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I mean what is better to have

  • www.my-domain.de/start.html
  • www.my-domain.com/start.html

or

  • www.my-domain.com/de/start.html
  • www.my-domain.com/en/start.html

I'm mostly concerned with SEO here (i read the FAQ to know that SEO administration is considered on-topic). For me the two domain solution seems to be better, but most frameworks seem to prefer the use of only one domain. I found that hacking around it does not making the code more difficult. So technically there i have no preferences.

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2 Answers 2

Your second variant has the best SEO properties. It keeps all pagerank on a single site, and limits the risk of accidentally creating duplicate URLs for the same content.

To me, the question really is, do you have subsidiary companies / agents / sub-communities in each country that are 'large & distinct enough' to need their own site? A qualifying need could be anything from:

  • wanting a local domain for email addresses
  • a site where content is updated on a different schedule from the parent site
  • just needing a local site for a local community to feel independent

If you don't have such an organizational / cultural need for separate sites, then my general recommendation would be your second variant, with an automatic server-side re-direct to the most likely language of the user. And of course a visible language override on the HTML page, so that the user can correct errors in the auto-detect.

Language selection can be an art in itself. The old-fashioned method is a splash page where the user selects the language himself. It works, but it's kind of ugly.

Next up is a server-side 302 / 303 redirect based on the browsers accept-language header. It kind of works -- but some browsers are misconfigured, f.x. corporate workstations are set for the corporate language of English and not the local language.

Last up is a server-side redirect based on the IP address of the request, matched against a geo-location database like the one from Maxmind. Again, this kind of works, but I know from experience that it's not perfect -- I'm from Denmark, but my ISP buys his peering in Sweden, so I often get Swedish text. :-O And it's worse when I'm traveling...

The server-side language selection based on IP address seems to be the most common now, at least it is what Google, Skype and many others do.

One last thing, I have noted that Mozilla and some others have begun using a locale code like "en-US" instead of a language code like "en" or "eng". This could be a shortlived fashion trend, or it could be lasting -- to me, it really sets an expectation of the content being fully localized and not just translated.

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either are good as long as a user can "predict" localization used on the page. I'm not a seo expert, but i guess that the second case delivers better seo weight for my-domain.com.

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Yes thats what my naive thinking is telling me too. For some reasons i think that the de/com top level domain make my website half important. Otherwise i heared somewhere that google measures every single page on it's own. –  Lothar Sep 12 '09 at 15:19

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