To Blog or Not to Blog – Translation & Interpreting Blog Survey Results (Part 2)

Back in 2013, when I first started My Words for a Change on Blogger (before moving to WordPress in 2015), the pressure on freelance translators and interpreters to blog was quite intense. We were constantly being told that blogging was a must for marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purposes and to attract clients (as we learned in Part 1 of these results). I felt positively guilty for months because I had nothing to say (hard to believe now, I know, because once I started, I couldn’t stop) and felt that launching myself into the blogosphere was quite scary.

Judging by the responses to the translation & interpreting blog survey, I’m not alone in feeling compelled to blog:

Because we were ‘told’ we ‘had’ to to increase our visibility, initially. After that I thought I had something to say to other translators and/or clients. Just never got much return on my blogs that I know of in terms of boosting my business.

Because many big-name translators used to advise blogging as a form of marketing and SEO.

When I started freelance translating I heard you need a blog.

SEO consultant advised me to.

It was supposed to be good for business.

It’s not just colleagues’ marketing advice that has persuaded us to blog. MA programmes in translation and interpreting have been telling their students they should blog and some even start while they are still studying:

We were told to do so at University.

However, as quite a few respondents pointed out, persuading people that blogging is a must for business can have negative consequences:

I’ve learnt a lot of helpful things from translation blogs but feel too many translators accepted the “thou shallt blog” dictum without having anything new to say, hence the number of dormant blogs around.

It does seem like everyone having been told to “blog, blog, blog” created a bit of a surplus. The information out there can be a bit overwhelming and repetitive, especially when non-experts are blogging because they feel that they have to. But at the same time, I do enjoy a lot of content that I find!

Blogs are quite time-consuming to produce. I wrote mine once a week for two years but last year I cut it down to once a month because of other commitments. I think there’s also a sense now among translators that many subjects have been covered very thoroughly and that there isn’t much new to say, which might explain the disappearance of some blogs.

Blogs can be really interesting and thought provoking, but only if they’re well written and properly researched and structured. Some feel like dialed-in, off-the-top-of-the-head waffle to tick off the ‘requirement’ to have a blog as part of a marketing plan, not because there’s any interest in the craft of translation per se.

I wasn’t expecting so many respondents to answer ‘Yes’ to this question. Either blogging’s more popular than I think or the survey mostly attracted bloggers.

Thinking that a blog will be good for business is not the only reason why people start writing one. For many, it’s a great opportunity to practise writing and improve their skills:

Because I like writing about translation, as well as other things. My main blog is not strictly about translation only. It is about whatever I feel like writing, and its true purpose is to train me to write shorter sentences.

I write about literature, but since I’m a literary translator many of my blog posts are about translated literature. It was recommended as a way to practise writing for the world, and it works. I find myself trying hard to make a post interesting, even if it’s short, pretending that this is a piece of literature that might impress a publisher.

For others, it’s a chance to give back to the community. And by putting your thoughts and information in one place, you can: a) store it for your own use (which is what I do with my Useful Links page, for example); and b) direct colleagues to one of your posts rather than endlessly repeating yourself in forums (definitely guilty of this too):

For people to get to know more about translation and to share my experiences with other translators.

In order to share my knowledge and position myself as an industry expert.

I wanted to make my ideas and information available and store them.

To get some peace from people bothering me constantly for solutions.

Because I was fed up repeating myself in discussions.

I had students and colleagues who requested information on specific topics.

Felt I wanted to give something back and wanted to write what I wanted for a change.

My blog is mainly about the tech, practical side of translation, so I wanted to document and share my own discoveries.

Some just love the buzz they get from hitting that publish button:

I never thought to enjoy writing so much. It’s like a drug: I feel high when I write.

Starting a blog can also be a response to filling a perceived gap in the blogosphere:

Because back then there were many blogs for translators. None for interpreters.

Another issue is who to blog for: colleagues or clients (some solve this dilemma by running two blogs). The survey received a wide range of comments on this topic:

Because I wanted to anticipate questions from clients, or address issues clients have with translation projects. I pursue a persuasive, not know-it-all, tone.

My aim was a more client-oriented blog as a means of showing my expertise in their specialist domain.

My sense is that a lot of other translators realize over time that you can’t write a blog for other translators and expect translation clients to find you via that route. You have to either write for clients, or sell products or services that freelance translators would want to buy. Otherwise, I think blogging becomes a very time-intensive hobby after a while.

Because I felt the need to share the pros and cons, the ups and downs of the profession with fellow translators (blog 1, aimed at translators and checkers), and because I believe in the advantages of content marketing (blog 2, aimed at clients) for attracting more clients and ensuring they see I am an expert in the fields I provide language services in.

I think that a blog is productive only if you clearly know who are you talking to. Colleagues or clients? No one cares about your personal stuff and mixing up networking with new client’s search is a bad idea, IMHO.

I think translation blogs are somewhat redundant. If their motivation is SEO strategy then surely they should be about customer-related topics in the translation source language. I instinctively feel that writing about translation issues for other translations is uninteresting and there is little new to say.

I consider blogging with the main idea of attracting clients to be silly, even when it does work out that way. For me, it is simply the most efficient means of sharing information and reducing burdensome contacts.

I don’t think potential clients assess your skills based on the fact that you’re running a blog (which most of times can’t read as they don’t speak the same language). I would say testimonials may drive clients to your business instead.

How we blog is not only changing, but should perhaps shift even further:

I notice quite a few translation blogs are done through blogspot, Tumblr, etc. I don’t think these are as beneficial as having a blog on your own professional website in terms of getting work from clients. How you blog is just as important as what.

I see some translator bloggers adopting video and/or podcast format now, but still blogging: sometimes a blog article includes a 5-min video and, below it, a short description of what the video is about in case you prefer reading instead of watching. I think long blog posts belong to the past. Nowadays, there seems to be a transition towards storytelling and/or short, less than 2-min reads when it comes to blogging.

Blogs have always been simply a channel, a means of signalling business characteristics such as reputation, expertise, etc., across time and space at a scale that was – at one time – unmatched. However it is important to note that blogging as a medium has evolved enormously over the past 5 years. The blog is no longer an emerging or new technology, and other platforms have since emerged which offer similar or improved signalling opportunities for small businesses. As a result, blogging no longer functions in the same way it used to: online reader expectations have changed enormously, for example, so if translators want to achieve the kind of results that were achieved in the past, they’ll have to up their game. I haven’t seen that happen, so I would be surprised if many translators were finding it useful as a business tool.

Of course, if you don’t want the hassle of running a blog, or you think it’s a waste of time, money and energy, that doesn’t mean you cannot write an article occasionally. And, of course, this could also provide you with valuable exposure, give you an opportunity to network with colleagues and even help you reach out to clients:

Instead of maintaining a blog, I prefer to write occasionally for the ITI Bulletin or the ITI FrenchNet magazine Au Courant. If I want to get something else out there, I write LinkedIn articles as it doesn’t look too bad if I don’t post there regularly.

Guest blogs are a great way to get to know fellow translators and strengthen the circle of “like-minded folk”. This mutual support cannot be underestimated in a profession which is demanding and, by nature, relatively solitary.

On that note, if you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please get in touch.

In Part 3 of the survey results, we look at what readers like reading about and why 15% of the respondents don’t take any notice of blogs at all.

10 thoughts on “To Blog or Not to Blog – Translation & Interpreting Blog Survey Results (Part 2)

  1. Interesting views so far, despite the low response rate! It seems that a lot of translators have been told “start a blog and your popularity will soar” and have then been disappointed that it hasn’t yielded many results.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve found that one or two of my blog posts have massively increased clickthroughs to my website on Google, but haven’t necessarily led to work. It’s also hard not to repeat what’s already been said in the translation world, so I think that running surveys and guest series like you do is a great idea!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Bit late to catch up, but I remember thinking at the time, and your remarks about Q5 support this view, that one or two questions could usefully have had more options. You’ve got current and ex bloggers lumped together in Q5, for example. As you say, the survey was likely to attract people with some interest in blogging & its effects, so the numbers are probably somewhat skewed anyway, but if the idea was to get some feeling of whether blogging was in decline (which was my impression of the survey’s purpose), then a split could have been an idea. It’s probably generally better to offer more options and decide to merge responses when reporting on results, than to realise later that one has not provided a wide enough range. There again, this could just be the similarly skewed view of an ex-blogger (or at least very dormant) not wanting to be counted as a current blogger 🙂

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  3. Hi Charlie, unfortunately, some people shared the survey on social media as only targeting bloggers, which will have had an impact on the results.
    I think I did provide plenty of options for people to explain their individual cases. I certainly didn’t want to put people off answering because the survey proved too long for them. And in all honesty, in this part of the survey, I was primarily interested in the responses to questions 8 & 9 (Do you update your translation and/or interpreting blog on a regular basis (at least once every six weeks)? & If you answered ‘no’ to question 8, could you explain why you don’t update your blog regularly?) rather than 5, 6 and 7. That’s also why questions 5 and 6 only appear in the results as images. I don’t intend to discuss them further.
    The fourth and final part of the survey results will examine questions 8 & 9 in more detail.
    Sorry I didn’t manage to please everyone, but you know that’s impossible, right? 🙂

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