In the past few months, we were involved in localizing various websites targeting certain patient populations. These projects were all sponsored/run by big pharma and these websites all claim to provide useful information, e.g. for people interested in participating in clinical studies or supporting patient education on health problems.
After a while it became obvious that most of these websites contain highly SEO optimized content serving only one purpose: driving traffic to the pharma companies’ websites or their dedicated websites for given products/clinical studies.
Since these sites are extremely SEO optimized, which results in high rankings in the various search tools, they divert traffic from more impartial websites run e.g. by patient organizations.
Some might consider this a highly questionable trend in itself, but this is not my point.
The problem for me lies in the fact that huge parts of these web pages’ content seem to be created by marketing copy writers – it seems they’re given a list of SEO keywords, and they just have to produce page after page after page using these keywords.
Wrong and even dangerous contents
In contrast with what you would expect from a responsible pharma company, nobody seems to check this content, which results in statements such as:
- The objective in diabetes treatment is to achieve the lowest possible blood glucose level.
This is not only wrong, but also extremely dangerous, as this would cause hypoglycemic coma.
- The red blood cells transport oxygen to the lungs
This is plain wrong. The red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to the tissue.
- Hemoglobin transports the carbon dioxide to the lungs
I consider this statement as being incorrect too, since only 5-10 percent of the carbon dioxide is transported by hemoglobin.
These examples have been edited so that you can’t identify the respective websites, but their aim is to help you understand my point that these websites don’t even get the most basic medical facts right. Looking at more complex content, e. g. relating to cancer treatment, the situation isn’t any better.
Localization requires more than just translating contents
Another aspect of these websites solely created for SEO purposes, is that they really don’t care about the reader. Quite often you will find that:
- the only contact option they offer is a toll free phone number in the US (on the localized pages) which you can’t even contact from abroad,
- they only provide links to English sources such as patient organizations
- there are no literature references in the target languages.
What this means to the translation industry
As a language service provider, our role is to raise these issues with clients. We should not contribute to multiplying wrong or even dangerous content by translating it. We should also stress the fact that localization requires more than just translating the content.
By doing this we will not only help our clients by preventing costly legal actions if somebody gets harmed after following wrong instructions and by raising the quality of the content and giving the websites a more professional image. Badly localized websites also damage the reputation of our own industry, as many readers might believe it was the translator who introduced these errors.