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I've got a multilingual site.

When a user tries to access one of my pages, say /es/agreement, I would like to display the English version of that page, regardless of what language the user is browsing.

What is best SEO wise:

  1. To redirect the user to the English version /en/agreement?
  2. To display duplicate English content on /es/agreement and /en/agreement?

Of course duplicate content is not good, but if I choose #1, will Google think that the /en and /es versions are somehow linked, and display English content when searching with "Spanish" language preferences on Google?

If I choose #2, could I set nofollow noindex to avoid having duplicate content?

  • This is for a small number of pages that are not localized or translated? – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 6 '18 at 12:33
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    I don't see the benefit of having an /es/ page that is in English. For that reason I would redirect to /en/ – Michael d Apr 6 '18 at 13:05
  • @StephenOstermiller this is for for 4 pages (4 langauges), that are not translated – Kenci Apr 7 '18 at 16:34
  • @Michaeld I get that, but I was asking whats best for SEO? When crawling a site with Screaming Frog, and the site has internal links to another language, the whole other language gets crawled. I dont want Google to think that /en and /es are connected, and I dont want Google to show English pages when searching with Spanish language preference. I am having problems with this right now. – Kenci Apr 7 '18 at 16:36
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From a user experience perspective, it is never good to throw a user into a site completely in another language. If you change the language of the navigation on the user, they may not even be able to continue to use your site at all.

For the sanity of your users, I'd recommend showing the English content on the language site with navigation and template in the native language. I'd also recommend an apology notice translated into the native language:

We're sorry. This page hasn't been translated yet. We are working on it, but other section of the site are higher priority. For now, it is in English.

For search engines, this is not ideal. Google has requested that indexed pages be all one language. It recommends not mixing languages.

That means that you need to prevent Google from indexing the page. You could do so with one of two meta tags in the <head> section of your page:

  1. Your first option is to noindex the page: <meta name="robots" content="noindex">. This will prevent Google from indexing the page at all.
  2. Your second option is to use a rel canonical to point Google to the English version of the page: <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/en/same-page.html"> This will usually mean that when Google find the duplicate content it will choose to index the English version.

Of the two, the noindex is the stronger option. Google always obeys noindex, but in the last couple years Google has occasionally started to ignore canonicals.

  • Thanks for the answer Stephen. I'm gonna follow your suggestion. On a side note: Does google get confused when having internal links from one language to the other, indexing them as somehow connected? I'm seeing results in both english and Spanish, when viewing searching with Spanish language preferences. – Kenci Apr 8 '18 at 19:10
  • I am talking about sitelinks here :) – Kenci Apr 8 '18 at 19:33
  • Using hreflang could help in that regard: yoast.com/hreflang-ultimate-guide – Stephen Ostermiller Apr 8 '18 at 20:39
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You should never confuse your visitors with false geotargeting in the URL. And by all means, don't be afraid to have duplicated content, as long as you have it correctly translated. As a matter of fact, Google loves to find duplicated content in different languages, it's one of the ways they're using to improve their Translate service: by indexing all those multilingual sites, and making meaningful connections (matching) between two (or more) language versions of the same textual content.

  • I dont have the content translated in the other languages, and it will take some time until the translations are done. That is why I want to either redirect to /en or show duplicated English content. What I want to avoid though, is Google showing english results when searching with spanish language settings, which is something that I have problems with right now. – Kenci Apr 7 '18 at 16:37

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