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We're building a global platform for a large client who want a range of sites targeting different countries all hosted under a single gTLD, so example.com/uk will be a UK-specific site, example.com/fr would target France etc. Each of these sites will have a different set of language variants e.g. example.com/fr/en-gb would be an English-language version of the French site.

I would like to know how best to inform search engines that these sub-directories are effectively separate regionalised site. Are there any tools at my disposal (speaking as a developer rather than a content manager) to ensure, for example, that example.com/uk appears in search results for people in the UK above other English-language sites e.g. example.com/us?

Or am I entirely reliant on content within the sites being interpreted by the search robots?

I assume that from the client's perspective, this is what Google Webmaster Tools is for? Would that be the primary means to educate Google about the regional relevance of the sub-directories of the platform? Is there an equivalent for other major search engines?

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Google Webmaster Tools has a setting for it. You need to add each sub-directory as a *separate site". Then for each subdirectory, you can set the targeted country under "Search Traffic" -> "International Targeting" -> "Country".

Google has a help document that walks you through the process: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/62399?hl=en

Other search engines may have similar functionality, but I typically only worry about Google because it has such a large market share.

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You can use hreflang to indicate intended location or language-location audiences. Currently supported by Google and Yandex.

This should be supported by individually adding each locale's directory to Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, etc. and using the geotargeting tool.

As an aside, I'd question the need for /fr/en-gb/. If you want "catch-all" versions for common languages, you can target just the language with hreflang and, in theory, that should be returned for search results in the corresponding language where no more appropriate version is available.

For instance, you could have /en-gb/ and /en/, with corresponding hreflang. The former should be shown for English language queries in google.co.uk, and the latter for English language queries anywhere else.

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