SEO Localized, Multi-Language Sites

ctudorprice used Ask the Experts™
I'm in the process of translating our site into some additional languages to target European customers.

I'm thinking that I'm going to purchase local domains (i.e. and then point all the domains to the existing site which will read the browser language settings and present the translated content. No rocket science there...

My question is this: does google (and the other SEs) index/crawl with the equivalent of a browser language setting? Should I always override the language that the browser provides (or not) to the language of the domain? i.e. .de will only display German and .com will only display English?

The reason I ask is that our existing .com site has benefited from linking campaigns etc. etc. and I'd prefer not to have to duplicate that effort for a new domain if there is a way to rank high in using the existing .com site and simply presenting the translated content. I think to be successful I need localised SERPs in the country-specific SEs...

Also, what are the key elements that I need to be aware of to be ranked well in a localised SE (i.e.

SERPs are a very big part of our success on our .com site. The pages are SEO'd well and I intend to do the same with the other language "sites".

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This is a very good question as I believe the SERPs could fluctuate slightly, or not, based on the country IP or the country specific domain and hosting location.

For example, having a .de domain with a country specific IP (hosted in Germany) supposedly would encourage more Germans to use search queries related to that country verses the U.S. ( rather then  Accordingly, the traffic driven to, plus that additional push of having German related backlinks to your .de domain, probably would give you the push up.

It also makes sense that if in Germany or searching via that more German websites will come up rather then English.  The same is true for in searching in English.  If you searched for "online dating" at you will find German domains at the top SERPs, and so forth.

I would not force the browser to a specific language as this takes away from the organic searching of the user dependent upon their location and desire for what localization they want and what search engine they want to use.  Also, their browser language settings could place a preference over German with English secondary, or vice versa.  Let your web content dictate direction.

Furthermore, your .de domains might automatically become localized anyway and depending on the "international" Google the search engine will display to the user what he/she wants to see and in what language they want to display it in.  

Keep your ccTLD (country specific) domains,, with content based on German encoding since users will find you regardless based on your website listing and content and if their search is related to the theme (your content, products or services and even location) of something they're wanting to search and find.  

If I'm in Germany and I'm searching for "german online dating sites" my desire is to find first and foremost online dating sites that are based in Germany and/or the content is in German.  While you might find sponsored links in English and German, the top SERPs will probably always be .de sites.  And this seems logical too.  

Accordingly, yes it would be very wise to be listed localised in those countries you want to be listed in; SEO your content, and try to get some quality backlinks in German as well.  And you're covering all of your bases by having the .de domains and it seems there could be a slight push for those .de domains hosted in Germany as well.  But some say it doesn't matter.  

I hope that all made some sense?

Good Luck!


I dont want the .com/net/org web to be cluttered with german sites or Irish or French UNLESS that is what I am looking for ..then I'll search .de , or .IE or .FR etc.. either on my own or through Googles ccTLD options.

This is a great question and the fact that only DC has answered it so far only goes to show how complex the problem you face is. My approach to multilingual domains have been one based on creating a strong themed pyramid and good site structure for my main site. Like you i had a strong .com domain which also needed to be ranked for multiple languages and for multiple countries.

Using other domains (ccTLD) is an approach that didn't work for me only because i only had the resources to rank one site, and even with strong links coming from your main site i would have still needed to put together a campaign for these other sites. Instead we created subdirectories like so /eng/ , /spa/, /ita/ so on and so forth. What this enabled us to have was a site that was growing organically, we didn't just one day upload these pages we took our time to ensure that every section was right before uploading it and did them one language at a time. The other thing we did was use anchor text in the targeted language. This was a point of contention for some because it created links that users couldn't read unless they knew that language but i felt that if the landing page is in that language it's better that the links be in that language also.

Another step that we did was the use of the <meta http-equiv="content-language" content="en-us"> tag in all the pages depending on language, even though Google and other search engines can determine language based on content it's easier to help them out with it, one thing that i have noticed is after adding these tags the (translate this page) function was activate on serps in other languages i.e. if you search for an Italian page on then it would have this function, this only proves that google know which language it's in and as such creates the localized effect.

In the end the only thing i think matters is relevancy, your existing website is already associated with a set matrix of words (you can check which ones by signing up to googlemaps) and these words and their translations are known to google, creating pages from your main site and separating them using a good sound structure that makes sense to you and your users will help google create the new relationship between these new pages and your existing site.

I really believe that this is the next big step in SEO as more and more non english websites are created we will have to ensure that they are not only picked up but that they rank well, it's hard to rank pages in swedish if you don't speak swedish though ....

Hope this helps ...

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