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I've googled a bit if it's better to use language-specific URL's and most of the answers said yes. For example, for the about page it is better to use:

/en/about-us/
/de/uber-uns/

Than it is to use:

/en/about-us/
/de/about-us/

And the reason, they say, is keywords. So keywords for (in this case) German readers would be more relevant.

My dilemma however, is about the page structure and the URL hierarchy. Specifically, is Google going to expect me to have a /de/about-us/ page, simply because he found a /en/about-us/? And vice-versa, is he going to expect a /en/uber-uns/ page?

Will it confuse him and am I going to be unable to get that little extra hierarchic links on the search page results that show most common pages and all that "See more results" thing?

Will it hurt the rank?

If the answer is yes that will confuse Google, then what is the middle ground for this situation?

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I know that some users will want to be able to just swap the language in the URL and be magically redirected to the correct location in the other language –  Timo Huovinen 20 hours ago
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Specifically, is Google going to "expect" me to have a /de/about-us/ page, simply because he found a /en/about-us/? And vice-versa, is he going to expect a /en/uber-uns/ page?

No. Google (and I assume all other search engines) will not expect that all your sub-paths are valid for other higher-level path segments.

Think of this example:

  • /team/john-doe
  • /blog/welcome-alice-to-our-team

Why should a search engine try to find a page at /team/welcome-alice-to-our-team or /blog/john-doe?

Now, of course it’s a slightly different case when we talk about the broadly "known" folders named after language tags (/en/, /de/, /ja/, …). You could say that search engines know that /en/ corresponds to English, and when they also find URLs with the path segment /de/, they are very safe to assume that it stands for German and that the site is a multlingual site. However, they are not safe to assume that you can simply switch the language tag and still land on a content page:

  • many sites are not fully translated, so some pages don’t exist in all languages
  • it’s better to translate the path segments (… /en/இசுட்டாக் ஓவர்ஃபுலோ is not very useful for English visitors)

→ Simply link translations with the rel value alternate and the corresponding hreflang value. Then search engines know where to look for page translation.

Side note: For usability it would be of course useful to be able to switch to translation that way (in addition, of course!). However, you could still use translated path segments: simply 301-redirect from /de/about-us to /de/ueber-uns.

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For multilingual website, you need to understand your requirement first. As of now, just forget about search engine and start thinking about your target audience experience. Here are few question you should ask:

  • Is your target persona doesn't understand English?
  • If you add language specific pages, does it help them in decision making?
  • Is your business is physically located in those targeted countries?
  • are you offering services in their currency?

Apart from these, there are many question that can help you to take the decision whether you should crate website in different languages or not.

Once you plan to have multilingual website, it is absolutely fine if you are having almost same content in different website as you own the business in different countries and it is not possible to re-write same content/ services for each countries.

To learn more about this, checkout Google official video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ets7nHOV1Yo

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