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We're trying to decide what the best course of action, and have two opposite opinions on this.

We have a multi-language site (currently with English and German only).

When a user shares a link to our site (in Facebook, Twitter, Google etc), we display the text in the language of the sharing user. i.e. "<Site Name> - the best method to learn <subject>".

However, we are wondering if the link should lead to the version of the site with the same language of the person sharing it? Or should the site try to detect the browser language and display the content in a different language?

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Do different language versions of the same page have different URLs? Like example.com/about/en versus example.com/about/de –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 2:50
    
yep. we use example.com/{en|de}/page-name format for most pages. –  Yoav Aner Nov 28 '12 at 20:02
    
OK, do I understand correctly that you're talking about redirection once someone visits a URL? And not the meta description snippet that is seen on Facebook/Google+ when something is posted there? –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 20:34
    
not sure I fully understand the question, but actually this is a potential deciding factor for us, since with Google, the description that appears is taken from the site, and if we post a non-locale-specific version, it might produce the wrong version for the posting user... –  Yoav Aner Nov 28 '12 at 20:46
    
Sorry, what do you mean "with Google"? In search results or Google Plus? In search results, the meta description and title the ones that can be seen. When these links are posted on a social network, the meta description and title are used as well (but there are other tags that can be used for each social network) –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 20:48
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2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If a user shares a link to example.com/de/about on Facebook, Google+, etc. then the meta text should be in the original language, German.

However, if someone using an English browser clicks on it, it could redirect to the English page, but that can have some problems; see the N.B.

Then again, if they are sharing it on Facebook to their friends or their private circles on Google+, you can assume that many peoples' friends may speak the same language as them anyway. So in this case, doing nothing isn't a problem (i.e. browser language sniffing might not be necessary).

But in the case of public posts (probably, most commonly they'll be Tweets), you may want the links to be relevant to whoever comes across them.

So my answer would be that it depends on what your requirements and users are likely to do — share them privately to their friends, or publicly.

If privately, it might not be worth development time at the moment; though definitely something to look into if it crops up in your analytics that /en/ pages are often visited by German browsers.


N.B. User language sniffing can be problematic for SEO:

On that note, Google seems to advise against this kind of redirection:

To make all of your site's content more crawlable, avoid automatic redirections based on the user's perceived language. These redirections could prevent users (and search engines) from viewing all the versions of your site.

Putting a visible navigation English | German somewhere might be better; and is suggested by Google:

In other words, you can provide links between pages with the same content in different languages. This can also be very helpful to your users.

In either case, as per Google's suggestion and my UX reasoning, I would make that navigation visible on every page. (If someone with a browser in German wants to see the English page — why would I stop them?)

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Thanks @Baumr. I think you've highlighted the issues we were experiencing too. Even if we wanted to share a non-language-specific url, Google would retrieve the language based on its crawler, which might confuse the posting user. Looks like we'll opt for a locale-specific link (e.g. example.com/de/page), and won't change the language based on browser detection because this opens a whole different can of worms! –  Yoav Aner Nov 28 '12 at 20:48
    
Thanks, good to hear — glad I could help –  Baumr Nov 28 '12 at 21:00
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Site should definitely detect browser language. It should work the same way it works then user visits your site from a search engine, or directly.

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(trying not to "take sides" for the sake of getting the best answer) Thanks. Directly, yes. We're doing this already. With search engines a user normally searches in a particular language, and also sees the snippet in the language they searched in though. Here the language is already chosen by the sharing user however. –  Yoav Aner Nov 19 '12 at 11:17
    
It's like having a "go to mobile version" link at the bottom of a page still loading at my smartphone. I mean, in my experience, I can find, for example, nice German photography catalog with different artists and links to their sites. I doesn't know German, but wish to know more about a particular author, so I click a link and... got a German version because of hardcoded link? –  alexeypegov Nov 19 '12 at 11:39
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