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I am building a website in two languages, English and Japanese. Right now, there is an "English" version and a "Japanese" version of each page, and you can click a link to switch between the different languages (this is how most multilingual websites work).

However, a usability test revealed that many of the site's users are Japanese people who speak English reasonably well and want to see the English and Japanese content side by side like this:

ENGLISH TEXT 1

JAPANESE TEXT 1

ENGLISH TEXT 2

JAPANESE TEXT 2

But before I make the change, how do search engines index content like this (= each article is a series of alternating English and Japanese sentences)? Is this going to confuse Google and Bing, or are they sophisticated enough to handle this?

I'm worried because the English/Japanese ratio will basically be 50/50, so it seems like it might be penalized in the rankings because it is not clearly one language.

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Your concerns are legitimate. And I would take precautions before deciding to implement the translation structure that you are considering.

Google will of course understand the content of your page. As of right now, it sees an English page that it thinks English speaking users might want to visit. It also sees a Japanese page that it thinks Japanese speakers will want to see.

By combining the two languages together onto one page, you're diluting the content into two languages. Half of your page is in Japanese which isn't suitable for English speaking users, and the other half is in English which isn't suitable for many people in Japan. As a result, you might face substantial derankings as a result.


One thing that you can do is find what language the user has set in their browser. If the user has Japanese as their language, and they are on the English version of your page, you can set English and Japanese side by side. And if the user has English as their language and they are on a Japanese page, you can do the same.

You should also be cautious about implementing the above concept onto organic search landing pages, as it's possible that Google may consider this cloaking. You want to make sure that Google understands exactly what the page will look like that it is sending users to.

But for returning users or users who have visited more than one page, it may suit your needs.

Here are some examples about detecting browser language: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/10173142/find-the-language-of-the-user-computer-web https://stackoverflow.com/questions/3770513/detect-browser-language-in-php/3770616

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