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Should pages which are almost identical, bar a few minor changes for particular locations, share the same URL? I am not talking of pages in different languages, but pages which have minor differences in spelling, grammar or nouns tailored to particular locations. For example (American-British differences):

  • spellings such as 'flavour' vs 'flavor'.
  • nouns such as 'zucchini' vs 'courgette'. Many British persons would not know what a Zucchini is.

One concern is that these differences will be propagated to the search results page. The Zucchini examples seems particularly problematic, as many people would search for 'courgette' instead.

Does using multiple URLs have any adverse impacts on SEO?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Quite a complex issue, but in short I'd say that subtly localised content like you describe is exactly what you should be doing. There are technical challenges in helping search engines understand the duplication (or near duplication), but they can be addressed with the following:

Automated Targeting

Don't try to guess users' language or location, e.g., by IP or Accept-Language. It doesn't work well for search engines.

Targeting Locations

Where you can use ccTLDs, do so, because Google et al. take them as a targeting cue. Where you use gTLDs with language and location directories, use the Geographic Targeting tool in Google Webmaster Tools for each directory.

Targeting Languages, Language Variants & Locations

Bing (and some others) use the lang attribute and content-language meta. Be sure to use correct ISO codes for language/location pairs, e.g., en-GB, en-CA and so on.

Google doesn't look at any code declarations of intended target other than its own rel="alternate" hreflang="x" (details here). This can be applied via HTML, XML Sitemap or HTTP header, and uses ISO codes. This code tells Google not only who and where content is meant for, but also for each piece of content says "this same content is available in these languages, or variants of languages, at these locations", which is clearly very useful.

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I guess you mean the lang attribute (not language)? And I guess you mean ccTLD, not gTLD (in "Where you can use gTLDs, do so")? –  unor Feb 17 '13 at 12:32
    
@unor Thanks for the proofreading ;) –  GDav Feb 17 '13 at 17:12

I have localized sites in English for US/UK/AU/IN, in Spanish for ES/MX and in Portuguese for PT/BR. I would recommend splitting out the localized sites into separate top-level or sub-domains.

  • You won't get hit with any duplicate content penalties. Google understands when content is localized like this and allows the same content on multiple sites.
  • When it is on separate sub-domain or top level domain the hosting can easily be moved into the country being targeted. This can significantly improve load times and user interaction compared to having to host the site overseas because of shared resources.
  • Google gives ranking boosts in its localized search Engines (google.co.uk and google.com.au for example) for content that is properly localized. Our US site always got more total traffic, but a larger percentage of the UK population visited our site than did the US population. If you don't split the content out, you can't let Google know about the site targeting correctly.
  • When it is split out, you can add both in webmaster tools and set the geographic targeting.
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