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I'm experiencing an issue using the Google webmaster tools. My Website homepage is being redirected to the correct language version according to user's browser language.

For example if a user from UK visits https://www.example.com he's going to be redirected to https://www.example.com/en/ instead if a user from Italy is going to visit the same site he's redirected to the Italian version

This approach is giving me some SEO problems: On the Fetch as Google page my homepage status is obviously redirected (to one of the language version), and I'm afraid this can be a serious issue for SEO. is that true? If so, how to solve that?

If I Google my website it looks like both English and Italian pages are mixed together on the search engine.

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Two points here.

Conditional redirection and SEO

The conditional redirection isn't a problem if correctly configured. In Google's case, they're now using "locale aware crawling", whereby their crawler employs different Accept-Language values (i.e., browser languages) and IP addresses.

That being said, we don't know much about precisely what languages and regions are supported, and their own page on locale aware crawling advises continued use of hreflang.

Further, other search engines do not, as far as we know, have equivalent features. For them, we should assume they do not issue Accept-Language headers, and likely crawl from a single location.

When conditionally redirecting, you'll typically have a fall-back redirect. For example, if you have only English and Italian content, a visitor with a browser set to German will go to whatever you decide is the best default.

Taking locale aware crawling out of the equation, that default scenario will apply to search engines. So, to ensure your country/language-specific content is crawled and indexed properly, you need to make sure it's all accessible despite the conditional redirection.

It may be helpful to refer to my answer on a previous, similar question.

Problems with using browser language for conditional redirection

You haven't asked about this, but it's worth pointing out. Browser language can be an unreliable indicator. Most browsers default to US English, and many users either don't know or never bother to change it.

For this reason, if you use your analytics to compare traffic by language and location, you'll often see a discrepancy.

It's usually most visible between variants of English (US, UK, Australia, Canada, etc.). Looking at one of my client's data now, for example, I see that, judging by browser language, they have almost 3 times as many visitors from the US as IP addresses would suggest.

May not be an issue for you, but worth considering.

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  • thanks for your answer, I'm trying to use the url canonicalization to solve the problem. at this moment I'm using example.com as canonical url, and example.com/it as hreflang it and example.com/en as hreflang en but it gives me this error : ** 'en' - no return tags ** do you have any idea of why? – pipizanzibar Jul 5 '16 at 9:43
  • The "no return" error means you don't have hreflang references going in both directions. For example, the /en page needs hreflang references to itself and to /it. Likewise, /it needs references to itself and to /en. – GDav Jul 15 '16 at 9:30
  • Do you think is correct to use as canonical language the .com url and to use as alternate the .com/it and .com/en and as x-default the .com (which is english just as .com/en) or do you think I'm going to have errors or duplicates? – pipizanzibar Jul 15 '16 at 10:11
  • No, that's not correct. Also, just to be clear, canonical link element isn't the right tool here - all this should be done with hreflang. – GDav Jul 15 '16 at 11:59

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