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Before I begin, I am aware of https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/crawling/managing-multi-regional-sites, but there I have a specific question which isn't answered there.

I have a website in German and English. There's an app download page accessible via:

https://example.com/download -> Redirects to en or de depending on HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE
https://example.com/en/download-app -> English
https://example.com/de/app-herunterladen -> German

FYI: There is an option to manually switch to the other language. I also have the following in my <head>:

<link rel="alternate" hreflang="en" href="https://example.com/en/download-app" />
<link rel="alternate" hreflang="de" href="https://example.com/de/app-herunterladen" />

Since it looks nicer and is more flexible, I'd like to get backlinks mainly for .../download.

Is this bad practice? To have a ton of backlinks for a page that doesn't really exist, but only redirects?

Or should I instead have https://example.com/download as a third page that adapts its content depending on HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE? I would then add <link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="https://example.com/download" /> to my <head>.

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It isn't horrible SEO practice, but it isn't ideal to have back links to a language redirect page.

Googlebot is only going to see one version of your redirect because it doesn't crawl with multiple Accept-Language headers. That version is probably going to be English because Google is a US based company. Google will see all of the PageRank pointing to https://example.com/en/download-app and your German download page won't rank well.

You should not have https://example.com/download as a third page that adapts its content depending on HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE. That would be even worse for SEO. Then Google would only see the English content plus you would have duplicate content issues.

The ideal situation would be to have links from English sites point to https://example.com/en/download-app and links from German sites point to https://example.com/de/app-herunterladen when possible. Then both pages get some link juice.

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  • Thanks! Do you think I should still include <link rel="alternate" hreflang="x-default" href="https://example.com/download" />, even though it's "just" a redirect page? Just so that there is "some" context for Google when there is the occasional backlink to .../download. Feb 19 at 20:29
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    No, you should not include that. Hreflang tags have to be symmetric. You can't put a hreflang tag on the redirect URL, so there shouldn't be any such tags pointing to it. Feb 19 at 20:43

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