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Old 06-12-2006   #1
midi
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Strategy for domains in multiple languages

I am in the process of creating a site and want to have this site in different languages for Europe (I am thinking of the 6 major languages).

I have read that these sites work best if the url has the domain of a certain country and is hosted in that certain country. My web page is going to be about plastics, so I understand that my web page can be optimised better for the different languajes if for example, it is:
* plasticos.es” (for the page in Spanish, hosted in Spain),
* plastics.co.uk” (for the UK, hosted in the UK),
* plastici.it (for the Italian page, hosted in Italy)
and so forth for the page in german, french and Portuguese. I would still maintain the “plastics.com” (as the standard, probably hosted in the US).

I understood that this strategy would be preferable to the strategy of putting everything under the plastics.com, as pastics,com/en, plastics.com/it etc…

However, when reading information about this matter in certain forums, I read that if I proceed this way, the different search engines (especially Google) could penalyze me for duplicate content (in case the content is the same, although made in different languages). This matter made little sense to me since I do not understand why would Google want to penalyse different sites in different languages (even if the content is the same), written and optimised for each country. I would highly appreciate any views in this matter. Thank you.
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Old 06-13-2006   #2
amabaie
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Wrong. If the content is in different languages, it is not duplicate. Google does not translate "chausettes" into "socks".
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Old 06-13-2006   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amabaie
Wrong. If the content is in different languages, it is not duplicate. Google does not translate "chausettes" into "socks".
Agree you will never get penalized at least for duplicated content - but suspect you will crosslink all the domains which is a little under-productive.

Your best bet is to use a single domain and incorporate subdomains for each language deutsch.plastics.com, espanol.plastics.com, francais.plastics.com, italiano.plastics.com, etc. focusing more on a single company/domain brand identity rather that focus on a disconnectied keyword strategy.

Remember that people buy from companies not domain names.
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Old 06-13-2006   #4
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OK, just for fun I'll jump in here again.

Quote:
Remember that people buy from companies not domain names
English people generally have no interest in buying from the office of a company located in Paris or in Rome. They want to deal with a company's English-speaking staff. Ditto for french-speakers. Ditto for Spanish speakers. While there is no reason to hide the other languages from a customer, it adds no value to the customer to have a staff member who can speak six languages. On the Internet, the website replaces the staff member.

The only thing that matters to the visitor is whether their language is on the page they are reading. Whether there are dozens of other languages elsewhere oin the site or at diffeent domains won't make a difference to the customer. So in this case, why not do what will work best for SEO, for internal administration or for whatever other goals one might have?
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Old 06-13-2006   #5
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Thank you for your posts. The reason behind doing the site on different languages is to treat the sites as independent and "local" sites. THat way, if anybody is looking for plastics in Italy in Google.it, my site should be better placed than if I used the plastics.com/italy. Moreover, I have read also that putting that site, for example in an italian server, increases the chances of getting a good ranking in google.it in Italy.

This has the incopnvenience that each site has to be optimised separately but I understand that it is better in the long run and adds value to the user and to the web

Besides this, I also wanted to link the pages in the different languages together. I understand that as amabaie says, this adds up litlle to the buyer, but I understand that could help my link strategy, having automatically five links related to each one of the pages in each one of the languages. My concern here again is if this link strategy can be penalysed by the search engines. Any thoughts?
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Old 06-13-2006   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midi
...Besides this, I also wanted to link the pages in the different languages together. I understand that as amabaie says, this adds up litlle to the buyer, but I understand that could help my link strategy, having automatically five links related to each one of the pages in each one of the languages. My concern here again is if this link strategy can be penalysed by the search engines. Any thoughts?
midi - IMO, this is where you run into problems. Think of links as references or recommendations. How much would you trust a recommendation from someone's family members versus recommendations from independent experts? At a certain point, if someone's reference were mostly from family members, you might tend to distrust them all together.

Take a look at the following two threads about treating multiple language sites, and note my emphasis on keeping inbound links independent.

One Site - Multiple TLD Domains
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...ad.php?t=11795

SEO For Multilingual, International & Dynamic Web Site
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/...ead.php?t=7970
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Old 06-13-2006   #7
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But does the visitor care?

Hi Midi,

This might be a bit off topic, but I wanted to make comment on the TLDs used.

I am by no means an expert on foreign cultures, but I have traveled extensively in Europe, especially over the past 15 years while the internet took hold there. I have found it fascinating how it has evolved so differently there than in the US. From the advertisements I have observed, and the people I have met and discussed their online behavior with, it is clear. They have a strong affinity with the company/service/website that has their country's TLD.

In some countries that are, shall we say, not comfortable with the American way, certainly view .com as companies from the US and stay clear of them.

If you live in Germany, you would go to .de first over any .com
In Austria the same is true; however they have some cross over with .de
I have found this to be true in Italy and Switzerland as well. Virtually none of the companies advertise .com addresses. They all focus on their country specific TLDs, even when their company name or product name is available as a .com.

So regardless of rankings, I think it may be a smart move to make use of the country specific tld and meet the consumers preference, rankings should be a second priority.

Perhaps some of our friends on the other side of the pond can comment further.

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Old 06-13-2006   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amabaie
English people generally have no interest in buying from the office of a company located in Paris or in Rome. They want to deal with a company's English-speaking staff. Ditto for french-speakers. Ditto for Spanish speakers. While there is no reason to hide the other languages from a customer, it adds no value to the customer to have a staff member who can speak six languages. On the Internet, the website replaces the staff member.
A local PO BOX?

Short of the potential customer contacting you and the person at the other end can neither understand, read or write in the other lanaguage - for which has a local office and should be able to???

Quote:
Originally Posted by amabaie
The only thing that matters to the visitor is whether their language is on the page they are reading. Whether there are dozens of other languages elsewhere oin the site or at diffeent domains won't make a difference to the customer. So in this case, why not do what will work best for SEO, for internal administration or for whatever other goals one might have?
What does make a different to the customer is trustworthiness... it is best not to pretend what you are not.

Best for SEO is "larger website with maximum diversity".

Best for customer is a website self contained in their own lanaguage.

Best for owner creditabilty is international perception. Local often implies "a visit" which can be major problem for many that wish to have an appearance of offices all over the world.

Quote:
Originally Posted by amabaie
English people generally have no interest in buying from the office of a company located in Paris or in Rome.
If the product or service matches to their precise needs they will buy it even if you are located at the South Pole and they are in the North Pole... if you meet their needs and you ship to their local or service their area.

Last edited by fathom : 06-13-2006 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 06-13-2006   #9
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Nice links Robert_Charlton
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Old 06-13-2006   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midi
I am in the process of creating a site and want to have this site in different languages for Europe (I am thinking of the 6 major languages).

I have read that these sites work best if the url has the domain of a certain country and is hosted in that certain country. My web page is going to be about plastics, so I understand that my web page can be optimised better for the different languajes if for example, it is:
* plasticos.es” (for the page in Spanish, hosted in Spain),
* plastics.co.uk” (for the UK, hosted in the UK),
* plastici.it (for the Italian page, hosted in Italy)
and so forth for the page in german, french and Portuguese. I would still maintain the “plastics.com” (as the standard, probably hosted in the US).


However, when reading information about this matter in certain forums, I read that if I proceed this way, the different search engines (especially Google) could penalyze me for duplicate content (in case the content is the same, although made in different languages). This matter made little sense to me since I do not understand why would Google want to penalyse different sites in different languages (even if the content is the same), written and optimised for each country. I would highly appreciate any views in this matter. Thank you.
First off ... take it from me ... avoid using country based domains and go with a subdomain process ( uk.plastics.com / es.plastics.com / it.plastics.com)

You will find yourself in a world of legal woe if you try to go the country specific route. Legalities of possessing sites in other countries besides your own are as different and diverse that you could ever imagine. They can change without warning and you can find yourself trying to find a media lawyer in another country doing stuff that will make you scream.

For example:
In a few instances, countries that formerly required local presence no longer do so (for example, Belgium and Germany). Some countries, such as Sweden, issue domain names only to domestic commercial businesses. In the Italian example, a business entity must have a VAT registration in its own country and an individual must have a fiscal code. New Zealand allows non-residents to obtain domain name registrations; provided that an individual applicant is over 18 years of age and that business entities are properly constituted entities. Once you have got a complete understanding of it all ... they change on you

Duplicate Content: Not if it’s localized its not...I have been responsible for online sales of a company that ran in 7 languages on a Global scale and we never had any problem after localizing our copy through Trados or any translation software with Google and our rankings.

You have to remember that localized copy also reads the same once it’s converted into another language. Put a simple Spanish phrase into Babblefish for example and see how it comes out in English for example.
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Old 06-14-2006   #11
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Fathom, you totally missed my point. When I referred to local offices, I was referring to the real world. In the real world, you don't go into a PO box to do your groceries. You go into a store. And you could care less what language all grocery store clerks in Qubec speak, as long as your own corner store clerk speaks your language.

Now, taking that onto the Internet, you could care less what other languages other pages of a website are in, as long as the ones you need are in the language you need...because those pages act as the store clerks to a website visitor.

As for trustworthiness, posting a bunch of pages in Korean that I can't read will not make me trust a website any more than if it is unilingual, any more than I will tust my corner grocer more if he hires a multilingual store clerk.

As for SEO, a larger site with more diversity is not necessarily better for SEO. If six languages require six different word themes, then you have six sections of a website that appear unrelated to the SE robots. There will be no relevency to pass on, and it would be smart to link only through the "home pages" of each section of the website...just as one would if they were on separate domains.

I do not see an advantage of having all languages at one site, unless for administrative reasons it is easier, there is a strong need to show the company as multinational (e.g.: if they provide multinational services to business clients, if they offer worldwide travel services, etc.) or if their audience actually is multilingual. Maybe there are some other reasons I am failing to notice, but SEO is most definitely not one of them, nor is normal b2c shopping.
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Old 06-14-2006   #12
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Does having a language site have a benefical effect on a foriegn speaking person and how the interact with the site - now the article referrs to what is called ccTLD (Country Code Top-Level Domain) or (plastics.co.uk) and what is called gTLD (Generic Top Level Domain)

... you can see I have been looking at this too ... not really for SEO rather than the fact that understanding conversion and customer retention

I recently found an article on this that might help you a little:
A recent phone survey of European business owners found some interesting statistics on why they register ccTLD’s versus a gTLD.
30% stated that a ccTLD gave their company a local image
15% stated that a ccTLD gave their company a local appeal
14% stated that a using a ccTLD was easy to remember
11% stated that a ccTLD appeals to those who don’t speak English

The percentages reflect the belief (real or not) that a ccTLD within a foreign country carries the perception of being locally relevant and a memorable domain name that is focused on the end users’ native tongue.

Email addresses for customer, technical and marketing support congruent with the country that the site is localized in.

Having a “customer.service@example.co.uk” email address will give the online user the indication that their email will be answered quickly as the ccTLD implies that the email address is local. This will increase interaction with the site as there is a perception that a response from the site will be quick.
That aside ... Does having multiple sites have a beneficial effect on SEO - Yes IF the pages of the site indexed by the search engines and then they can help build on your link popularity.

The other issue you must consider is that the majority of people online in Europe will search with english keywords in mind. Most Germans, Dutch and northern Europeans take English as a second language and hence do a search in English first (then look for the native tounge)

So if you are going to have multiple sites .... make sure that they are well intergrated and the if someone from Germany finds your site in English they can quickly flip over to Deutsch right away.

With the Swiss you have to throw like four languages at them and see what one sticks...
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Old 06-14-2006   #13
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Thank you all for your comments and views which are being most valuable. I am still reading (slowly) the two threads appointed by Robert Charlton (thank you), which are being very helpful. However, I am just a beginner in these matters and it will take me a bit longer to go through it and understand it all well enough.

I understand the matters portrayed by Huebdooo regarding the possible disadvantages of using a country specific TLD if you do not live in that country. However, I am very concerned about SEO and selling in the main countries in Europe where each one has its own language. It is true that many use English, but others do not. In the countries I am interested, and for my specific keywords (the results being different by country), I would say that 60% are done in the native language and 40% are done in English. I understand that if I follow the specific country TLD route, I can still target well both languages since I will have a site in English (in case someone uses English) and one in French (if someone decides to do the search in French). I understand that this could also be achieved by putting the different web pages in the different languages under the same .com, but understand that this would not be optimal for SEO purposes (I understand that search engines rank better specific country TLD’s).

Another matter which has also been commented in this thread is about the connection of the different sites in the different languages. As already commented in this thread, in Europe, many people search the web in English because there is more information in this language, but would rather read the web page in their own language if given the choice (as explained by Huebdoo, which is my personal case too). Following this, it would be appropriate to put the “links” of the different languages (at least) in the main page, preferably in all the pages (in case they enter by a page which is not the main one). However and from things I have read (which are in line with the comment in this thread of Robert Charlton), I understand that this could be seen as a wrong SEO practice by search engines. Any way around this?

Thank you Huebdoo for the valuable statistics. I understant that each country can decide on how they manage their specific country tld. I understand also that some countries are more flexible than others in these matters. In my case, I am not going to go out of my way too much in order to put a specific country TLD. if I can achieve the same objective (SEO optimised site) through another route. For this reason, what I am thinking (any comments would be very welcomed), would be to put a specific country TLD in those places where they give me no problems, and in those countries where I may not be legible, then use a ".com", with a name in the specific language (for example, plastici.com) and hosted in that specific country (for example in Italy). In this case, I understand I could get similar SEO advantages as having the specific country TLD, without having the country specific TLD. I understand also that in those countries where they are already more flexible with their country’s TLD’s, I think that it is unlikely that suddenly and once they have already given out a specific domain which has been operational for some time, they suddenly request some things I may not be eligible for. I understand they could change the legislation for any new domains but not for existing ones… Is that so?
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Old 06-14-2006   #14
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This thread is great timing for me, in that I just got involved in a simiar situation - a site with 7 languages, each segmented into a /country/ subfolder. The site only ranks (poorly) in English. The whole site is a series of swf's which will be dealt with but the net is that only the home page and a few of the /country/index pages are indexed so there is little to lose by making a change if done correctly. I was thinking of using sub-domains as the best solution. My question is whether or not to host the a-record domains in the country being targeted. Any thoughts?
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Old 06-14-2006   #15
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I get what you are saying about trying to achieve SEO in the domain name per language.

But to be honest - Its all about Cost and Reward, and I cant see that creating domains for each country in there own language with there own ccTLD would have a greater benefit than creating sub-level domains within an .com framework

As long as your site is well written and localized properly, gives the online visitior a chance to contact someone in there native tounge, and offers them currency and payment options congruent with what they are used to (example include the VAT & the Price is the Price) then you will have conversions.

I spoke at the SES in London last year about this very thing when dealing with A-B testing and compelling landing pages. When we created landing pages that spoke directly to the German, French, Spanish and Italian markets in there own language, offering them Euro or USD pricing... Sales jumped significantly as well as organic traffic (probably due to some viral or word of mouth marketing)

My gut is telling me you are making this harder than it needs to be

Simply create a site with gTLD with subdomains that talk to the specific countries you are marketing too - Your folder structure could address the language issue by doing something like, "it.plastics.com/plastici"

Its not perfect and its not pretty ... but it will achieve most of what you are looking for here

Good Luck
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Old 06-14-2006   #16
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Consider also cost, not a big factor if you are making hundreds of thousands, but if you are operating on small margins it must be considered.

I just registered a .ca domain, and I was surprised to see that it would cost me more than a .com . On the other hand, domains in some countries run over $150/year. No big deal for a single domain, but for 6 domains, or more, that can get pricy. Then the separate hosting accounts in each country, as well as possible additional costs to ante up...

Last edited by amabaie : 06-15-2006 at 01:23 AM.
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Old 06-14-2006   #17
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Ich komme aus österreich

I agree with huebdoo, the easiest route is with the gTLD.

I think we are missing the point though. Just because stats might show that Austrians search in English more often than in Deutsch does not mean that they like to... CURRENTLY they have to. (how do they do that with their keyboard?) Mainly because there are few companies creating sites/services online just for them. This way of doing business online can and does build up a little bit of distaste in the back of their minds. Especially if the company is known to be based in a country foreign to them. Given the choice they would much rather work within an all Deutsch Language/Austrian culture environment. Companies who cater to their desires with an Austrian first approach I believe will gain their trust, build brand value and earn the highest return.

Again, I think huebdoo is correct, each company needs to evaluate for themselves if this is financially/legally feasible and if it is in line their long term strategy.

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Old 06-14-2006   #18
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Quote:
on the other hand, domains in some countries run over $150/year. No big deal for a single domain, but for 6 domains, or more, that can get pricy. The the separate hosting accounts in each country, as well as possible additional costs to ante up...
Although the cost may be higher, I think that it is worthwile since you should get more traffic, thus more income in the long run (else, it would not make sense).

However, I was wondering how people host sites in different countries. If I want to host 6 different domains, each one in a different country, do I need to do it through 6 diffetent web hosting companies? or are there Web hosters who own servers in "different locations" who can give me the full service in all the countries I am interested in.

This would be the ideal solution, that is, deal with one web hoster who can give me the full service of locating each one of my domains in its specific country (plasticos.es in Spain, plastics.fr in "France" etc...). The administration would be easier and most likely the price would be better too than doing it separately (I do not know if I expressed it correctly but I hope you get my point).

Anybody got some experience in this matter? Any suggestions?
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Old 06-14-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by midi
...Following this, it would be appropriate to put the “links” of the different languages (at least) in the main page, preferably in all the pages (in case they enter by a page which is not the main one). However and from things I have read (which are in line with the comment in this thread of Robert Charlton), I understand that this could be seen as a wrong SEO practice by search engines. Any way around this?
I think this is overstating my position. I would cross-link the sites where appropriate for the user from their home pages, with flag icons or whatever. I would never cross-link them from every page of each site.

You make good usability arguments, perhaps, for linking to the foreign language versions from every page of the .com site.

It would be hard to argue, I think, that you should link to, say, a French version, from a Japanese site, but if you had reason to do so, I'd go ahead, at least from the home page.

I've got to admit that Google's treatment of related sites has me spooked here, perhaps unnecessarily so.

It may well be that the language differences and local hosting would differentiate the sites enough that this degree of interlinking might not be a problem. I wouldn't try it until I had a a fair number of local inbounds to each of the local sites. Also, keep in mind that you're talking about ranking these sites in their respective local indexes.

With regard to the legal difficulties of setting up all the local sites, I've only considered doing this for companies that have actual local presences. Whether the cost is worth the reward in other situations would require individual evaluation.
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Old 06-14-2006   #20
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Midi... take it from me... you dont want to go down that road
Basically everything that I mentioned before is the reasoning behind it

You dont want to get into purchasing foriegn domains unless you have an office or person in each country you are after - that also speaks the native tounge.

Reason being is simple ... it is just too freaking complicated and volitile to do unless you are a multi-nation corporation that has offices globally. Sub-domains arent done to be smug and think less of the other countries, they are done to save everyone from high blood pressure and a shortend life span.

I have been down that road and I have been screaming on conference calls and waking up at wierd hours of the day so I can get them at the right time of day etc...

If you are hell-bent on going down that road... good luck to you
Myself I like my blood pressure under control
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