Translate Your Website

Would you like to translate your website? The following information has been provided to assist you in this process.

Furthermore, you can find information about the English conventions and spelling used at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in our style guide. We use US American English on our website.

Understand your audience and their information needs

The target audience of our English-language website is international and has varying levels of English proficiency. Therefore, texts should be short and easy to read, and should be written with accessibility in mind.

Before you start translating, it is a good idea to think about your target audience:

  • What is the purpose of the text? (information, reputation, appeal)
  • Who am I translating for?
  • What interests and needs might my audience have?

The content of both the German and English websites is broadly aimed at all key target groups. However, it may be necessary to adapt the content of the English translation, for example if a service can only be used by a German-speaking audience.

Accordingly, it may even make sense to forego translating entire webpages that are either located deep within a website or do not receive a lot of internet traffic. In any case, there should be a corresponding page in English with the information about the lack of an English translation or with options for further reading.

Analyze the text structure

Although translators are naturally influenced by the source text, they should be aware of the most important elements of a successful website text in order to incorporate them into their translation.

A good online text holds the reader's attention from beginning to end and possesses the following attributes:

  • A good introduction, or teaser, that provides a clear overview of the topic in the first one or two sentences.
  • The text is well-structured by the use of subheadings, paragraphs, and bullet points.
  • The central message is clear.
  • The text addresses the reader directly.
  • It helps the reader to quickly find and understand important information.
  • A sort of "story" is weaved with the information provided, thereby evoking emotion.
  • Lastly, if applicable, it may contain a call to action.

A reader's attention span for text published on the internet is significantly shorter than that for printed text. The further readers advance to the end of a given text, the more they only scan for individual keywords. Therefore, texts on the web should always begin with important information.

Translate with the right tonality

Visitors to our university's website should feel welcome and want to read more. The right tonality reflects the character of our university: Open, diverse, knowledgeable, and authentic. The following recommendations and their categories apply specifically to the JGU's student web pages ("Portal Studium").

Therefore, try to use the following tonality:

  • Warm and welcoming
    Instead of: Orientation for first-year students will take place on...
    Write: We look forward to welcoming our first-year students at Orientation on... 
  • Competent and not too playful
    Instead of: Want to know more? Request info, it's easy!
    Write: Contact us if you have any questions, we are happy to help.
  • Engaging
    Instead of: Be sure to apply for admission by January 15th.
    Write: We look forward to receiving your application for admission by January 15th.
  • Positive
    Instead of: Do not forget to apply by the deadline.
    Write: Remember to apply by the deadline.
  • Clear and simple
    Instead of: Are you in the first semester and want to find out which introductory events you should attend?
    Write: Are you a first-year student and would like to know more about our Orientation Days?


  • Strongly negative wording (insufficient, weak, rejected)
  • Colloquial language (stuff, whatever, kinda)
  • Complicated, uncommon words (refectory, to obfuscate)
  • Discriminatory wording (like colored as opposed to person of color; invalid as opposed to disabled person; Indian in place of Native American; victim in lieu of person who has experienced…)
  • Strong adjectives (extremely, never, worst, ultimate)
  • Fillers (thing, really, basically, literally)
  • Abbreviations

In formal texts such as business correspondence, academic articles, or informational texts, contractions should generally be avoided. If the text is intended to convey a more relaxed, informal tone, such as in interviews or endorsements, the use of contractions like "it's", "you're", "that's", and "don't" is appropriate.

For more information about non-discriminatory and gender-inclusive language, see our style guide.

Customize headings

Especially in the case of headings, free translations sometimes yield better results.

A well-written headline engages the reader and keeps their attention. Therefore, headlines should:

  • Pique curiosity and encourage further reading
  • Be accurate and reasonable
  • Be short and clear (no longer than 50 characters)
  • Contain no abbreviations
  • Include keyword phrases (as long as SEO is applied - see below).

Heading examples:

Language is on everyone's lips
Researching, healing, saving lives

Why study at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz?
Where can I get more information?

Call for action:
Plan your career
Be part of our university!

Six steps to a place at university
How to apply for a student visa

Mobile readability must also be considered when translating web content, and this is especially the case when translating headings. As long as the meaning is not altered and the information is clear from the context, texts can be simplified or shortened for the sake of readability.

[…] Was lerne ich im Soziologiestudium?
[…] What will I learn?

For more information on capitalization rules in headings, see our style guide.

Search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization", which is a method ofoptimizing a website's internal structure and content for search engines. By applying good SEO practices in your translations, texts can be found more easily by search engines, thus attracting more traffic to your website.

The optimization of a website includes a number of different aspects such as the technical adaptation of a website to mobile devices or the number and quality of inbound links to a website. This section focuses solely on optimizing the translated text for search engines.

Unique translation

The most important feature of successful search engine optimization is a linguistically correct, well-structured text with its own unique style that appeals to the target audience. There should be no repetitive or recycled content. So-called "unique translations" offer the advantage of not only meeting the needs of your audience, but also the requirements of the search algorithm.

Machine translation is essentially a new compilation of existing content and does not yet produce a unique style from a single source. For this reason, we strongly advise against the use of machine translation for high-traffic websites. The reason for this is that search engines often do not recognize machine translations as high-quality content and, consequently, do not index them.


Provided you have the time, it may be worth researching keyword phrases before translating and incorporating them into the text. An example of a free keyword research tool is AnswerThePublic.