“We Want to Open Our Multi-Language Site to Spanish Speakers in the US. Any Advice?”

Geo-targeting and hreflang are good starting points, but also, Google’s John Mueller recommended a JavaScript banner.
SIA Team
September 28, 2021

On a frequent basis, Google holds Q&A-style questions where webmasters can ask questions pertaining to Google Search, such as SEO, site speed, indexing, and the like. 

There are at least 2 types of these sessions: SEO (which is usually our focus) and JavaScript. I’ve seen similar sessions that were offered in Japanese and German.

The session that is the source of today’s question is the English Google SEO office-hours from September 24, 2021. This session, as most of the current sessions are, was hosted by Search Advocate John Mueller

At the 21:21 mark, a participant gave a description of his site’s situation. He said that he has an established multi-language site that gets organic traffic from Google. 

His concern, as I understand, was that he wanted to take precautions to prevent any technical errors as his site opens up to Spanish speakers in the US. He wanted to ask for John’s advice. 

John started his response by confirming that he was on the right track: “Okay, so I think the things that you mentioned, they sound great, so that seems like a good approach.”

“If It’s Possible, Add a JavaScript Banner”

 John continued, “One thing I would try to do–I don’t know if it’s possible in your specific case–it would be to add a JavaScript-based banner to these pages to try to recognize if the wrong user is on the wrong version of the page.

 “So if that’s something, I don’t know if that’s possible here, but to recognize maybe the browser language or the user’s location with JavaScript and if you can tell that they’re on the wrong version, then show a little banner on top saying, ‘Hey, we have a better version for you; you can follow the link here.’ 

“Using a banner like that means that Google will still be able to index all of these pages, but you can guide users to the appropriate one a little bit faster. If [conversely] you were to do it on the server-side, for example, with a redirect, then the problem could be that Googlebot never sees the other version because it always gets redirected, and the banner is kind of like a backup plan where, usually hreflang will help (maybe geotargeting is set up) but the banner is kind of like, ‘Well, we can’t guarantee that only the right users go to these pages so we will catch them and then help them to find the right ones.’”

So, hreflang, Geo-Targeting, and JavaScript are Solid Recommendations for Multi-Lingual Expansion

hreflang specifies the language of a document. Geo-targeting is basically a way to determine that a certain portion of a site is dedicated to a certain geographic location. 

The JavaScript banner mentioned above serves as a sort of catch-all: in case someone comes to an English page, but their browser indicates that they may be a Spanish speaker, a notification at the top of the page may ask them if they want to go to the Spanish version of the page.

Source: Google Search Central YouTube channel