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.
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?