Similar question but different on key points.

I have the following setup:

example.com requests forward to example.com/landing/re.php with a 301 permanently moved.

/landing/re.php evaluates cookies (or other request data) and directs you to either the landing page or to a specific language site, it redirects with a 303 see-other.

All http-redirects are sent in the HTTP response header section.

I'm really worried that bots won't be able to deal with this and I should resolve this in some way. My first instinct is to evaluate user-agent and send google to our English page, however I am unaware of the issues with my setup. What's the best way for me to deal with this? Should I re-work what I'm doing to some other way?

2 Answers 2


Most people who link to your site are likely to link to yourdomain.tld so having that page point to a 303 redirect may be wasting some PR (though perhaps trust and authority still get passed to the domain) as the 303 will not pass on PR, and will likely cause http://yourdomain.tld to just be unindexed.

That said, there are a lot of sites that use this approach (having domain.tld dynamically redirect to *lang*.domain.tld). One way to do it without wasting PR would be to:

  1. Have domain.tld simply be a language-selection page that links to all the different language subsites.
  2. When a user goes to a particular language subsite, save (via cookie) that as their language preference.
  3. Next time the user comes to domain.tld use JavaScript to redirect them to their preferred subsite.

This way all of your domain.tld PR flows to each of your language subsites, but you still auto-redirect users to the language they last visited.

However, this is still considered cloaking as return users will see the "language selection" page in the SERP and instead end up at one of the language subsites. So that might be a reason to stick with your current setup and simply have search users go directly to one of the subsites. Google is pretty good at determining which language the user is looking for anyway (based on the query as well as which Google portal the user is searching from).


I'd start by looking through the logfiles and see how the search engine bots are handling it (assuming it's a live site) if they are handling it properly then there is no need to worry.

I would recommend against setting up special redirects based on user agent, GoogleBot wants to see exactly what users see and if you are setting up specific redirects for GoogleBot it it is considered "cloaking" even if it's not an attempt at anything malicious this is considered a no no from Google's perspective.

I would look at the referring IP address and redirect to the appropriate language, this way it treats all users the same including GoogleBot.

  • 2
    I can't trust the IP is the proper language. Canada is a bilingual country, and our web users end up coming to the site while traveling abroad.
    – Incognito
    Nov 12, 2010 at 16:39
  • What do you mean by "referring IP address", and how would the redirect page use it? Geo-location? Nov 12, 2010 at 16:47
  • @user1725 yes you would have to include a way for people to change the language for instances like these.
    – Joshak
    Nov 12, 2010 at 18:48
  • @Lese Yes, it would guess the appropriate language based on the location of the IP.
    – Joshak
    Nov 12, 2010 at 18:49

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