I have a site that have localized content. I would like to know if it's really important to also translate the URL paths to access the content. For example:

Today, I'm handling the URLS like these:

www.example.com/de/airports
www.example.com/pt/airports

My question if is it really good and worthwhile to change my site to handle URLs like these:

www.example.com/de/airports
www.example.com/pt/aeroportos

This last way it's more work to do. I was looking for Google papers talking about this subject but I did not find, anyone knows if this is important or it's ignored by search engines?

I'm not aware of anything explicit from Google that specifically advises translating URLs to local language, however they have acknowledged that keywords in URLs do help. You can see that Google (and Bing) is doing something with URL keywords by the way they're bolded in search results.

That being established, it's a reasonable extension to say that keywords in the local language may be better than not in the local language.

Beyond that, though, we should consider click-through. There is research to suggest that users do look at the URL shown in search results, and similarly, it seems reasonable to suppose that URLs in your target audience's language could contribute to better CTR relative to untranslated equivalents.

All that said, I think it's reasonable to balance these possible advantages against the cost of translating the URLs in the first place, and any maintenance and administrative impacts that has throughout the life of the website.

  • 1
    Really good answer. You just resumed what I think about this. – John John Pichler May 20 '14 at 14:20

On one hand this seems unnecessary because links and search takes care of all of this, but at the same time using terms in the URL more natural to a particular language would be more memorable and may help with search. I think it is a matter of what you want to do. I am a tech guy that studies and uses automation and this seems right up my ally, but if you do the manual work to cover this, it really could take time. I think there is search value using the natural language URL and you can reduce some of the work by not having both airports and aeroportos when aeroportos is more natural, but if you drop airports you may be dropping other users such as travelers.

You can create canonical link for all of this to avoid duplicates where it applies.

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en

Another thought would be to have the page appear in the natural language for pages such as aeroportos or at least use a more natural English for these pages.

If you can do the work, from an SEO perspective, this is something that I think can broaden your search presence. While on one hand Google handles aeroportos as being the same word as airports, you would rank higher using pages/terms aeroportos. As well, you can conceivably broaden the number of links in the SERPs. One way to do this is to link your airports page to aeroportos and vice versa. Lately, I have increased the number of links per page in the SERPs from 1 or 2 to 2 to 6. As well, for some searches, I have dominated the SERPs for unique searches. You may be able to do the same. But I think you would need more than just a URL to do this. You would at least need a more natural English on the pages as well.

Keep in mind that people feel more comfortable in their native language even if the page is still English, having the appearance that the page is in a more native English, can really drive the number of people who may click on your link as opposed to someone elses.

My suggestion is to explore this idea by taking a few of the most pages/URLs you think would be the likely to be effective and creating a few scenarios (URL/pages) that fit the concept and see what happens. You can try new ideas and measure results as well as check out how much work this would be and see if it is something you can do and/or something you want to do. If it does not work out, it is only a few pages you can 404 or 301 redirect and remove from your site if you decide not to proceed.

All and all, I think this is a good idea worth at least testing for a while and see what other new ideas come out of it. I think you will be surprised.

  • Are you recommending "canonicalising" the language variants to a single variant? If so, which one? – GDav May 20 '14 at 14:29
  • No not necessarily. It is just an option. I actually like the idea of using a different language page or a more natural English if that works. But if you only add the URL, then perhaps that is a good idea. I would canonical link the new URL to the old URL. I do not use canonical links (ever) so I am not as familiar with all the ins and outs, but I understand the concept. BTW- I like your question a lot. I up-voted it. It is excellent for discussion and conceptualizing. – closetnoc May 20 '14 at 14:42
  • @closetnoc I think you are right. I think it's worthwhile to some pages be like these, once people se the URL on their language they are more willing to click. – John John Pichler May 20 '14 at 14:59
  • It is something to try anyway. I cannot tell you how much work it would be, but I suspect it could be significant depending how far you take it. For what is worth, I use a text file and notepad to organize my work (yeah I know- high tech) and that helps me to keep my mind straight(that is a miracle!). You could use something more sophisticated such as a spreadsheet to keep track of words/phrases and alternative URL/pages, and such. I think if you were organized in this way, you might find new opportunities and the work becomes more mechanical and less overwhelming. – closetnoc May 20 '14 at 15:07
  • @closetnoc I'm not clear on what you're recommending with regard to the canonical link element, but generally speaking it's something you'd avoid when dealing with content for different regions, because what we want is to show region specific content in appropriate regions. A canonical link element would have the opposite effect. @Ed_Pichler should probably be considering rel="alternate" hreflang="xx-XX" annotations, but that's beyond the scope of this question. – GDav May 20 '14 at 15:58

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