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I have a website that has really good SEO in Portugal.

I use a ccTLD .pt domain, so it's automatically geotargeted for portuguese audience.

But now I'm expanding the website to Brazil. And I'll use a similar domain name on Brazil's ccTLD .com.br.

It will basically have the same pages. The content will be very much the same, except for the fact that some of text content will have to change. Given the fact that Brazil and Portugal's Portuguese are not 100% identical, some text/expressions will be different. Also, some pages have lists of products, and the currency will also be different, since Portugal uses Euro € and Brazil uses Real $.

Given these two pages:

  • www.mydomain.pt/page-a
  • www.myotherdomain.com.br/page-a

Both pages above will have very similar content, as I've described above.

Regarding international SEO, given the fact that I'll be using two different ccTLD's for each country, do I need to add any hreflang on my sitemaps?

Will I have problem with duplicate content? Or the fact that each page is under a different ccTLD is enough for Google to understand that each page is suited for a different audience and both should be indexed and ranked separately?

I'm asking this because my current plan is to keep both websites 100% independent. Each one will have its own sitemap with its pages URL's listed. Do I need to "link" them in any way?

NOTE 1: I wouldn't like to use hreflang if I don't have to, because not all pages will have equivalents on the other language. I mean, I might have a page-x that exists in my .com.br domain that does not exist on my .pt and vice-versa. So I would have to keep track of all that dynamically to build a perfect sitemap.

What should be the correct approach to avoid one site affecting/hurting the other's SEO rankings?

NOTE 2: Don't know if it matters, but it's not exactly the same domain name, although they are similar.

  • Portugal: www.mydomain.pt
  • Brazil: www.myotherdomain.com.br
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I'd strongly recommend it. What you describe — sites for different countries which speak the same language — is given by Google as a primary use-case for hreflang. See Google's relevant documentation:

Some example scenarios where indicating alternate pages is recommended: […]

  • If your content has small regional variations with similar content, in a single language.

Even though you'd have separate ccTLDs and there are slight differences in the languages, in my experience this almost certainly isn't enough for them not to interfere with each other. You'll very likely start seeing a lot of excluded "duplicate" pages.

That being said, even with hreflang it's possible that Google will exclude pages it deems duplicate. I'd encourage you to do everything you can to differentiate the content.

NOTE 1: I wouldn't like to use hreflang if I don't have to, because not all pages will have equivalents on the other language.

Where pages don't have an equivalent, you don't have to output hreflang at all.

NOTE 2: Don't know if it matters, but it's not exactly the same domain name, although they are similar.

Doesn't matter.

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  • Thank you so much for the detailed explanation. Since my website structure is basically a blogging website with posts about niche content and posts with product lists, each country is theory independent regarding which posts it should display, even though many posts will be translated to every language. To keep track of each post translations, I'll have to create a whole different data structure, where the blogPost entity is on a higher level and each translation is under it. Right now, every blogPost is on the same level on the data structure. Like sibling. (continue...) – cbdeveloper Nov 9 '20 at 10:05
  • That's a LOT of refactoring to do. I'll even reconsider if I really should expand to countries that speak the same language as countries that I already have presence in. Do you think it's really worth it to implement the hreflang? Can't I leave them separated only by ccTLDs? I'll try to differentiate the content, but if you are writing about "apples and oranges", how can you differentiate this content from Brazil and Portugal other than minor expression and word changes? I mean, I can re-phrase everything but that would be so cumbersome to do. And still Google might tag it as duplicate. – cbdeveloper Nov 9 '20 at 10:10
  • Also, I have a currency converter website, where I've implement hreflang in all my URLs (this site uses subfolders to separate countries). And even with that, Google has still marked some of my content as duplicate. Because I serve multiple Spanish speaking countries like ES, CL, AR, MX and multiple English speaking countries like AU, CA, US, UK and the differences in the content are minimal. I.e: Even with hreflang it's not 100% that I won't get tagged as duplicate. – cbdeveloper Nov 9 '20 at 10:17
  • What would you do in my situation? Thanks again! – cbdeveloper Nov 9 '20 at 10:17
  • It's hard to give advice specific to your situation as I don't know all the details, but I'd start by examining the business need for country-specific sites. If, as you say, differentiation is difficult or impossible — or else you'd be artificially differentiating purely for SEO purposes — then it's not clear to me that there is a need. In which case, as you're finding, it likely isn't worth the trouble. – GDVS Nov 11 '20 at 11:19

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