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I have 3 Wordpress instances of the same site in different languages hosted in different regions - Ireland, Russia and Spain. The 3 sites are code identical - just the content is different.

I'm planning to combine them a use a multilingual plugin instead and redirect the .ru and .es versions to the .ie site. I'm wondering:

  • Is this a good idea? Are any multilingual plugins good enough?
  • Is an search engine penalty likely?
  • Do search engine rankings rank much better if each site is hosted in the respective country? e.g. .ru is hosted in Russia and not Ireland. My main concern is a bit hit on the search rankings.
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Just on the subject of domain extensions, I worry that Russian and Spanish visitors may be confused by being required to use the .ie domain. Is there a particular reason to keep the .ie but not the .es or .ru domains?

Moving all three to a .com (or other generic TLD) may be more sensible. This serves a few benefits:

  • A generic TLD can make your site feel more international.
  • Instead of "preferring" one subset of visitors over the others, all visitors in current and future regions will be treated equally.
  • Moving Russian & Spanish visitors to an irrelevant regional TLD could cause not only confusion, but could potentially harm your rankings by serving content which doesn't match the region of the domain.
  • Obviously there are exceptions, but without more knowledge of the website in question this is a pretty generic solution. – Andrew Lott Apr 4 '16 at 11:30
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If they are in different languages, then obviously, the content is different. No worries about duplicate content there.

If there were a very large number of external links that were identical, that might be an issue, but but that does not apply to internal links within that ccTLD.

I wouldn't be terribly worried about hosting location either. A surprisingly large number of sites are on a surprisingly small number of hosts - there's one mega-host with a 200k domains on the same (apparent) server, and yes, they are really live domains, not parked. Parkers go way up into the millions. Of course, don't use a server that's dominated by search spam, and one single spammer can have that effect.

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In this instance Google's advice is that as long as the content is of different languages and targeted at different users based on the language then there is no major issues, however Google does strongly recommend the use of the rel=canonical link element to identify which page is the canonical page for the content, and use of the rel-alternate-hreflang link element to make sure that the correct language or regional URL is served to searchers.

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