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Geo-targetting and search engines

How do I build an SE friendly geo-targetted multi language site

6:00 am on Mar 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I am building a site which will display content in the visitors language based on their IP address.

The index page (eg. www.example.com) contains a script to detect visitor country and uses the Location header to redirect as follows...

www.example.com/en (English home page)
www.example.com/fr (French home page)
www.example.com/es (Spanish home page)
www.example.com/it (Italian home page)
www.example.com/de (German home page)

All other countries will automatically default to the English home page.

I am concerned that search engines will not be able to index my site because of the redirect so I am looking for a method to overcome this?

I know I could detect Googlebot etc. and serve a special index page (with crawlable links) but am I asking for trouble here?

Does anyone have any ideas?

3:36 pm on Mar 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Search engine spiders know how to follow redirects... they should be able to index the proper version.

However, I'd recommend not using redirects. Why not just serve up the different versions without a redirect? A redirect is totally unneccesary here. Instead of outputing a Location header, just output the appropriate version of the web page. Google has said that this type of "cloaking" is fine with them.

However, serving a special version for Googlebot (or other spiders) could get you penalized.

9:44 pm on Mar 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for that. I'd always assumed (wrongly it seems) that search engines could follow 301 redirects but not when the redirect is made using (for example) a PHP script with Location header.

My reason for using index pages in different directories was that I wanted to find a way to maintain the visitors language on all pages throughout the visit without using session variables. My script extracts the country from the URI on each page and serves the language accordingly.

However, if search engines can follow a Location header redirect then presumably, this won't be a problem for me?