A series of recommendations for optimising a multilingual site for search engines. This list is based on the instructions, forums and information available for google and bing.

One site per language

Google prefers to have a different site defined in the Google WebMaster Tools for each language, for example:

http://gilmation.com
http://gilmation.com/es

Decide on a preferred domain

Choose a preferred domain and make sure that you tell google, bing et al to give preference to one or the other.

http://www.gilmation.com
http://gilmation.com

You can use a 301 redirect to send requests to the preferred domain when the other one is requested. This allows the search engines to learn which one is the preferred option.

A single index entry for each distinct piece of content

Make sure that only one url is indexable per piece of content, per language. Content translated to other languages should have it's own entry in the index.

This is important because if you don't give search engines a single, unique link to every piece of content on your site the "weight" (read importance) of your links in the search index will be diluted, since it will be divided among different links to the same content.

Use a unique <title></title> tag per language.

Use unique and relevant meta tags per language

<meta name="description" content=""/>
<meta name="keywords" content=""/>

The meta tag for keywords is not used by google but other search engines may use this information so it doesn't hurt to put it in.

Page urls

Use - and not _ in the URLs that you create for your content. Use descriptive, human readable URLs as these often appear in the results pages of search engines and if they are long and full of numbers then users are less likely to click on them.

Links

Again, use descriptive names, which describe the content that you are linking to (not "click here") as the hyperlink text. For links to external content that you don't want to be enhanced by being associated with your site's reputation, as well as any links that can be added by 3rd parties in comments, add the rel="nofollow" tag so that search engines do not follow the links.

Robots.txt

Add a robots.txt file to exclude any pages and dynamically generated search results that you don't want web search engines to index.

Headings (<h1> to <h6>)

Try to follow a logical heading structure and don't jump up and down the heading hierarchy:

<h1>top</h1><h6>bottom</h6><h2>2nd top</h2>

Images

Help search engines and make your pages more accessible by including a representative filename and alt tag for each image.

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