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I have a site with UGC in many languages. The translation I'm doing is for the titles so for each page I have multiple copies, one per language. I want to make sure

  1. Search engines don't see this as duplicate content.
  2. Search engines direct to the right language link.

What I've done is specifying the language in a sub domain, so for each page I have:

mydomain.com/page
ja.mydomain.com/page
es.mydomain.com/page

And in each one of those pages added in the HTML

  <link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="http:/mydomain.com/page" />
  <link rel="alternate" hreflang="jp" href="http://ja.mydomain.com/page" />

In order to make sure people are viewing the right language I'm redirecting according to the IP of the viewer, to the right subdomain. For example if I get a visitor from Japan I'm redirecting to ja.mydomain.com/page while leaving an option to change language manually.

Is there a way to avoid the redirecting I'm doing and let search engines link to the right page? Should I specify canonical for these pages to avoid duplicate content? Should I specify geo-targeting per subdomain in google webmaster tools?

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1 Answer

You should stop redirecting based on IP address.

  • IP address geo location is not always accurate.
  • When somebody visits another country, they still want to be able to view your site in their language
  • Googlebot will have a hard time crawling all your languages since its crawling is almost all done from the US. Not redirecting for Googlebot when you redirect for visitors is considered "cloaking" and could get your site penalized.

Instead, you should put a prominent notice on your site (this particular message should be written in Japanese and should link to your Japanese site):

It looks like you are located in Japan, click here to view this page in Japanese.

I do something similar on my site. Instead of using ip geo-location, I look at the "Accept-Language" header that is sent with the request. If it doesn't match the language of the page, I put a notice up like the one above

This page is also available in Japanese, click here to read it in Japanese.

Similar to the ip geo location, the accept-language header is often not set correctly. Especially for non-English users that end up downloading browsers that default to English. I suggest that you don't use it to redirect.

You might be interested in this full guide to structuring your site for multi-lingual or multi-national. It talks about this issue.

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Thanks for the info. Is it ok to redirect based on the accept-language or just putting a message? Can it really be considered cloacking if I'm doing the redirect for users and Google as long as they are from the same GeoIP? In your site, is the Japanese version indexed and linked to by google? –  Noam Apr 20 '13 at 11:30
    
Don't do any redirecting, just put a message on the page. Since Google does its crawling from the US (and doesn't send an accept-language header) redirecting Googlebot won't work at all. My sites is available in 40 languages, each of them is indexed by Google. –  Stephen Ostermiller Apr 21 '13 at 1:31
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