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Multi-language support update for Google search

The ability to serve any given site, in more than one language, is important and necessary. When site owners have taken the time to adapt their content for multiple languages, search engines have lacked in their ability to supporting locale-enabled, dynamic content. Between the end of January and beginning of February, Google made an update to the web crawlers used to index content. With the update, dynamic content will now be indexed and aligned with the language search appropriate for the user’s language and website languages supported.

What Is Locale-Adaptive and Do I Need It?!

Adaptive content involves using a user’s information, be it IP address, search settings, browser history, language preference, or any number of details, to determine the way a web page should be presented to him or her. For organic users, locale-adaptive content focuses on aligning the right language with the right content. By offering users content in their desired language, a website is lowering the barrier of entry and increasing usability.

Websites like Amazon, Toyota, or Google itself—each with international audiences, have to support multiple languages. To do so, some present content using different domains or subdomains. If a user searches for Amazon on Google.fr, Google France, they will come across www.amazon.fr instead of the English version of the website. Amazon uses several top-level domains (TLDs) for handling multiple languages. Toyota uses two methods; one incorporates the TLDs, such as Toyota.eu for Europe, the other is a mix of dynamic content with static content in specific languages. As an example, Toyota.com/espanol has static Spanish HTML along with content converted into Spanish based on the user’s language information.

For these larger, international organizations, a strategic solution for a global audience is vital. For small, medium and larger businesses that are not international, language support may be warranted. If you serve clients or users from around the globe, then some usability integration is needed. One SCD client, SouthwestIndiana.org, helps site selectors as they decide if Southwest Indiana is a good location for their business. In doing so, the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana receive traffic from around the world. Using Google Analytics, SCD determined which geographical locations visit the site the most and in turn, what languages needed support. Google Translate provided a simple, effective solution and was integrated into the site design. Form, meet function!


Old Language Support versus New Support

What changed? When? Nothing really, at least not for websites. What websites do to support languages is the same. With Google’s update to the web crawler (Googlebot), starting on January 28th, Google has expanded the crawler’s ability to index dynamic pages that change based on a user’s language or IP address, seeing these as separate pages. So if a website serves English and Spanish content dynamically, Google will index these as two variations of the same page, offering English-users the English version and Spanish-users the Spanish version. This update to the Googlebot occurs with one of two configurations:

  1. Geo-distributed crawling: Googlebot will use IP addresses based outside the USA to request dynamic content.
  2. Language-dependent crawling: Googlebot crawls with an Accept-Language field set in the HTTP header.


Before this additional functionality was added to the web crawler, methods of serving users locale-specific content such as:

  1. Serving different content on the same URL—based on the user’s perceived country (geo-location).
  2. Serving different content on the same URL—based on the Accept-Language field set by the user’s browser in the HTTP request header.
  3. Completely blocking access to requests from specific countries.

These methods still remain, but updates to the Googlebot make them more effective. This means that the ability for websites to show on multiple search domains is easier, and sites are further aligned in multiple languages with users. If you are wondering if you should implement any of the methods of locale-adaptive content, static HTML, or special URL configurations, start with your Google Analytics and check under the Audience section in Geo. Here, you’ll find the languages users have set and the areas your current users are coming from. Not sure how to use Google Analytics or need help implementing language support? That’s where South Central Digital can help; with development, design and optimization. Contact us online or call us for assistance!


For some additional reading or if you are a Webmaster, make sure to read through these valuable references: