Multilingual & Multi-Regional Web Site URL & Link Structures

Dec 21, 2010 • 11:18 am | comments (6) by twitter | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

A recent question posed at the Google Webmaster Central forum shows exactly how complex multi-language and multi-region sites can be to work with, in order to try and get the best localized results in Google. The poster has a somewhat unique situation, as he (she?) works with a Club finder Web site that has interests in multiple countries. In an example scenario, they want someone from Spain who is traveling in Germany to be able to find out about events at German clubs from a sub domain dedicated to Germany, but content written in Spanish.

Does using different subdomains (specifying in webmaster tools the country for each one of them) and folders for specifying languages is already ok ? We want google to index both, not treating them as duplicate, but knowing that each one, appart from being in the same language, are prepared for different countries.

Googler John Mu, who has provided sound advice this year to Webmasters seeking to translate content automatically and advising against using more than one language per page, has recommended that the poster consider using a canonical tag to help improve his rankings.

John comments that as long as he is using the proper geotargeting settings, the current use of similar content in multiple languages on different sub domains shouldn't be an issue. He feels that in some instances that the content should be tagged with canonical though.

The poster describes a scenario where a particular DJ might have a same page on every sub-domain. This likely would be close to duplicate content, and makes sense to canonicalize, especially if trying to rank for the DJs name. The drawback would be that the canonical version would have the best shot at ranking for the DJ, which leaves those sub domains/regions that are passing the value over unlikely to be able to rank as easily with the sub domain. Of course, the .com could rank in the specific ccTLD version of the search engine, but may have a handicap. And there is also the question of just how competitive the term is (is it a super well-known DJ or one of those guys with money that thinks he can spin?).

The rest of the content would be likely to be unique, since it describes events occurring in the specific country, although in different languages. I am curious to see how it would compete if someone was to do a search in their native language but in the search engine ccTLD specific to the country they are visiting. Does anyone have that experience?

Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments below or at the Google Webmaster Help Forums.

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12/21/2010 04:28 pm

Is it advisable to use directories like 'en' and 'de' and put all the relative content on them or subdomains for the alternate version of my site is the best option here ? Thank you!


12/22/2010 04:33 pm

I would hope that Google has figured this out by now, I do believe they have. If you set up your url structure in an organized fashion such as using sub domains for each different language although I do believe that with Google Analytics allowing you to use different domain extensions this would be a better way to separate the different languages while tracking it all in one single Google Analytics account. Once they can verify that you own both, for example: Google should choose to reflect your .de version in their google . de search engine and your English version in their .com search engine. I have ran a few tests searching from different language versions of Google and have found this to support my theory. I bet they treat it as the same website in one way or another once they know you own both (or all like domain . com, domain. co .uk, domain . de, domain . it, etc.) extensions. I do not believe their to be a problem with duplicate content in this case as Google is not going to translate it while they crawl it too!


12/24/2010 04:20 pm

I would check for an option to dedicate ccLTD's for each targeted country/webpage & 301 redirect the old sub domains. If there isn't a financial issue with purchasing lots of new local domains, it can save a lot of time & affort.

Thoms Alice

12/28/2010 12:00 pm

Is it best practice to have URLs in local language? Will it improve ranking??

Barry Schwartz

12/28/2010 12:19 pm

If it was me, I'd try to buy the ccTLD of the country I am targeting and put that content on that domain only.

Ani Lopez

12/29/2010 08:19 am


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