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I have a multi-lingual site, which contains languages in this manner:

http://www.example.com/en/
http://www.example.com/de/
http://www.example.com/fr/

To avoid duplicate links, is it ok not to have the root (/) page?

I.e., the root 301 redirects to /en/:

$ curl -I http://www.example.com/
HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Location: /en/

Does Google mind, or should I mind? Does anyone?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

If the root (/) 301 redirect to /en/, Google will most probably consider your homepage is http://www.example.com/en/ and there is no problem not to have a root (/) page.

Regarding Google guidelines for multilingual sites, you can use this method to separate languages on your site.

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4  
It is also common practice for a script at the root level to identify the most appropriate language, perhaps based on the regional location of the user's IP address or the browser's user-agent and locale settings, and then to redirect the user to that language within your website. For example, connecting from a location within France the user might be redirected to http://www.example.com/fr/ unless a stored cookie on their system has remembered a preferred language choice from a previous visit. –  richhallstoke Mar 27 at 13:21
    
Having an automatically redirecting root URL is fine (use a 302). I'd use the "hreflang" value "x-default" when referring to it (in the guidelines linked above). –  John Mueller Apr 1 at 18:55

From an SEO point of view, no, it's not a problem for your page to have no root. Search engine's index URLs, it doesn't matter if they're in subfolders or not.

However, from a user-experience point of view you really shouldn't assume that anybody who lands on the root of your site wants to see the English version. Let's say a Japanese user tells one of their friends about your great site at www.example.com and the Japanese user types it into their browser. They're then forwarded to an English version of your site, even though they can't read English. Most likely they will simply navigate away, and never think of your website again.

An appropriate solution would be to attempt to detect the browser's language server-side, and then redirect to the appropriate language. Failing that (if the language isn't set, or if there's multiple languages), make the root page something where the user is simply asked to choose their preferred language and then redirected to the appropriate homepage.

You probably wouldn't be hurt by simply redirecting to the English version, but your non-English speaking users will likely have a better experience if my method above is followed.

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2  
This is excellent advice which is why you got a +1 from me, but it does not address/answer the question originally asked. Perhaps it should be edited to address the question or made into a comment off of the question. –  Steven Magana-Zook Mar 27 at 15:24
    
Good advice. Thanks, will edit accordingly. –  nathangiesbrecht Mar 27 at 16:57
1  
s/their/they're –  TRiG Mar 27 at 19:00

It depends on what sort of "no root page" you've got. My personal website originally returned "404" for / (and common variations such as /index.html or /index.php).

Google had no trouble finding things using inbound links to actual pages, but the Cuil crawler couldn't handle it: I'd see a request for whichever inbound link it was following, a request for /, and then nothing, and my site never showed up in their search results.

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