I was wondering what would be the best way to achieve a multi-language template based website. So say I want to offer my website in Englisch and German there are some different methods. My interest is mainly about SEO, so which would be the best way for search engines.
The first way that I often see is using different directories for each language, for example www.example.com for English and www.example.com/de/ for the German translation. The disadvantage of this is: when changing a file, ist has to be changed in every directory manually. And for search engines the two directories would be concerned as duplicate content, wouldnt they?
The second way I know is just using some GET value like www.example.com?lang=de and then setting a cookie. But this way search engines probably wont even find the different languages.
So is there another way or which one is the best?
I worked on internationalised websites until this year. The advice we always had from SEO gurus was to discriminate language based on URL - so, www.example.com/en and www.example.com/de.
I think this is also better for users; if i bookmark a page in German, then when i come back to it, i get a page in German even if my cookies have expired. Similarly, i can do things like post the URL on Facebook, and have my German-speaking friends click on it and get a site in German.
Note that if your site serves multiple countries, you should handle those along with language - so, you might have example.com/de-DE, example.com/en-GB, example.com/en-IE, etc.
However, this should not involve duplication. Instead, you should set your application up to process the URL, extract the locale information, and then forward the request internally to a locale-independent page. So, a request for example.com/de-DE/info and a request for example.com/en-IE/info should both be passed to /info.jsp (or i'm guessing info.php in your case). That page should then be coded to emit text in the appropriate language, using a page-level localisation mechanism.
Things are a bit trickier if you want the URLs themselves to be localised (eg example.org/de-DE/anmelden vs example.org/en-IE/sign-in). However, the same principle applies: extract the locale, then forward to a common page. The difference is that there must be more sophistication in figuring out what the page is from the URL; you will need a mapping from natural language in the URL to the page filename.