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Jason Sanderson

Senior Technical SEO Strategist

Recently Google released an internationalisation FAQ designed to aid webmasters who are targeting multiple countries and multilingual content. The FAQ contains 24 questions ranging from geotargetting with CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to the use of non-ASCII URLs. It is definitely worth a read for anyone who is looking to start an international based campaign or as a check list to ensure your site(s) are following the guidelines as best they can. Below highlights the key points raised within the FAQ. Multilingual sites This section is aimed at sites which have content targeting different languages; this does not necessarily mean someone searching for content in German is located in Germany, for example. Multilingual site pages are detected by Google on a per-URL basis. This enables sites to have complete flexibility in regards to URL structure and content placement. However, it is important to remember that Google can detect multiple languages on a single page. Where Google cannot be guided by factors, such as a country specific URL folder structure, an incorrect language could take precedence over the targeted language. To avoid this take time to make sure that all on page copy is written in the targeted language; this includes footers and navigational menus. Within the FAQ Google also makes a strong point against duplicate content and will mark any copy on a site that has just been translated via the use of automated tools as duplicated. This highlights the need for copy to always be re-written in the languages native tongue as duplicate content can have very serious affects for any site. However, Google mentions where re-writing content (forums for example) isn’t feasible the “rel-alternate-hreflang” tag can be applied. Remember that the use of this tag will not increase a page’s chances of ranking for specific terms in like geotargeting would; instead it will just swap in the correct language listings where necessary. The document also reminds webmasters that a user should never be automatically redirected to their supposed native language. As mentioned above, a user searching a German site is not necessarily located in Germany, which also stands true for the GoogleBot trying to index all pages correctly.  Instead webmasters should include either a simple pop-up with the recommended language or a drop down navigation box to guide the user to the correct location. Geotargetting The second section covers area specific content, which usually incorporates ecommerce with currencies targeting specific geo-locations or country restricted media such as BBC’s iPlayer. Google places a lot of emphasis on use of ccTLDs (Country Code Top Level Domain) or Webmaster Tools’ Geotargeting tool. So much so, that as long as one or the other is used a servers location is not important. Though keep in mind it is still wise to place the content as close to your largest audiences as possible to decrease access times. Checking Results Advanced search quires can be used to see how successful a site’s internationalisation is currently going. Simply head over to the Google Advanced Search page, chose a language/region, a site or domain to check and click “Advanced Search”. From here it is possible to roughly check the quantity of indexed pages for that language/region and more importantly if the correct pages are being displayed. Have you had any search engine internationalisation issues in the past?