing as machine translation. According to the Globalization and Localization Authority (GALA), machine translation, by definition, refers to “fully automated software that can translate source content into target languages”. So, MT technologies include providers like Google and Yandex Translate, Microsoft Translator, DeepL etc.

While automatic translation encompasses this process, with reference to automatic translation by Weglot we are talking about much more than translating the content from one language to another. When we talk about automated translation, we encompass the whole experience the Weglot platform provides including not only the translation of your content, but also the managing of this content, the SEO capabilities of our solution, and the publishing of the translated content – all automatically on your live site. 

How does automatic translation work with Weglot?

Firstly, Weglot is compatible with any CMS and has over 100 language options to choose from. Our automatic translation process can be broken down into the following subcategories.

Automatic Detection & Translation

Once you’ve integrated Weglot, it automatically detects ALL the content on your site, including posts, pages, and content generated by other plugins you may be using. Then, when you’ve chosen the original language of your site and the destination language(s), Weglot then provides a first layer of machine translation by default. So basically, the Weglot solution draws on a number of different translation providers including DeepL, Microsoft, Yandex, and Google Translate. The translation tool that is used will depend on the language pairing you select, guaranteeing you get the most accurate tool for a given language pair.

Automatic multilingual SEO 

At the same time, your newly translated pages are automatically indexed following Google best practices for multilingual SEO. So while in theory, translating your website into multiple languages will help boost traffic and sales, customers still need to be able to discover your translated pages in the first place. 

Thus by translating not only your visible website content, but also things like metadata and hreflang tags, your newly translated pages will be ranked higher on search engine result pages (SERPS) and will help potential customers searching online to easily discover your content and products.

Automatic publishing

Your newly translated web pages will then be automatically published on your live site, and website visitors will be able to alternate between your language options via a language switcher that is automatically integrated onto your live site. 

French/ English language switcher

Why use machine translation? 

Of course, one of the main drawbacks associated with machine translation is the question of accuracy and is why many people immediately think human translations are the best option. While not yet at 100% faultless, machine translation is shown to be improving in accuracy, and the reality is that for most companies this can be a great choice. 

Firstly, machine translation can save you a lot of time. Of course, the accuracy of the machine translation is dependent on the language pair chosen and how developed and proficient that translation tools are for that specific pair. But say, as a ballpark estimate that the translation is good 80% of the time, all you need to do is get a professional translator to verify and edit the translations accordingly. 

Say you’re an established company with thousands of web pages to translate, starting from scratch on such a project would be unwise to say the least. By getting a first layer of automatic machine translations you’re accelerating the process towards making your website multilingual.

Furthermore, from a financial perspective this choice is a huge consideration to make. If you’re hiring a professional translator to start from scratch and work on copious amounts of web pages, the bill you’ll rack up will likely be astronomical. Whereas if you start with a first layer of machine translation and then bring in human translators to make adjustments where necessary both their workload and your bill will be significantly reduced. 

A good compromise or middle-ground for companies such as this is to incorporate a mixture of both automatic and human translation. So, you may choose, for example, to get human-verified translations for the most important pages on your website (homepage, checkout, pricing, legal info) and use automatic translation for less important pages. This will save you both time, unnecessary stress, and money. 

Finally from an SEO perspective, machine translation is also a good safety net to have. Say you have thousands of pages and forget to translate one, this can be problematic as Google can penalize sites with mixed languages SERP rankings. However, once you’ve used machine translation with Weglot you won’t have to worry about this as 100% of your content will be translated and the different language versions of your site will be separated by different subdomains.


  • English →
  •  French →

Building upon your machine translation

While we’re big advocates for machine translation here at Weglot, we also think it’s good practice to either verify the translations yourself or to work with professional translators to verify and guarantee the translation quality.

This is why we’ve teamed up with vetted professional translators to ensure you have ease of access to such a service. You can order professional translations or verifications from your Weglot dashboard and have everything checked and adjusted within 48-72 hours, allowing you to focus on other parts of your business. 

Another important aspect of our automatic translation solution is the ability to manage your own translations and have them automatically updated on your live site via either your Weglot translations list on your dashboard, or directly on your live site via our intuitive in-context editor. 

screenshot of the Weglot visual editor

On the Weglot dashboard, you can also collaborate with other members of your team and work together when verifying translations. You can even add specific language rules that will be applied automatically all over your site. For example, say you’re translating from English to French and you want your site to have an informal tone. You may set a language rule to always translate “Hello” to “Salut” as opposed to “Bonjour”. You can also choose to never translate certain words, for example, your brand name.

add a translation rule

Wrapping Up

So, in short, yes, Weglot does use automatic translation, but as we’ve just seen, the short version doesn’t always do things justice. To recap, let’s remind ourselves of the following: 

Automatic translation is not equal to machine translation

Weglot’s automatic translation solution incorporates multilingual SEO, translating your websites content, managing it, and publishing it

Automatic translation is a smart choice for many companies in terms of both time and cost 

With Weglot, complementary translation options are available after the first layer of machine translation

In reality, Weglot does much more than traditional ‘’automatic’’ translation and enables organizations to accelerate their move towards multilingual websites and cross-border success. When it comes to expanding and reaching new global markets, let Weglot’s solution smoothen the journey. 

Why not try out Weglot’s 10-day free trial to see for yourself how easy-going multilingual can be.

About the author
The best way to understand the power of Weglot is to see it for yourself. Get your website multilingual live in minutes.
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