The website i am working on is translated to 8 languages (English, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Spanish and Portuguese).

Each time the user select a language, the URL stays the same as i am using a combination of defined variables to change the languages. For example, the URL for the English version (mysite.com) looks like the Chinese version.

My Question: Do i need to specify a certain HTML tag to inform search engines that my website is in 8 languages? if yes, what are the necessary tags and how to define them?

As an extra question, does this technique in translating the website bad for SEO?


2 Answers 2


You should definitely have a different URL for each language for SEO.

In your pages you can use Links in the header to inform the bot or useragent of the other languages:

<link rel="Alternate" hreflang="en-US" title="English content" href="/english/page.htm" />
<link rel="Alternate" hreflang="nl-NL" title="Dutch translation" href="/dutch/page.htm" />

Using cookies to determine the language is certainly not SEO friendly, nor is it human, blog, twitter, or anything-else friendly (how could someone ever link to a page in a specific language on such a site?). It is also good to have a "permalink" to support social media propaganda.


There is the "lang" attribute in HTML, which you can add to the parent element: <html lang="en"> - however Google basically ignores it.

Even if that wasn't the case I don't think your system would ever work, as the same URL would be returning different content. You should have different URLs for different languages - either subdomains or separate folders.

  • 1
    While Google ignores it as Goat linked to, you should still add it to pages for semantic reasons. Some screen readers can announce the page using that language. See my other answer
    – Ryan B
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 19:27

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