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English site for Belgian market
How to make clear it's a Belgian site?

 1:22 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

1) Right now I'm optimalizing a site (which is a .com) for a client of mine.
The content of the site is English but I want to make sure this site is also shown in the SERP in Google.be.

I've added: <META HTTP-EQUIV="content-language" CONTENT="nl,be"> but now I'm not sure if this tag reflects on the language of the content or on the origin of the website...

So, is there a way I can 'prove' this is a Belgian site?

2) What happens if the site is hosted in let say the US? Will the site also show up in the Google.be SERP?

Thank you in advance.




 1:28 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

<title> Widgets and Waffles... Belgium's top producer and local distributor of Belgian Widgits and Waffles.


 1:31 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

1 for "vitaplease" methinks, and no doubt he will be along shortly to explain.

I assume you want to show up when people in belgium are clicking the "pagina's uit BelgiŽ" button?



 1:42 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

== Mat, i indeed did incorporate the word "Belgium" in the title and tags of some pages.
But these will only show up if the searcher used "Belgium" in his search phrase...

== Shakil
"I assume you want to show up when people in belgium are clicking the "pagina's uit BelgiŽ" button? "

Yes, this is what I would like. And the fact the site is in English and not hosted in Belgium I'm a bit concerned.



 1:53 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

If you really want to target a different European country then you need at least part of your site in the native language.

Yes you could get traffic from people in Belgium searching for English terms, but to get into google.be your site may need to be hosted in Belgium (NOT sure on this though).


 2:04 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think in an ideal world, you will need the site translated into Dutch or French.

as there is NO "belgian" language (not that I know of)



 2:09 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

If a site is in English and hosted outside of Belgium, why should Google put it down as a site from Belgium?

Google does all sorts of stuff, some of it pretty weird, at the moment to determine which sites to show under local searches. To further complicate matters different local Googles act differently.
Belgian nameserver would be an option, yes.
The meta lang is not an option, or shouldn't be at least.
After all, your site simply is not belgian in any way, right?


 2:13 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)


Google has a problem in assigning a multi-lingual tag to a page.

It chooses, and that has little to do with the given language tag.


For the moment within Google, you are best off having multiple language tld's and keeping one language per page. It leads to an inflation of domains, but seemingly thats how Google wants it at this time..

I could imagine this leads to frustration, not only with webmasters of multi-lingual countries such as Belgium and Switzerland, but also with webmasters of countries where English is used very often (such as Holland and the Scandinavian countries).


 2:19 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Vitaplease, the site is in English, if I read Ambiorix right. It does not belong in "pagina's uit BelgiŽ"...
It's not hosted in Belgium, the language is english. Google gives the choice of results in all languages from all countries and results from Belgium. Results from Belgium are sites hosted in Belgium, I should assume.

Since Belgium has three main languages Google does not offer the additional option: "results in Belgian language", as it does in Germany for example.
Even than Ambiorix site wouldn't belong in there.


 2:39 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Heini, your right, I misread the first post, its not multi-lingual content.

However, I do not see why an English site might not be considered as Belgian.
(not considering how difficult that might be to implement)

If I would make a site devoted to expats in Belgium in English, why could it not turn up in results from Belgium?

Google does offer an option for pages in "Nederlands" and the other official Belgian languages depending on the chosen Google.be language interface, as it suprisingly also does in "English" for Google.be. The latter was new to me.

Prabably meant for the many expat European commision people in Brussels..


 9:03 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

In a way everybody who replied is kinda right.

The site is plain English because the client wants to advertise in Belgium (because the company is located in Belgium) but also wants to make it's name international.

The theme is a topic in which English is the best appropriate language... Some particular sentences can't be translated in Dutch.

Here in Belgium we have 3 official languages: dutch, french and german. But many big companies' websites are written in english. Americans can't imagine what it is to create a website in 4 languages :-)

== Vitaplease: your remark about the expats is almost right :-)

1) So, if I add one page in dutch, one in french, one in german and all the rest in english.... will I still be in Google.be?

2) Can I safely drop the language tag?

Many thanx for your responds!



 9:36 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ambiorix, here is a little information on the Language META Tag...

From the W3C - Primary Language in HTML [w3.org]

In HTML elements, the lang attribute specifies the natural language.

From my research, the tag is only to be used when the language of the document is something other than the HTTP "Content-Language" header configured at the server level.

If the content-language is en (English) from the server level and I have a translated page that is in Swedish for example, I will include a META...

<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="sv">

...in my <head></head> to override the default content="en" coming from the server settings. I do this because that is what the W3C recommends and they (the W3C) also give some other interesting tidbits of information about the language meta tag. ;)

Please someone jump in here and correct me if I'm mistaken. This is how I understand the tag to work and I surely would not want to provide any misinformation on the subject.

By the way, for those you following this thread...

All 2-letter tags are interpreted according to ISO standard 639, "Code for the representation of names of languages" [ISO 639].

ISO 639 2 Letter Country Codes [w3.org]

[edited by: pageoneresults at 9:41 pm (utc) on Jan. 12, 2003]


 9:37 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Here in Belgium we have 3 official languages: dutch, french and german
Does that mean 'Flemish' is an unofficial language? Many Belgians I have met insist that their language is Flemish and certainly not Dutch.
Just asking to confirm.


 9:44 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

As to the language tag Pageoneresults has it nailed.
From my experience it's not needed for any major engine to determine the content language, but I nevertheless recommend using it, especially in cases where other factors, like pages in the site in different languages, hosting in other countries etc come into play.

Anyway, as you say, language can not be the decisive factor for inclusion in results from Belgium, otherwise all french, german, and above all, all english pages were in.
So I'd suggest hosting/nameserver is the decisive factor. Perhaps you should change nameservers?


 9:58 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

"Flemish and certainly not Dutch. "


Flemish is for people. Nederlands is for language. AFAIK

(lets discuss the META TAG again. *grin*)


 10:05 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

the SERP are the same for .com or .be or .ca - provided the search is done as default...


 11:59 pm on Jan 12, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ambiorix, (BTW - your name sounds like your live Brussels/Shuman :) Am I right?)
I have some good news for you.
I have some sites which are in English, with .com domain names and hosted in US however they ARE in the SERPS when your search at google.be on relevant keywords.
I think the reason for that is that word "Belgium" as such is on many pages on the site which somehow tells Google that this site might be interested for Belgian surfer and sence must be reachable through google.be.
So I think eventually Google will recognise that your site is Belgian. How to make it happen sooner - I agree - is a completely different question.



 2:43 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe it helps:

My site is in english, hosted in Germany, actuall server location is Norway.

Meta language description on all my pages is:
<meta http-equiv="Content-Language" content="en-gb"> (english United Kingdom)

My site is listed in Google.be (and every other Google domain).

During the last three month Google.com sent 17,600 visitors while Google.be sent 476 visitors (Google.de = 2,009; Google.uk = 1,720;Google.ca = 1,667; Google.fr = 613;Google.nl = 413; Google.it = 338; Google.ch = 285; etc. lowest is Google.kr = 26)

Might be, I am loosing a lot of visitors because they don't find me if they have "native language only" set on their Google preferences, but from my experience, My site is available wherever Google is available (incld. China).

BTW: same goes for MSN, Yahoo, Fast, Inktomi, Teoma, etc...

(server location is Norway because Norway is NOT part of the European Union, leaving a little backdoor in case any "smart" lawyer needs some extra cash - sue me in Norway? - Good luck ;-) )


 4:05 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

>... the site is in English and not hosted in Belgium I'm a bit concerned.

I have a client with both a .com and a .be who ranks
well for google.be (paginas uit Belgie) searches.

His site used to be in English (front page) with a link
to the Dutch version of the site on the front page.

We changed this around (made front page Dutch with
a link to English site) and his .be domain is doing well.
No too many hits from google.be on the .com while
they are nothing but CNAME's (DNS pointers).

I would suggest going with Dutch on the front page
and a .be domain. Link to other language versions
from there.

Note that we only have one (1) client who fits this
profile, so your milage may vary greatly.


 5:07 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I find this question interesting as I don't believe language can have nothing to do with it whatsoever.. consider a site in Australia, Canada or the UK: they both speak english (and have many cultural groups in them that speak other languages too).

The way I see it there would be three ways of excluding sites from an index based on country:
1) domain name: .com.au is australian
2) server location
3) checking individual sites

I definately don't think it's the first option that G uses, because I know of a .com.au site that is listed in google.com's normal results, but not listed as a 'site in australia' (I find this ridiculous personally)..

The second option seems a strange way to go, considering a large portion of sites in Australia are hosted in the US or India or anywhere for that matter.
The site I have referred to is actually hosted with an Australian company, that uses server space in the US!

The third option seems like a lot of work and not the kind of thing that Google would do: after all, it's not designed as a directory.. just an SE.

Looks to me like the second criteria is being used. (is there a US google that my site would show up under?)

some examples of strange results in australia's google:
-1st page results for search term "australia", include Ansett Airlines (went bust last year and doesn't fly anymore).
- Australia.com (official australian tourism site), is not listed under australian results..


 5:42 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Since your site is in English, but deals with something regional to another country, it will probably qualify for a listing somewhere in the [dmoz.org...] hierarchy of the Open Directory Project. (Assuming your site actually has content and isn't just an affiliate page, etc...) Don't submit it literally to that category, but explore around and submit to the most appropriate sub-category.

I don't know if Google will specifically take that into account or not, but it might help.

Slightly OT ODP reminder:
- [dmoz.org...] is for sites *in English* about specific locations,
- [dmoz.org...] is for sites *in other languages*,
- [dmoz.org...] is for sites *in other languages* about specific locations.

For example, a site that's in Dutch and is about Japan goes here: [dmoz.org...]

Hope this helps...


 7:19 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am in a very similar situation at the moment. I have a site hosted in the US, but we are in Australia, and now that google.com.au is online, I would really like to see our results for Australia as high as they are in the world wide search. But they are not there at all, even though we also maintain a .com.au domain of exactly the same name. I am assuming google, who has visited both .com and .com.au, has written off the .com.au as duplicate content, or something like that. Currently all links direct the user to .com, as that is where the ordering is done. My solution (now that I'm back to work as of today ;() is to modify the links in the .au so that they only point to the .com at the last minute, when a customer is ready to order, and exclude that page with robots.txt. Hopefully, with some minor content changes, and without the trillion links pointing to .com, google will treat the .au domain seperately, and hopefully (fingers crossed ;)) I can get into the Australia Only results.


 8:23 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

I want to thank everybody who responded on my questions :-)

This is what I will do:
1) Try to convince the client to place the hosting in Belgium.
2) Also convince him to buy the xyz.be and create a dutch/french site.
3) The placement in DMOZ under World/Europe/Belgium/abc is also a very good idea. I can't hurt anyway and I was planning to do so but did not make the link with my problem.

As a sidenote, I have the impression that Google hasn't put the language problem on the top shelf. I'm not a technician myself but why can't Google create their proper Meta Tags which can't be manipulated?
e.g. <Meta Google-country="be">

Anyway, many thanks to you all! :-)



 8:52 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Scrap what I said. Missed the end of the thread.



 9:08 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

sue me in Norway? - Good luck

And I thought that the EEA provided for easy enforcement of court decisions within the EEA.



 9:16 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

Back to the topic: Think about it, what option is there to define locality for a spidering engine, besides hosting?

For some countries it used to be the ccTLD, because those countries had very strict regulations in place. But lately it's becoming easier all the time to register ccTLDs from all the world.
The other problem is many local site, sites hosted and produced in a country, use gTLDs. We have some great threads in the European forum on the distribution of ccTLDs vs gTLDs across Europe.

Languages? As this example, Belgium, clearly shows, languages are not an option to define locality.

Hosting, as faulty as it may be, is virtually the only factor the engines have to work with.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
ccTLD = country code toplevel domain (de, fr, be etc)
gTLD = generic toplevel domain (com, org, net, info, biz)

[edited by: heini at 10:09 am (utc) on Jan. 13, 2003]


 10:04 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

<Meta Google-country="be">

I think this would be a good idea.. no need for the google reference.. just <meta country="us">, etc..

The only issue would be that people would be able to choose which search results they want to be in, like: "UK is getting a lot of hits, so I may put "uk" in my meta tag.." but then, when you think about it, the current system has the same problem: hosting a site in the UK would most likely result in more hits from that country and that is equally as open to abuse. The way I see it now, there is NO advantage hosting a site in the US at all! (I haven't seen a "search results in USA" page yet..)


 10:16 am on Jan 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

errr.. I made a mistake in one of my posts.. the site I mentioned was in fact a .com! (just expected it to be a .com.au..) So I guess that .com.au's are in fact all included in the 'sites in australia' search.

This still leaves the mystery of the .com, .org sites etc.. that are also showing up in 'sites in australia' searches. The hosting is the secondary factor then? This would still leave the system open to abuse for .com sites .. I may take my hosting out of the US now :)


 2:49 pm on Jan 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Americans can't imagine what it is to create a website in 4 languages :-)

Ambiorix, although not related to languages:

I think there would be an amazing uproar, if Google would implement something similar to what we have to deal with in Europe.

Imagine Google could establish from where you were searching in the US, automatically redirect you to e.g. a Google.california and allow an option: "Only show results from California".


 3:01 pm on Jan 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

>"Only show results from California"

I predict this going to happen.
First step though will be the option:
"Only show results from USA"

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