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Google reports that a survey revealed, 'users feel that having information in their own language was more important than a low price.' This may explain why Google is currently so focused on providing localised search results.
A multi-regional or multilingual website is one that explicitly targets users in various regions. For companies that want to reach a global audience by supplying content in multiple languages, it is important to get the infrastructure of your website correct so Google understands which pages to serve for which search engine results pages. The list below addresses the most important things to do when preparing a website to support content in other languages:
Information Architecture of a Multi-lingual Site
Getting the information architecture of a website right is vital to users finding the information they require. It can become a tricky business for a multilingual website. As well as planning for users who are accessing the content from different regions and in different languages, the site design must take into account users who may land on a page geotargeted to the "wrong" location. In this case it must be clear to these users how to find the content in the right language, using internal links (or little flags) in order to direct them to the right place.
Google warns webmasters that there might be administrative or legal issues when creating content in a different language or for a different country. Be warned that what you write in one language may have implications if written in another - and that different countries regulate businesses in different ways, so make sure you're operating within the laws of each country you target.
Google looks at the following factors when considering the region of a website:
- Is the domain a ccTLD (Country-Code Top Level Domain) or gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain)? Country-level domains are probably the best way to target different countries. Sub-domains are a good alternative, as are country-specific directories on your website.
- Google does not read locational Meta tags to determine where you are. They are generally not reliable enough.
- If your site contains a local address or phone number, links to other local websites and Google's Local Business Centre, Google may use these to help determine the country of origin.
- Google will also look at server location from the IP address, but does not rely on this alone as many businesses host their websites in different countries.
It makes sense to consider using a URL structure that makes it easy to segment parts of the website for geotargeting. Google outlines the pros and cons of different URL structures on their Webmaster Central Blog.
A webmaster should avoid using auto redirects based on IP targeting or browser settings as it may send the user away, especially if the content that is in their language is not clearly identifiable on the page. From the point of view of a search engine crawling the website, the crawler may not be able to view all versions.
This is not a problem as long as the content is for different users in different countries. For SEO purposes, there is no need to "hide" the duplicates by disallowing crawling. However, if you're providing the same content to the same users on different URLs it would make sense to choose a preferred version and to redirect via the rel="canonical" tag.
Same SEO Rules Apply
Apply all of the same SEO rules to your content for different languages that you’ve learned for your original content. There is no secret rule here and just because the language is different doesn’t mean that the search engine or crawler is different.