Multilingual SEO: URL Structure Guide

International and multilingual SEO can be said to be one of the more challenging disciplines within the SEO mandate.

This can be shown by the number of sites with hreflang errors and the number of common misunderstandings being implemented.

While there are decisions about which languages ​​and countries to consider, considering the broader business factors, you need to make technical decisions & ndash; one of them is the international setting of your URL structure.

URL analysis
In this article, I will reference the URL (Uniform Resource Locator), URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) ​​and URN (Uniform Resource Name). The difference can be explained by the following chart:

URLs can only be used to describe complete (or absolute), include scenarios, hosts and path.URN can only be used to describe paths. Everything is a URI.
In short, all URNs and URLs are URIs, but not all URIs are URLs.


Multi-language URL structure
According to the URL structure of the international SEO, there are five main ways to build a website. these are:

gTLDs for sub-folders with subdomains gTLDs for different ccTLDs of root domaingTLDs with completely different parameters
Although there are many articles that explore the pros and cons of each implementation, I will cover some of them later, but there are limitations to the technology stack.

For example, if you use Shopify, you need to set up a new Shopify storefront for each international version (unless you want to use the plugin to rewrite currency and price via JavaScript).

This means that you may need to use a different ccTLD or domain name while injecting hreflang into the theme fluid through Shopify & rsquo.

Advantages of each method
You can successfully use any of the above five implementations because there are a large number of variables available for multilingual SEO activities & ndash; this is just one of them.


Different ccTLDs
This information sends the strongest signal to the search engine indicating the target country. For example, is a strong sign of France.

This approach is generally more expensive to maintain (because it maintains multiple domains), and each domain has its own backlink configuration file to build and maintain.

Over the years, some ccTLDs (such as .co and .ax) have been used for non-international purposes as the end of a word.

For example, and may look smart from a marketing and branding perspective, but in reality they are ccTLDs for Colombia and Å terrestrial islands.

Subdomain & subdirectory
Instead of reintroducing an old-fashioned SEO debate, using gTLDs with subdomains or subdirectory routes is a viable implementation of international SEO. Both have implemented “in the wild” “rdquo; achieved a complete success.


CNN and are examples of subdomains for multilingual URL structures, while BeatsByDre and Imperva Incapsula are examples of subdirectories.

Based on my experience, I have achieved success in both implementation methods & ndash; but here is a more comprehensive analysis of Jenny Halasz’s debate on subdomains and subfolders.

From a development perspective, you can map other platforms and databases to subdomains or reverse proxy them to subfolders.

This in turn depends on the limitations of the technology stack, both of which can handle mapping or reverse proxy through edge SEO and user workers.

Is this a domain attached? Lang=fr URL parameter or something similar.


Although this works, it is my recommended implementation because the link to the user is not friendly.

Different fields completely
Similar to different ccTLD methods, using a different domain name may be a productive international SEO strategy, especially if your domain name is not your brand name.

British retail brand B&Q uses the domain name (because they are DIY retail business), a good example of how this approach can benefit from this approach.

DIY (do-it-yourself) may not translate directly in other languages, so this will be a candidate for full use of different domain names.

URL best practices for certain countries
When deciding on your initial URL structure, it’s important to thoroughly research and consider not only the cultural differences and nuances of non-Baidu search engines, but also different user groups.


Japanese URL Best Practices
Without any causal proof, Japanese-specific ccTLDs (such as have an advantage over Japan, or Yahoo.

When putting Japanese URLs together and helping with localization, you should use Japanese characters in the URN.

For example, if you are a US travel company for the Japanese market and book a hotel, your URL might look like this:
Travel is the ryokou in Chinese characters. Japan uses multiple alphabets, including Chinese characters, hiragana and katakana.

Japanese users usually enter Latin before converting their search query to their preferred writing style. Hiragana is the most commonly used letter in Japan, and katakana is usually used for foreign words.


As long as your URL is UTF-8 encoded, Japanese characters will be displayed in the SERP if the format is correct.

Russian URL Best Practice & Yandex
Unlike Baidu, Yandex values ​​keywords included in the path – although it is important that they do not use them in a “spam way.”

Another common problem with Yandex is the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in the URL when targeting Russia. The subject of Baidu is that the official signature of the subject is:

“ [W] e (Baidu) can normally crawl and index non-Latin URLs. ”

A good example of the real world is the Russian version of Wikipedia, which uses the Cyrillic path:

Компьютер (computer) Russian Wikipedia page
However, when you copy and paste the URL outside of the browser, the Cyrillic alphabet is not formatted correctly, but a corrupted path appears:

But when you paste it back into your browser (such as Chrome or YaBrowser), it works and formats.

China’s URL Best Practices & Baidu
Baidu and Baidu operate differently, and there are many differences with Baidu. How it handles URLs and what Baidu defines as “friendly.” The URL is also slightly different, for Baidu s.

When using Baidu, you should avoid using URLs with parameters at all costs, because Baidu may have problems crawling these pages. Similar to Baidu, the best practice is to use a descriptive URN.

Unlike Japan, it also recommends not using Chinese characters in URLs. This is because some Chinese characters have coding problems, which can lead to unreadable characters in the URI path.

This will cause Baidu – spiders to crawl and discover problems with content on the URI. However, you can replace Chinese characters with pinyin.

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