I've been asked to take over the maintenance of an existing site that's being reworked.

At present it's serving localised content for several languages, but via a fairly unhelpful mechanism that means essentially search engines only have it indexed in English and any deep links will de facto appear in English as well.

So, new localised sites are being built under separate domains - not just for this, there's other benefits. What we're then looking to do is to redirect users correctly to the new site, where appropriate, or the localised old content where the new site isn't yet available. Once this process is complete the old site content will then be entirely retired.

For humans this isn't a problem. We can send them through a gateway page on their first site visit, grab their language preference and put it in a cookie, then redirect them to the new localised content as soon as it's available.

For search engines, this isn't so good... In principle I'm happy to simply bypass the gateway page and redirect known spiders to the new site, but this means we're serving radically different content (different URL even!) to human and robot users. Won't this therefore be regarded as cloaking and cause us grief?

Anyone know a better way to handle this?

  • "...redirect known spiders to the new site" - but say you have a new site for each language, so which "new site" do you intend to "redirect known spiders"?
    – MrWhite
    Oct 5, 2012 at 16:06
  • UK English for search engines, as that's the default site which they're currently seeing.
    – eftpotrm
    Oct 8, 2012 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


I'd recommend using Google's alternate language markup. In brief, that allows you to mark each page (or alternatively your XML Sitemap) with the location of each page's language alternatives, or even alternatives in the same language intended for different countries.

Google recommend against automatic redirection based on a user's perceived language, so probably best to avoid that if you can. A combination of alternate language markup, good linking between sites, and properly optimised content should ensure that the right content shows up in the right local searches, and that users are able to navigate to the content they want in the event that, for whatever reason, they end up on the wrong site.

  • Thanks - sorry, I probably wasn't clear. We're only looking to auto redirect either search engines (to the new UK english content that's replacing old, retiring UK english content) and users with a known, stated language preference in their language cookie. The issue is to try and get users onto appropriate content and search engines onto suitable default content (rather than a gateway page they can't interpret) without showing up to search engines as if we were cloaking content.
    – eftpotrm
    Oct 8, 2012 at 8:10

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