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I'm running an internationalized web service with user-created content (study notes). Most content is from Polish version, although we have younger Turkish and Russian versions too. Each version uses its own domain (let's say it's polishversion.pl, turkishversion.com, russianversion.com) and there is a language toggle available to switch the language of the interface (header, footer, menus), while of course content remains untranslated.

This leads to repeated content - a given Polish study note exists on all 3 domains: * polishversion.pl/note/123 - Polish interface + Polish content * turkishversion.com/note/123 - Turkish interface + Polish content * russianversion.com/note/123 - Russian interface + Polish content

My first instinct was to add "noindex, nofollow" to the Turkish and Russian version of a Polish note, since in most cases it would be irrelevant for these audiences (but not always - probably study notes for a French as a foreign language course are relevant to all).

Then I came accross link rel="alternative" hreflang. According to this article: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2010/09/unifying-content-under-multilingual.html I should be fine adding:

<link rel="alternative" hreflang="tr" href="turkishversion.com/note/123" />
<link rel="alternative" hreflang="ru" href="russianversion.com/note/123" />
<link rel="alternative" hreflang="pl" href="polishversion.pl/note/123" />

to the Polish version of this note and:

<link rel="canonical" href="polishversion.pl/note/123" />

to both Turkish and Russian.

I'm still having doubts though, whether this won't harm my Turkish and Russian version which have very little of their own content content yet. So the whole issue reduces to:

Is it better for the Turkish version's seo ranking to have:

  • 100 000 pages indexed of which 99% are Polish content + Turkish interface (with a canonical link to Polish/Polish) and only 1% are Turkish content + Turkish interface?

  • Only 1000 pages with Turkish content + Turkish interface indexed (and Polish notes never indexed with Turkish menu at all)?

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1  
As a note you should see the updated version of the specs, you should no longer use the canonical tag: googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2011/12/… –  Max Feb 17 at 8:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 0 down vote accepted

There are a few ways as you have mentioned, although something in your text is more relevant to me, you mention:

... and there is a language toggle available to switch the language of the interface (header, footer, menus), while of course content remains untranslated.

This leads to repeated content - a given Polish study note exists on all 3 domains ...

The content itself should exist only once, I hope that was was just a poor selection of words. If the content is the same, but the change of language is only the interface, non of the mentioned options apply, there is no one 'original', 'right' page that should have canonical, but also doesn't exist al alternate content.

Each site should be indexed by the content it has.

What is the reason of the site to exist? achieving a high ranking on Google or providing useful information?. If users can't use your information because they can't understand it and you appear high on a search for them, the only reaction you are going to get is deception; and most probably they will never click again because you can't trust the site. On the other hand, if every page they get is useful, they will go back again and again, and that will give you higher ranking.

So, in case it was not clear, the best option is 1000 pages in turkish interface + turkish content.

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Fair point. About the reason for these Polish content+Turkish interface pages: you're right in most cases they won't be useful but there shouldn't be too many queries in Turkish Google that would return Polish study notes anyway, so there won't be much harm done I think. In some cases though (like a course of French language for foreigners) notes made by Polish user might be useful for Turkish visitors too. But just from pure SEO perspective -wouldn't the existence of 99k more pages make my whole turkishversion.com domain rank better overall, including for pages with genuine Turkish content? –  Marcin Feb 17 at 11:09
    
No. The bulk of the pages don't increase the rank noticeably. It will increase rank a bit, yes, since there is activity on the site, but activity and shear number is just one of the elements that affect ranking. –  PatomaS Feb 17 at 11:11
    
Thank you, we decided to noindex the "alternative" versions of the site, based on your answer. –  Marcin Apr 8 at 11:38

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