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I am soon launching a multilingual site under 2 different domain names, in the same region (country) and would like to know if I am taking the wrong approach and running into a wall. I would also like to have suggestions, recommendations on what I should do to make things right. I read several questions/answers about multilingual sites with the same content in different regions. But good advice/questions/answers for the same site, with multiple domains, with the same content, in the same region, are harder to find.

The reason for the 2 domain names is that the brand name will be available and advertised in 2 languages: brand-in-English.ca, brand-in-French.ca, and even if I could use a single domain name for both languages, I really insist, if what I am trying to do is possible, to have 2 domain names. What I mean by possible, is to be able to score high in SEO (assuming I follow all the good practices) and that my will to have 2 domains does not affect my SEO score.

Both domains would have the exact same content, would be available in the 2 languages, and would have the language/locale in the URL. This is to allow users to switch site language while keeping their sessions active. So:

  • brand-in-English.ca/en/some-page, brand-in-English.ca/fr/some-page (default/fallback language would be English, if user accesses the domain directly)

  • brand-in-French.ca/en/some-page, brand-in-French.ca/fr/some-page (default/fallback language would be French, if user accesses the domain directly)

What I want, desired behavior:

  • For results in search engines, if user searches in English, I would like brand-in-English.ca/en/some-page to show in the results, not brand-in-French.ca/en/some-page (I do not want duplicate content, and I don't want the exact same page to be shown in search results with the 2 different domain names).

  • For results in search engines, if user searches in French, I would like brand-in-French.ca/fr/some-page to show in the results, not brand-in-English.ca/fr/some-page (I do not want duplicate content, and I don't want the exact same page to be shown in search results with the 2 different domain names).

  • I would like English users to be able to see in search engine results the French domain (brand-in-French.ca/en/) if they search for the French brand name "brand-in-French" while being in English on the search engine.

  • I would like French users to be able to see in search engine results the English domain (brand-in-English.ca/fr/) if they search for the English brand name "brand-in-English" while being in French on the search engine.

What I found so far is on https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2010/03/working-with-multi-regional-websites.html:

There is generally no need to "hide" the duplicates by disallowing crawling in a robots.txt file or by using a "noindex" robots meta tag. However, if you're providing the same content to the same users on different URLs (for instance, if both "example.de/" and "example.com/de/" show German language content for users in Germany), it would make sense to choose a preferred version and to redirect (or use the "rel=canonical" link element) appropriately.

So is that "rel=canonical" link element enough?

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Using canonical tags wont give you the results you want in the last two steps. This is because when using canonical tags, the canonicalised URL (URL that has a canonical tag that doesn't reference its self) will eventually be removed from the search results page.

Also, the link you referenced, that is an old recommendation, since then href lang tags are the recommended way to tell Google about content that is the same, but for different locations.

However, href lang doesn't help in your case, as you have duplicates for the same language and location.

I cant see a way to get the behavior you want, without falling foul of possible duplication issues between the domains. If you did want to use canonical tags to avoid duplication, you can use the set up below:

Has self referencing canonical tag: <link rel="canonical" href="https://brand-in-English.ca/en/some-page" />

Has a href lang tag that references the page on the French Domain: <link rel="alternate" href="https://brand-in-English.ca/fr/some-page " hreflang="fr-ca" />

Has a canonical that references the page on the French domain tag: <link rel="canonical" href="https://brand-in-French.ca/fr/some-page" />

Has self referencing canonical tag: <link rel="canonical" href="https://brand-in-English.ca/en/some-page" />

Has a href lang tag that references the page on the english Domain: <link rel="alternate" href="https://brand-in-English.ca/en/some-page " hreflang="en-ca" />

Has a canonical that references the page on the english domain tag: <link rel="canonical" href="https://brand-in-English.ca/en/some-page " />

  • Thanks for your help and explanation. I can live without the two last steps of the desired behavior so I'll probably use canonical tags as you suggested. Do you know if each province can be considered as a unique region? I could limit the French brand/domain to be used/advertised in 1 province in Canada and the English brand/domain to be used/advertised in all other provinces. My scenario would no longer be same content on 2 domains in the same region, but the same content on 2 domains in different regions. – Martin Sep 11 '18 at 19:26
  • No you can only indicate countries. – Max Sep 12 '18 at 2:46

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