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Google and multi language sites



2:23 pm on Dec 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

It seems there is rather few guidelines on how to optimize a website as multi language site.

So far I managed to gather only some information.
Ok, we agree that Google will no treat same content in different language as duplicate. But there are still many questions unanswered.

first solution
Some people suggest having multiple domains, such as:
example.com - for English version
example.fr - for French version

This indeed looks as the most "clean" solution, but in some countries you must be a company in order to even register .country domain. So this will not work.

Second solution is to create a subfolder structure, say like this:
example.com/hello/ - for English version
example.com/fr/hello/ - for French version

This seems like something I could do, but I have a question, can I instead of using urls as above, use something like this:
example.com/hello/ - for English version
example.com/bonjour/ - for French version

This seems very logical and since my site is rather small it wouldn't be hard to rewrite url's so they reflect the chosen language.

Another thing that puzzles me, meta tags.
Should I include this?

<meta http-equiv="Content-language" content="FR">

or this?

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" lang="fr">

or both?
Also am I supposed to "rotate" them regarding which language has been chosen?

I planned to include two links at top of the page which would switch (each) page from English to French depending what visitor wants.

I'd also make a completely unique title and meta description for each language.

Google's WT allows to choose target language, should I choose my language for my prime target (which is English)? Because there are no "multi language" options to choose from.

I know, lot of questions, I'm sorry:)
I've been browsing the web and webmasterworld archive for 2 hours now and I'm still very confused about the subject.
Mostly because I'm paranoid that if I do something wrong I could screw up my whole project (which is still in localhost btw).

Greatly appreciate any suggestions.


4:06 am on Dec 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

One important factor will be whether you are targeting a specific country - or all speakers of that language no matter where they are located.


10:40 am on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hello Tedster, sorry for a late reply, was out of town:)
I'll have two target markets:
1) local language, say Hungarian
2) all English speakers.

Since opening this topic I have fully translated my site into these two languages and arranged urls to look smooth and distinct.
Now the only problem I'm facing is how to declare this in my head section, meta tags specifically.
I could have a distinct meta language tag for each page, regarding its language.
But I'm still not sure if this would be wise to do or not.
Although it does sound logically correct, right?
Meta tag should inform users/browsers/bots what language is in question.

Guess I just need to find proof that my theory is indeed correct :)
If anyone had experience in ranking good in Google while maintaining a multilingual (or bilingual in my case) site, please come forward with your suggestions :)


1:15 pm on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Jsut some general advice; add your language-specific subdirectories (eg. 'http://www.site.com/fr/' and 'http://www.site.com/es/') to webmaster tools separately and you'll be able to geotarget them separately.

Personally, I'd consider using subdomains, e.g. es.site.com, fr.site.com etc. This allows you to keep clean region-specific link profiles.


1:18 pm on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thanks for the advice johnnie, adding subdirectories into WT and further geo-targeting them seems like a good idea.
But I already opted for a bit more complex solution :)


3:49 pm on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Maybe I was to broad on the subject, let me simplify.
Let's say you have just two particular pages, one is in French, one is in English.
1) www.example.com/myenglishpage.php
2) www.example.com/myfrenchpage.php

would you consider adding this for page 1:
<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="en">
and this for page 2:
<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="fr">

Would it be sufficient for Google to decide which language it contains?


5:55 pm on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I tailor both the meta language tag and the html lang= attribute. However, I have not found that practice to be sufficient in every case. So I also use the two letter language code as a directory name, in the way that johnnie suggested, and that seems to be a most helpful factor.


9:15 pm on Dec 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

thanks guys, will incorporate all these advices :)


4:37 am on Dec 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Ok, one more quick question, last one I promise : )
If I decide to use subfolders like so 'http://www.site.com/fr/' and 'http://www.site.com/es/',
where should 'http://www.site.com/' point to?
Should I leave this absolute URL to point to my "main" language (english) and then have 'http://www.site.com/es/' for secondary?

I'm not sure how would I go on about including these separately into Google WT. Since if I include separately 'http://www.site.com/fr/' and 'http://www.site.com/es/', then 'http://www.site.com/' would be missing right?
Hmm, more likely it is I who is "missing" something ;)


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