Rapid bulk translation in Excel with the Google Translate API

I often come across the need to create a large data set from websites that don’t use English language content.

Most often, the translate-at-some-kind-of-scale-cheaply challenge occurs when I’m building product feeds, adding new products to one of my retail sites or rewriting product copy at some sort of scale (genuinely, a favourite task of mine).

Translation is hard. That’s because most often you need something translating in a subject that you understand very well, but a translation agency does not. Translation can be expensive, slow and relationships need vetting and cultivating to become effective.

Time and time again, I’ve found it’s more efficient to just do the work yourself. Today I want to demonstrate how easy it is to:

  1. Programmatically translate content, and
  2. Rewrite the (bad) English that comes out

Some of this work is time intensive, but I think up to a medium scale (in the thousands of items) one person can do this work over the period of an intense few days.

My demonstration uses MS Excel and the SEO Tools for Excel Google Translate Connector. You could have a developer write a script to execute a translation to CSV, but I suspect in the end Excel is where you’ll inevitably end if you’re rewriting product data as I do in this demo.

Get a Google API Key

You’ll need a Google API key. Sign in with your Google Account, create a project, enable the Translate API and then copy your new API key ready to add to SEO Tools for Excel.

To get started, head to the Google API console and create a project:

After the project has saved (this takes 30 seconds or so) you can select your new project.

After you’ve selected your new project, enable the translate API by finding it in the API Library.

You’ll get a select credentials dialogue. Ignore all of this and just click the “API Key” link.

Your API key is now generated. Copy it and get ready to move to SEO Tools for Excel.

Add your Google API Key to SEO Tools for Excel

The Google Translate feature in SEO Tools for Excel can be found here: Others > Language > Google Translate.

Just click Translate:

Now insert your API key using the settings link in the left hand dialogue and you’re ready to go:

Execute a translation

Before you go ahead and start using the translator, I think it’s good to adjust your http settings to avoid hitting any request limits on large datasets. I’ve accidentally DDOS’d sites with scrapers in SEO Tools because by default, it can send a lot of requests at the same time!

Play nice by adding a random ms delay between requests via Settings > Global HTTP Settings.

Now you’re ready to go. Add a column next to your target text for translation, and paste in this formula:


The translation will now run. Here’s one I ran earlier. It’s surprisingly fast and, as I keep telling people, SEO Tools for Excel is so well made these days that you can go to another tab and keep working while this is running:

For more on the syntax of the query, read the official support from SEO Tools for Excel here.

And finally, the rewrite

Obviously the translated output isn’t beautiful, but it takes almost no time to rewrite the outcome nicely:

This output:

“Allows the driver complete freedom of movement of the head for an unrestricted side view. Retrofit of any FHR system possible. The length 18 ” is installed by default on all Medium and Large models. For helmets shorter straps can be used because the clips are located farther back of the helmet. Kit for upgrading a FHR system to the moveable tether system includes mounting brackets, washers with washers, tether, and complete instructions.”

I can immediately edit to make more readable, user friendly and turn it into better product copy more easily than (in my opinion) a translator who might be unfamiliar with my business could.

My argument is obviously in favour of machine translation with human editing. While it wouldn’t be an appropriate solution to say, translating legal text or literature, machine translation definitely has it’s uses.

In any case, this method is probably a time saver for a lot of our readers. You might not agree, of course so your thoughts are extremely welcome!

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