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We have a commercial website with two country specific domains (.fr and .ch), each in the country's currency. The user accounts are bound to the domain, but the products are mostly the same on the two sites. The user can choose in the menu the other country's website, his choice is saved to a cookie and redirects from then on to the site of his choice.

The visitor is redirected to the domain according to his IP address, based on Maxmind's GeoIP database. The geolocalization is done server-side and the visitor is redirected via a 302 HTTP header.

I am concerned of a penalty by Google for one of the two sites. In fact, the Google bot visits the site from the US and is therefore consistently redirected to one of the two countries. Of course, Google has servers in France and Switzerland, and can therefore access both websites. Nevertheless, we found that the websites visitor count dropped since we implemented this redirection pattern.

Is a server-side 302 redirection a good idea, or should we change to use Javascript based redirection ? The advantage I see is that Google could download both versions of a page, and the visitor would still be redirected.

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With toys in their millions, All under one roof, It's Called Toys'R'Us!

Unless you have good specific reasons why not to host your website under one roof then generally speaking it is far better to use sub folders rather than sub domains or other domains. Using sub folders such as /fr/ and /ch/ will give your domain more authority because your SEO WILL NOT be spread across two sites.

hreflang and canonical

Using both hreflang and canonical links you can help inform Google and other search engines the preferred content based on the language customers therefore the necessary pages are returned in the search results without having to redirect your customers.

Never treat Google or Bing as a bot... consider them users

In your particular case you are using a forced redirect unless they perform X action and then a cookie is stored, since Googlebot does not perform actions and store cookies by default it will be unable to crawl one domain. It's also worth mentioning that selectively TURNING OFF THE REDIRECT for Googlebot based on either user agent or IP address would be considered cloaking as search bots should never be treated anything more than users.

GEO User Experience and SEO practices

It is considered a good practice for both SEO and User Experience to prompt users to change region based on GEO. For example, your site detects they are in X region but they are surfing Z region content, they then get a pop-up asking them if they would like to change region, then the cookie is stored. Meaning Google and Bing can freely index both sites without issue. Many sites take this approach, for example the history channel just one of millions on the top of my head.

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