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I currently own the website www.xyz.com. The website has a sub-directory for each of the 3 target countries: .../en-US/ (United States), .../es-MX/ (Mexico), and .../es-DO/ (Dominican Republic). I have two main questions about this setup:

Currently, the main domain/root (xyz.com) contains a blank index.php file, but I would like for a user to be redirected to one of the sub-directories based on their regional location. What is the best way to accomplish this? I have looked at using browser language-based redirection, but how would I know whether to direct a user to the MX or DO site if the browser language is set to spanish? Is there a way to detect a user's geographic location?

Also, the 3 websites are practically identical except they all have 3 unique color schemes and the US site is in english while the MX and DO sites are in spanish. My problem is that I believe GoogleBot is penalizing/banning my site because the spanish text on the MX and DO pages are nearly identical and are thus marked as duplicates/spam. Is there a way to avoid this?

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If the MX and DO pages are nearly identical, then what is the purpose of having 2 distinct sites? I think we need to know a little more about the differences, or the purpose of this geographical rather than language-based segmentation. –  Lèse majesté Dec 17 '11 at 5:15
    
I have them as two different sites because although the text is the same, the images are different. And in the future, the text might be changed as well. –  Joshua Dec 17 '11 at 6:18
    
Could you elaborate on that? Why/how are the images different? And how would the text defer? Why would the text defer in the future (why not now)? –  Lèse majesté Dec 17 '11 at 6:22
    
Basically, the company will be operating in each of the locations with content tailored to each location. However, the site just launched so they're very similar. –  Joshua Dec 17 '11 at 6:52
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1 Answer

In answer to your last question, Google does say

Websites that provide content for different regions and in different languages sometimes create content that is the same or similar but available on different URLs. This is generally not a problem as long as the content is for different users in different countries. While we strongly recommend that you provide unique content for each different group of users, we understand that this may not always be possible. http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=182192

So in this case you need to implement 'rel-alternate-hreflang' to tell Google that you have similar content in the same language but it's for a different country.

rel-alternate-hreflang

Quick example:

So as you have several alternate URLs targeted at users with the same language but in different locales, you have specific URLs for Spanish speakers in Mexico (es-mx), Dominican Republic (es-do), but want English speakers from The United States to see your US English (en-us) page, and for your auto-redirecting homepage, you should add an annotation for the hreflang value "x-default" as well. In this case you can annotate this cluster of pages using a Sitemap file or using HTML link tags like this:

<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.xyz.com/es-DO/” hreflang=”es-do” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.xyz.com/es-MX/” hreflang=”es-mx” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.xyz.com/en-US/” hreflang=”en-us” />
<link rel=”alternate” href=”http://www.xyz.com/” hreflang=”x-default” />
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