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User Agent strategy. Good or bad idea?

Im planning to use a User Agent strategy. is it a good idea?



6:35 pm on Jan 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi, itīs been a while since my last post (a couple of years).

I am working for a client and i have some doubts about a strategy that i think it might be a good idea but im still not 100% sure if it is.

My client has an ecommerce site built with a fully modified (by him) ZenCart. The thing is that he sells, letīs say, one product only (he sells more than one, but it will work as an example). He sells this product to different countries like Guatemala, Colombia, Spain, Italy, United States, etc.

The thing is that the price is different according to the country selected at the home page (more on this later).
For example, the product costs 1 dollar in the States but 3 in Colombia.

So what he did is create a customized homepage with a pulldown form where you have to choose a country. If you select United States youīll see the price for the product in 1 dollar. If you select colombia you will see the price for the product in 3 dollars (but converted in Colombian currency).

The thing is that this is made to work with cookies. Depending on what you select from the pulldown form in the homepage is what you get after.

And if you select United states as your country you get the site in english with a parameter "?lan=en" in the URL. If you select Colombia you get the site in Spanish with a parameter "?lan=es" in the URL. One thing to note here is that if you select Chile as your country you also get the site in Spanish (same as in colombia). There is no currency parameter in the URL, only language.

If the cookie canīt be downloaded the system show "0" for price. So that makes Googlebot able to index all the content with a "0" price. Im fine with that.

The thing is that if you go into the product page without going to the country selector pulldown you will get all prices in "0" and that is not a good idea so here is my quesiton (finally):

Is it ok to use User Agent to let GoogleBot (and others) index the content with price "0" and if its not a Bot take the user to a little country selector form to then take him to the page he requested with the prices for that country?

Im asking this because Bot will see a page and users will see a little in-the-way page to select their country and then see the page they requested.

Am I working in the safe side here?
Thanks a lot for your help.


1:18 am on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

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

Basically this is a touchy area for the engines because user agent delivery has long been used as a spam tool for serving different content to bots than users.

That said, if the sole reason for it is to prevent technical problems of the kind you note above, and you are careful to present the same content, etc, then it is highly unlikely that you would have any problems at all, because even if you are flagged for inspection, any reasonable spam checker could see what you are doing. If the site is otherwise clean, I can't see them penalizing you for that.

Truth is a lot of big sites do it, because it's a good way to handle some technical issues.

If you were to be penalized, it might take some time to get your site reincluded in the indexed, or unpenalized, or whatever. Again though, pretty low risk.


6:55 pm on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Thansk for your answer. Thatīs what i was thinking. Im not planning to do any spam or black hat. I think that reputation is the best weapon to stay in business so all iīve done so far is far away from "the dark side".

I just wanted to be sure i was doing something "legal". I need to do this because of techologic problems. The idea seems ok to me. SEīs get the same content than users, with the little exception that users see the "select country" page before getting to the landing page.


7:13 pm on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

maybe you could just automatically choose a default language based on the user's IP address (if the cookie isn't present). and then offer them a little link to change it if it's the wrong one.

that is how amazon do it, and they aren't a bad example to follow. I'm from the UK, and if i go to Amazon.com it still gives me the price in dollars, but a banner at the top suggests that i might prefer to go to the UK site.


7:26 pm on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That might be a good point. But then Google would only index the english version of the site, right?


7:27 pm on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Because Google has a US IP


7:44 pm on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

it should be alright, because google will happily index the page again if it has a different query string. you've just got to make sure that there's a link to the other language so it can spider it. or do it through a sitemap file.

if you'd rather google not index the other languages, then just block those query strings in the robots.txt file, or check for their existance when the page loads up and add a noindex metatag to the page.


8:21 pm on Jan 30, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Great. I will take a look at your option. Thank you very much londrum. Youīve been really helpful. I will post any update soon :)


5:41 am on Feb 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

There's a recent post about cloaking [webmasterworld.com] for the same issue you mentioned.

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