Imagine I'm proprietor of two domains that are alias, i.e., they point exactly to the same server and folder: exemple.com and exemplo.com

However, in that server I detect the country of the user, so that, for example:

  • in UK it points to /index_en.html

  • in Spain it points to /index_es.html

Question: Which option is the best internationial SEO practise?

  1. allow the crawling of the four combinations,
  2. restricting only to exemple.com/index_en.html and exemplo.com/index_es.html and block exemple.com/index_es.html and exemplo.com/index_en.html avoiding thus crawling duplication, or
  3. do not crawl alias and focusing only on one domain, for example example.com and simply make a permanent 301 forwarding from exemplo.com to example.com
  • After reading an article I understand that option 1 is not good, as it duplicates contents. Though, I still don't know which option is best, 2 or 3; since rankings also take into account keywords in domains, and in option 2, there is no duplication of content. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 10:10

3 Answers 3


Edit based on Joao's comment*

The domains in question are cctld, i.e .es, .it, .pt. Geotargeted subfolders on country specific domains don't work well, if the top level domain is generic (i.e. .com) this solution works. Otherwise, from a pure "best for ranking" perspective, keeping cctlds that only serve one country is best, but, like every solution, each has it's drawbacks such as additional technical overhead and having to market/optimize each cctld independently rather than consolidating signals to one domain (subfolder approach).

Edit end

Great question, I don't fully understand your setup but I think this should describe it and how to deal with it:


exemple.com/index_en.html === exemplo.com/index_en.html && exemple.com/index_es.html === exemplo.com/index_es.html


Your 3rd option is best, use 301 redirects to redirect all pages from exemplo.com to exemple.com on a 1:1 basis, i.e. redirect each page to its equivalent. You should determine which domain is the preferred domain by checking which one ranks better/gains more traffic (the preferred domain should also have higher external link count and links from decent websites)

The preferred domain in this hypothetical scenario will be exemple.com. When a request originating from a UK IP to exemple.com, you will 302 redirect them to exemple.com/index_en.html.

A request originating from Spain with a Spanish IP to exemple.com should 302 to exemple.com/index_es.html.

That would be it - don't redirect any other requests on the domain, use hreflang to annotate the spanish and english versions accordingly.

I did the Redbull.com setup and a friend of mine did theguardian.com. We followed Google engineer's advice despite doubting the 302 redirect. The hreflang lead, Christopher Semturs confirmed in a comment on a post I wrote here.

I would highly advise you take precaution when consolidating your domains (vigoriously check google search console, run crawls, etc..) and test the international configuration (be ready to roll back immediately) as well.

  • The premises on which you based yourself on the chapter "Where" are perfectly correct. Thank you so much for the reply. Do you mean thus that someone in Spain typing exemplo.com should have firstly a 301 redirect to exemple.com and then a 302 redirect to exemple.com/index_es.html? Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 19:48
  • Correct, as inefficient as that sounds, that's right. You could redirect exemplo.com (exact URL, not the entire domain) to an inner page (exemple.com/index_es.html) to avoid the 301 > 302 redirect. It's hacky, but it should work. Test! Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 21:59
  • Thanks again. I perfectly understand your point though I cannot understand why option 3 is better considering that in option 2 there is no duplication. I stress out that in option 2 each URL is unique for search engines as the duplicates are blocked with HTML meta tag noindex, nofollow. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 20:31
  • btw, for the purpose of not being abstract, I give you my example: autocosts.info for general English-language countries, and autocostes.es for Spain, autocosti.it for Italy and autocustos.pt for Portugal. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 20:34
  • could you kindly comment the other reply, considering that according to @Chris, the best option is option 2? Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 17:36

Based on your question it appears as though your site is being language defined based on domain name but then you are automatically detecting the country of the user and selecting the content based on that. Doing both methods is not a recommended practice. Google recommends at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/182192?hl=en that different languages exist at different unique URL's. In other words this shouldn't be done through rewriting. To use your example your UK site may be http://www.example.com but your spanish site would be http://www.example.com.es. In this way you are using a country-code top level domain which makes for an even stronger signal to search engines as to what geo-targeting to use for the given site.

When doing this as long as the content between the UK site and the Spanish site are in the appropriate languages (ie: you don't have the same page with the same language on both domains) then you will not encounter a duplicate content penalty with Google (https://moz.com/community/q/does-google-count-the-same-article-in-different-languages-as-duplicate-content).

As a side note this is how many of the larger multi-national countries achieve geo-targeting and language targeting for their website clients. It doesn't matter if the content is all on the same server as is the case for your environment as you are still working with two different languages.

As an example I was asked to put together the site and domain structure for a smallish grain export company that had markets in several Asian countries and a headquarters in Australia. For each of the Asian market countries a separate ccTLD was used for each specific country/language and the main site was the Australian site under the .com.au domain. All of the domains pointed to the main server in Australia, and all of the domains mapped to the same website application (a custom basic CMS I wrote for the project). The URL's where structurally and semantically identical but in the appropriate languages, and the content being served came out of the same database but with the appropriate translated content. I added hreflang meta tags to the site but this was done to assist search engines in locating the translated pages rather than identifying specific content or geo-targeting. There was never any duplicate content penalties and it has been working like this for around 9 months now with a similar ranking to what it had previously as just a global English language site.

  • Thank you for the reply. Therefore, considering that in option 2 there is no duplication of content, i.e., each URL is unique as the duplicates are blocked with HTML meta tag noindex, nofollow; and instead of exemple.com and exemplo.com I actually had exemple.uk for the British site and exemplo.es for the Spanish site respectively, being those alias (pointing exactly to the same sever and folder), basically you're saying that option 2 is the best one. Is that? Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 19:37
  • 1
    Essentially yes. Google treats different language content as different content entirely so as long as you don't overlap the languages to the other site no duplicate content penalties. Commented Mar 3, 2017 at 21:57
  • But now I must confess that I am confused, because the other user assured me that option 3 is the best (kindly check other reply from @Dave Sottimano). Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 10:25
  • Going by what @Dave Sottimano is suggesting will work to a point however it will defeat the whole purpose of geo-targeting your sites through Google as all content will appear to be in the global scope. Google's own recommendations on geo-targeting sites with the relevant languages is to use country-code top level domains as I have suggested. You can read more about it at support.google.com/webmasters/answer/182192?hl=en. What Dave suggests will work technically but following Google's recommendations where feasible is always better to rank higher. Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 10:34
  • Not exactly. Having entirely different cctld's presents both technical challenges (managing two domains) and you'll have to work harder to gain links to 2 different domains, rather than 1. New domains don't start out of the gate with authority, it's built up over time with user signals and external links. Not sure what you mean by "Global scope" - the root and subfolders can be targeted differently using Google search console as the most simplistic first step. Commented Mar 4, 2017 at 19:57

You're talking about international SEO.

Add an hreflang stating the language of the page, this isn't a rule but an advisory tag and let's search engines know what language the content is written in targeting people using IPs from the same country.

A good article from Moz explains how to use hreflang in more detail https://moz.com/learn/seo/hreflang-tag

  • I know that, but that doesn't answer my question my friend. In the article all the variations are in the same domain. I want to know what is the best practise when you have alias, or if it is best to have only one domain. Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 20:45
  • 2
    It is best to only have 1 domain because the influence you gain will be spread across the whole site. Having 2 domains means you have to work twice as hard for rankings as the influence will not be shared.
    – GrapeSoda
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 21:05
  • you're sure about that? Is it not a linear function, i.e., r(d1)+r(d2)=r(d3), where r() means ranking and d3 represents a domain that is unique and is there instead of d1 and d2? Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 0:51
  • Some equity is lost on redirects - Matt Cutts
    – L Martin
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 12:24
  • @Yhorian; I understand that option 1 is not good (see OP), as it duplicates contents. Though, I still don't know which option is best, 2 or 3; since rankings also take into account keywords in domains, and in option 2, there is no duplication of content. Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 10:11

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