My concern is about SEO. Now let me explain the scenario.

I am making a 3 languages website. The development is alright, but I was targeting local customers with one domain, and international (English version) with another. Eg:

Local http://www.minhalojadesapatos.com.br (this is not the real website, just example!)



Both domain point to exactly the same hosting and content, but when user comes through local domain, default language is set to Portuguese, otherwise, default is English. Language handling on backend uses PHP Sessions and cookies, so with just a click users can change content language.

How to avoid being SEO-penalised in this context? (yeah, I was hungry when focusing market for choosing two domains but the activity really needs that, it is a travel agency).



If client enter by domain #1, he/she will see a Portuguese page. But there is a link on top to change language for English (this link contains a rel="nofollow"). Clicking this link, a session variable will be set, and content will display English, which contains the same content as domain #2 directly accessed, and vice-versa. That's my concern about duplicate content.

  • Hey Dave, did you find what you were looking for? Feb 14, 2011 at 19:13
  • Hello @Christopher, not really. I didn't find any direct or good answer enough so far. Feb 20, 2011 at 0:06
  • A way to avoid such a penalty, instead of drawing the content from a database and dynamically setting it in using sessions and cookies, make a mirror in a different folder. If it is a different language on the same site, you could be penalized for duplicate content. Feb 20, 2011 at 7:45

6 Answers 6


Picking up an old question, because it's still relevant and common :-) ...

In general, you won't be "penalized" for anything like this, provided you use real translations and don't use automatic translations to create other versions of your content. The thing that's important for search engines is that you have unique URLs per language. It doesn't matter if you use URL parameters (example.com?lang=en, example.com?lang=fr), subdirectories (example.com/en, example.com/fr), subdomains (en.example.com, fr.example.com) or even separate domains (example-en.com, example-fr.com). Using the same URLs (eg via JavaScript/sessions/cookies/HTTP-request-headers) is problematic (but in a technical sense, not in the sense that your site would be "penalized") because search engines would not be able to find the content in those languages, they'd just find one version.

In your case, I'd make sure that users are sent to the appropriate URLs upon switching languages. Don't just switch the language, also make sure that they're on the right language-specific URL afterwards. The reason for that is simple, if they recommend the URL that they're on to their friends, they expect that their friends will see the same content (in the same language) as they're seeing (and yes, I know Google sometimes does that, but this is your chance to do better :-)).

We have more on multilingual / multiregional sites in our help center.


What if you make the link in the top go to the english version instead of translating the content?

So, instead of setting a variable in the session you make a redirect. At the end, you will have all the brazilian content in your brazilian site, and all your english content in your .com site

  • This isn't possible all the times. Many .com are registered, but their .com.br, .com.es, .com.fr... aren't. And for registering a .com.us for example, I need to register on USA authority, same thing for any other country. So, with all these ifs and buts, I don't think it is a nice solution. Interesting, but not the praticable in most cases. Apr 20, 2011 at 1:34
  • I thought you have both domains, .com and .com.br Apr 21, 2011 at 15:58
  • This is indeed the correct way to go. In the link to translated content, take the URL (myshoesstore.com.br/some/page) on the server side and redirect the client to the translated version (minhalojadesapatos.com.br/some/page). Actually you win twice with this solution because you will have many links from both sites pointing to each other. I'd leave the rel="nofollow" out using this solution! Oct 6, 2011 at 15:26

Actually you will be fine. You won't get penalized for that. It's a different language. Just make sure each site has some type of different tld or subdomain or folder.

check out this article for further info. http://www.searchenginejournal.com/multilingual-seo/19903/

good luck.

  • Sorry, I think I wasn't clear enough. Check edits, pls. Jan 13, 2011 at 16:13
  • when they change the language does the url change or does it happend in the same url?
    – andrewk
    Jan 13, 2011 at 22:36
  • the URL doesn't change. The language information is persisted through session mechanism - which usually, and in this case also is, is made using cookies. Feb 20, 2011 at 0:05

You should be fine, however I've heard that using automated translation software can trigger the content as duplicate.


This article will answer your doubts and give insight in how search engines treat multilingual content: http://www.ninebyblue.com/blog/making-geotargeted-content-findable-for-the-right-searchers/

It was written by Vanessa Fox (ex-Google, created Google Webmaster Central), for me this has been of great help over the last months.


Different languages, even if the text is pretty much the same will not be treated as duplicate content, even if you have different tlds. I would be more concern about redirects.

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