Best way to localize without primary locale

I am asking about the best way to use Webflow’s localisation feature when CMS content is only needed on secondary locales but not necessarily on the primary locale.

My website provides informational content about tax regulations for specific situations in various countries. The primary locale is a generic english version and the secondary locales cover individual countries. The content topics are identical across all countries, while the specific content of our guides differs due to each country’s individual tax regulation.

So for the tax topic “xyz”, my URL structures look like this

I have not added the same topic on our primary locale (no because it would either
a) have to cover every country’s regulations in the same guide or
b) be so generic that it would add no value for readers.

I’ve only now realised that Webflow does not provide a way to “link” CMS items across secondary locales to produce the correct hreflang tags when there is no primary version. So each guide is only referencing itself at the moment.

What’s the best way to improve this?

Is there an official way or a workaround to only link content across secondary locales? Or do I need to create each guide on the primary locale first and localise based on that primary CMS item? If so, could I later unpublish the primary CMS item without unpublishing the localisations?

To my knowledge there isn’t a solid system around creating distinct page-sets ( static + cms ) for each locale. There are a lot of issues to solve. Besides just choosing the locales for a specific page or CMS item, there’s navigation, the sitemap, links, and transitions as the language switcher is changed.

I’ve prototyped some simple versions of this, and it becomes complex very quickly.

Your best bet is to expect to have all locales covered by every page, and then to provide for “exceptions” that you handle in CSS / JS or in a reverse proxy.

An example is, you have a primary + 3 locales. Page X is only relevant to locale #1. So you put custom attribute on the container for the main content and indicate only locale #1, by language code.

Then, CSS/JS/RP handle the locale-specific conditional visibility for that main section and an alternate localized message “this page is not available in this locale”.

This works great and isn’t terrible to build, but the downside is that the global navigation, links, site search… these generally don’t know which pages are relevant for the current locale.

If locale #1 has only a 1% difference in its page set from the primary locale that’s probably ok. 10%, users might get annoyed as they regularly encounter pages that aren’t relevant. 40% difference and your site is very difficult to navigate.

It’s theoretically possible to use a similar tagging and conditional vis approach on the main navigation, and maybe on site search, but it wouldn’t be easy to do with in-content links, or the locale-switcher.

SEO is somewhat messy as well regarding the alt hreflang links and the sitemap, and those would require a reverse proxy to cleanup.

All in all my view is this works great for a few pages but it’s expensive to build and maintain at scale.