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We are looking for an answer to "what to do with French URL's?"

We are going to generate a lot of French URL's this include characters like:

  • L'test
  • tést
  • thîs is a test

So we have a few possibilities in what we can do:

  • "thîs is a test" can be "thisisatest" or "this%20is%20a%20test"
  • "L'test" can be "ltest" or "l%20test"
  • "tést" can be "test"

Problem: Should we transform our URL's for better user readability and what does Google Analytics / Google Search like?

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    You are asking the wrong question. Google doesn't care much about URLs. Any of your proposals could rank well. The question should be "What do my users like?" – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 30 '15 at 14:32
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I think you are missing the best possibility:

Why? Well, why should you show your visitors wrong characters? It’s é, not e!

So your slugs could look like this (using a common delimiter (like -) instead of a space (%20)):

/l%27test
/t%C3%A9st
/th%C3%AEs-is-a-test

(' can also be used directly, but browser still seem to encode it by default, probably because of an older URI spec.)

Hover over these links, or open them in your browser, to see that browsers will display the actual characters instead of the percent-encoded form:

This is what the French Wikipedia uses, too:

Standard-conforming consumers (like search engines, analytics etc.) should have no problems with this. If they couldn’t handle these URLs, they would miss out on a big part of the Web.

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