Google: Do Not Force Users To A Specific Language

Aug 10, 2012 • 8:11 am | comments (7) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

google multilingualGoogle top guy on localization and internationalization at Google Search, Christopher Semturs, spoke out on one of his pet peeves when it comes to this topic.

He said, he hates it when web sites give him a language and keep him in that language based on his IP. He said:

I encountered quite a few web pages which forced me to a specific language without giving me an option to change this, e.g. by trying to guess the language from my location (and sadly, sometimes guessing it wrong).

Christopher didn't just complain, he decided to outline the main things SEOs and webmasters should consider when deploying sites with multiple languages. He wrote:

  • Verify that your page always returns content for all users, e.g. does not crash for GoogleBot (no Accept-Language header) or on unexpected user settings.
  • Make sure that each language is available under it’s own specific URL (e.g. showing content in German).
  • On the main page, provide links to the language-specific URLs, e.g. as a language switcher somewhere on the page. Pro-Tip: Use symbols (flags), or write the language names in their native language.
  • For search engines, add the rel-alternate-hreflang annotations.

He ended saying that if you follow these recommendations it will make him personally happy but also "allow search engines to see all language variations of your web page."

Forum discussion at Google+.

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08/10/2012 10:17 pm

Oh yeah and what about Google itself ? It's almost mandatory to use if you don't want to use the local langage of the country one is located in.


08/11/2012 09:36 am

Trying to stop google search localizing the language based on IP address in chrome is like trying to milk a Gnat. Google do a lot of preaching but fail oh so often to eat their own dog food. It's always a case of do as I say and not as I do with google. They really do own the internet.

Alistair Lattimore

08/11/2012 12:40 pm

Another user experience tip is to make your language switching functionality keep the user on the same language equivalent URL. Often that functionality ends up switching the user to the home page, forcing the user to navigate their way back into their existing page in their new language.


08/12/2012 07:06 am

I have similar trouble with google search permanently. It detect your location by ip and if you travelling or living in another country - you not able to change it.


08/13/2012 01:08 pm

There should be a language sitemap to submit just like there is a mobile sitemap.


08/13/2012 07:23 pm

Interesting because Google does the exact opposite when you are in another country. So its very hypocritical of Google to tell you something and do something else. If you are in and try to go to it wont let you. Dont believe anything Google a brand and careless what Google forces you to do. Google = Evil Corporate

Christopher Semturs

08/13/2012 09:14 pm

Couple of answers combined: - whenever you type in and get redirected (which is useful for most people), you have a way to express your preference for ' itself' by pressing on the link in the lower right corner. Chrome itself (like other clients) shortcuts this redirect for user latency reasons by pre-fetching that preference. You can disable this by setting your own search engine in the Chrome Settings of course. @twitter-116685175:disqus There is a language sitemap option available, via the hreflang annotation -

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