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Google Webmaster Tools has a setting for it. You need to add each sub-directory as a *separate site". Then for each subdirectory, you can set the targeted country under "Search Traffic" -> "International Targeting" -> "Country". Google has a help document that walks you through the process: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/62399?hl=en ...


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x-default used to be necessary but Google has since updated their guidelines and now only recommend x-default for pages that either: automatically redirect the user (based on IP address or browser settings) to the appropriate language/region page, or Are country/language chooser pages where the user selects their preferred lang and are taken to that ...


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Are both sets of text content (in an HTML document) equally visible to search engines Absolutely yes: both variants are fully equal. All search engines understand unicode (your second example), the encoded HTML entities from the first example are not a problem too. The entity encoding is nothing other as another encoding like, win-8859-1, utf-8 or ...



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