I am in the process of translating a set of websites to multiple languages. Would there be any negative implications if I were to serve each different language from identical URLs?

I fully intend to fully implement translated URLs, hreflang meta tags, etc. But before I do that (and start risking making a mistake where Google might start seeing duplicate content) I'd like to be able to implement the translations to make sure everything "works" OK.

But will Google see that as "cloaking" or something else "black hat" because I'm serving different content from the same URL?

Just to be clear, the language would be selected by a POST form, set a session variable for the user, and then use that session variable for the rest of the session.

Edit I'm aware of the best practices for multilingual sites. I just don't want to implement them all at this time. It's a large project, so I'll be doing it in phases. I mostly want to know if I could be penalized by Google in any way.

Also, the websites sniff the users Browser language, and if we have that translation will serve it to them seamlessly. If we don't have that language, they'll get the English default.

  • It's possible to have different languages served from different files using server-side code, based on the browser's language headers, and this might be the best approach to use for SEO purposes. Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 18:44
  • 2
    Also, this is recent: googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2013/04/… Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 14:38
  • It's very difficult & actually discouraged. Once Google finds different langs at same URL, it will stop collecting data and actually stops crawling all links on such a page. As a result you may see very poor ranking & site data will not be collected. Happened to my site, coz I also did not care much - I believe robots are here for people, not the other way around. But in fact it's really technically difficult to ensure proper indexing if lang switch depends on cookie or server-side setting.
    – lubosdz
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 6:28

2 Answers 2


Here's Google's own tips for multilingual sites. In summary:

  • Make sure the page language is obvious by sticking to one language per page.

  • Keep the content for different languages on separate URLs. Don’t use cookies to show translated versions of the page. Consider cross-linking each language version of a page.

  • Tell Google if your site is targeting a particular geographic region.

  • Use robots.txt to block search engines from crawling automatically translated pages on your site.

  • 2
    Thanks, I'm aware of the best practices in this regard. I just don't care :) The real reason I'm asking is because I'd like to do this translation project in "phases", and I'm concerned about losing position for high ranking English URLs in the process, mostly. I've tried to clarify my question in an edit. Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 19:10
  • If you ignore Google's guidelines, you risk being penalized. I can't tell you when or if you will be penalized. Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 19:57
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    @nathangiesbrecht I think the information to answer you question is here. If you implement things Google considers and documents as non-optimal, whether you care or not, you should nevertheless do so knowing there's a possibility of harming your rankings. If your site has value you wish to preserve or enhance, test on a development site, not a public one.
    – GDVS
    Commented Apr 16, 2013 at 20:57
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    As of now, they unrecommend using a single URL for multiple localizations, but they explicitly say they support it. > If your site alters its content based on any Accept-Language field set by browsers’ HTTP headers, Googlebot uses a variety of signals to try to crawl your content using different Accept-Language HTTP headers. This means Google is more likely to discover, index, and rank your content in the different languages your site supports. > — support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6144055?hl=en Commented Mar 9, 2017 at 7:46
  • Not true (anymore?). The link from the previous comment says that Googlebot doesn't set "Accept-Language" in the request header at all.
    – 144226734
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 17:14

make Sure that your page language will be one for per page not multiple.

  • Google allow multiple language in a URL so don't worry about it.
  • Google like unique content so don't use copy content so Google doesn't take any action against you.
  • If there is any issue about robot.txt so include the issue in robot.txt file for indexing purpose.
  • From Google Webmaster Tools/ Search Console you can select Geography area also

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