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I am building a brochure-ware website for a company that sells products all across the world. They need the site to ask the user what region they are in before using the site; there are 5 regions. This is because there are different products offered to different regions and each region may or may not want to customize their own content. However, at launch and likely forever, most of the pages will be the exact same minus what is listed in the footer and in the product selection menu.

My question is how should I structure the sitemap for this site for best SEO? Should I be concerned with duplicate content penalties and/or cannibalizing the site's presence on the SERP?

Some considerations:

  • The client wants to be able to print links directly to regional specific content bypassing any prompt for the user to select a region (to ensure they land on the target page).
  • The client cannot have a 'default' region so the user must have a region specified
  • "Clean" urls are important, but there is wiggle room
  • The client does not want each region to have its own domain
  • There will be a link on the page to allow users to specify a different region
  • The client is not concerned with localization ...at this time
  • Some products are available in multiple regions

A quick list of options I am considering:

  1. www.site.com/region/page
  2. region.site.com/page
  3. www.site.com/page?region (no cookie, pages require the parameter. If visited without; the user must select a region)
  4. www.site.com/page (using cookie and a splash screen if needed; could pass parameter in to set the region for direct linking)

Thanks in advance for your advice.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Oct 19 '12 at 14:36

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3 Answers 3

I prefer this one, without any ?selection-, javascript- or cookies-thing.

site.com (top-page with links to regions top-pages)
site.com/region/page
site.com/region_lang/page

or

site.com (top-page with links to regions top-pages)
region.site.com/page
region_lang.site.com/page

Don't worry about duplicate content on product pages. You can have some regional varieties in additional text (by law), f.e. product/usage advices, advices for shipping and warranty and so on. Be a little creative. Little changes will be enough.

For the product listings you can use meta robots "noindex, noarchive, follow".

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"The client does not want each region to have its own domain"

Then you need to talk some sense into your client.

site.com
site.co.uk
site.com.tr
site.in
site.jp

...that is the way to go.

They can all be very similar, or even the same. I've found that Google will not penalize the same company for having multiple domains with the same content.

If they all have to be on one domain, then you do site.com/en/controller/method/. Use a GET to parse the URL and call content based on language in the URL.

But getting your client to buy a domain for each country is better.

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I work in multinational SEO pretty much every day. I'd advise this structure:

  1. Use site.com as the "global" portal.
  2. Use subdomains for territories. (i.e. ch.example.com for Switzerland.)
  3. Use folders for languages. (i.e. ch.example.com/de/ for German in Switzerland, ch.example.com/fr/ for French in Switzerland.)
  4. Use domains as "vanity" for marketing materials, and 301 those to the correct structure (so you can put example.ch on marketing materials for easier recognition and it will still work.)

Localise using a combination of hreflang sitemaps/meta tags/header responses (Google proprietary stuff), Google WMT localisation and canonical tags as appropriate. Let me know if you need any more details.

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