I’ve noticed that little start-up 2 years ago when they started advertizing their new website: FoxTranslate.com on Google AdWords. AdWords was an already hyper-competitive marketplace where cost per click for a simple text ad could exceed $3 or more. Competing in such environment is hard, if you consider that most of the clicks you get are from freelance translators looking for work or from competing translation agencies who are “just looking”. But VC baked folks from FoxTranslate thought they could “outfox” the establishment and disrupt our online businesses with lower rates or better websites. Certified translation was always the least desirable type of work someone could imagine doing, so most people I know of either don’t offer it or do it for a very hefty price like: $99 per page or even more. But, FoxTranslate seemed to be different. Well, let’s see how.
FoxTranslate overtly advertizes its rates per page to be only $33 (was $29/page). This seems low if you know what usually goes into column “expenses”. Such things are not only limited to paying a linguist a certain portion (usually $10-20 per page), there also goes project management factor, i.e. someone overseeing the project, making all final changes, goes back and forth with a customer over an email or a phone. Then, if the shipping is requested, someone needs to obtain a notary public signature (trip to a notary(unless you are just playing with Photoshop!)), then print out the docs, buy a stamp and mail it out (trip to the post office). All these little steps make this type of project very unprofitable. If you consider two types of scenarios: one client places a job for $33 where you make a profit of $10; and another client pays $800 where you make a profit of $400. In both cases, you spend an equal amount of your time and clients receive an equal amount of attention. What is better? If there are only 8 hours in a day, what would you rather be doing? Serving certified projects or working with business clients? Right!
So, FoxTranslate thought they could simply penetrate the translation market, i.e. get some business references if they try to tackle the low end of the business and perform low paying projects for college students, immigrants and patients. Thus, they’ve built a large website and here comes our second point:
Search Engine Optimization is an interesting thing in translation industry. If individual freelancers go with simple profile pages on Proz.com where they list all their references and expertise, translation agencies, on the other hand, are “fishing” web traffic by spreading their limbs far and thin. For example, Babylon.com has made a huge template generated site using every iteration of type of language and a keyword: “translation”. By permutating all possible combinations, this gave them 10,000+ possible landing pages. Similarly, FoxTranslate has built something with certified as a keyword. They permutated such words as “diploma”, “translate” and a type of language, say: “Romanian”. Thus when someone innocent is searching online for “translate a Romanian diploma”, their landing page comes high enough to attract attention. When you also add such keywords as “transcript”, “certificate”, “passport” or even a place or a city, you can easily end up with a huge website, full of landing pages. I presume over 10,000 pages too. Thus, gigantic website is a new norm if you want to compete!
But, why FoxTranslate.com has changed its name to Rev.com? The most evident version is going “enterprisy”. Like I said previously, it is fun to entertain yourself in the beginning with certified translations when you don’t know anything about this industry, but it gets boring after a while, and in case of VC-funded situation, a negative or negligible ROI. Thus, the easiest way to go about it is to hit few “million dollar projects” from Fortune 500 companies and pay back their backers in full. That’s the trick. How this will work out for them? Most companies start in a similar fashion: from low to high, from bottom to the top, but would a huge website with a translation rate of $0.12/word do the trick? No. Until other competitors exist who offer it for $0.07/word, Rev.com won’t see any progress despite their robust AdWords and natural SEO placement.